Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Unhealthy Mingling of Politics in Mormonism

I received the below email today from a person I don't know.  It seems to be making the rounds:

Dear friends,

In light of the recent Gallop Poll which calculates that 60% of active Mormons self-identify as Conservative or Republican and that over 60% of inactive Mormons who still consider themselves Mormonism [sic] are self-identified "Liberals or Moderates" suggesting that the more liberal you are the more likely you are to go inactive; in light of Glenn Beck's recent public comments where the prominent Mormon declared that social justice was a code word for Communism and Nazism; and in light of the recent invitation by a Nevada Stake to Democratic Senator Harry Reid to speak at a fireside which was met by threats of violence and cancelled [sic]. 

As moderate, liberal or radical Mormons, it is time to make our voices heard WITHIN Mormonism. I for one am weary of hearing Republican talking points pass for Gospel truths. The Gospel is for everyone, not just Republicans; guided by the spirit, liberal and radical interpretations of the Gospel and scriptures are just as valid as those made by Conservatives.

The Idea:

  • On May 1st 2010, International Workers’ Day, or May Day, we will participate in local May Day festivities and organize 'Social Justice and the Gospel' Teach-ins/Firesides all across the country. 

  • On Sunday May 2nd, during Fast and Testimony Meeting, we will hold a special fast for those who are working all over the world to advance the causes of the Gospel, social justice, environmental sustainability and fighting the root causes of poverty. Then, we will attend our local Wards and, guided by the spirit, bare strong, sincere and non-confrontational testimonies on these themes.
Please pass the word along and start organizing events. Respond with ideas and comments.

Will you help me make the Mormon Church hospitable for all of God's Children? Even Liberals and Radicals?

In Solidarity,

Jason M. Brown
Master of Forestry (M.F.), Master of Art and Religion (M.A.R.), 2011
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies & Yale Divinity School
(714) 261-5616

If anyone out there wants to participate, feel free, but I think this is a problem and a mistake.  One of the main goals we were trying to achieve with this blog was to show that Mormonism and liberalism are compatible, just like Mormonism and conservatism are compatible.  The implication is that there is no inherent political bias in our religion.  The doctrines, principles, and ordinances are pure, they are Truth.  They are not created by man.  Politics and government, on the other hand, are man-made institutions and deeply flawed.  The two should not be conflated.

In one of the first posts I wrote I made a point of showing that there are good and faithful Latter-day Saints in hundreds of nations on the Earth, each with a slightly different government and political scheme.  A good member of the church is encouraged in the twelfth Article of Faith to support the government and laws of their respective nations.  In that sense, I agree with the letter writer that the Gospel is for all.

Where I hated the letter is the implication that liberals and conservatives can have different interpretations of the Gospel and scriptures, and that they are all valid.  The implication here is that the Gospel and scriptures should be interpreted through your political perspective.  Some Mormon conservatives see the Gospel as an arm of their politics, and apparently some Mormon liberals do as well, and this is a big, big problem.  It means that we are placing our politics in first position and our Gospel in second position.  It reminds me of this scripture from Nephi:
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
In this contentious political environment, I fear that people are putting their trust in the arm of flesh, or man-made political institutions.  I love politics, I like talking about it, but the moment I realize that my politics are coloring my religion, I am out.  The moment I start judging a person's spirituality or relationship of God through a political perspective, I am out.  The moment I start thinking that I have a different interpretation of the Gospel and scriptures than someone with a different political point of view, I am out.

They are not the same thing, they are not equal, and they should not be mingled.  We shouldn't bring politics into a fast and testimony meeting, as this letter suggests.  If anyone did that from any political perspective I think I'd walk out of the meeting.  In fact, we shouldn't bring dirty, short-sided, flesh-created politics into our pure, eternal, God-given Gospel at all.  We should live our religion fully and be free to have differing opinions on government and politics.  I hate that some Mormons think they have to justify their politics through their religion.  It is an indication that politics are becoming too important and I think it portends a serious problem in the church.  I hope the ideas in this letter don't gain any traction.


