Perspectives from a Liberal Mormon

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You can't be a Democrat and a good Mormon

Having been born and raised in Utah and as a member of the LDS faith, I have come to learn one very important thing with regards to politics: you cannot be a Democrat and still be a good member of the LDS church. Although some are not willing to admit it, this is the message that is subliminally preached to LDS church members. Whether it be in some person making some off hand remark in Sunday school, or just in casual conversation walking in the halls of the church. Needless to say, more than once I have been privy to be informed that the G.O.P. stands for "God's Only Party". I cannot tell you how clever people think they are for thinking of that one. Regardless, I am tired of it!

In addition to this, I am also tired of going to church and having people bring up political issues and then when I state my views, they ask,"Aren't you a Republican?" When I tell them I am not, you would think that I had just contracted some vile disease by the way they react to me. Often, this declaration of political affiliation leads to a great debate, where many a good Mormon Republican will revert back to their missionary tactics in an effort to help me see the error of my ways. Well my response to those people is that being a Democrat and being Christian are not all that different. When one looks at the platform of the Democratic party, you would find that Democrats stand up for education, social services, and equality for all people regardless of their lifestyle. Funny thing is, last time I checked Jesus Christ preached and advocated for these same issues (maybe not education so much, but you get the point).

Recently I was an intern at the Utah state legislature, and I got an opportunity to see what it meant to be a "good Mormon". As some of you may or may not be aware, there were several very controversial issues before the legislature, and most dealt with promoting a solid conservative Christian agenda. One such piece of legislation was a bill that would ban Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools throughout the state. As I went to the committee meeting where this bill was being heard, I can honestly say that it was the first time I was ashamed to be a member of my church because of the views being expressed in that room about people who have made certain choices in their life that may not fit my religious creed, and passing those comments off as the voice of the whole church.

As I left the room that day, I was a little disheartened by what had happened, but that was nothing compared to what I saw and heard next. Standing in the corridor talking with a couple of my fellow interns, Senator Curt Bramble walked passed and as he did there was a group of individuals standing on the other side of the hallway from where we were. Mr. Bramble stopped because he had noticed these people were wearing badges with the acronym PFLAG on them. He asked what it stood for, and they told him it was "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays." Now he could have just said oh, and walked on, but no, not Bramble. His exact response was, "Oh, I am sorry I even asked." And he proceeded to walk on.

A second instance of this display of being a "good Mormon" occurred on the floor of the Senate. As bills are presented on the floor, any senator has the opportunity to stand and debate the merits of the bill. As this is the procedure, there was an instance where Senator Scott McCoy was debating in favor of a bill, and while doing so, Senator Chris Buttars referenced to the people along the benches by his desk that knowing that Senator McCoy was in favor of a bill was enough for him to know that he was opposed to it, and it just so happens that Senator McCoy is gay.

Now you may question whether the actions of two individuals is enough to speak for Utah Republicans in general, and my response is yes, it is. The reason is because I have talked with people who feel as these two individuals do. For twenty three years, I have attended church meetings each week where these ideas are talked and joked about. I have seen the influence the church has on government and the backing of the Republican platform. I have spent countless hours in debate over these issues. The list goes on and on, but through it all I have come to realize one thing, at least in Utah, how can you not be a Democrat if you are a good Mormon.


At 7:10 AM, Blogger Reach Upward said...

You make a very good point. I have definitely observed the attitude you discussed, but it is much more benign in my current ward than in some other wards I have attended.

I live in a ward where we have both Democrats and Republicans that are active members and that hold leadership positions. The Republicans outnumber the Democrats, but there seems to be a degree of respect on both sides, and people from these two political persuasions seem to have no trouble working with each other in church callings.

I have mused (see here as to why Utah Mormons vote mainly Republican.

As far as people being jerks and using their "religion" as a political flogging tool, I think this actually exists on both sides of the aisle. For example, I think you will find that you can't be a Republican and be a good secular humanist. A secular humanist admitting being a Republican to fellow 'believers' would risk excommunication from the ranks, as it were.

I think, however, that you are saying that you expect better from people purporting to be Christian. Just about every Mormon could be a better Christian than he/she is at the present. But we accept that in a community of imperfect saints, we're usually going to have to deal with some boneheads -- and that sometimes we will act like boneheads as well.

At 7:41 AM, Anonymous Steve Owens said...

Don't give up. Keep going to church and speak up. Leaving the church will leave only the narrow-thinking folks to misrepresent the church/Republican party relationship.

Steve Owens (son of former Member of Congress Wayne Owens)

At 7:52 AM, Blogger JM Bell said...

"...We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul..."


At 8:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Whiting said...

I see your points and agree that it is hard to hold views that vary from the norm here in Utah. Bramble is my representive although he certainly doesn't represent my views. I'm still a regestered Rep. although my views lean much more Democratic but I hope to expand the dialog where I'm at for now and see if I can help some of those in my immediate area more informed. I hope to manage to stay Rep. and be a good Mormon, but I may end up a Democrate in the end. I think the more informed Mormons (particularly in Utah) become the more they will lean at least to the middle.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

I agree. I think that it's time for liberal members of the church to stand up and have our voice heard. I mean, the leader of the Dems in the Senate, Harry Reid, is a Mormon.

I appreciate people opening a dialogue about this. I think most members of the Church are more liberal than they know or care to admit.


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At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am perplexed by your comments. Do you not go to church? Now, I don't see a need to support the Republicans much these days either. They are much too liberal (wasteful fiscal policy, global warming, growth of government, etc.). But how can a Mormon listen to the Democratic platform and then feel it jives with Mormonism? Abortion, Same gender marriage, a push to eliminate legislation based on morals (excuse me...only against Christian morals...Liberal Morals, such as Al Gores moral issue of Global Warming are ok) are clearly not in line with church teachings.

Entitlement programs strip human beings of all incentive to be self-reliant. Liberalism strips individual of freedoms and promises to join all in a so called great collective. The equal distribution of wealth takes from the industrious and gives to the lazy...and to a lessor extent these days...the truly needy.

The practice of homosexuality is repugnant to the gospel. Sure, those who practice homosexuality should have rights. They are entitled to the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But even our forefathers never fathomed that would include same gender marriage or the act of homosexuality itself. How do we know this...because they legislated against it!!!!! Sodomy was a crime until the ill drafted Lawrence v. Texas decision. True principles don’t change because liberals are on the Supreme Court

Abortion? Need I say more on the subject? Are you honestly going to tell me that God would sanction recreational abortion after a weekend gone wild? Planned Parenthood? A non-profit organization that rakes in hundreds of millions on killing the unborn (or as Mormons called them the spirit children of God). Recently an activist called branches of this organization to donate funds to the abortions of black children so that they would not compete with his children in the future. Planned Parenthood gladly accepted the offer more than once. That’s Mormonism?

Racism. What other party pushes to set aside Hispanic kids in bilingual classes (essentially de jure segregation of Hispanics from other children)? What group seeks to admit the “underrepresented” races in Universities, because let’s face it, liberals believe they are too dumb to get in themselves. Or are they afraid of racism in the admissions committees? Who are on University Admissions committees???? Liberals for you slow kids in the back.

I could go on…but it is time to go home. Think about the modern Democrat party. Don’t do the trendy thing and vote blue. Do the right and more difficult thing and vote for principle.

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