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The Disciple of Christ and Politics

In a recent post I talked about the Church and the various political parties. In this post, I want to focus more on the duties of individual disciples who also want to be politically engaged citizens.

Jesus taught us that we should render to God the things that were God's while giving Caesar his due as well. (Luke 20:25) That clearly implies that we have a dual responsibility to be citizens as well as disciples, and in our day, the First Presidency has encouraged us to be engaged and involved politically.

It is our individual responsibility to take the doctrines of the Gospel and apply them to form our political beliefs. I would suggest that it should go in that order, and not vice versa, incidentally.

That's compatible with the gifts of agency and personal revelation. Those gifts entitle me to seek and get my own answers on various questions I have. But, personal revelation does not allow me to get revelation for other people's lives. And to the extent I think it does, I'm wrong. 

So, applying that to politics, I suggest the following: To let my understanding of the Gospel inform my political beliefs is righteous. To use my understanding of the Gospel to make judgments about other people's political beliefs is self-righteous--and wrong. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is too sweeping, too majestic, too all-encompassing to be contained in any human-made organization. Neither party, or single politician, will ever be the political arm of the Savior, nor will they ever represent His gospel or His church. It's simply impossible.

I have dear and good friends on both sides of the aisle. They are all principled and devout in what they believe. 

My experience is that LDS members in the two parties tend to feel strongly about a few key values. 

LDS Republicans, in my experience, feel very strongly about the role of agency and freedom. Teachings about liberty resonate deeply in their hearts. They believe sincerely that self-sufficiency leads to happiness and that dependency damages the soul. They can cite the teachings of many modern prophets and scriptures in defense of these views.
LDS Democrats, in my experience, feel very strongly about taking care of the poor and powerless. They are motivated by the scriptures and prophetic teachings that enjoin us to seek justice and equity for the poor and disenfranchised. They are moved by compassion, love, and mercy. They feel that discipleship requires them to look after others.

Who is right? Well, obviously, both of them are. Freedom is important. Self-sufficiency is an eternal principle. And yet, the poor will always be among us and we are judged by what we do to the least of our brethren. To argue otherwise is to let our political beliefs guide our religious beliefs, and that is to mingle the doctrines of the gospel with the philosophies of men. 

Given the fact that members on both sides of the aisle form their political beliefs based on sincere understanding and application of gospel doctrines, ought we not to give them the benefit of the doubt and exercise some political humility for ourselves? If our views were as obvious and virtuous as we think, then everyone would agree with us. That good people don’t always agree with us ought to tell us something.

It is low and beneath us to impute bad faith, stupidity, rebellion, lack of compassion, or any other negative motive to our political opponents. 

They just see things differently than us. They may have understood a scripture in a different way. They may have prioritized a principle of the gospel differently than we do.
That doesn't make them bad. Or stupid. It makes them our brothers and sisters who happen to disagree with us.

That doesn't mean we have to agree with them. Or vote with them. In fact, the First Presidency has always encouraged us to be active and let our voices be heard. We can blog, share, and re-post. We can listen to talk radio or sign petitions and lead boycotts. We can debate and disagree. 

But we cannot treat our sisters and brothers with contempt or judge them and avoid the need for repentance.

I once sent an angry letter to my Congressman. I was furious with him. I felt he had voted in a way that would seriously harm my family and I was fuming, raging, boiling mad. I used every adjective I could think of to let him know just how evil and stupid he was. I wished that bad would befall him and his family as I felt he had brought it on mine. After typing it in a white-hot fury. I hit "send." 

And then I had a phrase run through my mind. "...that they are willing to take upon them the name of Thy son." I was deeply ashamed of myself. I had made the covenant during the Sacrament to take the Savior's name on myself. But I had written a letter that He would never have signed--I blushed when I thought of sending the letter and writing "Braden Bell, disciple of Jesus Christ."

I realized I had to repent. And I realized something else. When the Savior commanded me to not judge others, not to hate, not to be angry, nor speak ill of--it included people on the other side of the political spectrum. It included the leaders and candidates of the other parties.
I realized that there is no footnote in the Sermon on the Mount or the baptismal covenant that allows un-Christlike behavior when politics is at stake. 

 If I am to be a true disciple, then I have to apply all what Jesus taught to everyone. Praying for enemies, forgiving those who wrong us--loving my neighbor. Even when it's my Congressman. Or my political opponent. Or a cable-show news host I can't stand. 

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

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