Coming out at BYU

October 28, 2004 | 44 comments
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I grew up in a home where politics were never discussed. It’s not as though we didn’t have fascinating and stimulating dinnertime conversations (the most heated ones were always about English usage). We just never talked about the issues of the day. Consequently, I had little understanding of the political landscape of our country. When I was a freshman in high school, the first assignment I had in my social studies class was to compare and contrast the terms “liberal” and “conservative.” To complete the assignment, I had to look in the encyclopedia, as I had no idea what the assignment was talking about.

I did have a vague sense that I was a Democrat at heart — after all, that’s what my parents were, and I always found myself rooting for the Democrats on Election night. I remember being sad when Carter lost. I didn’t have any sense of why, though. I could argue much more convincingly about baseball than politics.

This state of affairs continued on through high school, and then I was off to BYU. Sometime during my first semester there, I was invited to give a talk in sacrament meeting on the topic of the importance of the scriptures in our lives. Alas, this was before I recognized the wisdom of writing out my talks, so I can only report on my memory of the event.

At some point in the talk that I can’t reproduce as I replay it in my mind I made a point in which I made the following statement: “I’m a registered Democrat.” It was kind of a throwaway comment, not central at all to my argument, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I can’t imagine that I didn’t have some awareness that most of the people in the room probably were not fellow Democrats, but the thought certainly wasn’t foremost on my mind.

I was reasonably happy with the talk (although looking back, I find that it was probably exactly what you would expect from a recent high school graduate trying to sound intelligent in front of his new peer group – maybe it’s better that I don’t have a copy to read now) and I didn’t think much about it after it was over. As I was moving from Sunday School to priesthood meeting, a sister in the ward who I didn’t know by name came up to me and thanked me for my remarks. “I really appreciated your talk,” she said, with slightly more enthusiasm that I might have expected from a relative stranger. Then, she glanced around nervously two or three times, grabbed my arm, and whispered in my ear, “I’m a Democrat too.”

I was stunned, at a loss for words. I thanked her politely and went off to class, to wonder and marvel at what had just happened. Had I unwittingly initiated myself into some kind of secret combination? What would prompt this woman to thank me merely for mentioning my political affiliation? Why was she so afraid?

Of course, I’m a bit more attuned to Mormon and national politics these days. Looking back, I feel sad for the sister who stopped me that day, who must have suffered ostracism, real or perceived, before that moment to feel to thank me for publicly stating what she felt she could not. I hesitated to use the words “coming out” in the title of this post, not wanting to make light of the struggles faced by those dealing with same-sex attraction in the Church. But other commenters here have used similar imagery recently to describe their experiences as politically liberal members of the Church.

I have had similar experiences on a homeschooling forum I visit regularly. The audience there is overwhelmingly evangelical, Republican, and conservative. Kerry, Democrats, and the left are routinely pilloried. I occasionally take up the cause of the left there when I feel that a particular position is being grossly and irresponsibly misrepresented, or just when I’m feeling ornery. I have received more than one private message thanking me for doing so, from people who don’t feel they can take such stands publicly in the face of so much opposition.

The funny thing is, I don’t consider myself to be particularly liberal (I voted for Bush in 2000, for what it’s worth), brave, or persecuted. I’m mostly naïve. I often don’t recognize the possibility that what I think politically might cause others to dislike me, or mock me, or abuse me verbally or otherwise. As I sit and ponder why this might be, I like to think that it’s because I expect others to treat me as I treat them. The truth is probably less flattering.

My dad, whose favorite conversational bones are obscure points of doctrine, English grammar, and his time spent as Scoutmaster, has been unusually engaged this campaign season. He frets and fumes about President Bush and the war in Iraq constantly. The sudden change is what prompted me to recall my own experiences growing up in my family. I asked my mom recently why we never talked politics in our house when I was young. She replied, only half-jokingly, “We didn’t want you to be social outcasts at church.�

Maybe we need more naive people.

