God Isn’t Registered to Any Party

A lady asks a gentleman what party he belongs to. He replies “My grandfather was a Republican, my father was a Republican, and I’m a Republican.” The lady is appalled. “What if your grandfather had been a horse-thief?”

The gentleman replies, “Well, then, I suppose I’d be a Democrat.”

-Told to me by my father when I was a kid. To date, it’s my favorite joke about Democrats… or perhaps it’s about Republicans.

It’s taken me a long time to realize this. I’m pretty embarrassed.

Latter-day Saint Democrats aren’t evil.

No, wait! Hear me out, LDS Republicans! Don’t go!

We’ve been told that you can be a righteous, worthy member of the Church and be a Democrat. Elder Marlin K. Jensen was sent by the First Presidency to address the issue in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune all the way back in 1998. (See http://bit.ly/ldsdemocrat – if you want to read the article in the Tribune archives, you’ll need to pay and subscribe, but you can find it at http://bit.ly/cdGlwc.) Among other shockers, we get the following:

“One of the things that prompted this discussion in the first place was the regret that’s felt about the decline of the Democratic Party [in Utah] and the notion that may prevail in some areas that you can’t be a good Mormon and a good Democrat at the same time,” Jensen said.

“There have been some awfully good men and women who have been both and are both today. So I think it would be a very healthy thing for the church — particularly the Utah church — if that notion could be obliterated.”

Any time I heard the First Presidency say something like “We don’t endorse any political party or candidate,” I kind of assumed they were winking. My thoughts were something like, “Sure, they have to say that – otherwise the Church would lose its tax-exempt status. But we all know what they really mean.”

I’m pretty sure what they really meant was what they actually said. I was reading between the lines because I didn’t like what the lines were saying. My imagined interpretation was far more palatable.

Back in 1998, they also made it clear that what matters is the candidate. They didn’t exactly say “party, schmarty,” but they emphasized the person, not their party:

…members are counseled to study the candidates carefully and vote for those individuals they believe will act with integrity and in ways conducive to good communities and good government.
“News of the Church,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, p.77

But somehow that just never stuck. All I could think was, “Sure, Latter-day Saints can be Democrats. We’re not all on the same spiritual level; they’ll come around as they mature.”

Yeah. Really. I thought that.

Well, I’ve matured a bit. I’m not a registered anything anymore, but I can at least imagine registering for a different party now. In Jensen’s interview, he also said,

“Everyone who is a good Latter-day Saint is going to have to pick and choose a little bit regardless of the party that they’re in and that may be required a lot more in the future than it has been in the past. But I think there’s room for that and the gospel leaves us lots of latitude.”

I’m glad to have finally learned this lesson, albeit a dozen years after it was taught.


P.S. Can I add something about Elder Marlin K. Jensen? I was roommates with his son Ryan back in 1998, and was invited to Ryan’s reception when he got married. Elder Jensen spoke at the dinner. It was like no other wedding reception I’d ever attended — or have attended since. I felt the Spirit when Elder Jensen spoke. I remember thinking, “I want my wedding to be like this. This has been holy.”

As we left the building (the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, if I recall correctly), we passed another reception in progress. There was music, and dancing, and a typical wedding celebration. People inside were happy. But it paled in comparison to what I felt. I’d felt a peaceful happiness that ran much deeper than I was accustomed to.

I have zero recollection of what Elder Jensen said as he presided over his son’s reception, but I remember what I saw. He was incredibly humble and happy. He exemplified the kind of man I wanted to be. I’m grateful I had the chance to see an example like him away from the pulpit.

He’s a Democrat. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time. I might’ve missed the whole thing.

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5 Responses to God Isn’t Registered to Any Party

  1. mikemetcalf says:

    When I was in the MTC I met a sister missionary in my district from Michigan. To my surprise, she was an outspoken democrat. She said that with a few exceptions, the democratic party more closely represented her opinions on the issues she supported most. I was a little surprised, but also relieved. I’ve met other great Mormon democrats since then, including my old Stake President who just ran for office this term.

    I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t vote on the 2nd. Not because I don’t care, but we’ve been very busy in the last couple months and I didn’t take the time to study any of the candidates, and I didn’t want to vote straight Republican. I’m not saying it was right, it’s just what happened. I’m resolved to vote next time, and I plan to do my research.

    Thanks for sharing Elder Jensen’s remarks and the Church News excerpt, I think many members (and citizens) would do well to take this counsel to heart.

    • Randy Tayler says:

      I’ve done the same thing – failed to educate myself, so refused to vote. I think it’s the right choice.

      I cannot BELIEVE there’s a “vote-straight-ticket” choice when you vote.

  2. SDR says:

    Back in 2000 I was so excited that for the first time in a very long time, we’d have a GOP executive branch, a GOP house, and a GOP senate. Only took me about three years to get over that.

    It’s not that I thought everything was the fault of the GOP, or that Bush was stupid, or they were evil for the wars. For me it really all came down to the breakneck pace at which the government was spending money. What happened to all that fiscal restraint? Republicans completely forgot one of their supposed core principles.

    I am still registered as a Republican, because their platform is the one that I seems to most closely match my own beliefs, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with selecting a candidate on that basis. *BUT*! There certainly should not be a straight ticket option, and I’ll go two better:

    One, there should not be political parties listed on the ballot, period. Not “Barack Obama (D)” or “John McCain (R)” or “Ralph Nader (G)” (or Ralph Nader period, but that’s another issue). We’ve managed to dumb down the electorate to the point that they don’t *need* to research before they go into the polls because they can just wait until they get there and pick & choose based on party. We do not elect political parties (or at least we ought to be electing political parties) and thus they should have no status on the ballot whatsoever. If you care enough to vote for one party, go to the party and get their blessed list of candidates.

    Two, the government ought not be involved in running primaries or caucuses (where they do, anyway). Those are what parties use to select candidates and delegates, and the parties should foot the bill. I’m all for political involvement, and if you want to support a party great! But our tax dollars should not support political parties.

    It’s funny … I feel that I’m just as conservative as I ever was, but I feel that the party system (and my party in particular) has largely failed me. The higher the office, the more I feel betrayed these last 10+ years. I may be registered as a republican, but relatively few republicans (and none for federal office) have gotten a vote from me these last 6+ years.

    George Washington was so on-the-money to warn against political parties. There is nothing wrong with finding like minded people to help promote a cause or a candidate. If only that’s what we were doing today, instead of letting the parties tell us who to vote for and game the system to effectively keep out alternatives.

  3. SDR says:

    Wish I could edit, as I never see all the mistakes before submitting. The most glaring one is “we ought to be electing political parties” should have been “we ought *not* be electing political parties”. Oops.

  4. glvaughn says:

    Wow! I found your blog on a test search for mine I just started. We have some similar thoughts. I think that my philosophy of “passionate moderate” addresses some of the issues Elder Oaks was talking about. Even in the Gospel, I want to stay as close to the brethren as I can with the scriptures and official church policies and teachings. I don’t want to be making up extra rules for the Word of Wisdom or anything else to impose on others like some do. And I don’t want to be a Liahona Mormon either. It’s hard to be a moderate. That’s why I have to be passionate about it. Anyway, if you’re at all interested, check out my blog:
    http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/

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