Harry Reid (Mormonism’s most famous Democrat) recently asserted that Mitt Romney (our most famous Republican) is not the face of Mormonism. When we ran the article last Tuesday, many of our readers responded. And as usually happens in comments that imply taking a side, things got a little heated.
Too often we vilify the “other” political party—and too often conservative Mormons (and let’s face it—that’s most of us) vilify Democrats. (I know it goes the other way, too.) Sometimes we even question each other’s testimonies because of our political beliefs. This is silly and, quite simply, un-Christlike—there is a true gospel, but there is no “one true” political party. In fact, I think both parties espouse important gospel truths—which is why we have Mormons on both sides of most debates.
I have a theory of why we Mormons choose the political parties we do. The theory is based solely on gospel principles and ideals—not on agendas or special interests. Basically, it comes down to AGENCY and LOVE.
Some Mormons fall on the right of the spectrum (“conservative,” “Republican,” or even “Libertarian” in the U.S.). They fall here because the party emphasizes AGENCY—freedom for the people to choose how they live and where they put their money and resources, without being compelled. They believe the government should be small, and its biggest responsibility is to ensure people maintain their power of choice.
Other Mormons fall on the left of the spectrum (“liberal” or “Democrat” in the U.S.). They fall here because the party emphasizes LOVE, in the form of helping the poor or disadvantaged and generally being more accepting of different minorities. They believe the government’s biggest responsibility is to give people opportunities for success and ensure a better life for all citizens, and they emphasize finding new ways to do so through programs and projects.
Both of these principles are fundamental in the gospel, and that's not to say that people who choose one party don't also firmly believe in the other party's guiding principle. They simply have different beliefs about what the government's most important responsibilities are and which principles are better emphasized.
The theory is simplistic, yes, but from the conversations I’ve had with Mormons on both sides, it fits pretty well on an idealistic level. I know some people choose political parties because of a few very specific platforms, but I would hope that's not true for Mormons. I honestly think that most of us Mormons think of these things in a gospel sense—which party is truest to the foundations of how we live Christ’s gospel. We ran a great article last year that touches on this very idea.
In short, we choose our political parties BECAUSE of our LDS beliefs, not in spite of them.
So, this leaves us with the final question: Does the theory work for you? Why do you fall on the political spectrum where you do? How is it informed by your beliefs?
And, although I can hope it’s unnecessary, it's better safe than sorry to request: Please, if you refer to other commenters or the "other" political party, remember to be civil. There’s a saying I once heard that fits in this situation and goes something like this: you don’t have truth, and I don’t have truth—but together, we can come to a greater truth. There are good people across the political spectrum, and we all have something to learn from reaching across the aisle—whether that be in church or in politics.
Kate Ensign-Lewis is an online editor with LDS Living, a wife, and a mother to an adorable one-year-old. She enjoys talking about politics, although she still hasn’t been able to figure out which party fits her best—which is why she is a registered Independent.