August 30th, 2013

Political Partisanship and Temple Worthiness

Can a person be a good Mormon and a Democrat?

It’s not an uncommon question. American Latter-day Saints, who predominantly are members of the Republican party, wonder whether their brethren on the “other side of the aisle” can be faithful followers of Christ while uniting with a political party that adheres to and advocates policies that openly conflict with the doctrine and policy positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Given their minority status, it’s not unsurprising to see LDS Democrats go on the defense. They’ve organized a caucus, organize support groups and training meetings, and openly defend their claim that they, as Democrats, are still Mormons in good standing.

What’s hilarious about this situation is that it’s a historical role reversal. Mormons once heavily favored the Democrats (after all, the Republican party was explicitly founded to fight for the eradication of polygamy, which the Saints were practicing at the time). I explain the circumstances behind this political relationship in the introduction of Latter-day Liberty (read it free here), highlighting how a dissolution of the local Mormon People’s Party in Utah led to the Saints joining either the Republican or Democrat parties. Naturally, they shied away from the former. I conclude the point with this tidbit:

Church leaders went to great lengths to see that members signed up for the Republican Party. Many prominent Republican General Authorities affirmed that, contrary to popular belief, one could be both a Republican and a Latter-day Saint in good standing.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is—the same reassuring claims are now made in the reverse, suggesting that one can be both a Democrat and Latter-day Saint in good standing. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The shifting tides of political parties make the underlying point more difficult to see, so here it is in all its unvarnished clarity: all political parties promote policies that are at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is not a controversial statement. It harmonizes perfectly with what Church leaders routinely say regarding politics: “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties.” The obvious semantic nitpick is that this says such principles may be found in political parties, but does not say that they are to be found there. The other and more reasonable argument to advance with respect to this statement is that each political party argues for a great number of policies. So while any given party may espouse an idea that is in harmony with the gospel (and thus find application to the qualified statement by Church authorities), the party may espouse forty other ideas that are each at odds with the gospel. There is no religious rubber stamp of divine approval for any political party. All parties promote one thing or another that are at odds with the gospel.

Which brings us to the Republican party, of which so many Latter-day Saints are members.

The Republican Party Platform contains policies that conflict with basic gospel principles. The party “is committed to saving Medicare and Medicaid” (both socialist programs operating through coercive taxation) and aims to “restore public trust in the [Social Security] system,” thereby forcing new generations to financially support the elderly or be sent to jail.  Despite any constitutional authority to do so, and using the same coercive taxation (of which the Book of Mormon speaks so poorly), the Party “support[s] federal investment in healthcare delivery systems and solutions” to “provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality healthcare.”

The GOP, known for its militaristic tendencies—especially in a post 9/11 world—aims to “create a climate for democracy” by “employ[ing] the full range of military and intelligence options” to “wield overwhelming military power.” These soft-sounding statements are backed with an arsenal of military might—false gods of stone and steel, worshipped by Republicans and many Mormons within their ranks.

No political party is free from advocacy of flagrant violations of basic gospel tenets. Mormon Republicans who question whether their fellow worshippers in the Democratic party are “good Mormons” must put an end to their pharisaical campaign and realize that their own status of “good Mormon” might similarly be in question. As the Savior taught, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”

So what does it mean to be a “good Mormon” anyway? Faithful church attendance? Outward checklist-able behavior such as refraining from drugs, immodesty, and the like?

Or perhaps one benchmark of a Mormon’s “goodness” is the list of temple recommend questions that determine a Latter-day Saint’s worthiness to enter what is considered a holy place. One of these questions asks the individual the following:

Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

A direct, honest, and thoughtful answer to this question might require a Mormon of any political party to confess their affiliation and answer yes.

27 Responses to “Political Partisanship and Temple Worthiness”

  1. Bill Egelund
    August 30, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Now that you’ve had your say, go ask Mormon Democrats of Utah. ( on twitter) And ask LDS Democrats of USA. An over simplification by an outsider, you, is often only words to fill a page. I.E., early Mormonism has its roots growing in socialism ( desireable), rather than indivdualism ( Republican).

  2. Brother Smyth
    August 30, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Actually, I think if you were being honest, your point should be that you’d answer yes.

  3. Connor
    August 30, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Yes, sorry, that was a typo. I clearly meant to type “yes” but was distracted by the toddler and goofed. Fixed!

