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Mormon Democrats at a Crossroads

Third, I believe Church leaders recognize that it is not good for either the Church or its members to be identified so completely with one party, and they are working to assure members that it is appropriate to support both political parties. (See, for example, Elder Jensen's 1998 interview with the Salt Lake Tribune available here.) Both parties have come to ignore the Mormon vote; Republicans know they have it in the bag and Democrats know they don't have a chance. The Church needs members in both parties to advance its causes regardless of which party is in power.  And Church leaders also recognize that one-party rule, whether Republican or Democratic, can also lead to ethical lapses in our government. We need two functioning parties to keep each other honest.

While we have seen the Church take stands on moral issues that seemed more in line with the Republican party, we have also recently seen it take stands on moral issues that may be more in line with a progressive agenda. The Church recently announced its support for environmental stewardship by adopting "green" eco-friendly meetinghouses. And it recently added a fourth agenda item to its three-fold mission -- "to care for the poor and needy." Granted, these are not "Republican" or "Democratic" agenda items; they are positions, like fighting abortion, that should be supported by both parties. However, I believe they are more strongly supported by Democrats.

Finally, as Church membership rolls continue to grow, we will likely see more political diversity. The Pew Forum noted a 10 percent decrease in conservative political identification between converts and non-converts, and converts are significantly less likely to identify as Republican or lean Republican than are non-converts. I believe as the Church continues to grow into a world religion political diversity will necessarily follow. And as more Mormons recognize the issues that Democrats tend to fight for -- issues like poverty, education, and environmental stewardship -- as legitimate moral issues, more Mormons will come to identify as Democrats.

 

Boyd Petersen is the Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University, the biographer of Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley (Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life), and a former candidate for the Utah State legislature. He previously wrote "Why I'm a Mormon Democrat" for Patheos.

8/9/2010 4:00:00 AM