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44 Responses to Coming out at BYU

  1. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Bryce, maybe my family’s conservative outspokenness was one of the reasons your Mom felt a need to be cautious in the ward. I hope not. My father is unusually reserved when it came to criticizing others … always finding the good in others. But there were two groups that received his unmitigated wrathful commentary: Communists and Kennedys. Also, my father would read National Review at the breakfast table. As a result I ended up reading that magazine too. For all of William Buckley’s sarcastic asides I read, he might as well have been my uncle.

    Oddly though, my father has gotten rid of his Nat’l Review subscription for some kind of moral reason — maybe it was the big tobacco ads on the back page. Or maybe they printed some kind of immodest picture that he felt was unnecessary. It was one of those two things.

  2. Mark B on October 28, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    I still remember when Yukus Inouye ran for County Commissioner, as a Democrat. I don’t remember if he won that election, but at least being a Democrat in Utah County in that year wasn’t a basis for being run out of the county on a rail.

  3. Mark B on October 28, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    I should have finished the thought before I hit the button.

    So, Bryce, you come from good honest Democratic stock.

  4. The Only True and Living Nathan on October 28, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    I’m an official unaffiliated voter, and consider myself a political moderate (which means that in Utah I vote a straight Democratic ticket :-) ). My mother’s family, though, is true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool hardline Republicans; Grandpa was one of those who felt that Ezra Taft Benson’s ordination as the President of the Church embued all of his former writings with prophetic authority, and held to his dying day that one could not be a Democrat and a Saint. There are those in the family who still publicly criticize any government role (state or federal) in education at any level, for example.

    We have a family-only discussion list, and a couple of times I’ve had to step in when the correspondence between faith and politics has been not only overt, but assumed. There have been family members who have opted out of the list because the forwarded political emails and articles have been just too insensitively partisan. More than once, I’ve had to stand up and say, “I am a Mormon. I am a faithful Latter-day Saint. But I voted for Gore, I’m voting for Kerry, and I think that the “under God” lawsuit had some serious merits. I would thank you all for not assuming that everyone who shares our genes and shares our faith also shares a certain political viewpoint. I am open to discussion and even courteous debate; I am not open to off-the-cuff demonization.”

    And naturally, I’ve gotten private messages every time from other family members (all of us at least two generations from Grandpa), thanking me for “being brave” with this group.

    Of course, it’s not really bravery. After all, I set up the YahooGroup and I’m the sole moderator — with the push of a button, I could make the whole setp vanish into the ether…

  5. The Only True and Living Nathan on October 28, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    Dang. I was going to be the first commenter. Then I took too long composing my comment.

  6. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    Danithew–

    I remember once you trying to convince me that US News and World Report was the best newsweekly out there. I had absolutely no idea what you were arguing about. News is news, isn’t it?

  7. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    Mark B.–

    Grandpa did win election as a county commissioner. Thank you for recalling that to me.

    Your comment makes me think even more about my family. All of my grandparents were active in politics or in causes that would put them in the political arena from time to time, and generally on the side of the Democrats and liberals. Their political activity was an important part of their lives, and I’m proud to have that tradition in my family. Yet growing up, I was completely unaware of that aspect of their lives (except for the “Re-elect Uke Inouye” t-shirts that we had).

  8. D. Fletcher on October 28, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    The term “coming out” means something quite different to me.

  9. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    I was probably over-enthusiastic because Bishop Garff had purchased a subscription to that magazine for me … it was part of my pay for mowing his lawn or taking care of his house during a vacation his family took (something like that).

    Now that I think about it I wonder if he gave me that job just to keep me busy. Who knows what that was all about. Hmmmm …

    Haven’t read that magazine in years either.

  10. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    The Only True and Living Nathan’s comment reminds me that I should probably point out that I am presently an independent voter.

    Nathan, does that mean that Santa Claus is a Republican? or is that your dad’s side of the family?

