As Craig Janis of South Jordan points out in the SL Tribune article, "It’s pretty important that the image our state and our church projects is not just the conservative Mitt Romney image. I would love for our image as LDS people and as Utahns more generally to be such that there is no political association with it."
I would add that some members of our faith go along with the Republican Mormon majority because it seems the "thing to do," or because they have strong influences in their families or congregations; however, a simple conversation about the platform of the Democratic Party and how it fits with Mormon ideals and faith can sometimes break through many of the assumptions about what it means to be a Mormon Democrat. Hopefully, the media attention to events like these can further break the stereotype that all (good) Mormons vote Republican.
So if you are in the area, (or if you can get a plane ticket there,) get your tickets by going to http://ldsdems.eventbrite.com/
Also, visit the Utah Democratic Party website for more information!
As this year's political race between Obama and Romney gains traction in the media, on social networks, in churches, and elsewhere, there are Mormons who, while having nothing against Romney personally or religiously, have decided to vote for Obama. The following is from a Mormon (not me) who supports Obama and the reasons why:
I am voting for Obama. I voted for him in 2008, and I believe that he was the best candidate at that time. In my opinion, he is again the best candidate for president this year. Here are my key reasons:
In my opinion, Obama has been the greatest foreign policy president we have had since Ronald Reagan. He has largely shifted America's foreign policy focus to Asia where it rightly belongs, reduced resources in Iraq, plotted an escape route out of Afghanistan, managed the Arab Spring revolutions better than I ever though possible, strengthened international resolve towards Iran, reduced tensions along the Mexican border, corralled India in a tighter alliance, and done all of this with fewer resources. Oh, and he killed Osama in an incredibly daring but brilliant operation. How could anyone even compete with that?
Much of the success belongs to Obama's excellent Cabinet choices. Secretary Clinton has been a fantastic Secretary of State, the best we've had since Colin Powell. Gates was so impressive as Defense secretary (I have mixed feelings about Panetta) and even Mullen as Joint Chiefs has demonstrated an excellent ability to think outside the box and also confront his own bureaucracy. But Obama is the one who assembled the team from rivals (Clinton) and the other political party (Gates). And he is the one who has ultimately made the right decisions at the right times.
Even his supposed failures in foreign policy reflect good thinking in my mind. Liberals are upset over his inability to close Guantanamo, but that issue is way more complicated than most people realize. And Obama is willing to recognize reality, even in the face of his unrealistic campaign promises. Others have criticized him for his response to Libya, but again, I think he struck the exact right balance of intervention without U.S. commitment. And it was a good chance for Europe to step up to the plate and work out its defense arrangements a little bit more.
Foreign policy is largely controlled within the executive branch of government, so I hold the President more accountable on this count than most others. And I think because Obama has a freer hand in this policy realm, we have seen more of his true colors in this respect. Plus, his rhetorical gifts are so needed and so effective in the international arena. Words matter there, and Obama has the ability to really influence things by what he says. Speeches in Russia and in Egypt prior to the uprisings had a dramatic regional impact.
Those who want Ron Paul's version of foreign policy are living in historical fiction, though I empathize with their aspirations. It was Woodrow Wilson, nearly 100 years ago, who presided over the transition of America from an isolated, waterlocked, largely agrarian society to the global economic and military power it is today. That transition, while not irreversible, has been so comprehensive as to make the costs of returning to isolationism far higher than any benefits. We are a global power, our military is a crucial international asset used to secure shipping lanes, reduce transaction costs, and save lives abroad, and our role in international fora cannot be replicated.
I actually think Romney wouldn't be too bad in the foreign policy realm. He certainly wouldn't be as bad as Bush or Carter were. But I worry about his Cabinet choices, about too much focus on domestic issues, about his inability to connect with Americans let alone foreign countries. And Obama has a clear track record in this realm. Absent some compelling flaw in the President's foreign policy or some remarkable asset in Romney, I am certainly not willing to change presidents after only four years.
