In the News

It seems that Mormon democrats, liberals, and progressives have been in the news quite a bit of late. Here are some interesting articles I recommend:

Technorati: Obama Mormons Believe

I have written on this site about the political beliefs of Mormons, ones that might affect Mr. Romney’s approach to national governance. I feared, I must confess, to have our nation run by a member of my own faith.

My thinking has changed. I was refreshed to find yesterday the website Mormons for Obama, easing my angst over the Mormon issue because the site demonstrates that our faith can be open minded, something I doubted. Mormons for Obama state that “we are Mormons and we are for President Barack Obama.  We created this website in order to represent the unique perspective of Mormons who are voting for Obama.”  My faith in the ability of church members to be open-minded was strengthened.

Obama Mormons believe that neither religion nor race define individuals, that Romney is not better because he is a Mormon. My thinking has shifted about the way members of my faith think critically, principally that they can. The Mormon issue is not so important to me now because I realize that Mormons can have open, inquiring minds in politics. This made me think less of religion and more about President Obama as an amazing leader.

NPR: Mormon Democrats Battling Romney — And What Would Be Church History

They billed the gathering in a Charlotte, N.C., Holiday Inn conference room Tuesday as the first national meeting of Mormon Democrats.

Don’t laugh. Crystal Young-Otterstrom says she figures there are 1 million of them out there, and she’s determined to find them.

“It’s like a missionary effort,” Young-Otterstrom said in a room packed with the curious, the media and a cadre of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints making the argument that the Democratic Party best represents their personal and religious values.

“This is a monumental moment for the LDS faith,” said Scott Howell, a U.S. Senate candidate in Utah challenging GOP incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, also a Mormon.

Yahoo: For Mormon Democrats, a new kind of mission

Mormon Democrats attending their party convention this year have a simple message they want to share with the world: We exist!

Crammed shoulder to shoulder inside a Holiday Inn conference room, members of the fledgling Mormon caucus, LDS Democrats, held its first national meeting here on Tuesday, chatting about the future of the party over plates of fruit, cheese and crackers. Sheltered from the pouring rain outside, a few hundred attendees—not all Mormons—met to provide each other with moral support and to remind each other that yes, there are other Mormon Democrats.

The Daily Beast: Mormons for Obama! LDS Democratic Caucus Convenes Convention Event

It was one of the more touching events—and certainly the most unexpected—I’ve run across here in Charlotte. On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened the first-ever national gathering of their LDS Democrats Caucus in a second-floor meeting room of the Holiday Inn in downtown Charlotte.

In an era when pretty much every group has a well-established caucus, it was almost quaint to be in the midst of folks just now groping their way into political daylight. Most of the speeches and much of the chatter around the room were peppered with anecdotes and quips about how strangely folks look at you when you’re a Mormon Democrat—even in a year when there’s not a fellow LDSer heading the GOP ticket. One gentleman noted that his family’s claim to fame was that his daughter had recently served as the highest-ranking Mormon in the White House—pause a beat—“as an unpaid intern.”

At the meeting of LDS Democrates, Scott Howell, now running against Orrin Hatch, recalled an effort by the state GOP to get him to switch parties when he was a state lawmaker — something he happened to discuss briefly with then-LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

“I have to tell you, when they invited me to come over I thought about it. President Hinckley, without skipping a beat, said, ‘Young man, you will not join that Republican Party. We need good men and women in both parties,’” Howell recalled.

. . . .

The nation’s most powerful elected Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said his faith shaped him and is in line with his party’s principles.

“I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon,” Reid said. “The purpose of government isn’t to make the richer more rich, or the poorer more poor. The purpose of government is to create opportunities for all.”

[Harry Reid] spoke in a crowded hotel room before a bank of television cameras, reporters and Mormons from the North Carolina area and those who are delegates to the convention. He told them Romney isn’t the first Mormon to run for president, though he might be the most conservative and he said LDS beliefs about caring of the poor and protecting the environment fall in line with his votes in the Senate.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Reid said, “every member of the church should be an environmentalist.”

After his speech reporters asked him about Utah. “The only message I have for Utah,” he said, “is to get a little more moderate. It is a little too right wing.”

Meant as a recruiting tool for the Democratic Party in Utah and in western states with large Mormon populations, the event began with a prayer and even included the LDS hymn “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today,” led by Crystal Young-Otterstrom at Reid’s insistence.

“You are cursed because of your riches!”

It was a bummer message that nobody wanted to hear. Samuel the Lamanite stood alone atop the great wall of the city of Zarahemla to warn the inhabitants of their pending destruction.

Now you have probably never heard of this Samuel, nor the capital city that was once the center of the Nephite nation. But Mitt Romney certainly has. In 6 BC, as the story goes, somewhere on the American continent, the inhabitants of this mythic city had grown decadent. There were extreme class divisions. Politicians were corrupt. The government disregarded the sick and poor.

Sound familiar?

God had called Samuel to essentially Occupy Zarahemla, to stand up and speak out against corporate greed and wealth accumulation. For his trouble, he was promptly thrown out the front gates. Undeterred, he bravely scaled the city’s exterior wall, evading a barrage of arrows and stones to stand defiant. He offered Zarahemla a choice: repent or be destroyed by God. Like any of us who have ever witnessed the ranting of a doomsday prophet, the Nephites couldn’t be bothered. Four hundred years later, Samuel’s prophecy would sorely come to pass. After decades of perpetual wars and extreme environmental upheavals, the inhabitants of Zarahemla were wiped completely off the continent and out of history.

They had been warned.

Patheos: Mormons, Soldiers, Socialists, and Me

Perhaps I’m being a bit obtuse in offering such a simplistic analysis without really fleshing out the deep discomfort many Americans (and thus an American religion) have about even muttering the word “socialism.”  Perhaps it is because of my unique upbringing mingled with the fact that I currently, and very happily, live in an openly loud and proud socialist democracy.  Perhaps it is now painfully obvious that my graduate experience was much more immersed in cultural history than political theory.

But, truly, why are Mormons so very averse to proudly and publicly claiming the rich, social justice-driven legacy of the LDS Welfare System?  Why do so many Mormons (who dutifully pay monthly “fast-offering” contributions to help other members in financial need) angrily oppose social safety net legislation like the Affordable Care Act?

I can’t believe that the influence of Republican political platforms are the only driver here.  Where does this contradiction between progressive practice and conservative self-identification stem from within the Mormon tradition itself?

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