  11. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 1:22 pm

    D. Fletcher —

    I recognize that, and I apologize if you find it inappropriate. As I said in my post, I struggled with that for a while, but came to the conclusion that if others besides me have thought to use the same metaphor to describe the experience of (some) Democrat/liberals in the church, there must be some reason for it that is worth exploring, as the idea of being “in the closet” is definitely emotionally loaded. Why such a metaphor should attach to political affiliation, which the Church has repeatedly and explicitly stated has nothing to do with one’s membership in the Church, is a part of what I’m trying to explore.

    I probably didn’t make as clear as I should have in my post that I have never experienced (or probably more accurately stated, never perceived) any hostility within the Church because of my political beliefs or affiliations, which is why I marveled at the reaction of the sister who approached me after my talk. I don’t doubt for a minute that some people have had bad experiences. I haven’t had any myself, though, so I wonder if there’s something that I’ve done to make this so, or if I’ve just been lucky.

  12. Nate Oman on October 28, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    I think that the persona of Mormon Democrat persecuted by fellow believers in a conservative Church has as much to do with identity building as it does with objective levels of persecution. I am sure that Democrats have been subject to a certain amount of harrassment and ostracism, but I would be extremely surprised if it was as extensive as one would expect given the frequency with which this discussion pops up. Persecution myths are an important part of defining identity so they tend to stick around. Just witness how often we retell the stories of Missouri and Illinois…

  13. Davis Bell on October 28, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    Nate,

    It’s funny you mention that, because lately I’ve been thinking that we really don’t mention it that much at all. I don’t feel like the persecution of the early Saints really counts for much of our current collective identity.

  14. clark on October 28, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    Davis, I don’t think it is just the early persecutions but the fair amount that lasted through the 60’s – especially on the “frontiers” of the church. However I think it tends to affect us in more subtle, often unconscious ways. But I do agree that its effect, especially the last decade, has diminished considerably.

  15. Nate Oman on October 28, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    Davis: I don’t disagree with you. It is certainly not as important as once it was. I suspect that it is being replaced by a myth about converts who are socially ostracized by friends and family in order to join the church. It would be interesting to do a content analysis of conference talks over a twenty year period: how many stories about persecution of early saints vs. how many stories about conversts facing ostracism in the Phillippines, etc.

  16. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    During my second year of law school, my roommate was a friend from BYU who had decided to have his name removed from the records of the Church while he was still an undergraduate. Within the first couple of weeks of fall semester, a recently returned sister missionary (also an acquaintance from BYU) and 1L law student approached me, said she needed to talk to someone “safe,” confessed she had “no testimony,” and renounced her Mormonism almost immediately thereafter. (Yes, Matt Evans’ recent post references both of these folks). She, my roommate and I would often discuss our Church experiences, including why the two of them chose to leave, and why I chose to stay.

    One of the gentlemen who lived across the hall, a very much “out” homosexual, was often present for our “Church” conversations. He often commented on how the process of “apostasizing from the Mormon Church,” as he observed it, was so similar to the process of “Coming Out” in the gay community. He found the comparison fascinating, and would talk about it to no end.

    For what it’s worth.

    Aaron B

  17. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 2:06 pm

    Aaron Brown’s comment raises a question … I’m not sure I can deduce the answer from what Aaron said. Can a student at BYU ask to have their name removed from Church records and remain at BYU? If this is a matter of conscience (and not a matter of breaking Honor Code rules) then is it a problem at all?

  18. Mark B on October 28, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    I dunno, Nate. You should have tried wearing a McGovern button at BYU during that overheated fall of 1972. And all those good Mormons were supporting the ultimate crook, Richard Nixon!!

    Ah, the good old days! I remember almost getting into a fistfight during the forum assembly with Spiro Agnew. The folks behind us didn’t like the McGovern banner we were holding up, blocking their view, and they didn’t appreciate our snide running commentary on Agnew’s vapid speech. Besides, who were we to deride the vice president for being unable to pronounce “gamma globulin.” At least he could say “nuclear” right and he didn’t come up with any new doctrines of preemptive war.

