Mormons for Dean

January 20, 2004 | 76 comments

In honor of the Iowa Caucus I did an internet search for Mormons supporting candidates.

Here’s what I found:
Mormons for Dean, and
Mormons for Dean, and yet more
Mormons for Dean
Mormons for Dean are a pretty visible set of links over on the Dean blog.

I didn’t expect a Mormons for Bush, and I didn’t find one.

But there were no Mormons for Clark, Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, Gephardt, Sharpton, Mosely-Braun, or Kucinich.

Will we never learn our lesson about monolithic politics. Go and be diverse!

No, seriously, what gives?

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76 Responses to Mormons for Dean

  1. cooper on January 20, 2004 at 1:56 am

    The only comment I can make is that I snicker every time I hear Mormons for Dean. Sorry Dean supporters. I just have to laugh, the guy is so much like a previous president, it amazes me that anyone is for him. But I must say, go Dean! Bush’ll walk all over ya!

  2. sid on January 20, 2004 at 8:38 am

    well, given the leftist moonbats that Dean seems to have attracted, I am surprised to see Mormons for Dean group or groups. I guess, these folks did not take a good, hard look at what Dean stands for. Or perhaps, it is (was, after yesterday in Iowa?) fashionable to support Dean?

  3. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 8:58 am

    Well, at least in my ward we don’t need a “Mormons for Bush” gathering–they just call it Gospel Doctrine class. Aargh. It wasn’t so bad last year, because, let’s face it, it’s a stretch from just about anyplace in the New Testament to what Rush said this week. But with Book of Mormon, you just need one mention of “the promised land” and they’re off!!

  4. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 9:00 am

    “I guess, these folks did not take a good, hard look at what Dean stands for.”

    The sad part is, that if you visit the Mormons for Dean website, “these folks” appear to have taken a good, hard look at what Dean stands for, and they go right along with him. So much for supporting good, decent laws and candidates for office.

  5. lyle on January 20, 2004 at 11:09 am

    Come on folks…the Rev. King’s widow asked for civility the other day. I don’t think there is any reason to cast aspersions/judgment on the folks at Mormons for Dean.

    Adam/All: There is now a site for Mormons for Bush. Unfortunately…someone bought one of my sites right under me!!! it was available 1 sec…and then the next, it was taken. but i got the other three. They will be bare for a week, but soon there will be:

    p.s. if one of you just took the
    …can we work together? lol…

  6. lyle on January 20, 2004 at 11:23 am

    ok…now i’m torqued. i sincerely hope someone here hasn’t bought the other .org names out from under me. :(

  7. cooper on January 20, 2004 at 11:38 am

    All kidding aside, I truly believe that in order to find diversity in politics, it will have to be on local levels. (Mind you I do not live in Utah)

    The machines that bring us the leading party contenders are so far away from most of us (especially on an economic level) that to affect a choice there is quite impossible. Unless, of course, some of you do participate in the famous “Renaissance Weekend”. A lot of political deceision and agenda’s are formed there – at least for the Democrats.

    So we will have to accept our diversity where it comes. On the local and possibily the state levels, depending on your commitment to the system.

  8. Nate Oman on January 20, 2004 at 11:54 am


    New Year’s Resolutions

    1) Spend less time on the Dean blog, more time flyering for Dean. I can accomplish a lot more if I spend “campaign time” doing something more productive.

    2) Wear my Dean Buttons more.

    3) Outside of the campaign, work more for the betterment of mankind.

    4) Blog here more, play less

    5) More Mormons for Dean flyers.

    I am glad that 3 is sandwiched in as well…

  9. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Partisan bickering aside, I think there is a potentially interestic topic here. To wit: Mormon political monophony is largely a function of the church’s relative youth. That is, while Mormon Democrats are busy defending their right to mere existence against the judgments of Brent, and large numbers of Saints in- and outside of the hierarchy who share his views, Catholics (and Jews to some extent) are politically active across the spectrum of political thought. Catholic bishops agitate for abortion to be deligitimized, but also for corporations to stop trying to wring the last drop of productivity out of workers. Catholics felt free to take vocal positions for and against the war in Iraq, *using their Catholicism to buttress their positions*. Maybe Mormons just need a few more centuries to quit condemning each other and get used to working in the public square. Still, I’d like to think we might yet demonstrate some precocity in this area (though things like “leftwing moonbats, and “so much for supporting decent candidates…” make me despair of it.)

  10. Russell Arben Fox on January 20, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    I wouldn’t have supported Dean, but not because he fails some (I think highly dubious) Mormon “test.” Overall, he has a responsible and intelligent record on a variety of issues. While I can think of many good reasons why any given Mormon, given certain conventional assumptions regarding the political implications of Mormon doctrine and practice, might find the prospect of a Dean presidency appalling, I don’t think any of those reasons are by any stretch of the imagination unassailable. The “Mormons for Dean” folks are on as solid ground, I think, as those Mormons who support any of the other major candidates.

    Me? Had I been a registered Democrat in Iowa yesterday, I would have supported Gephardt. He’s a good man (and would have beaten Bush).

  11. clark goble on January 20, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    It is fairly easy to get involved in local politics. There is more diversity in Mormon politics than I think most realize. The problems the Democrats face outside of the less Mormon SLC area relates more to the Democratic party itself. A lot of it is unfair (the local Democratic party isn’t the same as the national). But part of it is simply what worries Utahns.

    But there is a huge difference between the rather strong libertarian front of conservatives in Utah and say the Eagle Forum which is anything but libertarian. Also lets not forget that then most conservative congressional district in the country, Utah County, had a multi-term Democrat in the early 90′s prior to Cannon.

  12. sid on January 20, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Well – I m all for diversity within our community of Saints. However, mind you, like Russell says, given what we believe as members of our Church, my friends and I in our Ann Arbor Ward findi t hard to support Dean’s positions. Among other things, Dean’s campaign hate and anger driven, and is very negative, in my opinion.
    And Kristine – visited Nak House yesterday to see a friend who is suffering from cancer, and Nak House is plastered with Kuchinich campaign posters!!!!!

