When I first learned that Exponent was getting political, my initial thoughts were on my own political coming of age story, involving a specific experience on my mission, and several more specific experiences at BYU that ultimately resulted in my experiencing a change of heart, from somewhat right leaning to somewhat left. This was the story that I wanted to tell, but after watching the debates, and taking in their tone, I feel a little too sad about politics. Or, at the least, I feel sad about the division of politics, and the dishonesty. Part of me wants to shout from rooftops, “Can’t we all just get along?” And the other part of me wants to whisper it.
So I will ask it here instead, “Can’t we all just get along?” If the lion can one day lay down with the lamb, can’t the republican and democrat sit at the same table peacefully, with enough respect for the other to tell that other the truth? (This is my hope of hopes.) I will also ask this question in terms of Zion, because I sincerely want to know. If Zion is described not only as a place with no poor, but as a people with one heart and one mind, does that require saints of Zion to agree on everything? Can we have differences among us and still have it be Zion? Can those differences be political? Can’t the lion still be a lion and the lamb still be a lamb? If so, how? Secondly, what might it look like?
I am not sure. But, I think it would sound quieter than our political landscape currently sounds. There would be more listening. And when the talking happened, it would be more genuine talking–not the kind of words that make good soundbites, or appeal to people simply to appeal, but that elucidates how the interlocutor actually feels. Above all, I believe there would be more attempts to understand, and more trust underlying those attempts. The focus of this trust would be an assumption, that each party, or person, comes from a good place, and that it might even be the same place, with the same beliefs and feelings (read: one mind and one heart), though they disagree on outcomes.
I believe this for two reasons. The first is a quote from David Campbell’s book, American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us, on a specific, left-leaning LDS ward:
Interestingly, members of the Pioneer Ward on both ends of the ideological spectrum say that their political views are largely a product of their religious beliefs…Yet Democratic congregants tend to cite Christian values such as equality, compassion, and helping the poor as the source of their politics, while Republicans generally point to principles of self-reliance and personal responsibility, as well as the “moral” issues of abortion and homosexuality. All these ideas have a place in Mormon teachings. Arriving at opposite political conclusions while sharing a fierce loyalty to Mormon theology, culture, and church teachings means that reconciling differences won’t come easily for the members of the Pioneer Ward.
This seemed to be mirrored years earlier by Harry Reid in an address to BYU students:
Let’s talk politics. It is not uncommon for members of the Church to ask how I can be a Mormon and a Democrat. Some say my party affiliation puts me in the minority of our Church members. But my answer is that if you look at the Church membership over the years, Democrats have not always been the minority, and I believe we won’t be for long. I also say that my faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined. I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it.
The second is a story from the Book of Mormon, wherein persons from the same families are unified in mind and heart, but make opposing covenants. It is the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, who are later called Ammonites, and later still just called Nephites. Both the parents and the children trust in Christ implicitly and love those who taught them the gospel. Neither the parents nor the children fear death. Somewhat surprisingly then, their mutual beliefs are manifested in contradictory ways. The parents bury their weapons of war deep in the ground for the peace that they promise, and even covenant, to maintain. When their enemies come upon them, they lie down to die, rather than fight back. Their children, who believe the same things their parents believe, later make a covenant of war.*
Understanding that individuals “of one mind and of one heart” may arrive at different conclusions seems like an important first step in building Zion, as well as an important first step to having better relations with those in our wards or communities who disagree with us politically. The disagreement itself is fine, but any assumption about someone’s character, or lack of testimony, or etc., because of that difference is not fine. Maybe as we remember and act upon this, we can get just a little bit closer to getting along.
How does your faith influence your politics?
How can we work together towards a more unified ward or community, even in the midst of disagreements?
*My husband pointed out to me that the circumstances each faced was different, but I still think the moral remains.