Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Being a Mormon and a Democrat

Yes. That is correct. I said it. I am a Democrat AND a Mormon. It's possible. I promise that I have a testimony. Don't worry about that. This is something I have struggled with for a while since coming back to BYU. To most people it seems mutually exclusive, especially here in Utah. Harry Reid came and spoke at BYU in 2007 and said, "I am a Democrat because of my religion, not in spite of it." That's how I feel. I'm not writing this to discuss policy or platform. This is a forum for explaining my feelings.
  The Gospel is all about change -- change in the individual, change in the world. We seek to bring others to Christ by helping them accept the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, exercising faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduing to the end. That's change. BIG change. Being liberal means wanting big change, not just small incremental change. Christ told people, "Go and sin no more." That's big, instant change. Why can't we expect that from ourselves? From our government? It means that I am not willing to hold still, but that I want to move perpetually forward and do so quickly.
  In 1843, Joseph Smith taught the Three Fundamentals of Mormonism. They are 1) We embrace truth wherever we find it, 2)Brotherly love, and 3) Relief for the poor and needy. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin exhorts the people to give freely of their substance when they have sufficient for their needs. "I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as 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).
  That is a fundamental idea of liberalism. That idea led to things like Social Security, the GI Bill, and Health Care among other things. You see, it's not mutually exclusive. It's inclusive. The Church has Welfare Programs, equalization of missionary funds, the Law of Consecration. These are not conservative ideas. These require us giving something up to benefit the rest of mankind. These require (to use a phrase conservatives hate) redistribution of wealth. Don't believe me? Go read about the Law of Consecration in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  I don't mean to sound dogmatic or to come across saying that conservatives are inherently wrong or evil. Not at all. I'm not going to tell you conservatism is wrong. I consider myself conservative on some issues. But, please don't try to tell me that I am going against counsel of prophets or that I can't be a good member of the Church. Not true. Just like the idea that Mormons have horns. We don't and I can be a liberal. That's all I have to say.