We The People

mormon flagAbout 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.


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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6 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    This is a good point, Jess. I for one tend to get bogged down in fussing and complaining about what Church leaders do and don’t do, but you’re certainly right that there’s a lot more that I could be doing within my own small sphere of influence to change the Church for the better.

  2. Suzette Smith says:

    Garden variety heretics …. I love that. The gospel net gathers all kinds and I think it’s important to love, respect – and try to understand. All of us need different things from our spiritual community and we do value values at different weights. I think this is the reason why organized religion is good at helping us become more Christ-like … we actually have to work with, talk with, and worship with … people we don’t always like. As we learn to love each other, I believe we become more like our Savior.

  3. Caroline says:

    Great post, Jessawhy. ” This is our church too,” Love that point. It reminds me of a story I heard, and I wish I knew the details, but of course I’ve forgotten them, but it was about an LDS woman, perhaps a RS pres, who did something extraordinary, like setting up an orphanage in another country. Someone asked her why went ahead and did it, why she didn’t wait for the Church to get it started. Her reaction: “I am the Church!”

    Yes. We are the Church — with all our heterodox ideas and different ways of approaching things.

  4. April says:

    This is so motivational. I often feel disenfranchised by the church, but I feel more empowered, and more content, if I take initiative and advocate for what I believe in, just as I do in the context of my government.

  5. Naismith says:

    I’m a convert, and never was inculcated in the “don’t speak up” mentality. When I’d been a member a few years, the RS president casually mentioned that she had written the stake president to complain about the meeting schedule.

    “You can do that?” I asked.

    “Of course, you should do that. How else will they know how policies are affecting people?”

    And I’ve kinda followed that advice. That it is our responsibility as a citizen of the church.

    There is a downside, however. It may be hard to remain angry when you actually talk to people about stuff you don’t like.

    The first few times I complained about something to a bishop, assuming that no women were present when the decision was made, I was wrong. There were women there. I have learned to ask rather than state that there must not have been any women in the room:)

    Later as RS president, I would get tearful phone calls about something the bishop had said to a sister. I was glad that they felt they could call on me. When I talked about it with the bishops, they invariable said, “She thought I said THAT?!” And they didn’t seem to be spinning or evading, but genuinely puzzled and concerned at the interpretation. I am not sure it is worth watching all of the BBC movie of Little Dorrit to see this, but the last scene of the first disc and first scene of the last disc are exactly the same instance–only from his and her point of view.

    So now when I hear someone complaining about a bishop or whatever, while I appreciate that sometimes bishops really are wrong, I can’t help wondering if there is partly a communication snafu.

  6. Destiny PS4 says:

    It’s like Pokemon wwithout the pesky storyline or purpose.
    By developing the above mental qualities
    man becomes the lord of 8 glories and 9 gems of Kubera (god of wealth).
    This time it’s Diablo III that isn’t able to break into the full HD
    arena for thee Xbox One.

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