067: Caring for the Needy; D&C and Church History 38

October 4, 2013

Engaging Gospel Doctrine

“In Mine Own Way”

One of the most urgent problems we face today is also the most overwhelming… incomprehensible wealth inequality and literally a world of desperate need. This episode discusses

The problem

*Wealth inequality/poverty in the world

*Wealth inequality/poverty in the US

*Wealth inequality/poverty in the Church

Possible Solutions

*The very first step: Acknowledge there is a problem

*Caring for the needy in the Church

*Additional approaches

*Thoughts on increasing well-being (what is our responsibility? How can we care for ourselves? How can we give? How can we serve? More than tithing and fast offerings)

In short, what can we do?

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Class Member Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 38:30; D&C 42:30–31, 42; D&C 58:26–28; D&C 104:13–18; Our Heritage, pages 108–9, 111–14; D&C 35686_000_04044:6; D&C 52:40; D&C 56:16; D&C 88:123; D&C 104:13–18; 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12; D&C 56:17; D&C 88:124

Additional Teacher Reading: Ether 2:3; Jacob 2:17–19; Matthew 25:35

Jessica, Chris, Sarah and John provide an informed, sobering, but ultimately inspiring discussion.

You can access the Assigned Reading here

You can access the Lesson Notes here.

Resources

Further Reading/Listening

The Problem

Potential Solutions

Pick a cause you believe in and make a contribution! Also remember that one of the most effective things you can do is become politically involved.

Many thanks to Devin Roth for the beautiful bumper music. Check out his arrangement of hymns and other work at DevinRothMusic.

Thanks to the post production team William Newman who edited for content and Nathan Jones who edited for sound quality.

15 Responses to “067: Caring for the Needy; D&C and Church History 38”

  1. jon Says:

    It would have been nice to have Rock Waterman on this podcast to defend the libertarian view on charity. The liberal view was definitely represented. Having someone point a gun at you in order that you give to others is not charity by any stretch of the imagination and that is what is advocated when we say that we want government to be “charitable.” People should be running away from government as fast as possible it is a plague on society which causes the contention that we so often “desire” to avoid. Contention is of the devil, right? Then screw government because that is all that comes from it.

    Even from a scriptural point of view government assistance isn’t supported (as I wrote up the last time this topic came up – I won’t repeat myself). Christ always (or mostly?) refers to the change and responsibility of the individual. Alma says it is a personal responsibility to help the poor and that it should be voluntary not coerced!

    As for the question on is it OK for one person to have more than another? Of course. The scriptures say differently but I would say they are wrong – or you could twist them and make it so people could have more as long as they are willing to share. But take me for example. I don’t desire a ton of money. We live on $20 to $30k per year as a family of 5. I could make much more money but left engineering for programming and probably won’t become wealthy from it. I don’t desire a big house, 1200 sq ft is fine by me. One car is OK by me. But others want big houses and 2+ cars. Which is fine by me. It’s their choice. Are they bad because they don’t want to live in a small house? No. It seems kind of crazy to me to think that we should all have the same since we all have so many different desires. What if a person likes to live in the woods in a shack, does that mean we should all do that so we will be equal? No, that’s insane. Saying everyone must be equal is saying that everyone wants infinite wealth and so everyone must be limited.

    A good book on economics is Human Action by Ludwig von Mises.

    Reply

    • Jared Anderson Says:

      I hope “we all need to be equal” was not at all the takeaway from the discussion. I recall explicitly saying that doesn’t need to be the case. Differences in need and desire need to be taken into account for sure, as well as other factors.

      Reply

      • jon Says:

        No that isn’t all I took from the discussion. The addition of politics in the discussion is distracting though. That is what I was trying to point out. That there are other views on politics and Christ’s message is a personal one of personal change, not of putting a gun to people’s head to get them to do what you think they should do.

        I’m totally on board to helping the needy. But not through violence. So, if we keep the politics out of it I think you will not alienate those that disagree with you on the subject. Make this a podcast for progressives, conservatives, libertarians, and anarchists by keeping to the core message of personal change and I think we will all build on the same foundation without fractures.

        That’s my two cents!

        Reply

      • Jen Says:

        I teach Gospel Doctrine in my ward and love listening to your podcast to get different ideas but this one really bothered me. I just can’t get past the comment “elect politicians into office that will have the government take care of the needy” (not exact quote but close). That is not what Christ taught.
        This lesson should have focused on “What can you do as an individual to help the poor?” not, “What can government or charities do?”.
        (“Distribution of wealth” also made my stomach turn.)