This is the second most important issue for me, but I suspect it will be the number-one issue for most Americans. The economy is whimpering along, barely making much of a recovery with major structural problems at every level. My perspective is surely influenced by the fact that I have a job and that I am doing OK financially. If I didn’t have a job, or if my future prospects didn’t look bright, I would probably be looking for a change somewhere. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi murmured against the Lord only when he couldn’t feed his family, so I fully respect those who want a change of leadership given the lack of recent improvements. But a couple of thoughts:
Investment is the key to growth, and we are not making the right types of investments. If you think about your own life, you made significant investments in education, maybe a home, other capital. You likely took out loans to pay for these things (I sure did) with the understanding that your investment will yield returns later on. The problem with the U.S. right now is we had to take out loans just to survive for the past few years. It’s like we were living on credit card debt. Now the gut reaction once things start improving is to pay off the credit card debt right away. We all hate debt and hate watching how much interest eats up our paychecks. But the counterintuitive right course (in my opinion) is to take out more loans for the right type of investments first and then start paying off the credit card debt. Domestic infrastructure, education, state and local government, and energy development all desperately need significant investments right now. Waiting until our nation’s credit card bill is paid will be too late and only result in a lower rate of growth in the future. Accordingly,
The Republican’s prescription is the wrong one. What they are proposing is the equivalent of a doctor ordering chemotherapy for broken legs. Everyone is focused on debt right now, thinking paying down our debt will somehow cause the economy to come back. Again, think about it from an individual’s perspective. Does paying off debt make you any richer? Insofar as you get to keep the money you were using to pay interest, yes. But that is really a very small amount in the grand scheme of things. Things that actually make us richer—such as getting more education, getting a promotion, finding a new job, coming up with a new invention—come from investments, from risks, from innovation. Somehow, we are not focusing on that at all; instead, we are bickering about how we have mortgaged our children’s future. That cliché is driving me nuts. Of course we mortgage their future! That’s how we hope to finance a better world that they can then easily pay off with their spaceship explorations to planets made of gold and unobtainium.
In all seriousness though, the Republicans and Mitt Romney would have a valid argument if U.S. interest rates were going up and if inflation were a concern. But that’s the thing: inflation rates are at historic lows, and the world is more than happy to lend us as much money as we want. (See my first point on foreign policy; in a way, this is the reward for all our global expenditures.) Which leads me to the final point on economics:
The current public debate is not looking at the big picture. The U.S. economy is so closely tied into the world’s economy now that it is silly to try to separate them or focus on domestic reasons for our malaise. China’s economy depends on U.S. debt as much as we depend on it. Europe’s problems make our issues look childish in comparison. Brazil, China, and India are practically begging the U.S. to spend their money in our country on our goods and with our workforce. We are missing all these issues in our angry, navel-gazing rhetoric about who destroyed which job. And I think those global issues will ultimately have much more bearing on the domestic economy than nearly anything the executive branch will do.
There may be one exception to this point, however. In periods of panic and serious economic volatility, the President does have real power: rhetorical power and the ability to act quickly to stabilize the market through emergency liquidity measures, etc. Romney and Republicans have all but eschewed such tools, however, saying it is not the government’s role to take such action. And that denial of governmental responsibility in the face of economic crises is frightening. The last presidents to believe this were Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge, who together helped precipitate (but not cause) the Great Depression.
Just to summarize the economic issue:
· Investments, not deleveraging national debt, is the key to growth.
· Republicans have made paying off debt their Holy Grail, creating a myopic and misdirected economic policy.
· International economic policy matters far more than Republicans acknowledge.
· At the end of the day, the President has very little influence on economic issues, except in crises. And it is such power that the Republican party has said should not be wielded by the government.
Looking at Romney individually, I think he is actually very intelligent when it comes to economic issues. I suspect he understands all these points, and I even suspect he may agree with me. But his party has demonstrated no willingness to compromise or acknowledge any complexity on the issue, and I fear Romney would face a revolt from his own party if he suggested increasing spending on anything. So even if Romney really knows how to handle our economic challenges (although his current rhetoric suggests otherwise) his party would never allow it.
