Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our election night party

Now that election day has come and gone, you may be interested in seeing my posts elsewhere about our election night party. Go to and (for photos)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Guide to "Election 2008"

You can either go to a page with all the posts (click here) or use the links I'm providing here to find particular items. By means of these links you'll find:

(1) "The Purpose of This Site"

(2) "Who I support and why"; "Why Obama?: Reasons"; "Why Obama?: Preliminaries"; "Responses to reservations"

(3) "Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama"; plus other Republicans for Obama (see "Republicans for Obama"; another site at; and "The Moderate Voice")

(4) "Some reassurance on the economy"

(5) "Get to know the candidates." (Plus more here.)

(6) Information on Barack Obama: "Take a few minutes to listen to him" (includes links to a number of important speeches); "Obama in 30 seconds" (quick campaign ads). (See also #2 and 5 above.)

(7) Information on John McCain: "John McCain." (See also #5 above.)

(8) Posts on McCain's vice presidential choice: "What if McCain chooses Romney?" (which of course he didn't); "Sarah Palin"; "Sarah Palin, part 2"; "Sarah Palin, part 3"

(9) The candidates' health care plans: "Obama's and McCain's Health Care Plans"

(10) "My views on the issues"

NOTE ALSO the posts that follow this one: "Religion and Politics: Especially for Latter-day Saints" and "Why I'm a Democrat (sort of)."

Religion and politics: Especially for Latter-day Saints

Though many Latter-day Saints (unfortunately, in my opinion) think that the Republican party is the only one they can rightly vote for, the Church itself (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is officially neutral in political matters and in recent years has released statements asserting that "various political parties" (or in an earlier wording "all major political parties") have "principles compatible with the gospel." (I'll provide links to even more explicit statements later in this post. My own reflections may be found by clicking here.)

The following statement (found at
) was issued by the First Presidency in September 2008:

As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future.

Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.

Therefore, in this election year, we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.

The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas S. Monson
Henry B. Eyring
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The First Presidency

(See also

In the late 1800s, the majority of Latter-day Saints preferred the Democratic party, but in order to help prepare Utah for statehood, the Church encouraged members to participate in both major national parties. For various reasons, Church membership gradually drifted more to the Republican party, and those attitudes hardened during the 1970s and 1980s, when social issues such as abortion became prominent.

By the 1990s, Church leaders were concerned about the exclusive identity of the Church and the Republican party in many members' minds. According to A Disciple's Life (by Bruce Hafen), Elder Neal A. Maxwell encouraged a younger General Authority, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, to hold an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune to explain why he (Elder Jensen, who is a Democrat) believed being a Democrat was compatible with being a faithful member of the Church. The interview may be found HERE, HERE, or HERE (see also below).

Also during the 1990s, Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of the Church, made statements encouraging political diversity in the Church. (For instance, this one.) Unfortunately, such statements seem to have had little effect. In fact, at the time, Republican leaders in Utah tended to react with disbelief even to suggestions coming from Church leaders that faithful Church members could appropriately and enthusiastically support the Democratic party.

Now, things have gotten so bad in Utah that even many Republicans feel diversity is badly needed. I've talked to some prominent Republican leaders and have heard similar reports second hand. The excessive dominance of the Republican party in the Utah State legislature has led some to compare the Republicans in that institution to a "sick family."

In Utah County, where I live, the Democratic party has worked very hard over the past few years to let people know of its moderate stance, and the party has found a first-rate slate of candidates for various offices--many of them, I believe, clearly superior in qualifications and ability to their opponents. The Democratic candidates include former mission presidents and others whose Church credentials are unquestionable. I've met several of the candidates and am persuaded that, if only voters could get to know them, they'd be very impressed. But lacking that, many people will, unfortunately, vote for the Republicans simply because they are Republicans, and we'll be lucky to have even a single Democratic candidate elected.

The following are links that give more information on this sticky issue and also information on some of the candidates.

