About 10 years ago I graduated from BYU with a degree in Political Science and an emphasis in American politics. Since then, I’ve been passionate about advocacy and have lobbied on Capitol Hill and the Arizona state capitol several times on behalf of various groups and policy initiatives. I wish I could say that it’s rewarding volunteer work, but most often I find myself advocating for policies that my elected representatives don’t support. Although I’m sometimes frustrated and think they are wrong and I am right, I know that we are both trying to create a society based on the values that we hold most dearly. The problem is there are so many values, some contradictory, and we don’t all rank them in the same order. For example, perhaps my legislator ranks fiscal responsibility as his highest priority and I rank health care for all citizens as my highest priority. Chances are we won’t support the same kinds of bills, or will have a lot of compromising to do to achieve our goals. Our job as citizens is to choose representatives whose values most closely align with ours.
Thus, when someone who disagrees with a current policy says they hate the government, and want to get rid of all government, I shake my head and think, “But we ARE the government.” That’s the point of a civilized society, to create a system that allows us to work together for the good of all. Once we start thinking about the government as “it” or something hostile to be taken down, then we’ve done ourselves a great disservice.
That’s the beauty of a democratic republic. “We the people” make this nation great. Our voices can be heard, our votes matter.
In some ways, this applies to our church membership. The more I think about the church as a faceless patriarchy of Borg-like robots, I find myself unwilling to see the good and find only the bad. Although there are many church policies and practices that are harmful to women, I sometimes forget that we are members of the church in a similar way to being members of a country. This is our church too, and we can make a difference by staying and saying, “No.” or “I want something more.” Additionally, church members aren’t wrong just because they disagree with me. We are both trying to make a religious community based on the values that we hold most dear. Often, they privilege different values than I do- they may value obedience to church leaders above equality when I value them in reverse. While this may lead to disagreements about how we view certain doctrines or policies, it doesn’t mean that we are enemies in a zero sum game.
While the church is clearly not a democracy, and this analogy breaks down upon further scrutiny, it’s still useful to see myself as part of the organization, not in opposition to it. That’s why I hope there is always room for respectful dissent and garden-variety heretics in the LDS church.