  13. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Sid, I’m not a Dean supporter either, but I’ll bet there are at least a few in the Ann Arbor ward!

    And, um, yeah, Kucinich. What’s to say besides “rhymes with spinach!”

  14. Adam Greenwood on January 20, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    Let’s back off on the ‘moonbat’ comments, OK? While I can think of a handful of my fellow Saints who I may think of as moonbats,I ought not to so describe them on an LDS forum, especially if I think they’re moonbats because of their political affiliation.

    Also, can’t say I’m real comfortable with a Mormons for Bush website. Seems to me that it reverses allegiances. Republicans for the Restoration, or Bushies for Christ, or something along those lines seems more the right idea, although silly.

  15. JWJ on January 20, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    Sorry to break into this (mostly) right-wing love-fest, but there is a much more boring explanation for Dean’s Mormon presence on the internet–his campaign is largely driven by and conducted on the internet, more so than any other candidate, even Clark, who was kind of drafted in an internet campaign. Dean’s push in Iowa was to a remarkable degree staffed by people from out of state, no doubt organized on the Internet. Gephardt had local unions on his side, whereas Kerry recently developed a serious veteran organization in Iowa, in addition to his firefighter support.

    A surprising amount of people out there tend to predict consistently political outcomes which they prefer (e.g. Dean is doing well, Bush will destroy him, please nominate him). But not every conservative thinks Dean would be a cupcake. Rich Lowry, no less, called him a “formidable opponent”. I tended to agree with Lowry (except the part about Dean being an opponent), but after last night I don’t know. Dean’s temperament may be a problem for the long haul of the primaries, and his much vaunted youth movement has done him little good so far. Given that the base tends to know the actual record of the candidates, whereas the unreliable swing vote goes on media reports and appearances, Kerry, Edwards, or Clark may be the best bet for the party. Each have solidly progressive proposals but have been given the mantle of moderate by a Dean-gazing media. Clark is clearly the biggest fear of the GOP. Some people may say he is almost a Republican, but if so he is a Gerald Ford-Bush Sr.-Bob Dole Republican, and that already makes him very different from this president.

  16. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    I think I consistently argue against allegience to any political party. I think that the parties tend to be much more focused on winning and retaining power rather than promoting good government and solving social ills. I think this applies to both major policital parties.

    That said, let me ask what I think is a legitimate question. Can an individual be both a faithful member and a faithful Democrat? I focus on the Democrat party because there are several party platform positions that are in direct conflict with church teachings, principally homosexual rights and abortion. The Democrat party also has aligned itself with groups like People for the American Way and others who hold extreme views about the role religion should play in public life. I know that many members who proclaim allegience to the Democrat party hold personal view that diverge from that of the party. It just seems difficult to separate identification with these views from one’s self classification as a Democrat. I am not seeking to condemn any other Mormons, but rather to understand what I see as a real practical difficulty. I may think that Wesley Clark has some great ideas (note, not really what I think), but he also has come out stating that there should be no, absolutely no legal restrictions on abortions. “Life begins at the women’s choice” is what he said. Can any amount of other good positions overcome his views that unborn children have no value, and that he will appoint only judges with that same viewpoint?

  17. clark goble on January 20, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    I think the Democrat Republicans fear the most is Leibermann. But he doesn’t appear to have a hope for much other than VP. Kerry is probably their biggest worry. I’m surprised you think that Clark would be a worry. His flip flopping and apparent hypocrisy seem to be godsends even more than Dean’s tempermant. The bombshell last week that he testified before congress *for* the war seems about par for the course.

  18. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    Actually, I do not think Clark presents a worry at all. The only candidate I am “worried” about would be Edwards. He has kept a relatively low profile and his comments have been, by and large, less extreme than many of the other candidates. I think Lieberman is the best Demcocrat and I find it tremendously sad that he is doing as poorly as he is. He is much more liberal than I am (perhaps a huge understatement), but he is not rabidly so, and in the not to distant past held rather conservative positions on social issues (views he only changed upon being a candidate for national office, also a sad commentary on his national party).

  19. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Brent: One hates to beat a dead horse, but since you keep bringing up abortion and homosexuality, here’s a quote from the Church Handbook of Instructions:

    “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” (p. 157)

    Official Church spokesmen said repeatedly in the fracas over California’s Prop. 22 that the church is in favor of civil rights for homosexuals (obviously, as long as those civil rights stop short of being called “marriage”) And President Hinckley recently affirmed that it is possible to be a faithful Mormon and a Democrat.

    C’mon, man, follow the prophet!

  20. Renee on January 20, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    >Can an individual be both a faithful member and a faithful Democrat?

    Certainly. Though I am not the latter, I’m sure they can be.

    While some of the Dem stances conflict with the LDS beliefs with regards to abortion and sexual practices, there are other areas where the Dem stance is more in line with Christian teachings than more converservative parties. How we treat the environment and how we exercise compassion with those less fortunate are two examples.

    As for the name calling, that’s on par with those who call us names for being part of a religion they disagree with. It’s not conducive to productive dialogue.

  21. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    Kristine, I truly enjoy our little dialogues.

    Just because the church hasn’t injected itself into the political fray on the abortion issue doesn’t mean that church members can sit back on their laurels and be indifferent to the issue or that one position isn’t better that any other. (See Elder Oaks BYU devotional address entitled Weightier Matters). We teach that abortion is akin to murder and that only in cases of rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother is it allowed, and then only after prayerful consideration by the woman.

