Sage Election-Year Counsel from the First Presidency

Each election year, the Church predictably issues statements affirming its political neutrality, which I find both refreshing and reassuring amid all of the mingling of scripture with the philosophies of men that we see in many churches. A few decades ago, during a presidential election season, President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency stated the following at a BYU commencement address:

You young people are leaving your university at the time in which our nation is engaged in an abrasive and increasingly strident process of electing a president. I wonder if you would permit me, one who has managed to survive a number of these events, to pass on to you a few words of counsel.
First I would like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity and unquestioned patriotism. Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who bear the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all. Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent. (emphasis added)
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A Pivotal Moment for President Obama and America

President Barack Obama visited Osawatomie, Kansas last week to speak about the danger of the growing economic inequality in America and the threat this currently poses to the middle class and our country as a whole. I thought this was the most important speech of his Presidency thus far because it clearly illustrated the monumental challenges we face in dealing with a weak economy, high unemployment, and an eroding middle class. He emphatically connected the success of the middle class with the success of America and described how investments in education, infrastructure, and science and technology along with tax and financial industry reform are critical to our economic recovery. The speech was 55 minutes long, so I highlighted what I thought were his key points:

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Values Voters for Newt

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has recently become the latest fad in the never-ending search for an 'un-Romney' in the GOP Presidential Primary race, I think it is important to reflect on a matter of character. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted in an interview a few years ago that while the Church is politically neutral, it teaches its members to "seek out and find good, honest men and women of value, with values and virtue and honesty and integrity and encourage them to run for office, and then to use their agency to vote for whomever they choose."  (I was pleased to see that Elder Ballard mentioned we should seek out good men and women. As one might expect, earlier statements from Church leaders, particularly from earlier generations, typically only mentioned men, tacitly but perhaps unintentionally leading members to believe that women had no place in running for office.)

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No Politics in Church!

Have you ever been in a Church meeting where someone, a speaker in sacrament meeting, or a teacher or student in Sunday School, Priesthood, or Relief Society, makes a blatant political statement? Perhaps it was only a facetious but degrading comment about a particular Obama Administration policy. If it occurred a few years ago, it may have been a statement of support for President Bush or the Iraq war. Too often, I've heard people make political comments in Church meetings, usually denigrating Democratic politicians and policies while supporting Republican politicians and policies. I have even heard people make disparaging comments in Church meetings about Church members who happen to be Democrats. Political statements, regardless of whether they are conservative, liberal, or moderate, do not belong in our sacred Church meetings.  It is incredibly inappropriate and unchristian to denigrate someone because of their political beliefs, particularly while attending a Christian church! Numerous statements from the First Presidency and other General Authorities have made it clear that our church meetings are for discussing sacred gospel topics and not for politics (If you want to read more about the Church's stance of political neutrality, click here).

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Communists Like Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith

Conservatives often invoke our country's Founding Fathers as well as prominent historical figures like economist Adam Smith, whose ideas about the "invisible hand" of free markets helped form the theoretical foundation of modern capitalism, when they advocate far-right economic policies. Lately, there has been a lot of talk by GOP presidential candidates about creating a flat tax system in the U.S., particularly from Texas Governor Rick Perry and Godfather's Pizza founder Herman Cain. Ironically, you'll never hear a conservative pundit or politician point out that Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson, among other historical figures, were strongly in favor of progressive taxation.

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Mitt Flips on Climate Change (Is Anyone Surprised?)

Less than two weeks after I wrote a post praising Mitt Romney (and Jon Huntsman) for their admirable stances supporting science's position on climate change, Romney changed his position! In June, Romney stated the following to an audience in New Hampshire, affirming the existence of global warming:

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Church Counsels Against Enforcement-Only Approach to Immigration Reform

About a year ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement affirming principles of a balanced and common-sense approach towards immigration reform. In June 2011, the Church issued a much more specific statement on immigration, specifically calling for "compassion" when considering what to do with the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

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The Church's Political Neutrality

During the last Presidential election season, I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was printed in a prominent newspaper:

Lost amid the hype about Mitt Romney's religion speech and Mike Huckabee's surge is a story about a church that, unlike most contemporary Christian organizations, does not participate in partisan politics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, has stated for years that it does not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms." The Mormon Church also does not allow its church buildings to be used for partisan political purposes; nor does it tell its members whom to vote for.

When many evangelical leaders are eager to blur the line between church and state by endorsing candidates and tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) telling their followers whom to vote for, and when many churches allow candidates to use their pulpits, it is refreshing to know that at least one church is honoring a principle established by the Founding Fathers by keeping religion out of politics. As a practicing Mormon, I am a product of this political neutrality. (By the way, I will not be voting for Mr. Romney.)
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WhichMitt.com Part 2

I recently posted two video clips of Mitt Romney contradicting himself on economic stimulus and President Obama's health care reform bill. While most politicians' views on various issues change a little over time, Romney's shift on these issues was a complete 180 degree shift and only occurred since Obama has been in office. The Republican Party has carefully crafted their message of opposition to Obama. They have taken great pains to paint his actions as that of a reckless socialist, as big government overreach. And they have specifically targeted President Obama's Recovery and Affordable Health Care Acts as the preeminent examples of such overreach. In other words, opposition to government economic stimulus and health care reform form the core of the GOP's argument against Obama's Presidency!

How can the GOP claim that it seeks to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act if the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney, is the architect of a plan that is almost identical to the one Obama signed into law? This is compounded by Romney's quote in the video below where he acknowledges applying a similar program at a national level would be a good idea. How can Republicans claim that economic stimulus act destroyed our economy and aggravated the recession when the GOP frontrunner supported the notion of economic stimulus in the form of government spending in 2008 at the height of the recession? Any Republican who supports a politician like Romney but attacks Obama for these signature pieces of legislation is guilty of immense intellectual honesty.

Kudos to Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney - And I Mean It!

On August 18, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." With that short statement, Mr. Huntsman proved himself one of the few reasonable figures in the Republican Party. While most of the Republican field has run away from previously stated positions affirming climate change (or simply continuing their nonsensical denial of the science) it was incredibly refreshing to hear this kind of language from Huntsman. In a previous post, I outlined the clear positions of several of the most important scientific organizations in the U.S., which showed that there is a scientific consensus on global warming- that it is happening and is largely being caused by human activity. If you have not read the statements of these organizations -- the consensus statements of actual climate scientists -- you are depriving yourself of essential primary source information about an issue that has been spun and distorted by the media and particularly by right-wing commentators. That Huntsman has stuck to his belief in climate change despite the strong global warming denialist crosswinds that have overtaken the GOP in the past couple of years shows immense intellectual honesty and fortitude.

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