Sunday, August 26, 2012

Equal Opportunity Vs. Equal Outcome: Jesus Christ Did Not Necessarily Support Equal Pay For The Same Job

Although we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay tribute to Joseph Smith and all those who succeeded him as prophet, seer, and revelator, it is Jesus Christ who remains central to our faith. After all, our church is called "The Church of Jesus Christ...", NOT the Church of Joseph Smith. So it is Jesus Christ, and by extension, our Heavenly Father, to whom we turn for spiritual guidance. The thoughts of our Savior are codified in all four of the Standard Works of the LDS Church -- the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Additional spiritual guidance is available to individuals via the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus Christ was the source of considerable secular guidance as well. This is essential, since frequently we do err because of the precepts of men. One of those precepts of men is the enshrinement of equality as being co-equal in value to liberty. We're not talking about equality of value, which takes into account differences in purpose; instead, we're talking about a morbid obsession with equality of status. Mormon feminists have fallen for this trap; many obsess with the fact that men have the Priesthood and women do not, forgetting about the different purposes our Heavenly Father has for the two sexes. Some even decide to actually pray to the Heavenly Mother in private.

But was Jesus Christ obsessed with equality of status? The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, as presented in Matthew 20:1-16 implies differently:

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

Of course, center stage is awarded to the spiritual message of this parable. The spiritual message is that each person has different needs and capabilities, and some will have easier mortal probations than others. Some will be called labor for a lengthy life in faithfulness. Others will be called to the work later in life. And still others, such as children who die in infancy or childhood, are called down here primarily to claim a mortal tabernacle. The nature of one's mortal probation will also reflect the lessons learned in spirit life; those who mastered those lessons most effectively in spirit life will tend to be called to leadership positions in mortality (such as Moses, Abraham, Jesus, or Joseph Smith), or be sent down here only long enough to claim a body.

But there is a secular economic message as well. Notice that Jesus defended the householder's practice of paying the same penny to every worker regardless of how long the worker labored in the vineyard. This, of course, will outrage feminists and union activists who demand absolute equality in pay and status. But it reflects Christ's libertarian side -- the notion that compensation ought to be a matter strictly between a worker and an employer. Of course, in our much more complex modern economy, where workers are rarely on the same level playing field as large corporations, we have imposed reasonable limits such as minimum wage laws and laws against racial discrimination to minimize employer abuse. But beyond that, worker compensation should be fundamentally a matter between employer and worker to promote maximum economic growth and the surplus wealth necessary to create additional jobs.

The premise behind mortal probation is equal opportunity, NOT equal outcome. The only guarantee assured us by our Heavenly Father is that we would get an equal opportunity to come to earth. The circumstances would differ depending upon our individual desires and goals, subject only to our Father's approval. Our Heavenly Father knows that if you try to guarantee equal outcome, it will impinge upon equal opportunity. It is more important for a group of employees to be qualified rather than to be "diverse". Diversity is merely one of many factors to be considered, a means towards an end; it is not to be construed as a desirable end unto itself.

This does not relieve us of our responsibility to confront and mitigate de juro discrimination wherever it is found, but it does not impose upon us the responsibility to presume that every example of discrimination or every departure from the rainbow ideal is "de juro".

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