    As for the homosexuality issue, we have been over various aspects of this before. Saying that the church doesn’t oppose “civil rights” doesn’t imply what I think you are implying. Homosexuals are entitled to the same rights that you and I, that all of us have. They are not entitled, however, to special rights. I don’t think you could seriously argue that the church would support what I have identified as the homosexual rights movement. That the movement’s main purpose is to bring an immoral lifestyle into the mainstream and to give it legitimacy in the eyes of the world. Speaking of the prophet, just look at his comment in his two most recent addresses (First presidency Christmas fireside and the world wide training). He decries the proliferation of immorality and the destruction of traditional family. It is fairly clear what he is talking about.

  22. Greg on January 20, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Just for a little historical context, Hugh B. Brown said that when deciding whether to be a Republican or Democrat, he “spoke to several people about it. President Grant at the time was an ardent Democrat, as was his counselor and cousin, Anthony W. Ivins, and B. H. Roberts. Each of these men told me at different times and separately that if I wanted to belong to a party that represented the common people I should become a Democrat but that if I wanted to be popular and have the adulation of others and be in touch with the wealth of the nation, I should become a Republican.”
    Brown, of course, became a Democrat.

  23. tp on January 20, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    I don’t think the church opposes abortion because it is “akin to murder.” In fact, much of the right wing rhetoric about abortions I find to be conspicously absent from LDS pronouncements. I don’t think that there is any theological or doctrinal reason to back up those claims. The fact that exceptions are made is enough to demonstrate that it is not considered “murder.” It seems to me that the church opposes abortion (not the legalization of abortion, but its practice) because we beleive in accountability, not because of a theological beleif about the fetus. I haven’t really looked into this…just a casual observation.

  24. JWJ on January 20, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    All: I am not talking about how intrinsically dangerous Clark is to the GOP. This is just what I am talking about!–just because you don’t like Clark doesn’t entail that he would lose, or that the GOP doesn’t think he is strong. You can speculate on the former all day. I am talking about explicit statements by GOP leadership, as well as their decision to attack him early without adding “we hope he gets the nomination”, as they have with Dean. I really don’t know how much the Republicans should be worried about Clark, but I do know that they are worried. I do know one thing, though–if any Republican is worried about Lieberman, they are very foolish. He is hated by a good portion of the Democratic party–and not because of his stands on moral issues, but because of his extreme hawkishness on Middle East. He could run in Israel to the right of Ariel Sharon. He is the only Dem candidate that could prompt another strong Green party campaign.

    Brent: You raise some good questions about the Democratic party. And yet this president will be the last Republican that got my vote because he was pro-life even though everything else he stands for flies in the face of what I believe about the rule of law, the basic legal components of a free society, fundamental economic requirements of the good life from a Christian perspective, and the need for cooperation among civilized nations.

    Besides that the main strategy for changing the law on abortion has judicial. I think this is almost as bad an idea as the original bad rulings themselves, and besides that, the only judges who seem willing to roll back the main abortion rulings are very reactionary on a whole host of other issues.

    Still, it is disturbing for me that the Democratic party has been taken over and homogenized by pro-abortion rights forces, because I am pro-life. It’s not satifying to me to say “I can’t change Roe so I might as well go with the flow.” At least a third of the current presidential candidates either were pro-life or flirted with being so. Now all of them parrot Planned Parenthood language. America is still of split opinion on this issue, with most Americans in favor of restrictions which are routinely ruled to be unconstitutional under the current case law. In 2000, I was probably won over to Bush by George Will’s column, which he titled “A Day that Will Live in Infamy” about a 2000 supreme court decision on abortion. He pointed out that while the two candidates (Bush and Gore) seemed close on many things, here was an example of clear difference–the life issue. I agreed (and I was wrong–there were many other differences).

  25. Kaimi on January 20, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with Taylor. The church’s position on abortion is _not_ the same as many other religious groups. The church has conspicuously avoided saying that life begins at conception.

    And the church’s position — that abortion may be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or health danger — weighs against considering abortion murder, I believe. After all, we don’t say “Murder is prohibited, except where the party to be murdered is a child of rape or incest, in which case it is a case-by-case decision.”

    My reading of the church position (I know Matt will disagree with me on this) is that abortion is the destruction of important quasi- or proto-life, and is an affront to the plan of salvation, but is not within the category of offenses that murder is in.

  26. JWJ on January 20, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Greg: Your story about Brown resonates very much with me. Unlike many middle class people, most of my fellow political theorists, and especially people get all worked up about a “culture war”, I don’t think party is about ideas fundamentally. It’s about who you stand *with* rather more than what you stand for. I stand for plenty of things, but I don’t base my choice of party on what I stand for, much less on arcane heterodox economic theories and the like. W. Carey McWilliams once said that most people can look at where their family was in the 1930s and you will know the party they belong to today. If your family was Catholic, Jew, black, Irish, or blue-collar, you are probably a Democrat. It’s true, Mormons don’t fit this formula, probably because of the rise of culural politics. But I tend to think that cultural politics is a particularly insidious form of ideology (in the negative sense), and detrimental of both the American progressivism and American conservativism.

  27. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Kaimi, I am not sure that we need to answer the question of when life begins. Nearly everyone agrees that at conception, a new lifeform is created. The debate about “when life begins” thus seems more centered on when such a being has a soul. Again, I think while interesting, such discussions are unnecessary to the debate. As for our theology, while I think you are technically correct in your analysis, there have been varied statements by church leaders and prophets that abortion is akin to or like unto murder, and in some ways it is akin to murder even if not exactly like murder. Just like taking the life of another in the self defense context is not murder, so also, taking the “life” of an unborn child in the case of rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother also may not be considered murder. The rule isn’t thou shalt not murder, but rather thou shalt not kill. That rule, has been qualified to prohibit the unlawful taking of life. Abortion-on-demand and murder both involve the unlawful taking of human life either in embryo or fully developed.

    Again, even without prophetic fleshing out of all of the doctrinal details, I think we can reason out what is a the most doctrinally consistent position on the issue, and it is not, in my opinion, the pro-choice position.