    Then there was the time that Hartman Rector Jr., who was walking across campus with Adm. Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chewed us out for having a table with some anti-war stuff on it. We had a bunch of color photos of bodies of women and children at My Lai, and a copy of a letter the 1st Presidency had written back in the late 40’s in opposition to a proposal for universal military service. (The best response we got to the My Lai photo spread, from a fellow student, was “That’s nothing. I saw worse things all the time.” Hmmm, that’s another argument in favor of war, I guess.)

    But, the worst “persecution” is simply the fact of being ignored, marginalized–the assumption that “everyone” is of some other political persuasion. Sure, we can sit with Charles Penrose and “[r]emember the [moral equivalent of] wrongs of Missouri” and “forget not the fate of Nauvoo” [for a bowdlerized version, see Hymns #248], but the real pain, and the serious issue is when people in the church act as if one political position or another is dictated by their religious beliefs, and that those who believe otherwise are not real latter-day saints.

  19. The Only True and Living Nathan on October 28, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    “Nathan, does that mean that Santa Claus is a Republican? or is that your dad’s side of the family?”

    That’s my father’s father — career Army, early ’70’s convert, and been living in Canada so long as a landed immigrant that he hasn’t been able to vote in any election I’m old enough to recall. And yes, he is Santa. Just ask him.

  20. The Only True and Living Nathan on October 28, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    And the fact that you remember so many of my little stories from a dozen years ago is vaguely unsettling…

  21. Kaimi on October 28, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    Danithew,

    Bishop Garff? Blair Garff? He’s our high councilor, and he’s great.

  22. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 3:55 pm

    Kaimi, you got it. That’s his name. And yes, he is great. After all those years long ago I got to see him again at my wedding reception and introduce him to my wife. Besides being our ward bishop for awhile he also shared ward financial clerk duties with my father at one point. He’d show up at our house on Sunday nights wearing his tie and tease us kids in a funny way that we really enjoyed. He kind of knew how to crack our thumb knuckles by pulling away suddenly and other random tricks that get kids laughing. I’m assuming you’ll see him soon. Say hi to him for me. :)

  23. D. Fletcher on October 28, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    No apologies needed — I was just pointing out that “coming out,” once referred to gay awareness — in its long form, it refers to emerging from a closet.

    My experiences at BYU are surprisingly similar. I was a freshman there in 1976, a presidential election year. I had very little awareness of politics or my own viewpoints at that time, even though my own grandfather had been the Republican Senator from Utah, but he was surprisingly moderate (as I think you’ll find Nixon was also). As a high school kid, I was the squarest one on the block, the resident Mormon, the kid upon whom everyone depended to drive them home from the boozy parties (I didn’t drink or smoke, but I didn’t look down on those who did).

    When I got to BYU, my natural tendency to speak up on issues in the world instantly pegged me a Communist, even though my clothes, hair, and behavior were no different than my last year of high school. I was from New Jersey, which I suppose had something to do with this.

    My first Sacrament Meeting after moving into Deseret Towers was/is completely memorable, but not for the way which you all might think. Since we were all new to BYU and the ward (held, incidentally, in an auditorium in the brand new Law building), there were no assigned speakers. The Bishop made some announcements, some callings, and then we held the Sacrament, and then he stood up and said that since there were no assigned speakers, we would have a testimony meeting instead. A few girls bore tearful testimonies, I recall.

    Then a fellow stood, seemingly a little older, so I’m guessing that he was a return missionary, and an RM on one of the floors of my building. What he said was so astonishing to me, I’ll never forget it. He said, “I turned on the TV the other day, and I saw an ad for a candidate of the National Communist Party. I was completely sickened to know that we Americans are allowing such people on our television, to possibly seduce and destroy our children and our country with insidious sinful behavior. If you are here at BYU, then you have passed a Bishop’s interview, which means that you believe in the Church and the Church’s teachings. The Church has only approved one candidate for President, and I think WE ALL KNOW WHO THIS IS. (I didn’t.) In the name of Jesus Christ… ”

    Then the Bishop must have seen my quite shocked face, because he stood and pronounced, “Everything said at this meeting is true and I hope you have felt the spirit here.”