(1) An editorial I wrote on politics and religion (click the preceding link to see it or click here for an MS-Word document version).

(2) Elder Marlin K. Jensen's interview with the Salt Lake Tribune (which he was encouraged to do by other General Authorities, including Elder Neal A. Maxwell): available at,, or (By the way, during the current political season, Church leaders at the general level have not only encouraged members who are Democrats to run for office, but have encouraged them to make clear their Church affiliation and service and to emphasize the Church's political neutrality.)

(3) Senator Harry Reid on being a Mormon and a Democrat: (This is an address Senator Reid gave at BYU; the purely political stuff is near the end--and by the way, I was pleased that the political stuff was greeted with a combination of respect and generous laughter.)

(4) Reflections on being a Democrat in Utah (by Claralyn Hill, a former Republican who is now running for the Utah State Legislature as a Democrat): Her campaign site is You'll find a bit of what I've said about her by clicking here: "Claralyn Hill."

(5) Besides Utah County Democrats, Cache County Democrats have also decided to make it clear that many of them are faithful Latter-day Saints:

(6) My own inclinations are described below under Why I'm a Democrat (sort of)".

(7) How about McCain? Here's a link to "McCain and Mormons."

(8) And Romney? Many months ago, I wrote something in defense of Mitt Romney--not that he was my favored candidate, but I found the the antagonism toward him based on religion to be distressing. Here's what I wrote:

(9) Richard Bushman and national reporters at a Pew Foundation forum discussing politics and the LDS Church:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I'm a Democrat (sort of)

I say "sort of" because I believe (as it should go without saying) that my loyalty to a political party should never outrank my loyalty to my country, my faith, my family, or people in general. Also, I tend to feel a lot more like a "Democrat" around election time and especially when I'm living in Utah. When I lived in Massachusetts, my sense of being a Democrat was much less intense. And even now, I really try to be independent minded. (And I have plenty of good friends who differ from me in political views and party affiliation.)

My inclination toward the Democratic party came initially from my mother, a great woman and a faithful member of the Church. It has been confirmed over the years most strongly by my anti-war feelings. (I explain those feelings in an essay found at On other issues, my inclinations are divided between the parties.

In Utah, the Republican stranglehold has been very bad for the state. That’s the verdict of some Republican leaders even. The state legislature (the Republican portion at least) has been described—by Republicans!—as being like a “sick family.” Diversity is badly needed. And ethics reform is badly needed.* The issues Utah Democrats are very strong on include ethics, education, the environment, and health care (and they have very sensible positions on these issues). As for the national party, despite some areas where I have strong disagreement, I like Democratic stands on most of the issues I’ve just mentioned, plus foreign policy (no “bomb, bomb Iran” jokes, for instance) and civil rights (including both racial issues and civil liberties in general).

My last reason for preferring Democrats is that Republicans can really be mean. I know Democrats can too. But at the national conventions, there really has been a mean, nasty tone at the last couple of ones the Republicans have held. The Democrats by contrast have been much more positive and inclusive.

As for whether a Mormon (gasp!) really can vote Democratic, here’s my blog post on that question: “Religion and politics: Especially for Latter-day Saints” In short, I believe the Democratic Party needs more Mormons, and Mormons need more Democrats. The excessive (and sometimes mindless) identification of the Church and the Republican Party have led to all sorts of problems, including, in my view, a very badly distorted understanding of what the gospel is all about. (See my Daily Universe editorial for more on that.)

*On ethics: The Utah state legislature is one of the few in the country with no serious ethics rules on such matters as gifts from lobbyists. I'll need to do some research to get specific figures, but there are reports that ON AVERAGE lobbyists have given hundreds of thousands of dollars PER LEGISLATOR--and these gifts do not have to be reported; furthermore, there are no limits on what the legislators can do with the money. (Of course, lots of the gifts are "in kind"--dinners, tickets, etc.) Efforts by Democrats and some Republicans in the legislature to reform such practices have failed again and again. Democrats in particular are very keen to make some changes.