  28. Logan on January 20, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    The Church obviously thinks abortion is a very bad thing. I side with Kaimi on this, though. The Church seems very much to put it in a different category than murder. An example that highlights this to me is the baptismal requirements. If a baptismal candidate has had (or encouraged/participated in) an abortion, they must have a second interview, where it is discussed in greater detail with a mission president or counselor. All the necessary repentance can usually be taken care of there. If someone has committed a murder, they usually need specific approval from the First Presidency.

    Being different than murder, I think it is possible to have a postion like the NY Times describes Al Sharpton’s, who “Has said his religion taught him abortion is wrong, but “I can believe something without having to impose my beliefs on others.”" Of course, few Mormons seem to, and that’s all right too. I’m just saying that I don’t think Church membership requires one to support legislation against abortion.

  29. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 5:32 pm

    Gosh, Brent, those are some tough questions you raise. But for me, really, when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done. I just don’t need to justify myself with the reasoning of men. If President Hinckley says it’s OK to be a Democrat, that’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you.

  30. Randy on January 20, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    I too am confident that Church membership does not require one to support legislation against abortion. But beyond that, I am quite certain that Church membership does not require one to base his or her decision on who to vote for on the solitary issue of abortion among the dozens of other important issues that involve “Christian” principles (take, as just one example, tax cuts for the wealthy).

  31. Kaimi on January 20, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Touche, Kris.

    My scorecard reads Kristine 1, Brent 0. (Others may differ).

  32. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Kristine, be careful not to get your tongue stuck there in your cheek.

    You seem to imply that I am being inconsistent here on this issue in light of prior discussions and comments about the role of prophets. Of course, I have not argued that one cannot be a Democrat. Nor would I do so. Nor do I see any inconsistency in any of my comments. I simply wanted to raise several questions which I think are relevant in areas where we don’t have much in the way of prophetic counsel.

  33. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    I also have never claimed that reasoning is a bad thing. I wholeheartedly believe that “the glory of God is intelligence” and that we are to develop our knowledge and minds. In fact, we are commanded to serve and love God with our whole mind. The key is to attempt to discover His mind on all matters of life. In prior comments, I have suggested that removing prophetic pronouncements, in light of what we believe they are, in analyzing or otherwise reasoning through any issue leads to error.

    I think it unfortunate that the so called culture war has made political party affiliation such an issue for members of our church. If you take a few specific issues out of the equation, then our discussions could be much more focused on government systems, Constitutional authority and the like. Our discussion of religion and politics could focus on church/state matters and on whether it is truly more consistent with Christianity to force someone to be charitable through taxation and government welfare. Such is not the case, and we are left to discuss other highly emotional moral issues.

  34. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    Actually, Kaimi, if we were keeping score, the point probably ought to go to Brent for keeping his cool. I’d like to respond with a detailed and impassioned feminist, liberal, gay-rights-supporting, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie free love treatise, but I have to go cook dinner for my family. More later.

  35. Adam Greenwood on January 20, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    Someone who actually believes it ought to say it:

    The Prophet has said that good Mormons can be good Democrats, and that’s good enough for me.

    But, that doesn’t mean the choice is trivial or unimportant, or there may not be a right choice among the parties (or lack thereof). It may just mean we’ve been left to argue it out among ourselves and come to personal conclusions, with the caveat that we won’t make our conclusion a matter that defines our larger membership (All good Mormons must be Democrats.)

  36. Adam Greenwood on January 20, 2004 at 6:31 pm

    I think we’re making too much of the distinction between a murderer who wishes baptism and an aborter who wishes baptism.

    They both could be murder, and we could still see the distinction we do because we live in a society that, in contradistinction to other killings, foments abortion and does nothing to discourage it. Thus, there being less light available, offenders are less responsible.

    Also, some of you underestimate how morally difficult the cases of mother’s life, rape, and incest are even if you assume the child is fully human with a soul, etc. In the first one is being asked to sacrifice one’s life for another, who may potentially not live themselves. In the second, one is asked to take total responsibility for a human being against one’s will. Even if one ought, perhaps, to make the sacrifice or take the responsibility, to do so would be to live the higher law to a degree that the Church is not going to make it a matter of membership or commandment.

  37. brayden on January 20, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Wow, this is a most interesting onslaught of remarks on an issue that I think is very simple. Can a person be a faithful Democrat and a faithful member (simultaneously we should add)?

    Well, the empirical answer is yes. I know many faithful members who are faithful Democrats. My definition of faithful member is someone who holds a temple recommend, serves diligently when called upon, and who strives to live a Christ-like life. My definition of a faithful Democrat is someone who is registered to the Democratic party who also tends to vote for Democrats (more often than not). I don’t have any numbers to support my claim, but anectdotal evidence tells me there are at least a few people who fit both categories. I know that because I happen to be someone who does.

    The confusion I think Brent is generating is more based on pure ideological grounds. If you believe that a political party is something more like a religion than a partisan organization, I can see how you might wonder why anyone could belong “faithfully” to either. Of course, in my book, that statement applies to any political party. If you cling to a parties’ platform dogmatically, you more than likely will experience at least some strain with your religious philosophy.

    The reason the Church does not endorse a political party is because there are no “true” political parties on the face of the earth. Until that day, let us be tolerant of others’ views.

  38. Clark Goble on January 20, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    Any political party you belong to will hold some views you think incorrect. I can certainly say that about Bush, for instance, even though I’m a Republican. The issue is typically which involves the lesser of two evils. Different people will judge those sorts of things differently. For me abortion is a rather meaningless thing to judge a politician on since in practice they will have no impact on the matter. So why would I care what a politician thinks? But others think that so important that even if the politician has no practical effect it is important.

  39. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    Brent: Sorry to resort to sarcasm earlier, but you did get forced into the answer I thought you’d make, because it’s the one I’m always making–”I’m just asking questions!” Remember that, OK? It’s tiresome to always have one’s questions taken as evidence of a lack of faith or righteousness.