    This is the end of the story. I have never voted a straight Republican ticket, nor a straight Democratic one, but I felt politically marginalized forever after at BYU.

  24. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    Those insidious communists are everywhere. Be on the look out.

  25. danithew on October 28, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    I wasn’t entirely sure so I looked up who the candidates were in 1976. I should have known …

    James Earl Carter and Walter Mondale ran against Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. and Robert Joseph Dole. Sounds kind of funny when you see their full names. “James Earl” sounds a lot tougher to me than “Jimmy.”

    And who was the communist candidate in 1976? I was thinking about it and I suddenly remembered the name Gus Hall. I had forgotten all about him. He used to run every election while he was alive and able. According to my google search, he got the most votes he ever received (with the American Communist Party) in 1976 — 58,992 votes. Here’s an obituary for him:

    http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/10/16/obit.hall.ap/

    I wonder if there are any Gus Hall pins selling on Ebay … feels like a way to give conservative grandparents a real heart attack.

  26. Daylan Darby on October 28, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    If Christ was a Republican he would have stoned the adultress?
    If Christ was a Democrat he would have set up a government program for her?
    If Christ was a Libertarian he would have defended her behaviour?

    I’m tired of all the labeling and judging. Will we really have 1000 years of peace?

  27. Ebenezer on October 28, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    Daylan’s comment reminded me of this great little piece from Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker for the Deadâ€?:

    A great rabbi stands teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife’s adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death. (There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine, a Speaker for the Dead, has told me of two other rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I’m going to tell you.)

    The rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears, and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. “Is there anyone here,” he says to them, “who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?”

    They murmur and say, “We all know the desire. But, Rabbi, none of us has acted on it.”

    The rabbi says, “Then kneel down and give thanks that God made you strong.” He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, “Tell the lord magistrate who saved his mistress. Then he’ll know I am his loyal servant.”

    So the woman lives, because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

    Another rabbi, another city. He goes to her and stops the mob, as in the other story, and says, “Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.”

    The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. Someday, they think, I may be like this woman, and I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her the way I wish to be treated.

    As they open their hands and let the stones fall to the ground, the rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head, and throws it straight down with all his might. It crushes her skull and dashes her brains onto the cobblestones.

    “Nor am I without sin,” he says to the people. “But if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead, and our city with it.”

    So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

    The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis, and when they veer too far, they die. Only one rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So, of course, we killed him.

  28. Chris Brown on October 28, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    danithew,

    No, you cannot have your name removed from Church records and remain a student at BYU. I believe that if you do so, you are treated as if you were disfellowshipped or excommunicated (as far as the university goes) and dismissed.

    Some people say that this is unfair, as of course, people who do not belong to the Church at all are allowed attend BYU, and I would tend to agree on this. Perhaps the university’s stance is that if you voluntarily leave the Church, you probably have rather negative feelings toward it and so should not remain at BYU. I’m not sure though, as that is just speculation.

  29. Clark Goble on October 28, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    No, you cannot have your name removed from Church records and remain a student at BYU.

    That’s not true. I knew a TA in the philosophy department while I was there who converted from Mormonism to Catholicism. He stayed there. I also know a couple of people with (cough cough) issues who got a Priest to sign their endorsement because they knew the Bishop wouldn’t.

    Perhaps they’ve changed the rules, but if they have, it is recent.

