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.