When I originally wrote the piece “Confronting the Myth of LGBT and LDS Dems” for the LDS Dems blog, I quoted a comment that I felt summed up the two core reasons many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel there is an impasse between being an active, faithful member of the Church, and in supporting the Democratic party or, more broadly, progressive ideals. Again, here is the quote:Read more
Last week, Peggy Fletcher Stack, religion editor for the Salt Lake Tribune, approached me about commenting on a Los Angeles area LDS bishop who had written a blog post about Harry Reid.Read more
Hugh B. Brown once said, “Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others."Read more
By Warner Woodworth, BYU Professor Emeritus
Today’s currents of economic malaise have long been the concerns of who seek a healthy economy and social justice. The LDS standard works are filled with admonishments to empower the downtrodden and remember that “the labourer is worthy of his reward” (I Tim. 5:17). Recent battles such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, Mitt Romney’s denigration of the 47 percent, the uproar over inequality, and low minimum wages illustrate these issues. Other damages against workers include corporate downsizing, exorbitant CEO pay, decline of middle class jobs, offshore manufacturing, flat wage structures, high unemployment rates, and so forth.
Mormonism addresses each of these concerns. Our alliance with society’s have-nots should begin with appreciation of the fact that Jesus Himself was a blue-collar worker, a low-paid carpenter engaged in manual labor. In today’s vernacular, we would say he’d be a trade union member and card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. In other words, he would probably be a Liberal.Read more
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can depend on left-leaning members to draw a growing demographic, which would otherwise be repulsed by organized religion, to learn about and even accept the Restored Gospel.Read more
After reading President Uchtdorf's recent statement in favor of President Obama's immigration plan, I was struck by the separation between what the Church teaches and what our conservative brothers and sisters expect us mormon liberals to do.
We as Mormons have two choices as individuals: 1) follow, in lockstep, all of the Church's positions on all political issues, or 2) make our own political decisions, as informed by our own personal research, including research on the Church's institutional positions.
Many Mormon conservatives seem to embrace #1, hammering anyone who supports or votes for anything they view as out of line with the Church’s institutional positions. Therefore, many conservatives harshly condemn anyone who supports increased rights for our homosexual brothers and sisters, anyone who supports a woman's right to choose related to abortion, or anyone who supports the supposedly satanic plan of wealth redistribution.
What gets us, though, is that there seems to be a double standard. Many Mormon conservatives go against the Church’s institutional political position.
For example, Mormon conservatives cheered when they learned this vernal man charges liberals more than he charges conservatives (read the comments to see examples of this cheering), and when they learned this business owner fires two employees based largely on their liberal politics (the lack of wide outrage in Utah suggests that many Mormons are okay with this, if not openly supportive).
This behavior is directly against the Church's stated position on politics: It asks Mormons to
“engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters,"
urges Mormon lawmakers to
“make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent”
and assures that
“[p]rinciples compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties.”
Clearly, the Church as an institution is forcefully against the type of prejudice that Mormon Liberals are facing today.
A final example, in light of President Uchdorf's stirring endorsement of liberal immigration politics: a few years ago Church leaders supported--they attended the signing ceremony to applaud its passage--an immigration bill known as HB116. You would think, if Mormons truly embraced #1 above, that every Mormon in the state would have embraced this without question. That is not what happened, though. In fact, many county GOP organizations from across the state issued an official protest against the Church-approved measure. In a state with 70% of its citizens identifying as Mormon, county after county symbolically rejected the immigration stance institutionally supported by the Church.
And here's the thing: we think this is just fine, and so does the Church. Many Church leaders have even explicitly suggested that #1 is not the way to go. For example, Elder Marlin K. Jensen said,
"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 been in the past. But I think there's room for that and the gospel leaves us lots of latitude."
The Church makes it very clear that, except for in very specific situations, Church members are to behave politically however they want to. The Church as an institution has intervened specifically just a handful times, including in support of "Prohibition" alcohol laws, in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and in favor of California’s Proposition 8. Even in those specific situations, the Church didn't command its members how to vote. It strongly urged one way or another, but didn't say "vote this way or you're out of the Church." In other words, the institutional endorsement of the Church is not meant to dictate the personal political stances of its members.
