OK, it’s good oh, so good.
A message directed by the top brass of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints straight into the grid of congregations and the all too often immoderate political leaders they vote for, including Republicans in Utah and everywhere else, as well as demagogues and bullies. and extremists embedded in all political parties. It also includes party insiders who commandeer electoral processes that only favor extreme candidates.
Are you listening, Donald Trump? Ron DeSantis? Mike Lee? Sean Reyes?
More importantly, are Utah Latter-day Saint voters listening?
Finally, senior church officials are urging members in their most blunt language yet to take a radical new approach to elections, to think long and hard before voting.
[Read the story about the churchs warning against party-line voting.]
This very real message from church leadership (for reading at church meetings in the United States) goes, in part, like this:
Dear brothers and sisters :
The citizens of the United States have the privilege and duty to elect elected officials and influence public policy. Participation in the political process affects their communities and their nation today and in the future. We urge Latter-day Saints to be active citizens by registering, exercising their right to vote, and engaging in civic affairs, always demonstrating Christlike love and civility in public discourse.
We invite you to take the time necessary to inform yourself about the issues and the candidates you will be considering. Certain principles consistent with the gospel can be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles. Members should also carefully consider candidates and vote for those who have demonstrated integrity, compassion and service to others, regardless of political affiliation. Simply voting a direct ticket or voting based on tradition without careful study of the candidates and their positions on important issues is a threat to democracy and inconsistent with revealed standards (see Doctrine and Covenants 98: 10).
…While the church asserts its institutional neutrality regarding political parties and issues, it may at times publish information about particular issues that directly affect the mission, teachings, or operations of the church or that the leaders of church deem essential to preserve democracy or the essential workings of the United States Constitution.
And There you go.
An R on the ballot is not enough
There can be different ways, of course, of interpreting what is said here by church authorities and why they say it. Some might see this as hypocrisy, given how Latter-day Saints dominate the state legislature. Interpret whatever you want. I will offer my interpretation, which you have already smelled, and be perfectly willing to bear the scars that come with it.
For whatever reason, whether it was the influence of former church president Ezra Taft Benson, an extreme political conservative, or something or someone else, Latter-day Saint voters to a large extent for decades have voted Republican. It’s no secret that GOP candidates in Utah and other church strongholds have a huge advantage among the faithful.
It does not matter if said candidates were or are inferior to their opponents or completely unsuitable for the position. Candidates with an R next to their name were/are in and those they were/are running against were/are eliminated.
In recent times, church officials have essentially said that the Republican Party is not the party of the church. Democrats and others are also welcome. But that message apparently wasn’t sent with enough punch.
Now a can of spinach is added to the political punch of Popeyes.
Don’t get me wrong, the mixed metaphor notwithstanding, this is a welcome shot through the arc of political extremism, the arc of the dominant Republican Party in Utah, and the arc of Republicans on the national stage Democrats, also politicians of less than stellar character who have made a habit of winning over or attempting to win over the voting public by dividing it with their extremism.
In their minds, if you’re a member of the other party, you’re not just a politician with a different view, you’re a traitor. A vote for each other is a vote to destroy America. A vote for a Republican is automatic for the good of the people, even if that Republican is morally corrupt.
Does the church want its members to vote for bums, crooks, and criminals just because they belong to one party or another?
The church will not usually tell congregants who to vote for, and it does not now, but it will warn members what NOT to vote for.
It is long overdue.
A hidden anti-Trump message?
Perhaps some would disagree that 58% of Utahns mindlessly voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, but a portion of them may have.
Think of who Trump is for so much of his public and private life a liar, or, for those who recoil from that term, a massive truth distorter, a man who behaves in a way well outside of this who is taught in Latter-day Saints, a man under investigation for a handful of crimes, an individual who paid off an adult movie star he was having an affair with to shut her up, a man who was recorded saying women allow powerful men to assault them, a president who claimed after his election defeat, against all evidence and court rulings to the contrary, that the 2020 vote was a fraud, that the election him had been stolen, and so on. And I didn’t even use the word insurrection.
Now Trump is running again. And the church sees both the what and the who.
Republican or not, a political figure like that and like any other is also not one that modern church leaders want their flock to support. Yes, they don’t categorically say that, but they say it without saying it.
They used terms like love, compassion, and Christlike integrity.
They said not to vote according to tradition.
They said voting a direct ticket without careful study of the candidates is a threat to democracy.
Wow. The church seems to tell many of its members, don’t vote like you have voted in the past.
Perhaps the mainstream faith in Utah is really concerned with how politics works here, with polarization, and with preserving democracy in this country. And perhaps he is also concerned that young Latter-day Saints are growing weary of the way their fellow members vote on sordid candidates and traditional issues.
Whatever the motivation, to think before you vote, to find reasonable moderation and decency, among all groups, not just Latter-day Saints, is an exhortation that is resoundingly true and absolutely necessary.
So to the letter of the church, I just add amen and amen and amen.
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