Domestic Policy and Entitlement Reform
As the words Obamacare and socialism ring through the air, I think this is the arena where the public debate has gotten out of hand. To be fair, the rhetoric on foreign policy issues was ridiculous when George Bush was president. Whereas Obama is depicted as a Keynian socialist who hates America and wants to decide when senior citizens are killed, Bush was depicted as a bumbling, warmongering puppet controlled by Dick Cheney who wanted to torture foreigners. Neither caricature is particularly helpful, except to put “rage in the hearts” (2 Nephi 28:20) of people. I suspect most Americans were not in either of these two rhetorical camps, but their rational thoughts are getting drowned out.
Obamacare—By far, the strangest thing about this entire debate is that Obamacare will not be truly implemented until 2014! We haven’t even seen what Obamacare will do, but listening to people you would think it single-handedly brought down the economy even before it was passed. The individual mandate hasn’t been implemented, insurance competition provisions remain unenforced, and the whole thing is in limbo before the Supreme Court (and I think a constitutional examination is warranted in this case). My point is, how could you possibly judge a law on its merits when it hasn’t even been implemented? One of the only truly substantive components of the law that has been implemented is the mandate that insurance companies cover dependents until they are 26 (reflecting the fact that children are in school and deferring marriage until later). And I think that has been a great success—I have family members who would not have insurance were it not for this provision.
Medicare—This is the real elephant in the room, and the part where I agree with the Republicans the most. Medicare costs are the fundamental driver of increasing health care costs, and Obamacare’s great flaw is its failure to reign in Medicare costs. The economic reality is that it is inevitable that Medicare benefits will be cut and there will be some type of provisioning of those benefits, aka death panels. Because promising essentially unlimited medical expenditures for the most expensive patients while refusing to raise additional revenue from the healthy patients is unsustainable. Given this reality, however, I think reform is actually more likely with a Democrat as president. He would have the best ability to convince his own party of the need for reform. Remember, Bill Clinton was president when welfare reform was passed. Right now the Democrats are quite intransigent on this issue, but I think economic realities and appropriate pressure from Republicans in Congress could help them come around, provided a Democrat is president. If a Republican is president, there would be too much opposition from Democrats and too much partisan gloating from Republicans to really push anything rational through.
Social Security—See my previous point. Social security as currently constituted is unsustainable, benefits will need to be cut, and I believe Obama is able and willing to compromise on this point.
Women’s and Family Issues—I have no idea what is going on with the Republican party or why they think targeting contraceptives or abortion is going to win the election. But I believe their rhetoric is harmful and counterproductive. Roe v. Wade is a reality, so let’s start talking about how we can reduce the number of abortions through education, contraceptive use, and strengthening families. This war on women and the family is phony, pathetic, and a political red herring.
Of course, I am not happy with everything that Obama has done. I generally like solid conservatives on the Supreme Court who have a more traditionalist interpretation of the Constitution. Obama will most certainly not do that. Obama’s leadership style is frequently too detached to really enact substantive change. Despite his rhetoric, Obama does not have the gift of a Reagan or Clinton to reach across the aisle and really work with the opposition party. And I am concerned with growing consolidation of authority at the federal level at the expense of state and local government.
In these policy matters, I feel Obama is on the wrong side of the issue. But democracy is all about choosing the least bad alternative. I am concerned that Romney is not the master of his own fate. Too many political forces within his own party have compelled him to change into something and someone that he is not. I really liked the Romney who was governor of Massachusetts: a compromiser, able to deal with the political realities at hand, and eminently pragmatic. If that Romney resurfaces, I would be incredibly happy. My concern though is that the Republican party has been captured by a mix of libertarian, Conservative with a capital C (ie., pre-1932), and isolationist groups that have a skewed historical perspective. I am extremely uncomfortable with the rhetoric of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and other pundits from this camp, and Romney has been far too willing to pander to these groups. True leadership would occur if he stood up against those in his own party. But he hasn’t done that.