  30. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    What Clark said. I wish I could speak more intelligently about the BYU policy, but I don’t remember the details. In the case of my HLS roomate, I don’t recall if he actually had his name removed while he was at the Y, but I know he informed the Y of his intention to do so while he was there. It was an unusual situation, and he was made to attend a private weekly meeting with two faculty members, in lieu of attending Church. (One of those faculty members was Dan Peterson, who alluded to this very briefly in one of his Editor’s Introductions in the FARMS Review of Books — I forget which issue).

    Aaron B

  31. Aaron Brown on October 28, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    I should add that my friend became a full-blown atheist, rather than a Catholic, which may explain the handling of his specific case (or not).

    Aaron B

  32. Bryce I on October 28, 2004 at 10:18 pm

    D. Fletcher–

    Your story leads me to wonder how I would have responded were I the bishop of that ward. I don’t think I could let a statement like the one you describe pass unremarked on in a student ward sacrament meeting, but I’m not a big fan of calling people out in public either.

    Perhaps a simple statement of the Church’s position on political neutrality? Of course, misrepresenting what the prophet has said over the pulpit is a pretty big deal in my book, so perhaps a more direct approach would be more appropriate. On the other hand, I’m a big wimp. There are lots of reasons I hope never to be a bishop. Stories like yours are some of them.

  33. Brian Duffin on October 28, 2004 at 11:19 pm

    Excellent post! If all members in the U.S. were Republican, the Church would truly be a drab church indeed!

    I found an excellent article that I posted a link to on my blog titled, Can you be Democrat & Mormon? The article is well written and articulates the authors reasons why her membership in the Church influenced her to be a Democrat.

  34. Jack on October 28, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    And if all members in the U.S. were Democrats…?

  35. Jack on October 28, 2004 at 11:44 pm

    “In fact, it’s my religious beliefs about compassion and generosity that have made me liberal.”

    That’s the last sentence in the first paragraph of the above mentioned article. I could read no further. While I am in many ways a closet liberal, I simply cannot tolerate the implicit argument on the part of well meaning liberals that conservatives are a bunch of Scrooges.

  36. Larry on October 29, 2004 at 12:01 am

    Since the meaning of liberal and conservative have changed dramatically in the past century, perhaps it would be well to define what we mean when using those terms.
    Do we want central direction or do we want voluntary cooperation? At different times these views have been held by both sides. Where is it today in your view?

  37. Chris Brown on October 29, 2004 at 2:42 am

    According to the BYU Honor Code,

    “Students without endorsements, except in unusual circumstances, must discontinue enrollment. Excommunication, disfellowshipment, or disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints results in the withdrawal of the student’s endorsement.”

    It seems that if this policy were followed, then voluntary disaffiliation would result in dismissal (perhaps there could be individual exceptions). Being a current student at BYU, I have not personally heard of this happening to anyone, however.

  38. greg of boston on October 29, 2004 at 10:19 am

    Chris-

    If a person timed their dissaffection right, and got a priest or pastor to give them an endorsement. I think that they could stay at BYU. They might get a tuition hike.
    =====
    When I was at BYU I was the most left leaning of my friends and I would endlessly hear their Clinton bashing. Then I went to grad school at UMass Amherst. Then I was the most right leaning of my friends, and I listened to endless Bush bashing.
    I found both bashings tiresome and repetitive.

    I haven’t “come out” politically yet. I find both sides irritatingly similar in their dogmatic, banal arguements. I’m still hoping that a cause or a person will excite me to care. I’m not holding my breath. Politics reminds me of Frost’s Fire and Ice poem.

  39. Hans on October 29, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    oh wow…politics at BYU. Way back in the Stone Age (aka 1967-1968) this innocent California Democratic freshman was in Helaman Halls, totally unaware that Utah was a Republican fortress. My roommate was the leader of the BYU student branch of the American Independent Party whose candidate for the presidency that year was Alabama governor, George Wallace. Needless to say our political discussions were rather heated.

    Ezra Taft Benson came down to Provo to speak at a BYU devotional. He started quoting from “American Opinion” magazine, the organ of the John Birch Society. It was too much for me; I got up and walked out.

