The Exponent Gets Political: How a Mormon Girl Living in Provo Became a Democrat
Maybe I was destined to be a Democrat. After I was born, while I was lying in an incubator, a family friend whispered in my ear “Vote Democrat.” My mother votes Democrat, and my dad converted after moving to Utah. So I grew up in a Democrat household, making me a minority in my Provo Utah community. While I credit my parents with some of my political leanings, I became a Mormon Democrat on my own. This is how it all started.
In 2003, as a fifteen year old, I read All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel set during World War I. The protagonist is a German soldier stationed on the western front, facing off with the Russians. He is young, and believes there is glory in going to war. But as he sees friends and enemies die, he starts to ask “who benefits from this war,” and cannot find an answer. He realizes, “A word of command has made these silent figures our enemies; a word of command might transform them into our friends. At some table a document is signed by some persons whom none of us knows and then for years together, that very crime on which formerly the world’s condemnation and severest penalty fall, becomes our highest aim.” He and his friends become expendable; their individual lives and deaths don’t matte
in the grand scheme of the war. This becomes starkly evident at the end of the book:
“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.”
That book hit me incredibly hard. The horror of war, the senseless loss of life, the destruction of families, health and happiness was beyond my ability to accept. I shared the sentiment “It must all be lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this steam of blood being poured out, these torture-chambers in their hundreds of thousands.” With all the advances human beings have made, we still can’t figure out how to settle an argument without killing each other.
While reading All Quiet on the Western Front and anti-war poetry on my own, we were also studying anti-war literature in my German class, and the Book of Mormon in seminary, which is full of the horrors of war. We had several lessons about when it is permissible to declare war while we were studying Alma 43-54. I still have the points diagramed in my scriptures:
1. We should not go to war unless commanded to.
2. We must lift the standard of peace before attacking.
3. The motives of declaring war should be pure; like the defense of families and faith.
4. If war is declared unjustly, God will not fight our battles.”
I took these rules to heart, believing that war should be a last resort, should generally be defensive, and should be about more then revenge or greed. I was turning into a pacifist, surrounded by anti-war material. And then the United States invaded Iraq.
I have a clear memory of the April 2003 General Conference being interrupted by an announcement that the United States had invaded Iraq. I went upstairs and sobbed on the couch for hours, a pattern I followed for the next few years. I was enraged that President Bush and the Republican party had declared war, had sent in soldiers to kill and to die. I felt that the standard of peace had not been raised, that the motivations were weak (which became more evident as the claims about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism fell apart.) I felt that it was an unjust war, started and supported by the Republicans and opposed by the Democrats. So I became a hard-core Democrat and haven’t found a good reason to look back.
Being a Democrat in Provo was hard; most of the kids I went to school with were Republican, and many were very abusive to the few Democrats who dared to be vocal. They attacked our righteousness, patriotism and worthiness. I even had a seminary teacher mock me and my politics in front of my class. My senior year, about ten of us formed DAFT, the Democratic Association for T___ High School, partly so we would have a collective bull’s-eye on our backs rather then individual ones. It was hard to have friends and teachers ridicule my politics, but it taught me how to defend my choices in relation to Mormonism, a skill I needed at BYU, which was also not very welcoming of my politics.
In learning to defend my politics, my reasons for being a Democrat expanded, and those expansions were largely based on Mormonism. I vote Democrat because Christ taught that we should take care of the poor and needy, and the Book of Mormon teaches,
“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need … Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent…” (Mosiah 4:16-18)
Democrats tend to spend more money on welfare programs, health care access and public education, while Republicans tend to cut things like welfare, Planned Parenthood and public school funding., and I struggle to see how cutting welfare is in line with the command to take care of the poor.
We are also taught that “God is no respecter of persons.” (Act 10:34.) I interpret that to mean men and women are equally intelligent and capable.
So capable adult women don’t need anyone telling them what to do with their bodies or lives because they can decide for themselves. I also interpret that scripture to mean that the rich do not deserve more power or rights then the poor. So policies that favor the rich over the poor do not, in my mind, fall in line with Christ’s teachings.
Finally, we are taught from Primary on that we are all children of Heavenly Parents. This did not square with the Republicians in my community and in the media calling for nuclear bombings of the Middle East, insulting Muslims, homosexuals and women, and denying health care, food and shelter to people who have not “earned” it.
The Democratic party is far from perfect, but I feel perfectly comfortable standing with James E. Faust and saying “I’m a Mormon and I vote Democrat.”