    As to the substance of the discussion, I think we have trouble because our prophets have usually felt pretty free to voice their political opinions, and we don’t have a mechanism for distinguishing between their opinions based on their best judgment (which is valuable in itself–I wouldn’t discount the wisdom of someone who has lived a long and righteous life) and inspired opinions and revelation in whatever purer form it might come in. The only safety for anyone (as Brigham Young and others have repeatedly warned) is confirmatory revelation from the Holy Ghost. I happen to think there’s a real danger of people not seeking such revelation when the prophet(s) offer an opinion which coincides with one’s own opinion, as is frequently the case for conservative members of the church in matters of politics. It’s also very easy to see the coincidence of one’s personal prejudices with the expressed opinions of church leaders as evidence of one’s own righteousness.

    An example may clarify what I mean: my dad was an AP for President Benson in the European Mission in the early sixties. President Benson, as everyone knows, had strong opinions on political matters and was not shy about voicing them. Among other things, President Benson was convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Communist, and that the civil rights movement was part of a conspiracy to distract Americans and make it easier for Communists to infiltrate the country. It’s pretty easy, in hindsight, to conclude that President Benson was not speaking as a prophet, seer, and revelator in this matter, and was just mistaken, as all human beings are from time to time. However, many missionaries were influenced by President Benson’s expression of his opinion, possibly confirming their own prejudices, which may have been born of fear (of Communism) or even racism, rather than stemming from personal revelation (or, the fallback in the absence of personal revelation, sound reasoning). This is a fairly extreme example, and I’m not wanting to draw the parallel too far, only to inject a note of caution. Prophetic counsel in matters of politics is notoriously conditioned by historical circumstance, and we’d all do well to remember our responsibility to get our own revelation. I’d argue that this is just as important when it’s easy for us to agree with the prophet as when it’s hard.

  40. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    I didn’t mean to generate any confusion. I understand the distinctions that have been made. I think the way the political parties, on a national level, operate it is like religion. Just look at how the national parties treat those who don’t tow the party line. Look at what the presidential candidates have had to do and say to envigorate their base. That is what prompted my question and was the angle I was taking in my question. Accepting Brayden’s definitions, there is clearly no difficulty in being a faithful member of both. I think that it would be difficult though to be Terry McAuliffe and a faithful member of the church.

    I do think, however, that as the world, and thus the political parties, drift further and further away from righteous principals, I think each person is going to have to ask at what point support for a political party conflicts with his or her religious principals.

  41. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 9:56 pm

    One last thing–I was meaning earlier to question Brent’s phrase “faithful Democrat.” I do think it would be a mistake to have faith in any political party, and though I fit Brayden’s definition of voting Dem. more often than not, I certainly don’t have any strong sense of party loyalty. And yeah, it would be hard to be Terry McAuliffe, even without trying to be LDS too :)

  42. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 10:19 pm

    I’ll add another comment too. While I understand what Kristine is saying about asking questions, I do think that there are different types of gospel related questions, some appropriate and some not (within a public forum). For instance, we can debate at length the appropriateness of a progessive tax system and forms of government and whether there is a better system from a religous perspective. We can have this good discussion about political parties and candidates. Other issues are not as appropriate for debate, again at least not in a public forum. For instance, I do not believe debating whether adultery really is a sin is either worthwhile or appropriate in light of revealed truth on the matter (both from ancient and modern prophets).

  43. Kristine on January 20, 2004 at 10:53 pm

    Why the public/private distinction?

  44. Clark Goble on January 20, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    “Among other things, President Benson was convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Communist, and that the civil rights movement was part of a conspiracy to distract Americans and make it easier for Communists to infiltrate the country. ”

    I think there was a fair bit of evidence that communists were trying to use civil rights for their ends. However I always saw the conservative reaction sort of akin to denying something good simply because the devil may make use of it. It makes people rather easy to manipulate. More significantly it means that a lot of good is rejected simply because someone you dislike likes it. I’ve met conservatives who were like that with Clinton. If Clinton liked it then it must be bad. What a horrible attitude.

    I think that the reaction of many Mormons towards the civil rights movement is quite an embarrassment. I truly wish that decades earlier the leadership had been more open to it. I’m willing to accept that the issue of the priesthood was inspired. But I think a lot of the racist positions in Utah that built up after our explusion were almost a reaction towards the 19th century Republicans. They were against slavery and against us and we adopt the enemy of my enemy is my friend sort of mentality.

  45. Brent on January 20, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    Our private quandries are just that private. We all have questions or doubts from time to time, but we ought not to air those publically thus perhaps harming someone else’s testimony. Additionally, publically calling into question church doctrine or disagreeing with prophetic pronouncements is apostasy.

  46. Clark Goble on January 21, 2004 at 1:21 am

    Note that I didn’t ever call in question church doctrine. However speaking of the history of the 19th century seems rather tame, isn’t it?

    I’d also say, from my experience on my mission and since, that simply avoiding the issue tends to make it more of an issue. The fact is that African Americans are rather troubled by this and we have to address it to preach the gospel to them. Simply acknowledging the humanity of even our leadership is both the correct answer as well as a helpful solution.

  47. Kaimi on January 21, 2004 at 2:00 am

    Brent writes:

    “publically calling into question church doctrine or disagreeing with prophetic pronouncements is apostasy”

    Well, sort of. The fact is that both “church doctrine” and “prophetic pronouncements” are very vague terms and seem to have different meanings for different speakers. The church and the general authorities make many statements. some are contradictory. Some are doctrine. Some are apparently just opinion or ideas. It is often hard to pin down “church doctrine” or “prophetic statements.” And in areas where those are not firmly established, I don’t believe members are necessarily restricted in what they may say.