    During finals in Spring Semester 1968 I had let my hair grow fairly long and wore a long moustache. It was a tradition in my dorm that we didn’t shave during finals. I’m walking up the long slope to the Jesse Knight Bldg. on the last day of finals; the campus was totally deserted. A lone small solitary figure was walking in my direction when he stopped suddenly, stared at me, and then crossed quickly to the other side of the street. It was BYU Pres. Ernest Wilkinson, head of the Republican Party in Utah, aka to my Democratic family as “Ernie” or “Little Caesar”. My great-uncle in SLC, Lyle B. Nicholes, absolutely loathed Wilkinson. My Uncle Lyle had served in the Utah House of Representatives with Sterling W. Sill and had worked closely with Hugh B. Brown in co-authoring the 1935 anti-polygamy bill.

    One last story…I got married in 1973 and transferred to the University of Utah. My Stake Pres. was Ellis Ivory (yes, the same guy who is running as a write-in candidate for SL County Mayor). Ivory was a bigwig in the Republican Party and was a staunch defender of Pres. Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. He comes to speak at my ward and the whole talk consisted of “Nixon is a good guy” and “people who criticize him are evil”. That was too much for both me and the wife so along with several other people, we got up and left the chapel.

  40. Renee on October 29, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    Funny, Carter was discussed at my house and people were sad – but that was in ’76 (http://genxnostalgia.blogspot.com/2004/10/hi-yall-im-jimmy-carter.html).

    I am happy to proclaim I, much like George Clooney in O, Brother Where Art Thou, remain unaffiliated. Go Independents! :D

  41. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 30, 2004 at 12:09 am

    http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/

    http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/bleiter/

    For two dramatically different views. It is hard to believe they are in the same world….

  42. Sarah on October 31, 2004 at 8:04 pm

    I’d just like to say two things, mostly in reference to stuff waaaay back up at the top of this thread (National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow, and I’m behind on my blog reading, not to mention sleep):

    — I live in what could probably be described as the “mission field.” We take field trips to Kirtland pretty frequently, especially with the youth. We have branches struggling to survive because kids are moving out to Utah to get away from the whole “only member in my high school” thing (or to get TO some other member they can date). We probably discuss the martyrdom/oppression theme twice in any given Sunday. Maybe more (depends on who’s been asked to speak in Sacrament). I think it’s more current when people are more afraid of telling the people they work with what their religion is, than most Utah Democrats are of telling the people they go to church with what their political affiliation is.
    — We have a political officeholder in our ward (which I still marvel at — a hundred miles north, and being a Mormon would be at least as bad as being a drug addict in terms of electability). Plenty of the members are politically active. And I have only one time in more than three months heard anything politically partisan in Sunday School (the officeholder is the Gospel Doctrine teacher), and never in Sacrament or Relief Society. What’s more, I don’t know anyone’s political affiliation, except for my family’s and a couple of members I saw at a political rally with one of the candidates (yes, I’m in both the mission field AND a swing state). Until Friday, I didn’t know for sure what party the Sunday School teacher is in (I was at a phone bank, and they were having trouble reaching him — they asked me if there was a “Mormon reason” why he wouldn’t help out with calls and visits on Saturday or Monday).

    I even got to give the “we don’t do political endorsements, ever,” speech to the folks at the phone bank.

    If anything, I’d say the Church is significantly less political than the tradition I was born in — Unitarian Universalism. If you think that being an admitted Democrat is difficult in Temple Square, try being an admitted Republican at a UUA youth camp. ^_^ Heck, it’s harder being a Republican in my father’s family (my father’s parents were avowed Socialists, and my grandfather fought Franco in Spain) than it is being a Communist in the Church. At least in the Church they’ll (probably) not start screaming.

  43. Rob Briggs on October 31, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    Sarah casts a strong vote for diversity.

  44. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 31, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2004-10-17-2.html

    Interesting that Card would end up coming out as a Republican.