Yet the LDS’s relationship with capitalism has not always been such a smooth sail. In fact, it has been downright rocky. Richard Bushman, author of the popular biography Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, even calls it a “tortured relationship.”
On what grounds did the Church view capitalism with suspicion? Bushman gives at least four main reasons.
1) The advance of capitalism reduces receptivity to the gospel. I think Bushman is essentially right here. Whatever else the consequences (many of them beneficial, I realize), it is difficult to deny this observation.
2) Capitalism is godless. That is not to say that it repudiates faith in God as does communism, but neither does it make provision for faith. “Capitalism as a system subscribes to Korihor’s creed that one succeeds according to the strength of the creature.” You can believe, or you can choose not to. There are no rituals or tenets that expressly encourage religion. And finally, what I have written extensively about, capitalism encourages a type of individualism that just doesn’t fit in well with the type of communal service required by the gospel.
3) Capitalism creates incentives of its own that often replace religious goals. Corporate success, for many, takes the place of salvation. One need look no further than, say, Japan, to see that 80 hour work weeks are the new religion.
4) And finally, what I believe to be the most dangerous–capitalism adds fire to the fervor of consumerism. People find untold amounts of satisfaction in buying and selling material goods. It even seems that capitalism will not work without consumerism. Thus, consumerism invades our lives to the point where we feel like development of person is synonymous with getting ahead in the corporate world. Our sense of worth should not depend upon our ability to make money.
For obvious reasons, the Church did not embrace capitalism until after World War II. Leaders such as Brigham Young instituted provisions to moderate the emphasis on individualism and competition and have warned us to be extremely wary of consumerism.
All of this is not to say that the Church should again divorce capitalism, but it at least indicates that a full on embrace of libertarian free market ideals should at least be well thought out.