The theme continues: the value of diversity of political opinion and
Excerpts from an interview between the Salt Lake Tribune and Pres.
Marlin K. Jensen, of Church Public Affairs, 05/03/98 after an earlier 1P
statement, issued 2 months before in January 1998, appeared to have been
misunderstood, and attracted criticism [talk about criticizing the
brethren!] from a well-known LDS Republican Representative. Pres.
Jensen, later called to the Presidency of the 70, was at this time a
member of the 1st Quorum of 70 (and had been for 9 years), and was in
his 4th year on the Public Affairs committee. He was asked by Pres.
Hinckley to conduct this interview with the Trib. [If I may be allowed a
speculation, I think they felt it would have a greater impact, a greater
appearance of neutrality if it appeared in the Trib, although as it
happend, the Trib made the request before the Church managed to]
...Here in Utah in part I think it's related to the fact that the
Democratic Party has in the last 20 years waned to the point where it
really is almost not a factor in our political life right now. And I
think there is a feeling that that is not healthy at all -- that as a
state we suffer in different ways. But certainly any time you don't have
the dialogue and the give-and-take that the democratic process provides,
you're going to be poorer for it in the long run.
We are locally and I think there is a feeling that even nationally
as a church, it's not in our best interest to be known as a one-party
church. The national fortunes of the parties ebb and flow. Whereas the
Republicans may clearly have the upper hand today in another 10 years
they may not. So there are just so many reasons I think to have a
<Picture>robust multi-party system<Picture> going locally and nationally
for us, as well as the international responsibilities we feel -- that's
at the heart of this as well.''
Tribune: Democrats, only half-jokingly, say it may be time for
the LDS Church to once again draw a line down the middle of ward houses
and assign parties.
Jensen: I think if you look at the letter you'll notice that
there's a reference here to urging men and women to be willing to serve
-- as you were mentioning -- on school boards, in city and county
councils and commissions, state legislatures and other high offices of
either election or appointment, including involvement in the political
party of their choice. I think that really was an attempt, is an attempt
on the part of the First Presidency to indicate that part of being a
good Latter-day Saint would be to be politically active in a party of
our choice. That we just can't sit by and let other people -- other good
people -- do that. By the way, I can't resist just telling you one
little story that Oscar McConkie told me once. (He's a prominent
Democratic member of the church, if you know him.)...
Tribune: Some LDS members subscribe to the notion that it is
difficult, if not impossible, to be a faithful Mormon and a Democrat.
People point to such things as the gay rights and pro-choice planks of
the national Democratic Party. How do you respond?
Jensen: That's true. And it is a challenge. And yet, you know, the
Republicans came very close last time to bringing a [subject matter
deleted due to Zion-L charter rules] plank into their platform. That was
maybe the biggest battle of their convention. Which shows that if you're
a pure ideologue, eventually you're going to have trouble in either
When people say to me, `how do you rationalize being a Democrat?'
I just say I take everything that's true and good and hang onto it. And
the basic, historically the basic foundational principles of the
Democratic Party have appealed to me more. But that's a matter really of
personal choice, it has nothing to do with our salvation. ...
...And I guess we would probably hope that they wouldn't abandon a party
necessarily because it has a philosophy or two that may not square with
Mormonism. Because, as I say, they in their philosophies ebb and flow. I
think the main thing is to stay involved and work within the existing
framework, work for changes if they need to brought about. ...
...Tribune: What is the attitude of church leaders toward the lingering
sentiment among some Mormons -- apparently stemming back to comments
made by former LDS President Ezra Taft Benson -- that it is difficult to
be a good LDS member and a Democrat?
Jensen: I do not know about the authenticity of his statement.
But, taking it for a true statement, that may be something you would
want to verify. I don't know that this (recent First Presidency)
statement was issued at all with reference to that statement.
But I think I could safely say that one of the things that
prompted this discussion in the first place was the regret that's felt
about the decline of the Democratic Party and the notion that may
prevail in some areas that you can't be a good Mormon and a good
Democrat at the same time. There have been some awfully good men and
women who have, I think, been both and are both today. So I think it
would be a very healthy thing for the church -- particularly the Utah
church -- if that notion could be obliterated....
So, Steven. Are you going to follow the (living) brethren or the (dead)
brother? This kind of interview must really make those who have trouble
seeing things in other than black and white, really sweat.
Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland
“We do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and
deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences
have been properly debated…To think of the future and wait was merely
another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just
an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a
question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.”
– Pericles about his fellow-Athenians, as quoted by Thucydides in “The
Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the
author solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the
author’s employer, nor those of any organization with which the author
may be associated.
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