I can not talk about my involvement with the LDS Democrats without first divulging that I am not, in fact, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To add to this point, I have never been a member and have no particular plans to join the Church – I figure that if, after 28 years of living in Zion, I have chosen not to join, and odds are low that I will. That being said, My Republican Wife is Mormon and, yes, as the cliche goes, I have many Mormon friends.
But the fact that my wife and many of my friends are Mormon still did not enter into the equation – heck, I am drinking coffee as I am writing this post – no, no, the reason I have decided to affiliate with the LDS Dems goes much deeper than that.
I should preface this post with a story. At the mass meetings held in March, I sat with my precinct and began speaking with my neighbors (many of whom I had never met before) about how I wanted to be a delegate. During my speech, I had mentioned that I was starting to get involved with the LDS Dem’s as part of my various achievements to prove that I was a “good” Democrat worthy of their vote. At the end of the voting, one person came up to me and asked if I was married to Jill (the famous MRW). Somewhat surprised, I said yes and asked how they knew. ”Well,” he replied “I am the bishop for the ward she is in and I have been waiting to see her.” Yes, thanks to the LDS Dems, I had met my MRW’s bishop before she had.
And this really points to the power of the LDS Dems – to empower those who didn’t know they had a source. I do feel that, being the good Democrat I am, I support any and all new caucuses to ensure their success; but that is a very weak answer. More to the point, I think it is very important for a group such as the LDS Dems to exist because they fly in the face of the stereotype that only Mormons are Republican. No one is surprised to hear that there is an Environmental, Labor, or Progressive caucus within the Democratic Party – but one that is designed for, run by, and reaches out to Mormons? Well, you got something there.
Having gone to numerous meetings and events, and having spoken to people who have previously not been involved in Democratic politics, the reason for this caucus becomes apparent – time and time again I hear new people say “I didn’t know there were so many Mormon Democrats – I thought I was the only one.”
And that, my friends, is why I am so proud to be an LDS Democrat despite not being LDS – because it provides a voice and power to those who had previously felt disenfranchised.
It is hard, as a nonmember, to be a Democrat in Utah. Republicans do a fantastic job judging you and degrading you without much consideration as to why nonmembers think and feel the way they do. I can only imagine what it is like to be an outsider when they are on the “inside;” To be under the perception that you are only “kind of” one of the group. The LDS Caucus helps to provide a voice to those who did not know that others think and fell they way they do – both politically and religiously.
And this is the true power of the caucus. Near as I can tell (and based on many questions asked to my wife) the LDS Dem’s are completely in line with the teachings of the Church. As a group, they have come together and codified their individual feelings into a group that recognizes that you can be Mormon and a Democrat, just as much as you can be a Mormon and a Republican.
I have felt for years that a group such as the LDS Democrats should exists. To talk about Mormons only in a negative light when talking politics is political suicide in this state – it denies or disregards the fact that the state is predominantly Mormon, and it ignores the fact that there are many good people (on both sides of the isle mind you) that really do have the best interests of all of the states citizens in mind when creating policy. The LDS Dems allows the Democratic party to reach out to those and invite them in – to learn more about what a Democrat really is while still allowing them to exist in a comfortable environment. It is a surefire way to not only ensure more Democratic votes, but also to ensure that more people are actively involved in the democratic process that makes this nation great.
We must also not forget that the LDS Democrats provide a real service to non-members within the party. Many times non-members don’t know how to approach sensitive political topics to Mormons when they are out shaking hands and looking for votes. By having this caucus within the party, candidates are able to learn how to communicate ideas to Mormons in a familiar language without disregarding their own thoughts and feelings. In a way the LDS Dem’s serve to “translate” Democratic values to those who wish to learn more. Anyone who has ever run for office or been involved in a political campaign can speak to the power of this – Democrats, in general, know how to talk about education or the environment, but to be able to directly talk to the largest voting block in the state? Now that is a fantastic resource.
Some have scoffed at the idea of a Mormon caucus within the Democratic party – saying that it is a ploy or a joke. To them I just say “watch.” The attendance of the caucus rivaled those of long established groups at the state convention that took place a month ago. Impressive considering that they became an “official” caucus that very same day.
So, I am an LDS Democrat because I feel that it is important for Mormons to know that there is a place to be Mormon and a Democrat; that you can follow the Church’s teachings while still leaning left; to reach out to those who have felt disenfranchised and alone; and, perhaps most importantly of all, to acknowledge that (as a non-Mormon) the LDS faith has a very real and very important role to play both inside and outside of our party.
Finally, I should note that MRW is starting to go back to church thanks to the LDS Democrats. At meetings I would joke that she was the LDS and I was the Democrat; but by being around those within her faith has renewed her own. The power of inclusion, the power of faith, and the power to feel like you are part of something bigger, is the real reason why the LDS Dems deserve as much support as any Democrat can give them. They provide a new way for people to get involved (or re-involved) in politics and their faith.
I should also add that, thanks to the LDS Dems and my meeting with MRW’s Bishop – I am now receiving The Word of the Ward under my name, despite it being misspelled.
To learn more about the LDS Dem’s visit ldsdems.org