  4. Elijah
    August 30, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    During my time as a precinct officer for the R party I did answer my recommend question honestly. They let me off the hook two times.

  5. outside the corridor
    August 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Very interesting, Connor.

    I am eager for the time when people, anyone, including LDS, can get beyond parties and look at their world through the lens of Christianity–

    true Christianity–

  6. John Greene
    August 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    “The Republican party was explicitly founded to fight for the eradication of polygamy”? That’s the first time I have ever heard that. I just finished reading a history of the Republican Party and opposition to slavery was the impetus for its founding. Polygamy was never even mentioned. Where is the connection with polygamy?

  7. outside the corridor
    August 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    @John Greene,

    Connor explains it in the third paragraph–

    I’m sure that the history of the Republican party for general America was not the same as it was for Utah–

  8. Casey
    August 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    I’ve actually answered that question by saying “only the republican party”. Needless to say my conscience feels much better now that I only vote in elections and affiliate with no political party.

  9. iimx
    August 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Wow, that last question could mean a lot of different things, and potentially not much depending on how someone might want it to read it. Especially the word ‘affiliate’ and also contrary and oppose.

    I heard someone say that was meant to separate LDS members from those that have a specific antagonism against the faith, and thus reduce conflict. But, it doesn’t specifically say that. It could mean that an LDS member cannot be friends with a hindu, buddhist or an atheist. These often have belief and practice which are contrary or oppose LDS doctrine. Am I too far out in how I am reading this question? That is pretty perceptive of Connor to read this question more objectively, and in a more absolute sense. Is it to far out there to think that LDS members could only participate in the ‘LDS party’? when it comes to politics?

  10. Lilli
    September 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    I don’t think anyone can pass that temple question, not even the President of the Church, for I believe everyone has people just in their own extended family they ‘affliate with & support’ who does things ‘contrary’ to the Gospel.

    But didn’t Joseph Smith run for President as an independent? He was probably the last politician we could ‘righteously’ vote for, for he was totally against polygamy, slavery, divorce, racism, socialism, etc.

  11. James Davis
    September 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Which is worse: theft or murder?

    To me, murder is the greater crime. That’s why, in rhetoric, modern republicans seem to be worse than modern democrats. Democrats advocate theft in the form of wealth-redistribution but (at least before Obama) denounce the killing of innocent people through war. Republicans, on the other hand, generally denounce wealth-redistribution but seek to justify the murder of innocent people that our militant policies create.

    These are of course generalities based on campaign rhetoric. To an honest observer- the actual policies/actions of both the D’s and the R’s as a group are the same: plunder and murder.

  12. iimx
    September 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Lilli,
    Did Joseph Smith actually use the word socialism? He died in 1844, the communist manifesto was published in 1848.

    “Joseph Smith said, ‘A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.’ (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)

  13. iimx
    September 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Lilli,
    Did Joseph Smith actually use the word socialism? He died in 1844, the communist manifesto was published in 1848.

    “Joseph Smith said, ‘A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.’ (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)
    Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 421–422

  14. James Davis
    September 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    The concept of socialism has existed for thousands of years but the term and movement were popularized, in large part, by Robert Owen in 1827. John Finch (a follower of Owen), while traveling through Nauvoo, gave several lectures evangelizing socialism. Joseph Smith attended two of those meetings. When given the opportunity to speak during the second meeting he rejected it:

    “I attended a second lecture on Socialism, by Mr. Finch; and after he got through, I made a few remarks… I said I did not believe the doctrine.” -Joseph Smith (History of The Church; Vol 6, Ch.2, p.33)

  15. James Davis
    September 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Though Lilli was right about Joseph Smith being against socialism I don’t know where she got the idea that he was against polygamy. He was commanded to live it starting in 1831 and even taught a few other church leaders to live it thereafter.

  16. outside the corridor
    September 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    @James–

    Oh, dear, you just came up against a person who believes that practiced what he preached with regards to polygamy–

    the story about being commanded to live it was firsthand; Joseph preached against polygamy.

    There is a growing movement in the church today of people who question that Joseph actually ‘lived’ polygamy–

    that he might have been sealed to other women (and many men, as well)–

    is not questioned–

    but he has no descendants besides Emma’s children–

    and dna testing has been offered to all who are interested; several ‘definite children’ of Joseph Smith have been shown not to be (by their descendants’ dna)–

    several others who might have been can not be determined, because of a chromosome that makes determination impossible, but the fact that several women who claimed that their child(ren) was/were fathered by Joseph Smith have been proven to have told . . . fibs.