Here's why this is important: many Church members cite various parts of The Family: A Proclamation to the World in defense of their personal feelings about gay marriage and abortion. But those very passages can also be used to defend many liberal positions on this same issues. The Gospel isn't as cut-and-dried as many seem to think it is, and there are many ways to follow the teachings of Christ. We happen to believe, after careful research, that liberal politics are generally more in line with the Gospel than other political philosophies.
And, in this Church, that's okay. The beauty of the Church is that it embraces #2. Wholeheartedly. The Church draws a line between what The Church as an institution supports and opposes, and what the church membership as individuals support. They don't always have to be the same thing. And that goes in both directions.
I was talking to a friend a few months back, before Romney had the Republican nomination locked up, and he relayed a thought he'd had while listening to Romney harshly criticize President Obama during a campaign stop. He thought to himself, "I hope President Obama doesn't think that all us Mormons are like this..."
I sometimes wonder this myself. Does President Obama somehow think that Romney is representative of Mormons in America? Or even more specifically: do the American voters think that Romney is somehow representative of Mormons? I swear my jokes are better than his, and I would never put a dog on top of my car for a cross-country trip. Additionally, I have a job.
But in the end, maybe we are okay, and maybe we won't be mistaken for a Mitt-Romney-Mormon. Let me explain: we all know that Mormons can identify other Mormons by looking at their countenance. I was reminded of this again today while studying Alma chapter 5 in Sunday School. Our teacher told a story of how a cashier at a grocery store asked her if she was a member of the Church. "Yes," was her answer, to which the cashier explained, "I could tell because of your countenance." (Our Sunday School teacher also explained that this happened at Smith's in Provo, to which I thought, "uh... everyone in Provo is Mormon; this makes it not even a lucky guess, but a statistical certainty.")
That said, even I have seen this countenance principle in action: I was with a friend at a gas station just east of the Cascade Mountain Range, and she approached a man and a woman pumping gas next to us and boldly asked, "are you LDS?" (Who does that???)
"Yes - we are," came the response.
"I thought so! You just had this glow about you!" I am not lying. This really did happen - and a study exists that backs it up. Here is a link to it, and here is a blog post about the study. Mormons can tell other Mormons just by looking at their faces. We have a glow, a countenance, a halo rather than horns. We have received his image thereupon, and this isn't just Mormon myth-making or Sunday School speculation. This is scientific statistical fact (complete with t-tests, r-tests, x-factors, or whatever... I didn't do too well in that class.) I'm not certain what makes one look Mormon, but this must be a good thing, right? (I mean, it is definitely better than those pictures of meth-users in Oregon; I mean, everyone can tell what they are by their pictures as well.) So ultimately, Mormons do have a glow that shines independent of whatever Governor Romney may do to our image. However, this whole thing is somewhat ironic considering the "I'm a Mormon" campaign was designed at least in part to show that Mormons look just like everyone else.
Well, this complicated puzzle of facial characteristics doesn't end there. Studies also show that Republicans and Democrats have a certain distinguishing characteristics also, and that they're able to be differentiated in photo line-ups. Apparently, Republicans seem powerful, and Democrats appear more warm. Here is the link to a description of the study. But this really isn't too surprising; think of Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachman - nothing about them denotes warmth, and Newt's greasy forehead cannot be mistaken for a "glow."
But let's not stop there, for all these studies prompt the inevitable follow-up question: if Mormons are identifiable by their countenances and Democrats appear warm, what does that say about a Mormon Democrat? I've been thinking about this, and clearly we must really have an amazing luster. I don't know if it's on par with the likes of the transfigured Moses, but maybe Edward from Twilight as he's standing shirtless in the sun? Just watch the people pull out their sunglasses as you walk by... and when they tell you that they sense something is different about you, or that they are drawn to you somehow, you can explain that this is because you're a Mormon and because you're voting for Obama.
Just think of Harry Reid - the supreme example of Liberal Mormondom - (I have his action figure on my desk at work) - and tell me if he doesn't have a glow like a gleaming lighthouse? He fights the good fight, shines like a sunbeam, and literally comes from Searchlight, Nevada. I know what the Primary Hymn instructs, (Trying to be Like Jesus,) but in case that is too high of a bar for me right now, I've decided that at the very least I am trying to be like Harry... and we'll call it good at that.