When I have read LDSLF, I have invariably thought of an experience I had in Berlin as a missionary teaching a master’s student at Berlin’s Freie Universität. He was one of those investigators who was really exciting to teach. He was not too much older than us and just seemed really cool. He lived in a flat his parents paid for very close to our apartment on Unter-den-Eichen-Straße and thus also quite close to the FU there in Dahlem. He was studying econometrics and was writing his master’s thesis as we first met him. He was stoked about the rumored digitalized re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy (Episode I wasn’t even on anyone’s radar yet).
After we taught him most of the discussions and he had read most of the Book of Mormon, we showed up one time for an appointment just to read with him and answer any questions he might have. He was in Fourth Nephi and, as a master’s student in econometrics is probably invariably wont to be, had some major concerns about the communist rhetoric (so it seemed to him) found in that part of the Book of Mormon. Specifically, he inferred from the verse that now serves as the lead in quote at LDSLF that the Book of Mormon was advocating central planned economies such as those that had tyrannized Eastern Europe for the last forty to fifty years (closer to seventy in Russia). As someone living in West Berlin, the veritable front line of the Cold War and a city completely surrounded by a cold and hostile communist East Germany, this was a grave concern to our investigator. Moreover, as a master’s student in econometrics, he had no lack of sage advice for us about how absurd the notion of centralized planning is for a national economy. He was in his element and seemed profoundly satisfied at the lessons he was teaching us about our foolish notions of religious-inspired communism.
I had taken Economics 110 at BYU before my mission and was happy to at least be able to engage him in a discussion using a few terms of art and concepts, at the most basic level, that he surely hadn’t thought that we would know about. In the end, I was able to convince him that Fourth Nephi was more likely describing a Social Market Economy, not so very much unlike the German economy. He really resonated with that, taking the position that people could certainly self-socialize to achieve the state that Fourth Nephi seems to describe without having a board of individuals who were more equal than the others sitting in a plush office at the center creating detached five-year plans (and sitting idly by while citizens grew their own vegetable gardens to survive because all the store shelves were empty).
Thinking back, I am pretty sure that I missed the mark in telling him that the Book of Mormon was describing a Social Market Economy. He never got baptized anyway. We showed up one day shortly after that experience to find him completely gone, the apartment empty. (I still have his master’s thesis though–he gave me a copy.) But the Social Market Economy comparison was pretty inaccurate because it doesn’t address the fact that the complete paradigm of people’s lives had changed during the Fourth Nephi period so that accumulation of wealth was no longer an end anybody was working to achieve. It was true communal living, certainly not any kind of Marxist, Lenninist, Stalinist, or Maoist communism, but also not a Social Market Economy. Rather, it was a Zion society, where everyone had the best interest of others and the community as the ends they wished to achieve in Christ, and with this as their focus there became no rich or poor among them.
LDSLF is a blog that focuses largely on the problem of our current telestial world in which we do have rich and poor, and in which we even see the arrogance and pride of the rich condescending to the misery and suffering of the poor within God’s own Church. It is despicable, but we are addicted to being superior to our neighbors. Keep up the good work, LDSLF.