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It’s considered common courtesy not to talk about religion or politics in polite company. But talking about both at the same time is a different story, apparently.
About 120 people sat in on the discussion titled LDS Values and Political Partisanship, which focused on dissecting the points where religion and politics meet.
The discussion panel consisted of five people: BYU Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science Quin Monson, Utah Senator Howard Stephenson, former Utah State Representative Holly Richardson, Utah State Representative Carol Spackman Moss, and Utah Senator Ben McAdams. All of these people are active Mormons. However, Stephenson and Richardson are republicans, while Moss and McAdams are democrats.
The purpose of the discussion was to explore how four practicing Mormons could wind up at opposite ends of the political spectrum. After all, it is widely accepted both inside and outside the church that the principles of the LDS Church are largely in line with the core beliefs of the Republican Party.
It may be less common for Mormons to be liberal or democratic, but as McAdams argued, it’s not because church doctrine and democratic policies are incongruent. The things democrats want, he claimed, are the same as what republicans want. Each group is merely trying to bring about the same good in different ways.
As a counterpoint to McAdams’ argument, Stephenson said that he did agree with that point, but with one caveat. Democrats use compulsion to bring about these changes, while republicans would rather it be done voluntarily.
“The right to swing my fist,” Stephenson said, “ends at your nose.”
While the two democrats retorted that if the nation waited for public policy to be made voluntarily it might never get done, Richardson chimed in. Emphasis on different parts of Mormon doctrine, she claimed, was the difference that caused the divergence in partisanship.
Monson endorsed Richardson’s statement by saying that it was indeed the “kind of rhetoric that is emphasized” by church authorities that generally steers the church population toward conservatism and the Republican Party. However, Monson continued, the LDS Church is one in that does leave room for some personal interpretation, and whether members lean to the right or to the left depends entirely on which part of the doctrine they place emphasis.
There was at least one point upon which each member of the panel agreed by the end of the discussion: Compassion, tolerance and Christlike behavior works both ways, and there is room in the LDS Church for people all along the political spectrum.
To hear the broadcast of this edition of RadioWest, tune in to KUER 90.1 Monday at 11 a.m. or 7 p.m., or visit www.kuer.org.
Story and photos by Jeff Jacobsen – Online Content Manager