Of course it is neat that Romney is Mormon, but I actually feel that has very little bearing in this year’s election. It will make for some very interesting attack ads and quite a spotlight on the church, but I haven’t really seen how it will influence his policy choices. Has Romney ever suggested his Mormon faith has influenced his political positions? So that puts me squarely in a very small minority of Mormons for Obama.
This year’s election is not the “once in a lifetime” election I have been hearing about. Yes, there are important issues and yes, it is valuable to be civically engaged. But I have too much faith in the American system to believe that one presidential term could ever fundamentally alter the American way of life, either for good or bad. Presidents are leaders more than they are actors. What I mean by that is they set the rhetorical tone that compels others to action. But no matter who is president, there will be good people in the U.S. doing much good of their own free will.
The Constitution is an incredible document with such flexibility that I believe we can definitely tackle the pressing issues our country faces. I have tremendous appreciation for our country’s commitment to the rule of law and respect for minority opinion. I honestly believe that the U.S. has one of the greatest political systems in the world, if not the greatest ever created. It may look really messy at times, but believe me, we could do much, much worse. Nowhere else in the world is there such a large and diverse population able to live in freedom and peace. As the ridiculous rhetoric heats up on both sides, it is good to keep that in mind.
Kyle Blaine's abcnews.go.com piece entitled, Mormons for Obama Say Romney Doesn’t Represent Them, gets at least one thing right: we do say that Romney doesn't represent us. Laura put it best when she said, "just like Mitt Romney is not your average American, he’s not your average Mormon, he doesn’t represent every Mormon in America.” In putting this website together, we wanted to demonstrate the diversity of the people, ideas, and opinions within the church, especially in regard to the upcoming election. Our intention is not to get people upset (although you might wonder after seeing the comments posted after our last guest article by Steve Warren.)
However, Kyle missed this when writing his piece; in fact, he may have been looking for something a bit more controversial than what is really embodied in this website. Kyle wrote, "while there may be no written rule within the church demanding political purity within the Mormon community, there is one big issue where the Mormons for Obama split from their church. On the issue of gay marriage, they side with the President, who affirmed his support for its being legal in May of this year."
This website has no official position on gay marriage or Obama's support of it - and we definitely are not splitting from our church. Conversely, we posted four different pieces on the subject in order to demonstrate the wide-range of views among Obama-supporting Mormons. We did this because we received (and continue to receive) genuine queries from our conservative Mormon brothers and sisters about this issue: "So, as a practicing member of the LDS Faith, please tell me how I determine when not to follow the Prophet. Apparently the views of many who are voting for Obama include support for same-sex marriage. Seems that is contrary to what we are taught. I know we have agency; I am just not convinced using it to go against the teachings of the Church is a wise use of such a blessing."
This (and abortion) are lightning rod issues for Mormons when it comes to supporting a Democratic candidate for public office. For those who feel strongly about these issues, please read Eric's post to understand how a Mormon can support Obama without standing for gay marriage. Also, read Ruby's post to understand how one person might support gay marriage and also stay true to their Mormon faith. The other two posts discuss the Church's waning political involvement in respect to same-sex marriage after the Prop 8 campaign and the ever-changing positions of both Obama and Romney on gay marriage.
But the important thing to understand here is that for many Mormons for Obama, this is not the central issue that defines our support for the President. And with Mormons holding public office as Democrats and Republicans, this should be clear by now.
Now on to my personal grief with the article -- Kyle quoted me thus:
"One of the blog entries, posted by Joseph Mills, holds up Harry Reid as a good example of a liberal Mormon.
'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,' Joseph writes. '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.'"
So is that really the only quotation from me that Kyle could find? I have written a couple dozen posts for this website, and he chose something from one of my satirical posts that suggests that Mormon Democrats must shine like "Edward from Twilight as he's standing shirtless in the sun." Also he didn't preserve any of the meta-links, and that somewhat mutes my whole joke. (Sorry for my whining here, but in interest of my own self-promotion, please read The Gleam in Thine Own Eye to see the full post with meta-links.) Maybe if I'm quoted in another article, I might suggest something from my post, An Oppostion in All Things. I like that post better.
