We’ve explored a few of the mormon.org profiles’ answers to tough questions on polygamy and women & the priesthood. Today let’s take a look at another topic not suitable for dinner conversation: politics!
Here’s the question members were asked: Does the Mormon church endorse political parties?
This is the church’s official party line that was posted on the site:
The Church has made the following public statement on multiple occasions prior to major elections: “Principles compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties. While the Church does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties, members are urged to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs.”
Here are some of the member profile answers I liked best:
- No. Most of these were basically a recitation of the same statement that’s read over the pulpit regularly. So, there’s clarity and consistency of message.
- “No. The church does not endorse political parties. The church believes in free agency, and let’s its members decide which political party to join on their own.” I like the shout out to free agency.
- “No, THANKFULLY. I don’t believe any political party has the corner on morality.” My favorite simple “no” answer.
- No + we’re not all Americans. Thanks to those members who rememered that little fact.
- “No it doesn’t. The Church has always encouraged Church members to be knowledgeable about political issues and to participate in the political process e.g. voting in their respective countries and at all levels of governance.”
- “I personally know active and faithful members of the church (in the U.S. and worldwide) who are Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Tories, Labourites, Libertarians, Greens, etc.” Yeah, for this guy who has met a non-US Mormon.
- No + 11th Article of Faith. Adds a twist of “doctrine” to the refutation.
- “I’m happy to say that there are members of the Church of all different political backgrounds. The Church does not endorse any specific party. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
- No + pray / vote conscience. Adds a nice religious touch that feels universal.
- “No it does not. It does however encourage you to pray before you vote to help to choose.” I do have a weird feeling about the wording, though, which sounds a lot like, “it puts the lotion on its back.”
I had mixed feelings about these, although again, they were mostly pretty good:
- “No, we’re not all Republicans” or conversely, “No, as evidenced by the fact that I’m a Democrat.” As they say, the exception proves the rule, but that just means that “the rule” is Republican, something I’m not quite sure we should be conceding. It also rings a little hollow because it sounds like we’re protesting too much. Frankly, I think that’s a good message for those who are aware that there are a lot of Republicans in the church (whether they are members or not). It just has the potential to ring a little false if someone didn’t think that was a foregone conclusion. And saying “I know some democrats at church” sounds just a smidge defensive like saying, ”I have lots of black friends” to prove how culturally savvy you are. Yet I do know that political affiliation is a badge of honor for folks in a democracy like ours. I prefer the ones that are more personal.
- “I know many people connotate Mormons and Conservatism and the Republican party, but it is a misconception. I can say this as a devout Mormon and democrat!”
- “I think our church teaches us to be as informed and educated as possible, and that’s why I am an independent and consider each issue and candidate carefully, regardless of party affiliation.” Actually this one I like better, probably because I too am an independent. In addition to being as informed and educated as possible (just kidding on that one!).
- “I am a fairly liberal democrat, while most fellow Mormons in my congregation are very conservative republicans. It can be a little tricky at times, but Mormons are a kind and caring community.” I particularly like the comment about a kind and caring community, which for me rings true. Nicely done!
- “The Mormon church absolutely does not endorse political parties. In fact, my husband and I, faithful members of the Mormon Church, both belong to different political parties. I feel that the platforms of both political parties endorse some good things and that no party has all the answers.” I like the mixed-politics marriage angle here.
- Answers that are US-Centric. This ran the gamut from those just talking about their own politics, and they happen to be American (not too bad) to those God-bless-Americans that sound tone-deaf to non-Americans (like most Americans sound to others).
- “No, I used to think that all Mormons happened to be Republican, but they aren’t. I’ve met plenty of people in all parties. However, I think it’s safe to say, we do tend to be a bit more conservative no matter which party.” I’m not sure I agree that Mormon Democrats are all middle-of-the-roaders. Also, this forgets the 50% of Mormons who live in other countries.
- “The Mormon Church does not endorse political parties. Members of our Church belong to both major political parties.” Both the Tories and the Labor Party. Right?
Answers I (in my wisdom) would not have approved if I were a reviewer:
- No, but (hint, hint) God’s probably a Republican. First of all, just as it’s anachronistic to think of God as a Mormon, he’s clearly not an American, so associating him with contemporary political issues in our little square inch of the globe seems off-key and presumptuous.
- “any political party that approves of God’s teachings, and lives them consistently, is more likely to attract Mormons. Likewise, any political party that prefers different standards, or opposes the teachings of Jesus Christ, will be more likely to offend Mormons.” I am unaware of any political party that approves of all of God’s teachings or any political party that wholeheartedly rejects them, so this comment seems suspect to me.
There has been some criticism of the profiles, stating that it implies wider diversity of thought than one actually experiences at church. While I think that may be true, I think it’s a natural by-product of the process:
- Participants self-select. Those who are confident in their uniqueness (and reasonably photogenic) will be more inclined to participate.
- It’s on the internet. The outlier Mormons are more likely to be internet-savvy than the stereotyped ones. And younger members are more likely to proliferate the internet and have more progressive views.
- There’s no “common” review process. Each profile is reviewed by a team of 20-30 MTC employees who make personal decisions about what to approve or decline. If there was a single reviewer, there would be more consistency of response. This is better, IMO.
Here’s what I might have said:
- No, I’ve been in wards in the U.S. that were predominantly Democrat and wards that were predominantly Republican. And I’ve known members outside the U.S. with a very wide spectrum of political belief.
- IMO, both parties are full of hypocrits and philanderers as well as genuine good guys who haven’t yet become hypocrits and philanderers. Give them time.
- Generally speaking, members avoid discussing politics in my experience because they are polite and understand that politics can be divisive; most members recognize the power of politics to divide friends and families. But as with any large organization, there are a few bulls in the China shop.
Have you created your profile yet? Let’s talk politics! How would you answer this question? What answers did you like or not like? Discuss.