I read with dismay The Tribune's front-page story of Dec. 14 on a survey reporting the overwhelming preference of my fellow Mormons for the Republican Party. While I applaud state Democratic party chairman Jim Dabakis' attempts to make his party more palatable to Mormon voters, I doubt it will work.
Until Mormon voters have a better understanding of Democratic principles, they will continue in lock step with their party.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends out a letter each year to be read in congregations throughout the country stating it supports no political party, candidate or platform. It appears that the only folks who believe this are LDS Democrats like me. Certainly my non-Mormon Democratic friends don't buy it, and it appears church-going Republicans don't, either.
I am convinced that the U.S. Constitution requires a secular government, and I take seriously and personally the clause that there shall be no religious test for office holders. That said, I am a Democrat in large part because of my faith.
The LDS standard works of scripture are replete with teachings much closer to the ideals of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. The whole narrative of the Book of Mormon is how the people brought upon them God's displeasure by their pride and wealth and lack of compassion for the poor. The four gospels of the New Testament are replete with references to helping the poor.
Modern LDS revelation is even more specific: "... in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." (D&C 70:14)
Given the above, it is truly galling to be told that Democratic Mormons are somehow second-class Latter-day Saints, or have fellow church members feign surprise when they see us in the temple. Years ago I was asked in a temple recommend interview by my bishop if, aside from the Democratic Party, I belonged to any other apostate groups.
This was immediately followed by an apology, telling me he was only kidding. While I'm sure he was, this type of statement is really only half kidding, or in the words of Brad Wilcox in the March 2000 Ensign, "Even a hasty 'just kidding' doesn't excuse put-downs."
More recently, in a gospel doctrine class, the teacher essentially said that modern liberals are the direct descendents of the Gadianton robbers. He backed down when I challenged him with a scripture to the contrary, but I doubt I changed his mind. He concluded his class with a quote from Ronald Reagan.
If Mormon history teaches us anything, it should teach us that bloc voting is inimical to the church's interests. That got us in a heap of trouble in Nauvoo, Ill., and the brethren recognized this when they went to pains to make Mormondom a two-party church at the turn of the last century.
The church at that time reiterated in plain terms its view on church and state: "We favor the absolute separation of church and state; No domination of the state by the church; No church interference with the functions of the state; No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion." (First Presidency statement, May 1907)
In conversations with Republican friends and relatives, I find many of them disgusted with their party, but unwilling to change their affiliation. The reason given is essentially a religious one. Until this mindset changes, and I believe a more assertive statement from the Church is essential for this to happen, I despair of my party's chances to change hearts and minds.
Vance Pace is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer who served for 30 years abroad and in Washington, D.C. He lives in Kaysville.