Also, the name of the Church is as follows: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would expect that a journalist might research this to make certain they are using the correct name of our church in their article. I realize that the name of the Church is long, but the media has the responsibility to use the correct title, even if only in the first reference and then subsequent references are abbreviated after that. Consult the Church's Style Guide for more information on this. (And in case anyone is wondering, Kyle referred to the Church as "The Church of the Latter-Day Saints," omitting Jesus Christ, and capitalizing the D in Latter-day.) While Kyle is not the only one who makes this mistake, I bristle at the frequency of these occurrences and thus can't help but feel that it's sometimes done deliberately. It's almost as if we've become the "Merry X-Mas" card of Church names: Christ is crossed out and forgotten, and the media just mumbles something about Latter-day Saints, Mormons, or Salt Lake City, and then they bumble on impatiently, expecting to find a present under their holiday tree on the 25th of December.
Lastly, we are not just a small group of Seattle-based bloggers, although we did start out that way. Presently, we receive input from across the country - (and Canada) - and have posted comments and articles from contributors in Washington D.C., California, and Utah.
Alas, we are grateful for the press. We spend a lot of time putting this site together because we feel that this is important, and Kyle Blaine's article brought new eyes to this site.
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more dangerous than fear. We learn about that in Sunday school all the time. I want to talk with you a little bit about the fear of being open about political opinions. I am not suggesting that anyone is wrong or ignorant for being quiet about their support for President Obama, and I certainly am not giving expert advice on the topic. But I want to point out a few things on the topic of fear of sharing political opinions. Here’s why:
1. This is America. You are entitled to freely express your political opinions without fear of repercussion from the federal government. Oftentimes in our culture we extend this to mean that you shouldn’t fear repercussions from anyone simply because of your beliefs. This security to state your stances freely is fundamental to our identity as Americans engaging in the political dialogue of this nation.
2. The concept of declaring your beliefs freely is also deeply engrained in Mormonism. From the oft-quoted Romans 1:16 (For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ) to the brave and heroic examples of our pioneer ancestors, we have a strong tradition of actively making our true convictions known, even when to do so puts us at odds with those around us.
3. Even if, after boldly admitting that you support President Obama, someone were to react negatively such to make you regret being open about it- their intolerance is their problem. As Mormons, we are told to surround ourselves with good people. There are plenty of good people who may not share our political beliefs but appreciate civil discourse and sharing opinions with an open mind. If someone you meet is going to give you a hard time about your beliefs purely because they disagree with you, it might be a good time to evaluate if they will be a good influence on your life in the first place.
Granted: there may be people already in your life, such as friends, family, and coworkers, who may be intolerant and unavoidable. How you handle those relationships is of course a personal decision. Additionally, I am not suggesting that we should risk death or any other extreme outcome in exchange for openly supporting President Obama.
What I am advocating for is a little less fear and a little more faith.
I openly admit that I relish the occasional dirty looks from people who are anti-Obama when they see that I support our President. It reminds me that "there must needs be opposition in all things," and that there is still a lot of work to do to re-elect him.
Every day that goes by when another person finds out that I’m an Obama supporter (it usually becomes known pretty quickly- as I said, I’m extremely open about it) and they get excited to find someone who shares their passion, I am grateful that I put on that Obama shirt or brought my Obama water bottle with me. I cherish the opportunity to connect with like-minded people and to express my deeply held opinion that Barack Obama is the best candidate for President. No amount of insult, derogatory gestures, or rude glances can invalidate that belief. I'm not suggesting that my commitment to Obama is deeper than anyone else's- simply that I choose to risk negative encounters because I value finding those few people in Provo, Utah who do also support the President, and those positive encounters are worth the risk for me.
If we all stood a little taller, spoke a little more freely in the appropriate settings (i.e. not at church), opened our minds to the possibility that those who we thought previously would brazenly disparage our opinion might not be as churlish as we had imagined- who knows what deeper relationships and more significant connections we might develop.