Iliana said...

Loved what you had to say. I agree fully.

Anonymous said...

garbage as usual.

Jacob S. said...

Thanks for reading!

Ken Knickerbocker said...

For those on Facebook I created a group supporting Senator Harry Reid. You can join at!/group.php?gid=109201745770220


Laurel Nelson said...

I had to overlook the typos, but I say Hear hear! Gospel principles are for everyone not just conservatives, and I cringe when I hear conservative policital dogma passed off as truth and bandied about the pulpit. I probably won't do anything, but I like the thought of the email.

rain said...

As a Mormon, and coincidentally, a Liberal, I was just as angry and ashamed that a bunch of PEOPLE decided to negatively ambush another person simply because of his Democratic stance. And to find out that they were acting in the name of some sort of self-proclaimed Conservative righteousness? Shame.
However, I do agree that the way to handle this ginormous wrong isn't to give in to the political badmouthing and short-sightedness that DOES occur at the pulpit, monthly, here in Utah. (I'm afraid that if I were to walk out of every meeting in which this happened, I would never be in any part of class for longer than ten minutes).
What I do know is "The meek shall inherit the Earth." I cling to that. Something so simple, yet so pivotal. Have hope, friends. And have love for those that know not what they do. Break it down into simple, Primary terms: "Is this what Jesus would do?" And go from there.

GreatWhiteHope said...

Watched Conference today..... I'm leaving for Afghanistan in about 7 hours. Sorry for antagonizing you guys, I'm not sorry for defending truth as far as I see it, but I do apologize for calling you names Jacob S, and being antagonistic. We are brothers and sisters in the gospel so at least we have that in common. I just think individual liberty a.k.a. agency is the fundamental principle the "root" of everything that the gospel is based upon, and restrictions of agency by the government for the "better good" of society or any other way they want to label it is not a good thing, and even further not in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kate said...

It is impossible to separate ideology from religion.

The spirit of the Mormon May Day idea is not to silence others, but to be comfortable in making our own voices heard.

Jacob S. said...

But it is not impossible to separate politics from religion. Your complete worldview will incorporate ideology, religion, etc., but our religion must be dominant and have the prime position. When we start interpreting the Gospel through our politics I think we have it backwards.

I have no problem with politically like-minded members of the church getting together, strengthening each other, and discussing political issues, I think that should be encouraged. But when we start talking about bearing our testimonies about our politics we've gone too far. I can support May Day activities, but not purposely drawing political lines in the theological sand.

Doug Calhoun said...

I think that it is ok to be a Mormon and a Democrat. But I agree that agency is so fundamental to our beliefs that it will be difficult to go down the path that the Dems are pursuing. I think it is good to spread our voices out in the two party system, but I honestly have to shake my head at some of the hostility with which the dems view our free enterprise system.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but I knew Mr. Brown. Friend of a friend. At Utah Valley Unversity, Brown fell under the spell of several charismatic Marxist professors who, effectively, "converted" Mr. Brown to radical politics. Brown is fervently devoted to his political views -- he's one of those who can't agree to disagree, can't seem to weigh evidence and reach a new conclusion. All evidence is filtered through the Marxist lens. (Mr. Brown also earned a degree from BYU, which is, oddly, omitted from his c.v.)

Despite Mr. Brown's alarm, Glenn Beck is at least partly correct about radicals, communists and Marxists hiding behind the "progressive" label. See Peter Collier and David Horowitz's "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60s" for numerous examples of violent, atheist terrorists who presented themselves as peaceful "progressives" to conceal their true agenda.

In the 1960s, Americans were wary of communism -- and rightly so. Soviet brutality had crushed popular working-class movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and undeniable evidence of Stalin's massive atrocities had been revealed to the public. Senator McCarthy was an opportunistic liar, but, in truth, there was communist infiltration of American government, labor movements and other institutions ... all coordinated by the Communist International in Moscow, all with the goal of subverting America's Christian principles and overthrowing America's form of government.