Greg: John! Great talk! (shakes hand)
John: Oh, thanks, Greg.
Greg: But I gotta ask you something. When you were talking about welfare –
John: (laughing) I meant every bit of it, Greg.
Greg. C’mon, John. You can’t be serious.
John: No, I’m dead serious. Weren’t you listening?
Greg. Well, yeah.
John: So what do you think it means when God says to give everything we have to the poor?
Greg: Well, those were different times, John –
John: And I’d have to disagree. The Book of Mormon is for our time, right? And, you know, it says in the scriptures, we’re supposed to give of our material possessions to the poor, even if they deserve it or not. Remember the Mosiah scripture I read? “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my subtstance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just.” And King Benjamin says-
Greg: I know, I know, if you think that you’re wicked. But you’re misunderstanding it.
John: And how am I misunderstanding it? It seems pretty clear to me.
Greg: Well, I didn’t mean it that way. But if you’re gonna quote scripture, what about the one that says that a man needs to earn his bread or he won’t eat?
John: What about it?
Greg: Well, what’s that supposed to mean? Which scripture is right?
John: They’re both right. Because…well, the one you just said is in the New Testament somewhere. I think it means mostly members, not people in general.
Greg: You sure?
John: Well, not positive, but –
Greg: But as Latter-Day Saints, we need to set an example, right? So welfare isn’t right.
John: Then why does our Church have a welfare system?
Greg: It’s different. You know that, John.
John: Well, if you mean different from government welfare, yes, but that doesn’t mean we should only give to those in our Church-
Greg: Well, if you make people give to the poor whether they like it or not, aren’t you taking away their agency?
John: That’s silly. We don’t let people murder in this country. We’re not taking away their agency, right?
Greg (angrily): You can’t compare murder to taking handouts-
John (defensively): Well, I’m just saying-
Stacy: What are you two arguing about?
John: Nothing. Just a point in my talk.
Stacy: Oh, great talk by the way!
Stacy: Yeah, it was good. I really liked how you said that the world is in distress. I totally agree. Just look at what’s on TV these days!
Greg: You’re preaching to the choir, Stacy.
Stacy: It’s exactly why I keep my kids at home and home school them. It prevents them from having that horrible influence-
Greg: You can’t be serious, Stacy!
Stacy (offended): What do you mean?
John: Well, don’t you think that an education is important? I mean, you can’t possibly have the knowledge to teach them everything.
Stacy: No. But that’s why you read out of books. Besides, what’s your problem? Aren’t you supposed to protect your kids from the outside world?
John: Sure. But you don’t have to sequester them like monks. We’re Mormon, not Catholic.
Greg and John chuckle together.
Stacy: What good is an education if you’re going to go to hell?
Greg (laughing): Just because you learn about evolution doesn’t mean you’re going to hell.
Stacy: What’s so funny?!
John: Nothing, Stace. But seriously, what about college? Don’t you want them to go to BYU or a state college? I mean, at least BYU-I?
Stacy: They’ll be just fine. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t go to Harvard or BYU.
Greg: But President Hinckley said education is important-
Stacy: And President Hinckley also said that protecting your family is important and that’s what I’m doing! Maybe if your son didn’t watch all those awful tv shows, he wouldn’t be so disruptive in my Sunday School class.
Greg: Whoa, Brian is fine how he is.
Stacy (not convinced): Of course he is.
John (hastily): Anyway, I guess each family has the liberty to pick how they educate their kids. Nothing wrong with that.
Greg: Yeah, except according to you and your welfare principles and “social justice” (he makes floating quotations with his fingers) we should be forcing Stacy to take her kids to school, right?
John: Now, that’s not true!
Greg: Well, that’s the basic principle of welfare!
John: You’re being ridiculous, Greg.
Greg: Oh, sure, I’m the ridiculous one! And I suppose we should let the gays marry too, because they deserve equal rights or whatever?
Mike: Well, they should.
Greg: What? Mike? You too? But the Church is totally against-
Mike: Well, yes. I guess I should rephrase that. I meant the last statement, about equal rights. We should at least treat them with respect.
