Not too long ago, my wife sat in a temple recommend interview. The member of the Stake Presidency got to this question: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"
Well, after a brief pause she started to chuckle. Confused, the Stake Presidency member asked what was so funny. Responding, she said: “Well, I’m a Democrat.” The Stake Presidency member smiled and told her to keep on being a Democrat.
It’s a relief to know that her “extreme” political beliefs did not keep her from getting a temple recommend. At first, it seems like simply a funny experience. However, should anyone ever feel the least bit uncomfortable because they are a Democrat and a member of the Church? My quick, unqualified response to that question is a resounding, “NO.”
Every election season a letter with similar content is read over the pulpit in LDS congregations. This past October’s letter contained the following: “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties and candidates.” (retrieved from: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/first-presidency-issues-letter-encouraging-political-participation-voting on 4/24/15) I hear that with some satisfaction, while at the same time sensing the feeling that the majority of the congregation doesn’t really agree with that. After all, doesn’t everybody really know which party is right and which is just tolerated? (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)
On the Church’s website, The Newsroom Page, which is the “official resource for news media,” says the church does not: “Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.” (retrieved from: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/official-statement/political-neutrality on 4/24/15) When you read some of the postings shared on the Facebook pages of the groups aligned with MormonPress, it seems like the idea of political neutrality frequently gets ignored in Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society classes, along with the occasional talk or testimony delivered in Sacrament Meeting. Assuming that the posts are a representative sample of the Church, and that is a big assumption, partisan comments and statements are made far too often by those who have a captive audience.
As I focus on how to live my religion and, at the same time, practice my personal position on politics, I have to seek to bring the two into alignment as closely as possible. For most of us, I don’t believe that every position of the Democratic Party necessarily mirrors all of our personal beliefs. However, I am fairly certain that many of the GOP positions are even less aligned with most of our belief systems. In Romans 1:16, Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel. While I won’t equate the gospel with a political party, I will say that if you have “studied it out in your mind” and you feel that many of the positions of the Democratic Party are more closely aligned with your gospel beliefs, you have no need to be ashamed of being a Democrat. It is NOT a sin to be a Democrat.
As we look at positions on helping the poor, lifting up the downtrodden, educating our children, having stewardship over our land and resources, seeking to be a peacemaker, exercising agency, loving all of our neighbors as ourselves, and doing it unto the least of these, we might ask the question: Is it a sin NOT to be a Democrat? That, my friends is a discussion for another time …