Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I'm a Morman and a Democrat- and that's a good thing

Found this article and had to share. EVERY Mormon who has ever said the statement, "how can you be a Mormon and a Democrat?" MUST read this. I am including it in it's entirety, because the whole thing should be read:

By Boyd Peterson

When I was growing up in Utah, Calvin Rampton and Scott Matheson were our Governors, Frank Moss was one of our Senators, and Gunn McKay was our Congressman. All were Mormon Democrats. My father was a steelworker who believed that the Democrats were the party that ended the Depression, won the War, and fought for the rights of working people.

Evidently many Utah Mormons agreed with him. It was not until the mid- to late-1970s that the Democratic party fell out of favor among Utah Mormon voters. That shift resulted, I believe, because the public debate about morality became more narrowly focused on sexual issues like abortion. But the Mormon retreat from the Democratic party has been detrimental to both the party and the LDS Church. Furthermore, there are moral issues that, I believe, are better represented by the Democrats than by Republicans.

At election time each year, a Church statement of political neutrality is read in LDS congregations throughout the nation, which "affirms [the Church's] neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates." Importantly, it also stresses that, "principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties." Implicit in this statement is the notion that gospel truth may be found in the Democratic party's platform.

In an interview in 1998, Elder Marlin Jensen, a Mormon Democrat, spoke of the need for political diversity in the Church. Jensen outlined three main concerns Church leaders have with the misconception that the Republican party is the Church party: First, the Church's reputation suffers with the waxing and waning tides of national political fortunes. "There is a feeling that even nationally as a church, it's not in our best interest to be known as a one-party church," stated Jensen.

The late Elder James E. Faust, also a Mormon Democrat and a counselor in the First Presidency, reiterated this point: "It is in the interest of the Church to have a two-party system . . . . Both locally and nationally, the interest of the Church and its members are served when we have two good men or women running on each ticket, and then no matter who is elected, we win."[1]
Second, Elder Jensen suggested that the overwhelming Republican affiliation of Mormons in Utah and throughout the intermountain West weakens the checks and balances of good democratic government. As Elder Jensen put it, "any time you don't have the dialogue and the give-and-take that the democratic process provides you're going to be poorer for it in the long run."

Third, Elder Jensen stressed that it would be "very healthy for the church -- particularly the Utah church" if the common misconception that one cannot be a good Mormon and a Democrat "could be obliterated." Elder Jensen continued, "everyone who is a good Latter-day Saint is going to have to pick and choose a little bit regardless of the party that they're in and that may be required a lot more in the future than it has in the past."[2]

Jensen's call for political diversity recognizes an important truth about political parties and public morality -- there are many moral issues and none of the political parties has a monopoly on them. "I am a Democrat," stated Senator Harry Reid, "because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."

Like Reid, I believe that the Democratic party takes the strongest position on many moral issues. For example, King Benjamin's address in the Book of Mormon admonishes us to prioritize, "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants" (Mosiah 4:26). I believe the Democratic party works harder to protect and defend these moral priorities.

Elder Faust stated that his reading of the Book of Mormon also influenced his political views: "I believe what is said in the Book of Mormon, that the Lord values all of his children equally -- black and white, bond and free, male and female, Jew and gentile." As a result, Elder Faust said, "I like to see all people enjoy every advantage, every blessing, every opportunity that comes to them by reason of citizenship."[3]

Furthermore, the LDS scriptures' call to educate ourselves, "to seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith" (D&C 109:7), is, I believe, more constantly supported by the Democratic agenda. I also believe LDS scriptures' insistence that the world and all living things were created spiritually prior to their physical creation calls us to environmental stewardship, another moral issue defended more robustly by Democrats.
Finally, I am a Democrat because I believe LDS scripture and prophets have urged us to live within our means, to be fiscally responsible. Democrats believe we need to pay for any programs we create, and Democratic administrations have, since the Great Depression, consistently lowered deficit spending, while the Reagan and two Bush administrations have greatly increased it. Democrats have a strong record of fiscal responsibility.

Many Mormon Democrats like me are pro-life, and find no pressure to change that view. Senator Harry Reid once told how, when an abortion issue came up for a vote during his first year in the Senate, some senators were expressing to him the importance of his vote. Reid recalled how Senator Barbara Mikulski, "at that time the only woman in the Senate and one of the nation's feminist leaders, told everyone to leave me alone, my vote was a matter of character." Reid's pro-life stance in the Senate has not hurt his career -- in 2006 he became the Senate Majority Leader, the highest-ranking Mormon in Washington.