Conversely- for every opportunity we pass up to share our convictions about supporting our President, we’ll never know which voter we may have reached, directly or indirectly, who might have cast the deciding vote for President Obama.
So perhaps now would be a good time to take a minute; think about how you represent yourself and your beliefs. Heading into the heated and controversial campaign season this fall, we could have a little less fear and a little more faith that the benefits of being open about our support for the President will far outweigh the potential for push-back.
106 DAYS UNTIL ELECTION 2012
A friend sent me the link with his own heading: "I'm still voting for Obama." But honestly, I haven't thought much about what a "Mormon presidency" might mean to me, since I am fairly confident of a win for the President come November. But apparently many Mormons have been pondering this question - would it be good for the Church? How would the Church change under another four years of this level of scrutiny? So I have started pondering what it would mean to me if a Mormon (Romney in this case) was elected president in 2012. Well, to steal a line from the same friend who sent me this article: mostly I'd be sad that Obama didn't win.
As I mentioned previously, I think that this website got a mention on Salon.com - but I can't be certain, because the writer used the term, "Mormons Who Love Obama" when linking to our site. So this might have been in reference to us, or it may be the third book in the soon-to-be famous Swedish crime series... (the other two being called, Mormons Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and Mormons Who Played with Fire.)
Regardless, Troy Williams does make some interesting points in his article, Romney Boosts Liberal Mormons. Indeed, the presidential campaign season and Romney's position as the Republican nominee (and a Mormon) has brought the Church into the spotlight like never before. And indeed, progressive, liberal, feminist, LGBT, and intellectual Mormons are seizing the opportunity to be heard. They have been voicing their opinions all along... and now (in this Mormon Moment) people are finally willing to listen... people like Williams and the (seemingly) hundreds of people who commented on his article. Take the "progressive" blog By Common Consent for instance; they began in 2004 - back when most people (myself) still didn't have internet in their homes. And now Mormons all across the spectrum of belief and practice are taking to the internet to make that one last comment that their Relief Society instructor didn't have time for last Sunday because she ran out of time with too much material left to cover.
[caption id="attachment_1227" align="alignright" width="300"] Mormons march during a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City on June 3. (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)[/caption]
But I disagree with Williams on a point or two. I believe he is lumping too many people together. I realize that we like easy categorization (ie., there is wheat and there are tares), but I'm not sure that voting for Obama puts you in one group or the other. For instance, I can't imagine that this website would give President Packer much pause. Having served as an apostle for so many years, he's fully aware that Democrats are within the rank and file of the Church as well as its leadership, and we don't necessarily fit into his supposed axis of evil. And that said, I think that Williams (and many many others) have quoted Packer out of context, missing the whole point of his talk - (which was not directed at the general membership of the church; see this blog for a review.) So while I am very happy to have our website linked in the article, I am not sure we fit the bill. If Williams was really looking for examples of Mormons gone amok, he might have linked to John Larsen over at Mormon Expression; Larsen's site is even much more off the handcart than Mormon Stories, John Dehlin's collection of podcast interviews with everyone from Dr. William Bradshaw (I loved your Biology class at BYU) to Benji (the guy who thought he could dance.) Larsen's website has a brisk air of the provocative and self-importance; for example, the Larsens are the ones who hosted the write-a-letter-to-remove-your-name-from-the-records-party in SLC last weekend.
So ultimately, I don't believe that MormonsForObama.org sets about to "(expose) the internal stresses and fractures that have long existed within the (Mormon) faith." Mostly, we decided to put this website together because we didn't want others (or Romney's campaign) to define who we are as Mormons. But apparently in doing so I have now been defined. I've become a progressive Mormon (or an intellectual or a feminist?) However, I don't think that I neatly represent any of those terms. I am just a Latter-day Saint who is voting to reelect President Obama in November because I believe that he will be the best leader for our nation.