Greg: Why? It’s their choice, right? Why should we turn our back on the commandments for some fringe group’s stupidity?
Mike: It’s sometimes not their choice. There’s been plenty of General Authorities who have come out and said it’s a temptation and a struggle. Sometimes it’s a burden they carry without any decision on their own.
Greg: What? A General Authority said that?
John (condescendingly): And General Authorities have said that you should be nice to poor people, too, Greg.
Stacy: And to protect your children and educate them! So what’s wrong with home schooling, John? If a General Authority said it, it’s good enough, right?
John: That’s not applicable at all. The General Authority said to educate and protect, not to needlessly shelter and coddle!
Stacy: I can’t believe what I’m hearing!
Greg (while Stacy is talking, he shouts over her): That’s what welfare’s all about! John! Coddling and sheltering!
Mike: What’s this about coddling and sheltering?
Stacy: These…these… (she breathes deep) These misguided brethren think my homeschooling my children is hurting them.
Mike: Nah, nothing wrong with that.
Stacy: Exactly. It’ll keep them away from all kinds of corrupting worldly influences, like, oh, gay people, since we’re on the subject.
Mike: Now that’s wrong. Your children should be introduced to all types of people so that they can learn to tolerate-
Stacy: What?! I thought you were on my side?!
Mike: Well, I uh, I didn’t know we were taking sides, but I don’t agree with that statement.
Stacy: What if they convince my children to become gay?!
Mike: Give your kids more credit than that, Stacy.
Stacy: No! I refuse to let them associate themselves with such people. The scriptures says to flee every unclean thing, and last time I checked, homosexuality is unclean.
Mike: Well, yes, but, didn’t Christ eat with the publicans and sinners? Those would, I assume, include those “unclean” homosexuals. Just because you befriend them doesn’t mean you have to do what they do.
Greg: Oh, good point.
John: Yes, good point. And let’s not forget he made five loaves and two fishes into a basic soup kitchen for five thousand people.
Greg: Oh, c’mon. That’s not why he did it.
John: Well, I suppose some of us, had we lived in that time, would have criticized him for giving a hand out to the poor and needy.
Stacy: Stop politicizing our conversation, John! Poor people are inconsequential if we spend way too much time worrying about other people when we don’t even know what’s going on in our own homes.
John: So we should stop caring about other people? That’s preposterous! Christ specifically said-
Stacy: Christ said to take care of our children! That if we offend them, it’s better to be cast into the sea with a millstone in our neck! Isn’t that a harsh enough warning not to neglect them for some stranger?
John: But Christ said those who help the least of my brethren have helped me. You don’t want to help Christ?
Stacy: Don’t oversimplify the situation!
Greg: But that’s just what both of you are doing! Christ expects us to work and to earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, as Genesis would say. Self sufficiency! Hard work! The freedom to be rich or poor, depending on our actions! Agency! Choices! Which, both welfare and homeschooling take away.
John (bitter laugh): Basically free market capitalism. It doesn’t matter who gets squashed as long as the rich get richer.
Greg: Are you making fun of capitalism? That’s pretty un-American.
John: Yet the United Order was more like a communist-
Mike: No, there are fundamental differences between the two systems-
Greg: And we don’t have to live it because it’s too hard for the Saints today!
John: So just because a commandment of God is hard, we shouldn’t try?
Greg: That’s not what I said! Doctrine and Covenants say that tithing replaced the United Order, so we’re not required to live it.
John: But we will have to eventually.
Greg: Then I will then, but for now, if I want to be rich, I’ll be rich, gosh darn it.
John: Ah, so the love of money? It’s the root of all evil, you know.
Greg: And name calling and false accusation is a sin. I didn’t say I love money. Paul says he who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an infidel. I’m only trying to provide. It’s not my fault that other people won’t-
John: There’s a difference between won’t and can’t!
Mike: The only problem is that we can’t tell who won’t and who can’t.
Stacy: Well, you’re all completely missing out on the main point! The gospel isn’t about money. It’s about families.
Will: And the environment!
Greg: Oh, Will. Don’t. Please don’t.