  48. Brent on January 21, 2004 at 9:57 am

    Kaimi, I agree that the terms “church doctrine” and “prophetic pronouncements” can be vague terms subject to different interpretations. I would also agree that in “areas where those are not firmly established” members are “not necessarily restricted in what they may say” (although sometimes discretion may be counseled). However, I think some people are much to willing to overlook clear doctrine and prophetic statements and to claim that such are not clear simply because such persons do not like the doctrine or statements. It is not easy thing, but if we accept that the Lord has established a proper order for the church and for the establishment of His truth (e.g. prophets and apostles and scriptures) then it would seem better to err on the side of what the prophets and apostles and scriptures say in arriving at answers to difficult questions.

    Clark, I did not mean to imply that anything anyone had written even came close to apostasy. I was merely responding to Kristine’s question and comment.

  49. Kristine on January 21, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Just so we’re working with clear definitions, here’s the official definition of apostasy from the handbook:

    Apostasy refers to members who:
    1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
    2.Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishops or higher authority.
    3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or higher authority.

    I’d say that’s a long way off from anything anybody has said here. It also differs pretty significantly from “calling into question church doctrine or disagreeing with prophetic pronouncements.” Note, in #1, that it says “act” in opposition to the Church or its leaders, not “speak” in opposition. Given the number of talented lawyers in the church [she says, ingratiatingly], I’d bet that’s a careful and deliberate choice of words. We can probably take the word “apostasy” right off the table in our discussions here (y’know, like emptying your gun before you sit down for the poker game.)

    For me, there is a real question about publicly airing doubts, and the matter of “perhaps harming someone else’s testimony.” I’ve always liked the line from Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”–”there lives more faith in honest doubt/than dwells in half the creeds.” And I’ve always found it more helpful when people are honest about both what is faith-affirming and what is troublesome for them. I don’t really know how useful it is to feign certainty or to avoid mentioning difficult issues. And yet Elder Packer in his (in)famous “white doves” talk at BYU suggests doing just that. And recently Elder Holland suggested that parents should hide their doubts from their children. Nate has written eloquently about how his parents’ open pursuit of knowledge, even about difficult areas was helpful to him, and that resonates with me. Still, (and despite what some of you may think) I care a lot about Elder Packer’s and Elder Holland’s advice, and I don’t know how to make sense of it. That’s why I wanted to push Brent on the public/private thing, and maybe all of you on how those issues fit into politics. Just to pick a less emotionally charged and obviously politically entangled topic, how would you have handled it if you’d been a farmer in the 50s and disagreed with then Elder Benson on Ag. policy? Would you have complained in front of your kids? To members of your ward? Or is it easy in that case to separate the politician from the apostle? Does it become harder when he goes back to being an apostle full-time but is still vocal on political issues? (Note: it doesn’t have to be Ezra Taft Benson–I don’t want to especially pick on his views; he just makes a handy example)

  50. Matt Evans on January 21, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    Kristine: Just a note of clarification. The definition of apostasy you provided from the handbook is the threshold when a disciplinary council is _mandatory_. The entry specifically says it’s not a general definition of apostasy and does not claim to be the ‘official’ definition.

    Apostasy is one end of a spectrum with True on the other. Because none of us are perfectly true to God’s church or its leaders, all of us are to some degree guilty of apostasy.

    None of this is to dismiss the legitimacy of your search for the right balance between questioning and following, or between public and private exploration of our testimonies and experiences. I struggle with it too.

  51. ben on January 21, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    I don’t think E. Holland means that we should hide doubts from our children. I understood it to mean that we shouldn’t instill cynicism of the Church in our children,, teach them to distrust the GA’s.
    On the topic of prophetic authority, I found a good recent talk to BYU religion faculty (surely among some of the most doctrinally careful/conservative people around.) It deals with issues of inerrancy, prophetic authority, and antimormonism by Robert Millet.

  52. Logan on January 21, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    I think that ‘action’ is essential in deciding where apostacy starts. My parents always set a good example of thinking critically about what leaders (including apostles) said. We would often debate and disagree with each other about what they said and what they meant, and whether or not we agreed with them about what we thought they meant. In my family, when the Prophet (or especially any other leaders) speaks, the discussion just begins. But it is in a respectful, uplifting way that helps us figure out how it applies to our testimonies and our lives.

    Alongside that experience, though, my parents instilled in us a deep respect for the priesthood and stewardship of our leaders (I recently commented on this subject at ). We never spoke out in defiance of their teachings or advocated rejecting them, and we accepted their decisions. I feel that questioning leaders’ counsel and living a worthy, righteous, leader-sustianing life is very possible.

    It is, of course, important to worry about “harming someone else’s testimony,” and sensitivity should be considered. In my own experience with T&S, I feel that the discussion has been well within the bounds of propriety, and is helpful in fleshing out truth (after all the discussion about absolute truth, I can never use that word comfortably any more, but bear with me).

  53. clark goble on January 21, 2004 at 1:58 pm

    Actually I think Elder Holland did mean that we ought to hide doubt from our children. They need a foundation of stability and surity to develop. Then in their teens they’ll do their “rebellion” bit and start reacting a bit. That’s not to say we should teach them critical thinking. We must. And indeed that, along with reading skills, is one of the best gifts we can give them. But I thought that talk by Elder Holland was dead on.

    Logan’s point about debating what a prophet meant is good. However that can get into a debate about what the *Lord* meant vs. what the straightforward reading of what the prophet said. Realistically that will come up, but I suspect Brent is right that we must be cautious in how we go about it. I do think, however, that recognizing the fallibility of leaders is important. I think that without that then when the reality of mistakes come crashing in that it will shake testimonies a great deal. The issue of racism is a great example of that, in my opinion.

    Kristine’s example is quite good. Indeed we are probably fortunate that general authorities don’t go into politics. That makes for difficult decisions. Earlier in the 20th century it caused many problems – especially when there were big disagreements among the twelve. I suspect it was difficult for the lay members to sort out debate and “heat” over political issues from religious issues. Consider for instance the political career of Reed Smoot who was a sitting senator and acting apostle. Yet he was key in passing a protectionism bill that probably made the Great Depression as bad as it was.

