Can I be honest?
I'm really tired of political season. Not the ads, or the news coverage.
I'm tired of the way my friends, on both sides of the aisle, are reacting.
I'm tired of contemptuous Facebook posts saying, "I just can't understand how any decent, intelligent person could possibly vote for xxxxx." Or, "It's obvious to anyone who is not a complete idiot or serial killer that all xxxxx's are just plain stupid or wicked or both."
I'm tired of hearing politically-tinged comments in Sunday School and other Church meetings. And I'm especially tired of hearing covenant disciples of Jesus Christ question each other's righteousness and goodness because of differing political beliefs.
Once, while giving a temple recommend interview, I asked the question about supporting groups that oppose the Church's teachings. This person said, "I don't." He then added, "I just don't know how you could be a Democrat and answer that question correctly." I mentioned that later to a friend of mine who had served as a bishop. He replied, "Funny. I don't know how you could be a Republican and answer that question correctly."
Both of these were good and decent men, who have done a lot of good in the Church, in their communities, and families. And yet they both sincerely believe that adherence to the other side's political beliefs puts them in direct opposition with the teachings of the Church.
I will confess to having very strong political convictions. I am not without opinions. I have voted in every single election (including off-year and primaries) since I was 18. And in all that time, I've voted for mostly one party. If my children ever vote the other ticket, I will be devastated.
That being said, I don't think my party has a monopoly on goodness or virtue. In fact, I think they do some pretty stupid things sometimes and I think some of the leaders, spokespeople, and candidates are misguided, corrupt, and possibly evil. I cannot honestly come to any other conclusion. In fairness, I think the other side has its equal share of corruption and foolishness.
Let's talk about that for a minute. Here is the statement from the Church’s official Handbook of Instructions:
"...the Church is neutral regarding political parties, political platforms, and candidates for political office. The Church does not endorse any political party of candidate."
"Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate."
I know some people who think that the Church says this with a kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge smirk. These people say the Church has to say this to keep their tax exempt status and to curry favor with the press and not alienate politicians, etc. But really, they say, the Brethren support a specific party and want us to as well--they're just speaking in code.
When has the Church ever shied away from speaking out on issues and taking unpopular stances? When the First Presidency feels there is a legitimate moral issue at stake, they speak out--and take a great deal of heat for doing so.
So, are we really to believe that, in this one case, the Church supports one party but just pretends to political neutrality because they don’t want to rock the boat? I think not. I think the simplest and most logical explanation is that they actually mean what they say. Consider the implications of that thought.
"Principles compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties..."
What if they really mean that?
If both parties have principles compatible with the gospel in them, then neither can be completely correct--and must, by definition, have principles INcompatible with the gospel.
Let's think about that a little.
When Joseph Smith asked which Church to join, he was told that none of them were wholly correct because they taught ". . . for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." (JS-H 1:19)
The Restoration was made necessary by the fact that organizations led by humans are inherently fallible and flawed. We believe that without priesthood keys and continuing, detailed revelation, the ancient Church devolved into a mixture of corruption and well-intentioned error.
How can we accept the doctrines of the Apostasy and Restoration and then assume that political parties--led by humans, with clear agendas, chances for power, and conflicts of interest are somehow pure and virtuous?
I think, if we apply those doctrines, there is a decent chance that both the Republican and Democratic parties are a mixture of good and bad, truth and error, virtue and vice.
Now that I have made nearly everyone mad, I want to think a little in my next post about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and a politically active citizen.
Braden Bell is a husband, father, author, director and teacher. His next book, The Kindling, will be released in July. He blogs about all of the above at bradenbell.com.