It typically isn’t hard to tell if a person is a Mormon or not. While chatting with them in the halls, one may notice their LDS Institute lanyard hanging out of their pocket. When visiting their apartments, one may see their Mormon missionary badge. One may see a Book of Mormon on their bookshelf or a picture of them and their spouse in front of a Mormon temple. In conversations, a Mormon will openly talk about their “ward” or “stake”, their “mission” or other common Mormon jargon. All of these are common culture cues that help indicate who is an “active” Mormon.
However, there is one thing that commonly throws people for a loop on whether a person is a good and active Mormon — their political affiliation. Often, when a Mormon identifies as liberal, they tend to be regarded skeptically and with concern. They may be asked things such as, “How are you doing spiritually?” or “Are you allowed to have a Temple recommend?” There appears to be something about being both liberal and Mormon that some folks can’t understand.
Combining religion and politics is likely to stir up heated and passionate conversations. There are many who believe that religion shouldn’t influence politics in the slightest. Yet, the political stance of many are deeply informed by their faith. This certainly seems to be the case for many Mormons. It is no secret that the majority of Mormons politically identify as conservative, but there are also many Mormons who are liberals. For many of them, it is their faith that led them to be liberals.
Teachings and examples of Jesus, such as loving one’s neighbor, helping the poor and oppressed, economic equality, taking care of the environment, being open to new revelation and truth, opening one’s door to refugees and immigrants and avoiding war are all reasons why liberal Mormons identify with the Democratic Party.
While few liberal Mormons celebrate abortion or advocate for same-sex marriages in temples, many feel uncomfortable legislating their own sense of morality when other Americans don’t hold the same beliefs.
Many liberal Mormons fight against racial injustice and inequality, frequently citing that their deep convictions for fairness and respect come from their faith’s teaching that “all are alike unto God” (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33). When it comes to more liberal economic policies, which tend to favor welfare programs, they cite scriptures that command to give to the needy and the destitute. On immigration, liberal Mormons tend to emphasize mercy, restitution and compassion for those who are undocumented, especially children. And while conservative Mormons might say they too want these things, liberal Mormons differ in their view of how the government should play into all of this. In many ways, liberal Mormons seek to love their neighbors and they see liberalism as the closest political ideology to accomplishing that.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about being a liberal Mormon is how frequently their commitment to their faith is brought into question by more conservative members. How one can be both a liberal and a Mormon confuses others, but for those who identify as such, the answer is clear. They are liberals because they are Mormon.