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Someone told me that wealthy Mormons are supposed to give their money to poor ones. Is that true? What is the biblical basis for this?

Do they really do that? Is it mandated by certain denominations more forcefully than others?

If so it sounds like socialism to me. If this practice is distinct from socialism how so?

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I think this question should be reworded. We cannot answer, "Are Mormons socialists?" because some may be, some may not. I think a question we can answer is, "Is there anything in Mormon doctrine to support a Socialist political view?" –  Wikis Mar 16 '12 at 10:43
    
@wikis - I think if I worded it that way the answer would be an obvoius yes. I'm more concerned with the question of whether all Mormons are, by faith, necessarily socialists. –  pguardiario Mar 16 '12 at 11:43
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"Socialism" is a very broad ideology as well, so if you could include a brief definition for this question that would be helpful. –  Matt Mar 16 '12 at 12:21
    
This probably should focus on people who follow the teachings of Jesus rather than just Mormons, since the command to be generous comes from Jesus, whose teachings are applicable to all Christians. –  Narnian Mar 16 '12 at 14:58
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Anyone who ever learns to share their toys in kindergarten could be considered a socialist by some. I think this question (as well as the vast majority of contemporary discussions on socialism) suffers from a gross lack of definition. –  Flimzy Mar 17 '12 at 6:47
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3 Answers

As we wait for perhaps more clarification on the question, I'll attempt an answer anyway and edit later if need be:

No, it can't be said so broadly that "Mormons are socialists," but yes, they do "give their money to poor ones."

You might as well be asking, "Is the Red Cross socialist?" "Is the United Way socialist?" "Is the Ronald McDonald House socialist?" "Are every charitable, Christian people socialist?" All these "give their money to poor ones." With that qualifier, they seem socialist as well.

Jesus teaches that we should be generous and give of what we have to the poor. As far as I know, this is a universal concept among Christian denominations: that what we lose, we gain, and when we give charitably, we lay up store in heaven.

Mormons are often known to give quite generously and are encouraged to live the law of consecration, especially among their own people. If you've been blessed with prosperity or surplus of a particular resource, then you will be blessed more by giving it away with gladness of heart.

That's individualistic. The LDS Church as a whole is known for their humanitarian aid and other efforts (see also this article), much like other non-profit organizations. They also encourage welfare and self-reliance among members and neighbors.

Politically, the LDS Church stands neutral but encourages its members everywhere to be actively and appropriately involved in political process. Thus, societies are improved as governments adopt, through some sort of democratic or republic process, policies and procedures which are in harmony with gospel teachings, creating a better world.

In summary, it is too general to say that "Mormons are socialists" by itself and still be fair and accurate, but some of what Mormons and other Christian groups do exhibits some similarity to "socialism," in that goods are distributed among those who are in need. Beyond that, though, there's no political agendas at a Church level, and I have found individuals in the LDS Church to be generous in giving to the poor and needy.

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Well-said. It's worth noting that Joseph Smith and Karl Marx were contemporaries. At one point, Joseph Smith attended a few lectures on the then-new ideas of Socialism, because he had been told that it shared many points in common with his own teachings. (Which is true, superficially at least. See AG's answer.) But when it was over, the conclusion he came to was, "I do not believe in this doctrine." –  Mason Wheeler Mar 16 '12 at 13:27
    
"Politically, the LDS Church stands neutral." Is that supposed to be some kind of joke? It's a rather sick one, if so. The LDS Chruch has worked very hard against human rights and equality. They're almost as bad as the Catholics. –  TRiG Mar 23 '12 at 1:59
    
@TRiG There's no levity in my statements. I guess you didn't read the linked resources. Officially, "The Church does ... Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church." Please see the full document‌​. While opinions are necessary, I would suggest a political forum for further discussion of such comments. –  Matt Mar 23 '12 at 3:43
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Um, it's not just Mormons.

Hate to break this to you, but all Christians are supposed to be sharing their wealth with the poor.

Deuteronomy 24 tells the Jews to sell 10% of what they have and share it with everybody on a feast. Jesus says in Luke 3:11 that whoever has two cloaks should share with him who has none. Acts 4 says that they Christians held all they had in common. Paul commands many of those to whom he writes to take up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem.

Sharing the wealth is pretty common in all of Christianity.

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+1. Karl Marx is well known for his aversion to religion (among other things). What's less well known is that his famous quote describing Socialist philosophy, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" was inspired directly by Acts chapter 4. –  Mason Wheeler Mar 16 '12 at 13:09
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Paul wrote in 1 Timothy:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 ESV

So, all Christians who have wealth are commanded to be generous. This, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the political system of socialism.

Socialism gives people no choice. Indeed, it takes money from those with wealth.

There is no honor for anyone who does something under compulsion, for he has no choice but to do so. However, there is great honor for the one who gives voluntarily.

The teaching that those who are rich should be generous implicitly acknowledges that there are people who are rich, and while Jesus did command the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 to sell everything he had and give to the poor, this wasn't a universal command that no one should ever be rich.

So, Mormons and many other Christians as well are bound to follow this teaching, but are not bound to be socialists.

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This is true, but what does it have to do with Mormons? –  Mason Wheeler Mar 16 '12 at 13:30
    
@MasonWheeler Well, the teachings of Jesus are recognized as authoritative by Mormons, are they not? –  Narnian Mar 16 '12 at 13:58
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Yes they are. I think Mason was just wondering why you took such a broad approach when the OP was looking for things on Mormons, not universal teachings that all Christians should accept. –  ryan Mar 16 '12 at 15:43
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