Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sacrament Meeting

I am active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife and I are raising our three children in the Church. I believe in it's principles and doctrine, and I am currently teaching Sunday School in the Bountiful Hills Ward. I am also a Democrat.

During last Sunday's sacrament meeting we had the great privilege to listen to one of our stake leaders speak. It was a good talk, that is until this stake high councilman said these words in a negative manner, "left-wing, Hollywood liberal types". I was sitting with my daughter Anna in the foyer when this happened, but returned to my seat next to my wife in the chapel directly after he made this comment. It was obvious to Michelle, and to those sitting close to us that I was not pleased by what this leader had said. I could not understand how that phrase was even a part of his subject. A member sitting behind us tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "I quess you have all the answers." I responded, "I don't have all the answers, but his comment was degrading, and inappropriate, and was quite simply wrong." She agreed by saying, "it was wrong."

I quickly bowed my head and asked the Lord to forgive my emotion. I asked for clarity, and I asked for his knowledge. After the meeting was over I walked up to this stake leader and explained that I very much enjoyed his talk until he negatively brought up, "left-wing, Hollywood liberal types". "Sir, there are several Democrats in this ward. Demeaning comments like yours does not serve those members well, and is inappropriate coming from the pulpit from our leaders."

Afterwards my wife wanted to understand why a comment like that would bother me since I'm not a "left-wing, Hollywood liberal type". "But I'm a Democrat Michelle", I explained, "He is a leader in our stake who has just used the pulpit politically. Which left-wing, Hollywood types does he mean? Robert Redford? George Clooney? We didn't hear him say anything about right-wing, Washington law-breakers, or moneychangers, or so-called conservative Hollywood types like Britney Spears who is a terrible example to our children."

I then reminded Michelle of a conversation I had with another member of our ward. He is a well respected doctor, a Republican, and happens to be a friend of my mother's. A few weeks ago he asked me how the Utah Democratic Party was doing, and then mentioned that it must be tough work due to those back-east liberals who are running, and ruining the Party. I asked him why is it that Utah Democrats are branded by what national Democrats are doing, but Utah Republicans are not. Is Tom DeLay an example of the Utah Republican Party? Is Jack Abramoff or Duke Cunningham the acid test voters should use when deciding to vote for a Utah Democrat over a Utah Republican? All my neighbor could say was, "good point Rob".

I also reminded Michelle of her conversation with our ex-bishop's wife who told Michelle how mass meetings used to be announced during church. "The Republican mass meeting will be held at brother so and so's house, the Democrats will be meeting at the phone booth on 500 South."

I then shared a discussion I recently had with Marilyn Snow, wife of the late R. J. Snow. She explained how R. J. would often stand up after the Republican mass meeting was announced from the pulpit to announce without invitation that the Democratic meeting will be held at his home.

For far too long the LDS pulpit has been used by members of the Republican Party to marginalize members of the Utah Democratic Party. In a state that so badly needs the return of a two-party system, I cannot see how statements like the one made from our stake high councilman helps anyone. I am constantly speaking to members from both Parties who understand and believe this, and that is why I am writing this post.

Everyday people are waking up to this negative type of inappropriate, propaganda messaging. I also know that LDS Democrats are joining together, to remind those who would belittle us in public that we do have value, that we do matter, and that we are all Utahns first. We are your friends, we are your relatives and neighbors, your sons and daughters. Most importantly, we are all God's children, whether we live in Hollywood or Bountiful, Utah.

28 comments:

JackJack said...

wonderful comments, Rob.

This is a frustration I've felt from spending time with ward members in the last two wards I've lived in.

Steve said...

Amen, Rob! I hate it how even good LDS people have fallen for the Religious Right's claim that it has a monolopy on moral values.

They even think that us Mormons are members of a cult. I guess many of us don't mind blindly turning the other cheek.

Jeremy said...

Rob,

Great post. You are better than I am...I get so enraged whenever politics are brought up at the pulpit in church that I walk out of the chapel instead of in.

I'm not defensive when I hear the "left-wing, Hollywood liberal types" label applied (since I don't think it has anything to do with UTAH Democrats) but I agree with you that a statement like that should never be uttered from an LDS pulpit. Political rhetoric has no place there.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of another story. My wife is responsible for printing various items for our ward (the ward newsletter, the Relief Society newsletter, the calendar, etc.) The Saturday before the mass meetings, the Relief Society president, who is a very active Republican, emailed her the newsletter, which contained an announcement about the Republican mass meeting, but not the Democratic meeting.