I believe Mormon Democrats can make a difference, not only like Reid in Washington, but in their own local party. I have witnessed first-hand how Mormon Democrats in Utah county have worked to make the county platform more in-line with LDS values.

Boyd Petersen is the Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University, the biographer of Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley, and a former candidate for the Utah State legislature.

12 comments:

curtis.noble said...

that's a decent article...although it leaves me a little confused on what the point of it is. Is it trying to say that it's okay for Mormons to be democrats (and if so, do we really need an article by a church leader to tell us that) or is the real intent to say that the democratic party is more in line with the teachings of the Gospel? I SURE hope it's not trying to say that...

In my opinion any member of the church who tries to say that one party is more in line with the gospel than the other really needs to check up on their understanding of gospel principles!

Christina said...

Curt,
I agree- nobody should ever say you HAVE to be a member of a certain party to be a "good Mormon." Which is why I am sick of people getting up in testimony meeting and bearing their testimony of the GOP (has happened in my ward), bringing up politics at Adult Education on a weekly basis, discussing politics in Ward Council, RS, and Priesthood-- all ranting and raving about how evil the democratic party is and how everyone should be republican. I am sick of people asking me, "how can you be a Mormon and a democrat?" and being told that Harry Reid should be ex-communicated because he is a democrat. All of these things have happened- and I want Mormons to wake up and realize that in order to be "good" does NOT mean we have to all think the same- we can have opposing viewpoints and still be on the same overall team. At least where I am living, that is what conservatives need to learn- and that is why I like this article. Hopefully, some of these people who think it is OK to talk about the GOP and Glenn Beck over the pulpit in sacrament will read this article (or something similar) and leave their rantings for a more suitable place.

curtis.noble said...

sounds like you're in a very politically charged ward! You might bring that up to the Stake President. Our ward is not like that. We have a little old couple who think that there should be laws to require businesses and rich people to give 50% of their wealth to underprivileged...So yeah...people roll their eyes at them. But I've yet to hear anyone get up to the pulpit and say anything politically charged. In fact, I haven't heard much of that in any ward I've been in. I guess I heard it in EQ sometimes (back in Marston Lake)..but that was about it. LOL...I remember the EQ president in Marston Lake one time started getting the Glenn Beck tears right before the election and called upon the quorum to be prepared to stand up because the "elder's of the church will be called upon to rescue the constitution" (you know about the prophecy, right?) Yeah, he felt that if Obama was elected then we needed to be prepared to be called upon to stand up in defense of the constitution. yeah...don't think we're quite there yet.

The one thing I like most about that article is that it states the reason the church must stay politically neutral....because the parties are ALWAYS changing. The church does offer some political advice in stating that members should vote for "candidates" whose values match closest to ours...not "party" but "candidate" indicating that yes...it's okay to vote against your party line.

Harry Reid should not be excommunicated obviously! But his statement that he is democrat because he's mormon is inappropriate. Mitt Romney handled that much better...he said his religion has nothing to do with his political views. It has shaped his character, faith, and family, but has no effect on how he governs. Which is evident in some of his ideas.

Christina said...

Honestly, Ben and I have contemplated moving because our stake goes on and on about politics ALL THE TIME- in SO MANY different meetins where it is completely inappropriate. You would have loved this testimonuy of the GOP- this woman got up and started listing off people in the ward who were attending GOP rallies with her. I rolled my eyes, but Ben almost got up and left he was so mad.

I like Faust's comment about how if we have people on both sides, then regardless of who wins, the church wins as well. Isn't it better that we have Mormon dems AND Mormon reps. helping to write laws rather then NO mormons on one side helping to write laws?

Basically, I hope this article at least helps the "crazy" talkers who just assume that if you are Mormon then you must be a Rep. realize that it simply isn't the case- nor was it intended to be. That's why I liked it.

Lula O said...

Whaa?? There are other Mormon Democrats besides us?? It's not written in some rule book somewhere? Who'd thought it possible. Woo hoo Christina! Great article.