    Most LDS avoid this topic either because:

    –they believe in polygamy
    –they think that the priesthood could not have been passed on if the apostles who left Nauvoo for Utah were not being truthful (which is silly)
    –they don’t want to believe the same thing that the RLDS believe
    –they think Brigham Young was right about Emma AND Joseph; most of what Joseph was supposed to have said and felt about Brigham . . . came out of Brigham, not out of Joseph–

    !

    so–it’s a fun thing to squabble about–

    there are witnesses from Nauvoo on every side–

    who to believe?

    Those church leaders Joseph “taught” to live polygamy–

    there again–

    it’s called lying for the Lord, and it’s done even today–

    but the question is . . . did Joseph do it, or did the apostles who openly lived polygamy do it?

    several of the apostles picked up polygamy from the Cochranites and even from the rascally Bennett without any need to be ‘taught’ it by Joseph Smith–

    whether he lived it or not, according to David Whitmer–

    Joseph said before he died, “the practice of plural marriage is a cursed thing, and it will be the downfall of this people; I regret that I didn’t do something about it sooner”–

    He expressed to David Whitmer and others that he had lacked the courage to confront people with their sins–

    hoping, instead, to give them time to feel remorse, and that he paid a price for it–

    all depends upon whom you want to believe. David Whitmer never denied the Book of Mormon and that he saw the plates or that Joseph Smith was a prophet–

    but he had, along with a number of other good men who were close to the prophet, some real issues with the apostles who went west–

    did the ‘line of authority’ survive in spite of it–

    I believe so, yes–

    in the meridian of time, Jesus was born into a ‘church’ whose leaders displeased Him immensely, but the priesthood authority was still there; John got it from his father, who was killed by other leaders–

    the members of the church don’t have to be perfect for priesthood authority to be passed on–

  17. outside the corridor
    September 1, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    typos–

    first line–that JOSEPH practiced what he preached–

    third line–NOT firsthand–

  18. outside the corridor
    September 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    I did understand that one of Joseph Smith’s m ore ‘radical’ ideas that upset a lot of people was–

    that he wanted to get rid of prisons!!!

  19. Lilli
    September 2, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    James,

    Just as Christ & ancient prophets did, Joseph Smith also preached strongly against and condemned polygamy his whole life. I don’t believe he ever lived it. He knew too much to fall for such a vile thing. I believe he loved Emma and would never have done such things to her or other women.

    But it seems he did wait too long to do something about it, for it got too out of hand to put down before he died. Too many church leaders wanted to live polygamy, thus they secretly did and after Joseph died they tried to justify their actions by saying Joseph lived it too. But there is no proof, just vile 2nd hand accusations, heresay & claims against Joseph. While we have tons of proof from Joseph himself that he continually published throughout the Church that he was totally against polygamy.

    OTC, I actually believe that people have to live a pretty high & rare level of righteousness to gain, retain or pass on Priesthood Authority, Power or Keys. I believe it’s very rare to find a truly righteous man today that has the Priesthood.

    If apostate, unrighteous, even evil leaders can retain or pass on Priesthood authority, either today or in ancient times, then probably most religions could claim Priesthood authority today, especially the RLDS or FLDS Churches, for they had as much or more right to continue the true Church as Brigham did.

    But I don’t believe false prophets or unrighteous leaders or men can retain or pass Priesthood keys or authority, they immediately lose it when they are unrighteous.

    If a person is righteous they either automatically gain the Priesthood because of their righteousness or are given it by some other ‘righteous’ person who has it.

  20. Nivarion
    September 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    @outside

    I agree with the idea of getting rid of prisons. I think we have other systems that could be much more useful to the full value of society, and cost a lot less too.

    Examples that were practiced in the past with decent success include; Fines, corporal punishment (recommended in OT), capital punishment, indentured slavery (you committed crime X against person Y, and must now serve them for Z years) forced military service and etc

    those along with labor camps that increase the total value of our economy while punishing the individual who committed a criminal offense are far better putting them in a massive money sink to sit and do nothing. Wasted cash and wasted capitol is all a prison is. Not to mention the final effects on the inmates.