        Reply

        • Jared Anderson Says:

          Thanks for weighing in Jen. Yes, Jesus spent his time with the poor and taught that God was going to fix the world so there would be no more poor. And then the Book of Mormon is very clear about our obligations to the poor. How exactly to begin addressing the problem in the world in which we now live… that is a complicated and difficult issue.

          Reply

  2. Christian J Says:

    Jon, I think the libertarian model only works if you have a society full of people committed to freely giving their excess to the poor, the needy, the outcast. You know like a country with a ton of Christians who really live the teaching of Jesus.

    Obviously, no such society exists. Until that day, until Zion reigns – the vulnerable need to be protected – even if its not ideal.

    Reply

    • Jared Anderson Says:

      Amen. That is why I liked (and summarized) the “libertarian paternalism” advocated in Nudge which allows everyone to make their own choices but shapes the environment so people are more likely to make decisions with their more altruistic, wise, responsible selves.

      Reply

  3. Bryan Says:

    Jared, huge fan of the podcast and usually find it very helpful and insightful. I have to register a complaint about this episode however. It seems this entire episode was devoted almost exclusively to a political discussion about the haves and have-nots, and seemed pretty heavily weighted toward demonizing (perhaps too strong a word) those who are wealthy. I would have appreciated more discussion about what we can and should do in our individual lives to help the poor and needy instead of dwelling so much on what nations can do and societies. I appreciate adding some of those types of references in, and they are useful, but on balance this episode seemed wholly dedicated to that level, and never really spent much time on the personal, local level. It just felt way too political instead of spiritual. “How much wealth is it ethical to have?” makes for a good discussion in a philosophy or ethics class, but it doesn’t seem to really fit in Sunday School.

    I think a better approach would be to ask questions like, “What can you do as an individual to help the poor?” or, “Can anyone share an experience where they were down and out and were helped in some way?” Those questions encourage reflection on the individual. Big, societal change would be great, but that’s just not what Sunday School is there for, in my opinion. Leave that to the politicians.

    Trying to be constructive in my criticism as I believe your podcast is providing an awesome service and encourages people to think more deeply.

    Reply

    • Jared Anderson Says:

      Bryan,

      I will include this comment in the “corrections to consider” section. Thank you for sharing and keeping your comment constructive. I feel we talked mostly about 1) the situation in the world (which I don’t know how you can pretend is not a problem), 2) applicable gospel principles including the Church welfare program and 3) charities and other things we can do (as well as what we can do if we are in need). I don’t recall in detail, but I don’t think we talked much about political policies, though we did talk about some of the resources available because of the personal experience and expertise of the class members.

      We can help those around us and I *thought* we focused on that, but the simple reality is that wealth inequality is a bigger problem than any of us can handle (unless we happen to be one of the richest people in the world). I think the problem *should* make us uncomfortable, though there is no easy or simple solution.

      Reply

  4. Stacie Says:

    I really enjoy your podcasts and this was no exception. I appreciate you taking us out of our comfort zone to focus on a difficult problem. I think you acknowledge that there are no perfect solutions and invite us to ponder our part in the solution.

    I really like the “If the world were a village of 100 people” model, but I am wondering what your source is for these statistics? I would like to use it, but am hesitant to do so without the source.

    Thank you!

    Reply

  5. Kevin Says:

    I had a good experience teaching this Gospel Doctrine lesson on Sunday. We focused on the vast disparities in wealth around the world and the truth that all of us have opportunities to reach out. We chewed at length on the perspective that those who choose not to share of their abundance are not considered disciples of Christ. Ouch. If that weren’t bad enough, the rich who choose not to share will find themselves in hell with the wicked in a torment of their own making. Double ouch. The comments I received during and after the class suggested that the class members found the material profoundly meaningful. Thank you for investing yourself on our behalf, Jared, and for connecting us with all the great panelists that enrich the discussion week by week.
    I agree with the recommendation for Rock Waterman’s testimony of charity. His essay, “Of Alms and Offerings” is excellent. http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2013/06/of-alms-and-offerings.html
    I want to acknowledge you, Jared, for encouraging us to read the scriptures closely. Referring to D&C 104:16 the title of this lesson is, “In Mine Own Way.” Jesus Christ explains clearly and directly what that means to him when he says, “and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.” The majority of talks from the general authorities on this topic and this lesson from the manual, however, seem to invoke “in mine own way” as a divine directive to provident living and seeking to become self sufficient. There is no reason to fault economic common sense but if we are to take this scripture as literally the word of God then someone seems to have co-opted “in mine own way” for their own purposes.

    Reply

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