All turned out well, though. My wife pointed out the omission, and the RS president apologized, saying that she didn't know about the Democratic meeting. She added the announcement, and both meetings were announced over the pulpit the next day.

Darrell said...

I don't mind when someone explains the positives of being involved in politics. My problem is when people attack the other point of view from the pulpit especially when they are in leadership.

I'll be the brother who stands up next time Rob.

Rob Latham said...

Good post, although I ask the author to consider who else he and others marginalize and exclude when the phrases "both parties" and "two-party system" are used.

Emily For Utah Senate 28 said...

Rob -

Thank you so much for this post. I couldn't agree with you more, and feel the same outrage that you do when I hear these things from the LDS pulpit.

For years, I have been a complete wimp when it came to "coming out" as an LDS Democrat. Just call me Wimp-essa-von-wimpenstien. Even though I've always been active in the Democratic party, I have always been *quiet* about it. I'd tell my friends at the newspaper to not quote me, to not put my picture there, and to please not put anything about ME and politics on the home page. As a result, I could quietly vote as I wanted to, I could support Democrats financially and emotionally, and I could go along with my daily life, being the Stake Music Chairman and "just like the rest of the Mormons" but keep my political thoughts to myself.

Then this strange thing happened. I decided to run (with your prodding and good council) for the Utah Senate. At first, I was content to be a "name on the ballot." That evolved to running a good and aggressive race, but no way no how would I tell people that I'm a democrat, no donkeys on my signs, I'll just leave people guessing as to what political party I belong to. After all, I'm "just like them" and they'll choose me!

After reading your post today, I have some repenting to do. Of course I am a proud Utah Democrat, and I want the world to know it. No LDS Democrat should have to sit through church and endure talks like that. I commend you for going to your stake high councilman and telling him what's what! The next time that happens in my stake, I'm going to stand up for myself.

Finally, I say this. As people have rallied around to support me in my race for senate, several have stated that they cannot *publically* support me because *I am a Democrat.* This line of thinking only has happened because those of us who are LDS Democrats have been too wimpy!

I'm ready for change. I'm ready to get out there and challenge the thinking a little bit.

Thank you so much for your good example and for making me get off my duff and do some good in the world.

I appreciate you and all that you do.

Em

Anonymous said...

Latham,

Not even a valid point unless Rob's blog has become the Church of Amicus.

Rob said...

Good Point Rob Latham. Thanks for reading The Utah Amicus. You have been linked.

Reality Check said...

Come on lets get off of our he said she said pity pots. It has become such a party loyalty battle everywhere (between Republicans and Democrats) lets make a stand on issues and vote on what is best for the nation rather than on what is best for egos. Sorry that it sucks to live without a voice in your religion, but there are a lot more voices in many religions (yes even in Utah) and those that are not religious that would like to have good representation. Keep it in perspective your church doesn't support one party or another so it isn't the "church" it’s those individuals of "passion and extreme ideas" that are really bugging you don't worry they bug a lot of other people for a lot of other reasons. Your fine - just stick to the issues of government that everyone cares about (who really cares about what happens in your ward on Sundays?)

sarahbellum said...

Good read.

Silent Paul no more said...

I care Rob. Like Jeremy I have just sat there and taken it.

Thanks for the push Rob.

pramahaphil said...

Good post, this dialougue has been an interesting one. I didn't realize that Brittney Spears considered herself a conservative Republican, that's almost as bizarre as the Porn star in California that was running for office on the Republican ticket.

Politics being pushed from the pulpit, is disgraceful and illegal. We must not confuse confuse being politically lazy LDS Church members, with some secret alliance between the LDS Church and the Elephants.

Cliff said...

Wooo...hooo... Just in time for the fireworks tomorrow!

Rob, you are a leader of men (and women).

Your courage has inspired Senator (to be) Hollingshead's post over on OneUtah and no doubt throughout the collective conciousness of our beloved LDS friends across our beloved state.

Now, how can we steal the debate back from the political fringes, and bring it back to the middle where 80% of us are?

Comments like "liberal Hollywood types" only fan the flames of partisianship and foster, as Emily says, "not playing close attention."

Rob, Davis County is very lucky to have the chance to ask you to play a leadership role in their community.