My dad has been saying these same things for decades. He's a mormon and a democrat for exactly the reasons this author states. But he thinks the major change shift toward the Republican leanings in the church began with the New Deal and headed south from here. Before then most Mormons were Democrat. So it is just as you state - parties evolve over time.

And Romney,,,sigh, he'll say or do anything to get elected as is evidenced by his major flip-flopping record. He likes universal health care - he doesn't like universal health care..whatever.

Personally, I thrive on my uniqueness at church.

curtis.noble said...

Lula, you're right...which is why I say his Faith doesn't have much to do with how he governs (speaking of Romney) He also flip flopped on abortion at one point when he was running for Governor.

I'm surprised Christina that you hear the politically charged stuff from the stake as well! Maybe you should write to Salt Lake about it. Bishops need to do a better job at controlling testimony meetings all together. Bishop Allen did a great job of that, I thought.

Even as a Republican I would have walked out of that testimony meeting. That is very inappropriate!

Lula you're right, the majority of Church members used to be democrats. That's because the democratic party used to be the more "conservative" party. I don't know this for a fact and will research it...but perhaps someone on here knows more about it. Wasn't the original purpose of the Republican party when it was organized in 1850 (or around there) to end slavery and polygamy? At the time those were "liberal" agendas. And obviously when I use the term "liberal" I'm not in any way associating it with the same way we think of "liberal" today. But in the context of history, trying to end something that has been in place for a very long period of time was "liberal."

I think it's fair to say that the church membership by and large is "conservative" regardless of which political party they belong to. I see more and more of my church friends dis-associating themselves with republicans because the republican party has not exercised much fiscal conservatism in recent years.

okbushmans said...

First, we have titled Fast and Testimony Meeting, "Open Mic Sunday" for obvious reasons covered. In Oklahoma we have had our fair share of republican rants from the pulpit, and Sunday School. I'm grateful for a new family, who's wife/mom is VERY liberal, serves in the military, and is very wel educated and in appropriate cases, immediately shuts down political talk. It definitely spices things up!

Next, there are a few points that the author makes that I think are pretty ridiculous if only applied to the Democrat party. 1: "educate ourselves...more constantly by democratic agenda" ?!? That is an ignorant statement! Education, just like religion, shouldn't be a partisan issue. Both parties have educated and ignorant people. 2: Democrats believe we need to pay for any programs we create. Really? Why has Congress, after passing the Pay-Go legislation, used an override an almost every bill after. Republicans are guilty, example Pres. Bush. Again, that is a RIDICULOUS generalization. 3: "Democratic party work harder to protect and defend [feeding the hungry, clothing the naked]" Again, not party exclusive. As a typically voting republican, I believe it is not solely the govt's responsibility to "feed the hungry". I would much rather make my charitable contributions, to a much more effecive organization, than the federal government. And when the 2008 candidate's "charitable contributions" were published, how is it possible for this to be true, when the Republicans donated more? Again, a gross generalization.

Again, I agree with much of what the author wrote... or quoted from General Authorities. And I agree with all the comments given. Just feels he regrettably took it a little too far too suggest that one party does better living the aspect of the Gospel. Sad to say, he pretty much did exactly what he hates about Republican mormons.

okbushmans said...

Oh, and one thing I've learned from Carlos, is that it is the DEMOCRAT party! He would cringe reading "democratic party" as often as it is in this article!

Carlos said...

Haha. Nice try, OK. :)

That’s an old Republican partisan insult that started with Lee Atwater. I think if we were to trace the end of "comity" between the parties, it began with this. Even Reagan sat down with his House rival Tip O'Neill to fix Social Security.

“Democratic Party” is a proper noun and the party’s proper, grammatically correct name. The name of the party is not an adjective – DEMOCRAT – which is used to describe persons who identify with the party, as members or in casting their ballots. So when Republicans say “Democrat party” they are deliberately insulting us by implying that we're a rabble, a loose collection of individuals who call ourselves “Democrats” rather than a institution, a great and storied political organization that has been in existence as an active political party longer than any other in the entire world.

In short, it is insulting and disrespectful. Though it's actually true, in a sense, what Will Rogers said, "I don't belong to an organized party, I'm a Democrat" -- it's for us to be proudly self-deprecating and not for Republicans and those who believe we're the devil's spawn to turn it into something nasty and disrespectful.

