Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prince and Wright and the Demise of Communism

In their book, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (University of Utah Press, 2005), Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright discuss the Church's 1966 statement on Communism which was issued by David O. McKay. The excerpt quoted by Prince and Wright includes the following:

"We consider [Communism] the greatest satanical threat to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God's work among men that exists on the face of the earth." (p.313.)

Thus, McKay said the greatest threat to missionary work in 1966 was Communism. At the time, Communist governments did not allow missionaries or even Church materials into their countries. McKay's assessment was well grounded.

But what about today, half a century later?

The demise of Communism

On page 321 of their book, Prince and Wright trumpet this heading:


The common English definition of the word "demise" is as follows:

demise: noun   1. a person's death. synonyms death, dying, passing. 2. the end or failure of an enterprise or institution. synonyms end, breakup, disintegration, fall, downfall, collapse

According to Prince and Wright, McKay had overstated the threat of Communism. They claim that, although he was "willing to go to war to fight Communism, the war never came." (p.321.)

Throughout the world

And lest anyone think this was merely a regional demise, Prince and Wright emphasize:

"Communism as a successful form of government quickly became discredited throughout the world." (p.321; emphasis added.)

Communism, discredited "throughout the world," would no longer be the greatest threat to missionary work. So what is that threat today?

The greatest threat to missionary work

Contrary to the opinion of Prince and Wright, David O. McKay's 1966 assessment of Communism's effect on missionary work is still accurate today. Consider the following:

The People's Republic of China (PRC) has existed since 1949 when it was founded by the Communist Party of China, the country's sole governing political party.

The reader is invited to visit the LDS Church's "Newsroom" and view "Facts and Statistics" for a few of the countries of the world. The chart below shows "Newsroom" statistics for China and two of its neighbors.

Notice that statistics for Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China are listed by the Church separately. This may be in part because they each have their own money, passports, legal system, and language(s). It may also be due to the fact that LDS missionaries freely proclaim the gospel in Hong Kong but not in China. Even online missionaries are presently asked by the Church to avoid crossing into China:

"Online proselyting should not cross international borders into countries where the Church has chosen or agreed not to proselyte. This currently includes the People's Republic of China." (Official LDS web page, Mormons and China).

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations

Today, nearly 1.4 billion people live in the People's Republic of China, approximately 20 percent of the world’s population. In order to illustrate what it means for one country to have one-fifth of the world’s population, this map divides the world into five regions, each with the same population as China.

Source: The Atlantic, Aug. 14, 2013.

McKay's assessment still valid

In 1966, Communism prevented the Church from reaching a large percentage of God's mortal children. At that time, President David O. McKay identified Communism as the greatest threat to the spread of God's work among men that existed on the face of the earth.

Today, one in five of earth's inhabitants live where missionary work is prohibited by Communism. It seems clear to me that McKay's 1966 assessment of Communism's effect on missionary work is still valid.

And it also seems clear to me that the demise of Communism throughout the world is a Prince and Wright myth.

The image below was added on 2014-11-29 in response to an anonymous comment claiming that "China is categorically no longer a communist country." Anonymous might want to share that critical piece of news with BBC News (among others).

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