JTH said...

Although I believe that politics from any party should not be discussed or preached, in a place of worship. I find even more disturbing when one party is given preference over others. Thanks for an excellent post. After reading all the comments in reference to this post, I have one question. Where is the IRS when you need them?

That One Guy said...

Rob: Way to go - I wouldn't have half so calm in talking to the guy. People talk so glibbly when they think they are in the company of one single point of view. I probably would have given him the "Zidane Head-Butt."

Seriously though, we need more like you. Way more.

So many inappropriate political and commercial efforts get spun from the pulpit, it makes me CRAZY. Ever been to your stake lagoon day? How did they get the addresses of the bishops and stake presidents to send you guys that crap? Why is that tolerated? It's not legal. What is the ecclesiastical benefit? (When I was in charge of that Lagoon crap, I always conveniently "lost" the stuff. "You'll have to get tickets from another ward in the stake if you want to go.")

So many people here attend the "lifestyle" division of the church, as opposed to the "religion" division.

Thanks for being out there, and I wish I was in an area where you were on the ticket.

richard Watson said...

Rob,
Loved your comments.
One point I have always found fascinating is how LDS Republicans are ok with cozing up to the Cristian Coalition Republicans, who are anti-Mormon, yet they demonize LDS Democrats who believe in the same Gospel principles of the church as they do.

Derek said...

Wonderful conversation, Rob. I wish I'd known of more like you when I lived in Davis County.

I've said for some time that we liberal LDSaints need to be a very visible presence in the Church. I don’t believe we should turn to the obnoxious and inappropriate tactics of our “opposition.” Our church services and meetings should be concerned with spiritual matters, and not be used for overt political stumping for either side. But we should (with love, humility, and rationality) challenge the political mischaracterizations and partisan attacks that so often come up. We should stand tall in our political ideology.

I’m personally less offended by criticisms of “Democrats,” than I am of “liberals.” I am a Democrat only by convenience. They are the mainstream party most likely to promote my values (though I believe Nader is right; they do so very poorly). However, I am most firmly and proudly a liberal. It is the liberal values which I find most consistent with the principles of the Gospel, and which I want promoted. We shouldn’t shy away from the label, or continue to allow the other side to turn the term into an aspersion. We should wear it proudly, and help teach our brethren and sisters what it REALLY means, as opposed to what the conservatives want to make it.

Anonymous said...

Nice to read through the thoughts here. I'm surprised by the emotions generated by the "left-wing, Hollywood liberal types" statement. Was the speaker really ripping on Democrats, or was he ripping on the people in Hollywood with principles contrary to Christ's? What was the topic of the talk?

For what it's worth, I think the only perfect government will be a theocracy, with Christ at the Head. Until then, we're stuck with what we've got, which is better than anywhere else on this world. I'd be curious to see how things would work if we could get rid of parties all together and let people run as who they are, rather than as part of a party to which they belong.

I like the local races, where no parties are present. In our local City Council race, I could have a sign from registered members of two different parties and no one cared.

Anyway, best wishes with everything, and let's not be afraid to stand up for what we believe.

Sincerely,

Conveniently posted as Anonymous :)

jesus said...

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the atemple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a awoman taken in badultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the alaw commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger awrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without asin among you, let him bfirst cast a cstone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own aconscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

Our father loves those "left-winged, Hollywood liberal types" just as he loves you, and as I love you.

Derek Staffanson said...

Anonymous, I appreciate your comments. I too wish the nation followed George Washington's admonition against parties. I refuse to align myself with any given party because I do not believe any given party is very much aligned with me.

I don't think we should dismiss the comments of the person about whom Rob was blogging. He was not just referring to the sorts of lifestyles which are contrary to the Gospel. The speaker specifically linked those lifestyles and principles with the liberal ideology, which is a gross misrepresentation. The principles of liberalism do not include hedonism and materialism (which I assume were the ideas to which the speaker was referring). It was wrong of the speaker to politicize the issue and disparage by association our ideology.

Anonymous said...

First, I agree that church is not the forum for politics and it shouldn't be brought into the discussion. The Republican advertisements with church functions are not acceptable, but I feel that is a seperate topic.