When we punch back in kind we're only harking back to our Jacksonian Democratic traditions. Jackson never ran away from a good scrap, and I do believe he won most of them. That's the posture I believe Democrats should take, and not the retiring, above-the-fray intellectual Jeffersonian Democrats. As Anthony Weiner said, the problem with Democrats is that sometimes we bring library books to a knife fight.

I'm with Jefferson and the Founders in affirming there should be a wall of separation between church and state. And OK, you can cherry-pick Democratic spending, but the fact is that in the past 30 years, it's been Democratic, not Republican, administrations that have held the deficit down. Reagan started the deficit explosion with huge unpaid tax cuts and higher defense spending. GWB took it to stratospheric heights with two unpaid off-budget wars, unpaid Medicare Advantage, and the largest UNPAID tax cuts in history -- a gift for the rich and a disaster for the nation. Clinton RAISED taxes on the top 2% to pay down the debt, and left office with three surpluses in a row and 22 million jobs created. It took less than one year for GWB to turn the surplus into a deficit, nearly pushing us into economic depression by the end of his presidency, leaving Obama and the Democrats (AS USUAL -- see FDR) with a $1.3 trillion deficit and a HUGE economic mess to clean up.

And now Republicans are trying to divide us by talking about an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan instead of the fact that GM -- so-called "Government (Obama) Motors" -- THIS MONTH posted its highest quarter profits since 2004, paid off a substantial part of its taxpayer-funded loan, and is well on its way to selling off the rest of its taxpayer-owned shares as IPOs as it gets back to work as one of America's vital industrial giants.

curtis.noble said...

hmm...just a little off topic, right?

Lula O said...

Who cares! Love it Carlos! Just love how all the hot button Republican issues are magically appearing before the election. Immigration (wha.. changing the Constitution???), those dreaded Muslims (you know the others), backing themselves into a demographic corner. again.

Like I read in Newsweek the other day - Republicans can't afford to be the party of white people who fear everyone else nor can Democrats be the party who calls everyone who disagrees with it racist.

curtis.noble said...

oh yeah, I don't really care either, not my blog. And yes, Carlos it was a very excellent post! I loved reading it. I envy your writing ability. Can't say I disagree with anything you said either. It's great that GM posted such great results and are looking at an IPO now. It's great that you are recognizing the success of GM recently. Wanna know why the media isn't saying anything about it? Did you know how they returned to profitability? You know that Bailout they got? They used some of it to fund production in China and grow their Chinese workforce while cutting the American work force and closing several dealerships in the U.S. simultaneously opening several up in China. That's good business. But not exactly good for the democratic party...they're not going to want to take credit for its success, as soon as they do, you got Hannity and Beck jumping down your throat about outsourcing the jobs! Even though the truth is Obama and the democrats didn't have much to do with it. The new CEO isn't a federal employee...they appointed a new successful proven CEO from the private sector...but not from the auto industry or the govt. This is what happens when you rely on private sector business leaders to solve business problems...you may not like the "way" they do it, but they'll get the job done. Shaking things up drastically has positive effects sometimes.

Lula you're right...every election season all these hot button issues that democrats have promised to solve all these years come back to the surface. Blame the media for that. The media are the ones pushing all this stuff. I look to see all of the "hot button" issues that republicans are weak on to come back to the forefront. Democrats WANT this to happen, if it didn't then the issues around campaign season would be the economy and jobs. Well, poor people are out of jobs too. So democrats need to talk about immigration instead of jobs so they get all these latinos out to vote for them. I look to hear a lot of empty promises to latinos this year and again in 2011-2012.

I love campaign season. It's funny especially right now to see all the democrats abandoning obama the same way republicans abandoned Bush! Michael Bennet here in CO is all of a sudden becoming vocal about the fact that congress has spent a ton of money with "nothing to show for it" in his words. So he's positioning himself as the guy who is going to end govt. wasteful spending, even though he voted for all the spending he's now critical about. I also look to see a lot of republican candidates looking to take a more center position on immigration reform...but not abandoning the majority of Americans who support tough immigration enforcement according to the laws on the books now.

Hopefully republicans can help keep the media focused on the economy...to me that's more important NOW than immigration or anti muslim crap. We'll see though. I wonder if voters will buy all the democrat promises this time around. And it will be interesting to watch the Republican party try to deal with all of the mixed messages in the party and the constant arguing over who is more conservative. Gonna be a great election year regardless of who wins...!