I have been told I live in the field. I’m not talking about the mission field that is white already to harvest - Utah is actually rather cloudy and brown right now from all the fires, not to mention the raining ash. (Last days, anyone?) I’m talking about a unique field in which I’m a progressive liberal Mormon living in the heartland of conservative, Mormon majority, Republican Utah. I’m a sophomore Political Science major at BYU who works full time at the MTC, and every day I am reminded that I’m different (and not just because almost everything I own is plastered with Obama stickers and logos).
I wasn’t always so vocal about my political opinions here in Provo. During my first few months at BYU, I distanced myself from identifying with any party; I knew I was liberal, but I was hesitant to endorse a platform about which I felt under-informed. I feared the inevitable moment when some far more educated person would tear my opinions to shreds with their superior evidence and research. But the more I found myself making pro-Democratic comments in my small Honors American Heritage class (many thanks to my professor, Greg Taggart, for always giving me the floor to make the opposing point) and the more I studied the issues, the more I realized I needed to come out of the closet and simply embrace my affiliation with the Democratic Party.
Since then, I’ve become much more comfortable with identifying as a Democrat - not just because I can’t in good conscience endorse the alternative, but because I believe so strongly in the vision and commitments of the Democratic platform. While it’s annoying to frequently hear anti-liberal, pro-Fox News comments, and while I am in the political minority of students at BYU, living in Provo has forced me to be able to articulate exactly what I believe and why I believe. I’ll always be grateful for that.
I’m proud to say, and I say it at every opportunity I get, that the BYU College Democrats is the largest College Democrats chapter in Utah. I love the shocked expression people acquire when they hear that, because it emphasizes that Mormons are not a unified voting bloc, and that the youth and young adults of the LDS Church will become increasingly more diverse in their political views than ever before. We’ve seen already the groundswell of support for the LGBT community within the Church, and much of that support comes from young adults who did not grow up with the same biases and culture that older members of the Church may have.
Of all the challenges of being a liberal in Provo, the deepest and most hurtful will always be the questions of my faith. I don’t write about this to ask for your pity or to encourage you to be more loving to everyone. I write about this simply because it is the hardest thing for me about being a liberal in Provo. It’s not easy to be told that you have less faith, that the path you are on will likely lead you to become apostate, if not at least to leave the Church, and that then your future children will grow up outside of the gospel all because of your selfish choices. When I was quoted for an article about Pro-Obama Mormons back in May, the comments users added online questioning my standing in the Church were the most troublesome. When the ruling on the Affordable Care Act was announced, (I was eagerly listening to C-Span live with headphones on my computer at work,) I wanted to leap for joy and celebrate. But as my other coworkers at the MTC began to trickle in (this was 8:00 AM in Utah, being two hours behind D.C.), I could see their crestfallen faces. It was the only time I’ve been really glad that they all know I’m a Democrat - I did my best to hide my glee, and they shut the door so I could only hear muted expressions of their frustration and anger.
It’s this mutual agreement to leave each other space to celebrate our views that I appreciate the most, and at the same time it’s a cause of concern, given that it’s only July now and there’s still several months before the election. Because I am the field organizer for Obama’s campaign in Utah County, the Co-President of the BYU College Democrats, a volunteer for several local political campaigns, and because I hope to be more involved with Mormons for Obama efforts, I can sense that my political activity will lead to some kind of conflict sooner or later.
But despite all the tensions I’ve already experienced and expect to experience as a progressive Mormon, I know I can never go back. I’ll always feel a connection to that wonderful hymn-singing, nourish-and-strengthen-our-bodies praying, no-TV-on-Sunday, family-home-evening culture I was blessed to be raised in, but I will continue to study and seek after more knowledge about my questions without clinging to the conservatism that was also part of that culture. And with all its quirks and all my questions, I know my own journey of finding my way through this concentrated conservative field as a liberal Mormon will not be a walk in the park.
But we are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er, and that won’t just be November 2012. I look forward to the challenges in the hopes that I can convince even just one soul to understand why I believe what I do. Who knows, maybe I can plant some seeds in this field.
See article on Politico.