    It is far better also, for those who made a mistake to get the rod for a few minutes than to get the bars for a few years.

  21. outside the corridor
    September 5, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    @Nivarion–

    I like the idea, too–

    unfortunately, our present criminal justice system is very broken–

    we recently had a friend who had a temple marriage (RM), a good job (several degrees) who landed in prison on a false charge/false sentence.

    He did something stupid, but it didn’t merit the charge or the sentence.

    He’s ‘rotting’ in there and longs/yearns to work; he gets paid 10 cents/hour for a job he spent months trying to get–

    his wife got tired of waiting for him, even though she knew his charge and sentence were false–

    and divorced him–

    he has grown spiritually; he has read the scriptures numerous times–

    but he has no idea when he will get out. He also learned that almost half the prison population is urged by lawyers to plead guilty for a lesser sentence and then given the sentence because of the guilty plea–

    in other words, they are ‘tricked’ into prison, many of them–

    so, as long as the system is broken, none of those things would work–

    because there are too many people wrongfully charged and sentenced–

    but, I still agree with Joseph on the no prisons–

    what our friend needed was drug rehabilitation–

    (for prescription drugs that messed him up very badly)–

    not an interminable prison sentence with no hope of getting out–

  22. nw
    November 1, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    I have a problem with this statement:
    [Democratic Party] – “a political party that adheres to and advocates policies that openly conflict with the doctrine and policy positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

    You know Elder Faust was a Democrat?
    You know Elder Jensen is a Democrat? He even wrote an article years ago about how the lack of political diversity in the church is worrisome to the brethren.

  23. FedUp
    November 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Are you trying to tell me that Elders Faust and Jensen, as Democrats, support abortion? Because if they are Democrats, they should be on board with the basic tenets of the Democratic party, at least. They are either a card-carrying Democrats or LDS, the two are mutually exclusive. You don’t get to pick and choose. That would be like me saying I’m LDS but I don’t believe that Joseph Smith story or saying I’m an LDS member of the KKK, but I’m only in the KKK for the brotherhood and community service projects. Just because Faust and Jensen claim to be Democrats doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. The list of differences between Dem policies and Christian doctrine is indeed a long one. And no, I’m not a Republican.

  24. Lilli
    November 14, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    nw,

    You seem to think that Prophets & Apostles can’t be wrong or deceived or totally false or can’t lead others astray. How do you know they are even true prophets and apostles? Do you know how to tell the difference? They certainly don’t seem to be proving they are true prophets like they should be.

    Even true Prophets and Apostles can fall and often be wrong, just look at Joseph Smith and how often he was wrong and deceived by false revelation, and many Prophets have fallen & lead many people astray throughout history.

    So no matter what church leaders say or do, ‘we’ are the ones that need to ‘prove all things’ and make sure that what church leaders are saying and doing is right and true, for they are often wrong, no one is perfect and God ‘will let them lead us astray if they and us lose the Spirit, as it seems they have.

    I think it is worrisome and very telling that church leaders think members should be all different parties. They might as well say we should be all different religions too. It’s basically the same thing.

    But I am not surprised that they said that, given what else they do & say that is against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m just disappointed in them and I definitely don’t believe they are true prophets and apostles for they preach and practice so completely contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to how true prophets preach & practice.

  25. Spencer Morgan
    November 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    The Republican party was not founded “explicitly to eradicate polygamy”. There is no basis for this statement. The major tenets and motivations behind it’s founding in 1854 can be found here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_(United_States)#Founding_and_19th_Century

  26. Connor
    November 15, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Correct, I should not have said that the party was established explicitly for that purpose. However, at its second national convention in Philadelphia in June 1856, the party adopted a platform that included a key plank stating that it was the duty of Congress to prohibit “those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.” This is what I had in mind when I wrote the post, though clearly I recalled the context a little wrong.

  27. Lilli
    November 17, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    And it was very right that the Republicans try to prohibit & stop polygamy, for like Joseph Smith constantly taught, polygamy is always a vile whoredom, in any age or time, and something Joseph did not believe in or practice, despite what the storybooks say.

    Brigham Young of course had other ideas and did not seem to care about respect for women & their constitutional rights and did all he could to make it sound like Joseph was in agreement with him to try to justify his whoredoms. After Joseph died, Brigham threw out Joseph’s scriptures against polygamy and put in his own D&C 132 instead.

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