  54. clark goble on January 21, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Whoops, that should read, “shouldn’t teach them critical thinking…” i.e. critical thinking is something I think is taught all too rarely. (At least that was my experience teaching and tutoring freshmen at BYU)

  55. Logan on January 21, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Well put, Clark. The point is to discover what the Lord *means* through what the prophet says.

  56. Kristine on January 21, 2004 at 4:15 pm

    Matt, it’s true that the definition I quoted begins with “as used here…,” but what else could possibly be the official definition?

  57. Brent on January 21, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    The following is from a talk by President Faust from 1993:

    “Free discussion and expression are encouraged in the Church. Certainly the open expressions in most fast and testimony meetings, or Sunday School, Relief Society, and priesthood meetings attest to that principle. However, the privilege of free expression should operate within limits. In 1869, George Q. Cannon explained the limits of individual expression:

    “A friend … wished to know whether we … considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities of the Church was apostasy. … We replied that … we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term” (Gospel Truth, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, 2:276-77).

    “Among the activities considered apostate to the Church include when members “(1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority” (General Handbook of Instructions, 1989, p. 10-3).

    “Those men and women who persist in publicly challenging basic doctrines, practices, and establishment of the Church sever themselves from the Spirit of the Lord and forfeit their right to place and influence in the Church. Members are encouraged to study the principles and the doctrines of the Church so that they understand them. Then, if questions arise and there are honest differences of opinion, members are encouraged to discuss these matters privately with priesthood leaders.”

    I don’t know if there is another “offical” definition than the one you quoted, Kristine. Certainly, it appears that the specific elements in the handbook are followed for disciplinary purposes. However, President Faust’s use of the Handbook definition seems to indicate that “apostasy” has a broader definition. From the remainder of President Faust’s talk it appears that apostasy likely has an attidudinal element to it. A spirit of rebellion and lack of unity, fostering division, etc. Thus, Matt may be correct that we are all guilty of this from time to time.

  58. lyle on January 21, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Kristine noted a distinction between “act” and “speak”. I agree…it is important to take words seriously and understand that they can have more than one meaning, tone, context, etc. However, ‘speaking’ is an ‘act’. From Brent’s post (immediately above) it sounds like Pte. Faust’s advice is not even to ‘talk’ about differences in ‘public,’ but to study it out by oneself…and then ask church leaders for counsel. I think this is the most extreme interpretation of the cite…which is open to other definitions.

  59. lyle on January 21, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Kristine noted a distinction between “act” and “speak”. I agree…it is important to take words seriously and understand that they can have more than one meaning, tone, context, etc. However, ‘speaking’ is an ‘act’. From Brent’s post (immediately above) it sounds like Pte. Faust’s advice is not even to ‘talk’ about differences in ‘public,’ but to study it out by oneself…and then ask church leaders for counsel. I think this is the most extreme interpretation of the cite…which is open to other definitions.

  60. Matt Evans on January 21, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    Hi Kristine,

    The church doesn’t officially define sins.

    The definition of Apostasy you cited was from the section in the handbook titled, “When A Disciplinary Council Is Mandatory”. Apostasy is described with Murder, Incest and Child Abuse.

    The reason the descriptions of each of the above sins are prefaced with “As used here,” is precisely to clarify that they are not offering an exhaustive or official definition — the purpose of the description is for the narrow purpose of determining *which* forms of murder, child abuse, incest and apostasy *require* a disciplinary council.

    For example, the entry on Child Abuse says, “As used here, child abuse refers to a sexual offense against or serious physical abuse of a child.” The church is not claiming that emotional or psychological abuse against a child are not child abuse — rather, it describes the threshold of child abuse that triggers a *mandatory* disciplinary council. There are many forms of child abuse that do not meet that threshold.

    There are also many forms of apostasy that do not trigger a mandatory disciplinary council.

  61. Kristine on January 21, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    I’ll grant you “exhaustive” but I still think that the definition to be used by officers of the church in carrying out church procedures counts as “official.”

    But I think that this is what is unofficially, inexhaustively, and informally known as splitting hairs :)

  62. Matt Evans on January 21, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    Yes, the definition of “apostasy that requires a disciplinary council” from the handbook is the “official” definition of “apostasy that requires a disciplinary council.”

    But it’s not possible to deduce the definition of a class from the definition of a subclass.

  63. MormonsforDean on January 21, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    First, I’d like to thank you for not calling into question my Faith, or membership in the Church.

    I am a Moderate Republican. I believe in balanced budgets, limited government interfearence, and the right of all men to “worship how, where, or what they may.” These are all positions that Gov Dean supports.

    Personally, I can’t see how a President who lies constantly (a la his predecessor), racks up half a trillion in debt (injust one year), and has undermined the constitution can be supported by any Latter-Day Saint.

    However, I ask you when the last time you prayed about the Presidential Candidate that you support. I have done it often, most recently Monday. I am a firm believer that God answers prayers, and he has answered mine.

    Operator, Mormons for Dean

  64. Kristine on January 21, 2004 at 9:50 pm



  65. Brent on January 21, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    If one doesn’t want one’s faith questioned in selecting political candidates, he or she should not put the imprimature of faith on his or her political decisions. To suggest that God wants Dean to be president is a little over the top.

  66. Matt Evans on January 21, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Bob, welcome to Times & Seasons. Not to be persnickety, but what did God say after Monday night?

  67. Russell Arben Fox on January 21, 2004 at 11:01 pm

    “To suggest that God wants Dean to be president is a little over the top.”

    I agree with Brent. However, I must confess I’m troubled as to WHY, exactly, I agree.

    Is it because I think God doesn’t, or couldn’t, confer revelations–private or public–as pertaining to political preferences? Maybe, but I’m not sure I should be comfortable believing that, as it seems to go against the scriptural record wherein God appears to give revelations regarding, at times, extremely mundane things.

