Rather than post a comment deep in Richard’s wonderful thread about capitalism, I thought I’d bring my thought to the front of the queue.
The question of whether capitalism is compatible with the gospel was answered the moment Richard listed the fruits of capitalism: immense salaries, notoriety, perks, honor, authority, power, and influence. In other words, pride and the vain things of the world.
One of Mormonism’s central tenets is the notion that this world is at odds with God’s will (Nate’s first comment in the thread is wonderful and touched on this point). We refer to this world as Babylon precisely because it is Zion’s enemy. As I read the comments, however, I was struck by the suggestions that our objective is to remake Babylon, rather than flee to Zion.
It is seeking earthly treasures that Christ condemned — not the form in which they are sought. Rust and moth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal, no matter that our treasure was acquired through an economy that pays parents and educators rather than golfers and writers. We may seek riches to serve our fellow men, but it is how those riches are used, and not the intrinsic merits of the underlying work, that King Benjamin addressed.
There are many valuable acts I might do, none of which are currently compensated in our economic system. How much *should* I be paid to tell my children I love them? How much *should* I be paid to plan a thoughtful date for my wife? How much *should* I be paid for home teaching, serving my neighbor, or returning a lost coat? It is undoubtedly beneficial to society that my family feel loved, that neighbors help one another, etc., but it’s a mistake to criticize our economy because it doesn’t compensate every social good. This is because there are, to use the cliche, many things that money can’t buy. Heavenly capital can’t be exchanged into dollars. These are the things that cannot, and should not, be compensated by any economy. That’s the way it works and the way it should be — society cannot provide earthly treasures proportionate to eternal significance.
Gospel followers must challenge the importance of wealth, notoriety, power, and every other vain thing of the world. Our mission is to highlight the priceless — especially loving relationships. That is where happiness is found.