Will: But dad! If we all lived the gospel, we would take care of the environment a whole lot better-
Greg (to the rest of the group): Forgive my son Will. You’d think he was a hippie sometimes, the way he talks.
John (curious): Why the environment, Will?
Will: (proudly) Well, I just graduated in environmental science from the Y. (serious again) But also, because God commanded us stewardship over the earth, and we need to protect it and nourish it. I wrote about it for my capstone paper.
Greg: The scriptures say that everything on the earth is for the use of man, Will. C’mon, just think for a minute-
Will: Yes, for use, not to exploit!
John: Well, I’d have to agree with Will, to an extent-
Greg: Yeah, you would.
Stacy: Well, I like the environment. We always sing that one song in Primary about songbirds and sprintime. As long as we aren’t putting animals before humans, we should take care of the earth. God created an absolutely beautiful earth. In six days, which public schools don’t teach, by the way.
Mike: You’re a scientist, Will. What do you think about evolution?
Stacy: Mike! Of course he doesn’t-
Will: To tell you the truth, oevolution is pretty much a proven, scientific point.
Stacy (disbelief): What?!
Will (sheepish): Well, I mean, evolution does happen. Things like size, color and shape do evolve over time. It only makes sense, as the environments change, certain genes get passed down more often than others and you get changes through genetic mutation. You’d be surprised how fragile and imperfect the genetic replication process is!
Stacy: I can’t believe what I’m hearing. (turning to Greg) See? This is what happens when your kids go through public school.
Will: Hey! Wait a second, Sister Farley!
John: Yes, Stacey. That was completely uncalled for! Will is a very smart, competent man. Science is very important. It’s how we understand more about the world around us. Why, without it, we wouldn’t know that global warming was happening. I’m sure that’s a concern, right?
Will: Well, sort of. Depends.
John (sputtering): But! It’s fact! There’s so much study behind it!
Will: Climate change is really complex, Brother Allen. I think we should take care of how we influence climate and weather and all that through our own actions, but you have to be careful about what actions you make whenever you affect the environment, even if your intentions are good. You can’t just make sweeping generalizations.
Mike: Like when you generalize other people or lifestyles?
Will: Er, sure, Brother Carpenter.
Mike: Like I said.
Stacy: Do what you like, Michael, but you can keep them away from my children. I will not have them corrupted by secular, worldly ideals.
Greg: I can’t believe my hippie son.
Will: Ah, dad. You’ll get used to it. (He grins). It’s really greed that’s destroying the environment. People and societies just don’t understand that they’re consuming resources before they can replace them-
Greg: What? We use the earth like we’re commanded to and you get angry?
Will: We’re not supposed to rape and pillage the earth, dad!
Greg: Oh, what’s a few trees and birds?
Will: I don’t understand why so many Mormons are so against saving the environment! They’re God’s creatures, and God treats them with incredible respect! He tells us that every sparrow is noticed and that the lilies in the field and the birds are all taken care of! We should emulate that! We should be the same!
Mike: Exactly. And all people in the earth are God’s children. So we should treat them as such.
Stacy: Just because God loves them doesn’t mean they are doing the right thing. Mercy can’t replace justice.
Mike: I didn’t say condone them, I said just treat them with respect and dignity.
Will: And the same goes for the environment. It’s not just another resource. They’re living things. They have intelligence.
Stacy: What? Animals aren’t as intelligent as humans.
Greg: And you’re saying that we should save a rabbit or a tree or mink over a human? A child of God?
Will: No, but that doesn’t mean we treat them like trash, either! God created them! He loves them! We need to be more like Him!
John: And that’s why capitalism is so wrong! It only exploits! It just isn’t Christ-like!
Will: What does capitalism have to do with anything?
Greg: Oh, so I suppose we should all be like the communists and socialists?
John: At least their poor don’t go hungry!
Will: Actually, Brother Carpenter, most communist states during the 20th century did have quite a bit of starvation, famine and poverty. Take the Great Leap Forward in China, for example.
John: Well, yes, but they were just doing it wrong –
Will: And it’s proven that manipulating the markets to do the right thing is incredibly effective. Nothing is more powerful than human greed and ambition, after all (laughing).