    Is it because of my (no doubt unfair) presumptions regarding the spiritual balance or experience of the person making the announcement? Maybe, but–as the discussion which followed Jim’s post on prophetic authority (here: made clear–I’m not sure I should be comfortable in allowing presumptions about the sort of person making claims to revelation to interfere with my assessment of the authenticity of said revelation.

    Is it because I simply don’t think Dean is the sort of person–because of his views on, say, civil unions for homosexuals–God could ever possibly want to be president? Maybe. But once again, I’m not sure I should be comfortable believing that; God’s ways are not my ways, and if I am to believe that God commanded the early saints to practice polygamy (just about the last thing you could ever imagine), why is it impossible to believe that God might not want an angry peacenik in the White House?

    I’ll admit it: I don’t take Bob remotely seriously. But for me, at least, the principles of revelation which I profess to believe in are, in fact, both murky and subjective, and do not provide me with any easy explanation as to why I so confidently set Bob’s claims aside.

  68. Nate Oman on January 21, 2004 at 11:59 pm

    I go away for a couple of days and look what happens!

  69. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Private/public distinction: Well, Kristine, you’ve set me back. I’ve always thought it was better to keep doubts and uncertainties to more private settings, but I can’t think why.

    Perhaps doubts have more growth value if one has to wrestle with them, and that is best done if one feels the public norm or doctrine to be valid, which in turn requires that public expression of dissent (and doubts, no matter how tactfully put, express at least a kind of dissent) be kept to a minimum. Probably there’s a better explanation.

    I wonder if the answer to the question is in some way related to the distinction between private and public revelation. Why, if I recieve some individual revelation on a topic, shouldn’t I shout it to the rooftops? There are a couple of areas where I feel that I have, but I just can’t bring myself to talk about it without softening it and laundering it to disguise the source of my idea and the authority with which I have recieved it.

  70. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Bob and God supporting Dean:

    I don’t think Bob is claiming that God supports Dean. Instead, he’s making two different claims:

    1)In some sense, God does not support George Bush (Bush would not be a Saintly choice for President), because of his repeated lies and disregard for the Constitution, both of which seem to have some status as moral and religious claims in the Church, and maybe because big deficits have some sort of moral meaning.

    2) God has confirmed that, at this stage, Dean is the right candidate for Bob, and we too should pray about our preferred candidate. I’ve no brief for Dean, but nothing about this strikes me as outside the pale.

  71. Brent on January 22, 2004 at 12:50 pm

    Isn’t the problem though that proclaiming that one has received confirmation from God as to who to vote implies more than just that the candidate is the right person for that one person to vote for. It seems to me that Bob seemed to imply that Dean is God’s preferred candidate. I don’t mean to question either Bob’s sincerity or his faith, but I wonder whether God would really have a preferred candidate for President. If He did, can we properly determine who that person is and the basis for His approval? If Bob truly has received confirmation that Dean is supposed to be president, what are we to do if someone else (e.g. Pat Robertson) prays and receives confirmation that Bush is supposed to be president? One of them will have to have received confirmation of some other spirit. I think that is why certain private revelations, should be kept private. I have given the example previously of a friend of mine who “has received revelation” that the church’s/prophet’s position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong. If we believe in truth, and that it is not relative, then how can both be right?

    I understand the point you make Adam about coming up with the right candidate for us. However, I can’t put my thoughts fully into words, but there just seems to be something wierd about that. I’ll see if I can formulate exactly what it is that bothers me about it later.

  72. Matt Evans on January 22, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Maybe God has sent Bob on a hopeless crusade to teach him patience and long-suffering?

  73. lyle on January 22, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    I respect Bob. I don’t know him, but I am glad that he is taking the Brethern’s suggestion to be active in civic affairs seriously. See Faust’s address to a Priesthood leadership meeting in California. Anyone got a text or was there?

    I think Adam has hit it strait on. Welcome Bob.
    I will link to your spots and hope you will link to mine. However, following Elder McConkie’s (sp?) example, I haven’t prayed about it, but feel confident in my choice.

    (I think that is them all)

  74. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    The problem may be that, although political choices aren’t meaningless and devoid of religious significance, we feel that we’re either cheapening God or sanctifying politics too much to believe that any one candidate has the divine imprimatur.

    Perhaps political choice should be concieved of more as a choice, say, of how many children to have. Some choices are right, some are wrong, there are general principles that are useful, but the rightness and wrongness vary from the individual and are hard to judge from the outside. Just as we pray for guidance on having children, we should pray in our voting without thinking the answers apply generally.

  75. clark goble on January 22, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    Ever since I read the comments by Utah Mormons on Abraham Lincoln I’ve given the religious significance of political votes some second glances. Now even Mormons elevate Lincoln while in the 19th century they were talking about how God would curse him.

    One thing I think we need to keep in mind is that we don’t know God’s purposes and we have a rather limited perspective. Sometimes God can use people for his purposes we aren’t aware of. (i.e. Cyrus or others) Sometimes very righteous people aren’t the best choice and vice versa. It makes things rather difficult. Take Carter. In my view probably one of the best people to ever serve in office. But I think him a poor President (although I think that gets overstated considering his successes).

    It makes tying religion and politics difficult for me. As I said, consider Reed Smoot back in 1930. How should I have viewed him?

  76. JennyB on July 3, 2005 at 10:22 am

    While I don’t think that Dean is the answer, I do think that as a whole people of our faith need to get out of the Republican lemming line. We need to think more, pray more and be more moderate. We need to ask ourselves about what goes on behind the media scene and if maybe, just maybe, we might be victims of a show put on by some Republicans intentionally, in order to get our vote. When it is a strategy to lead us off the path. We are best decieved with a lot of truth and a little bit of lack.
    We should be very very careful and not adverse to stepping away from party lines (On either side) if it is for the best. Moderation in all things (Especially Politics) is the key.


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