I do think the speaker can be given some slack. I don't know the full context, but it seems he was simply trying to identify the bad morals in our society, not Democrats. Unfortunately Hollywood has a tendency toward both loose morals and left wing politics, and it's something that should be recognised and adressed by democrats. If you don't want to be associated with them, maybe you shouldn't be offended when they are referenced? While the Republican party obviously has problems of it's own(though not a monopoly on corruption), the Democrats have a large segment of well publicized far-leftists that clearly hurt it's image in America. I don't think that average Democrats are lumped into the "left-wing, Hollywood liberal types".

Anonymous two said...

Anonymous, you just don't get it.

Derek said...

Absolutely nothing wrong with being left-wing. I wish the Democrats had more left-wingers, instead of so many moderates. There is nothing about liberalism which is contrary to the Gospel. On the contrary, I find liberalism much more in harmony with the Gospel than conservativism. To imply that liberalism is inextricably linked to the immorality we impute to "Hollywood" is gravely mistaken.

Anonymous said...

God is a liberal! He gives to us liberally, we only need to ask.

Blate Minkler said...

For over 100 years, the Democratic Party was the dominant force in Utah politics. The Republican Party was founded to fight the "twin evils" of slavery and poligamy, and it put the LDS Church squarely in its sites. This drove most members of the church to the Democratic Party.

As a child growing up in the 1960's, the remnants of this legacy were still evident to me. Our Governer, Calvin Rampton, and our Senator, Frank Moss, were Democrats, along with several members of Congress during the 1960's and 1970's.

By the end of the 1970's, however, Utah had shifted over to being one of the most Republican states in the nation. As a Republican interested in civil dialogue with those of other affiliations, my question is: What happened in Utah? Why do you think so many people from families with a Democratic heritage moved over to the Republicans? They certainly weren't "commanded" by the church to do so. There must be important valid reasons for this massive shift.

To become a competitive force in Utah politics, I believe the Utah Democratic Party must work harder to understand why they lost Utah. This thread is full of comments by LDS Democrats that demonstrate a lack of understanding about why Democratic Utah became a Republican state.

The main problem facing Utah Democrats is the National Democratic Party. There are many high-profile national Democratic political leaders and "celebrities" that openly mock religious people, that denegrate traditional family roles, that support "rights" to the official recognition of lifestyle choices, abortion and the peddling of smut, and that take a contrarian stance to almost anything "American".

You may not feel my list above is entirely fair (maybe it isn't), but there is a strong secular-humanist, sexually-liberal, anti-religious, iconoclastic element within the National Democratic scene. I believe most members of the LDS Church, look at this National Democratic image (which is only magnified by the media) and are turned off. Then they wonder, how could an LDS Church member want to affiliate with that party. That's your real problem - not discrimination within the church. (I do agree, however, that no leader or speaker should discuss politics in an LDS Church meeting.)

I personally long for the day that the National Democratic Party drives these fringe elements back to the fringes. While this would hurt Republican election prospects, I believe it would help the country.

Until that happens (if ever), why don't more Utah Democrats take active vocal exception to the fringe elements in the national party? This is something I rarely hear, and it would really help the Utah Democratic Party.

You don't need to respond to my post with a laundry list of Republican scandals and policy failures. I accept that the Republican Party has many failings that greatly frustrate me. But no amount of mudslinging at your opposition will pull the Utah Democrats out of relative obscurity. You don't fix your house, by throwing rocks at your neighbor.

No Whining said...

This is has been around for awhile.

While at the UCLA branch 30 yrs ago, we had a High Council rep. say from the pulpit that if we did not vote "no" on a certain proposition on the ballot that the Spirit was not with us. That didn't set well with the UCLA branch. The stake presidency came and announced that the statement was made in error - also that voting was up to individual inspiration.

It didn't matter if we agreed with the proposition or not - we just knew that political statements were not correct in church.

Keep speaking up. It is the correct thing to do.

Anonymous said...

When I hear anything inappropriate or inadequate from a church member, I remind myself and my family (now that I have older kids that are more affected by the opinions of others)that there opinions are not gospel doctrine and that even though they should know better, we don't need to agree with them. Even the best of people will make mistakes, sometimes just to be funny or dramatize there talk... usually they have good intentions and are basically great people trying to do their best. Over the past few years I have heard Bishops compassionately remind the congregation the purpose of a talk or a testimony, and to stay focused. When I find myself judging others I try to remember there is probably something that I have done that is not just right in the eyes of others...There is a lot of learning needed for all of us to make it to our final destination!