Greg: Exactly! For once I can agree with my son! (sarcastic) Let’s settle for everyone to be mediocre rather than letting people do what they can! Maybe you enjoy holding people back in the name of “fairness”, but I don’t.
John: Capitalism only creates winners and losers. And we don’t want to make losers. The Gospel doesn’t make losers.
Stacey: But not everyone goes to heaven. Are they losers?
Greg: They don’t have to be losers if they just work!
John (annoyed): Greg, do you really believe that capitalism will exist in the Millenium?
Greg: What are you saying, that God’s some kind of Democrat?
Mike: Hey now. Let’s keep this discussion free of politics.
Stacy: What discussion? I don’t see any discussion! All I see is a bunch of men criticizing me for protecting my children from unclean influences, and making me look bad to boot! Isaiah said in the last days that there would be those who make evil good and good evil.
Greg: Oh great, a bunch of men? What, we’re all sexist priesthood holders now?
John (sarcastic): Yes, let’s all rail against the horrible patriarchy.
Stacy: Well, you two sure act like it!
Mike: So what about the publicans and sinners? How can you protect your children from them when Christ was so forgiving towards their kind?
Greg: Well, the Bible does say some pretty harsh things about gays. And they’re the words of God.
John (sarcastically): So the words of God and the actions of God contradict and are false?
Greg: No! Of course not!
Stacy: Then who’s right?
In Unision: Me!
They dissolve into argument. The Bishop walks by.
Greg: Bishop! Bishop!
Stacy: Yes! Let a judge of Israel settle the matter!
Greg: Judge these opinions and tell us which one is right!
Mike: The Bible says not to judge-
John (impatient): And the JST says to judge righteous judgement so this is okay! Bishop! Tell us who’s right!
Bishop (flustered): I don’t even know who believes in what!
John: Well, Greg doesn’t agree with my comment in Sacrament about how welfare is okay because it helps the poor. Greg apprently believes in corporations and money instead of charity-
Greg: I believe in hard work and liberty, that’s all.
John: How very patriotic of you.
Stacy: And I believe that kids should be homeschooled!
Greg: You mean held back from a real, professional education.
Stacy: Protected from the wiles of Satan!
Mike: And I think we should be tolerant of gays and other people we might not agree with.
John: Right, and go against Church policy? Smells like apostasy to me.
Mike: I didn’t say everyone should be gay. I’m just saying they’re God’s children and we should treat them as such.
Greg: And please tell my son that it’s morally wrong to consider the environment more important than humans.
Will: Oh geez, dad.
Stacy: Or at least tell John that politics and economics don’t have anything to do with the Gospel!
John: What?! The Gospel has a lot to do with politics and economics! It teaches us social justice and how to finally establish a utopian society!
Greg: You mean a society full of hippies and tree huggers! Laziness and lopsided views!
Will (joking): Well, if you think about it, with his common depiction as a guy with a beard and long hair and robes, people would probably mistake him for a hippie.
Stacey (horrified): William Robert Peterson!
Will (meekly): I’m just saying.
Mike: Well, Will’s got a point! After all, you can’t judge someone by their looks, or we’d all walk right by the Christ Himself!
John: Homosexuality is not a sin you wear on your sleeve, Mike.
Mike: Neither is your insufferable pride! But I can still see it and I’m not judging you.
Greg (laughing): Sounded like judging to me.
Stacey: You all are horrible sinners!
Greg: Well, Bishop?
The group mostly looks impatiently at the bishop to make a decision. Will is the only one who seems bored and almost embarassed by this conversation.
Bishop (slowly): Well, I would have to say that you are all wrong.
John: But the scriptures-
Stacey: But the prophets-
Greg: But in the Priesthood manual-
Mike: But in your talk last week-
Bishop (hastily now): But you are all right together, as well.
The group looks at each other then at the bishop again.
Greg: What kind of answer is that, Bishop?!
Bishop (patting Greg on the back, smiling): Just think about it.
The Bishop walks away, leaving the group in stunned silence.
Mike (after a while): What is that all about? What did he mean by that?
John: I have no idea.