Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Democrat in the LDS Church: Part 2

Yes, I forgot to warn you this was a two part series.

I just didn't feel yesterday's post was complete. I barely reached my point at the end.

So let's pick back up where we left off...

Before that awkward incident I wrote about last night even took place, I'd decided I wasn't too comfortable with Oshkosh Ward members friending my on facebook. It's not that I have anything to hide. It's just that, until moving to Oshkosh, I'd used friend requests on facebook to catch up with people from a former phase of my life. Friending someone on facebook before I actually friended them in real life felt really wrong. But what was I to do, I couldn't ignore their requests? That would only lead to no friendship at all, in facebook or real life. My conclusion was simply that I'd accept all incoming requests, but that I wouldn't send any myself. It's a goal pretty easy to stick to. Then, if I bothered someone with my occasional "liberal" posts, I wouldn't fully be at fault.

My audience here might beg to differ, but I try not to be too far left on facebook. The most recent NPR article I posted was about a Dr in India who restores sight to thousands of blind patients through an efficient and affordable surgery. The last 2012 Presidential Race video I posted was of Jon Hunstman. And I do try to keep such posts to an every other week minimum. When I have posted about politics in Wisconsin, I've tried to stay neutral, very matter of fact. About a month ago I announced there were enough signatures collected to recall Scott Walker. I didn't mention if I thought that was a good thing or a bad. Within just a few short minutes, two members from my ward liked the status.

There have been other incidents where members from my ward have commented in a way that leads me to believe they share my political beliefs. While waiting for Bishopric meetings to start, one of the councilors has shown Ben clips of The Daily Show. While visit teaching, one sister mentioned her distress over the changing state laws. Another sister quickly told her she didn't want to talk about those things. I understand not wanting to discuss politics while visit teaching, but the program is set up to watch after the welfare of our ward family. I felt the icy situation had only been brought up because the sister was reaching out for help, for support, and perhaps a few words of encouragement. "You're a hard worker, if you aren't valued at this school, you can find a job elsewhere."  or "I can't imagine how difficult it must be to worry about health insurance coverage, considering your husband's history with cancer."  But instead, she was told to change topic.

That moment broke my heart.

More recently, a sister friended me, right before we were meeting up for a Saturday lunch. As we were leaving the restaurant, I had to pull her aside.  I started "this may make me sound crazy, but I saw you were a Democrat on facebook . . . and that really made my day."

She looked back at me mortified. How did I know this about her?  "Maybe it was a mistake?"  I asked.

"No, I'm a Democrat," almost in shock "that's on my facebook?"

"Yes, and I was so thrilled to see it."  I added, "you really will love Utah if you decide to move there, but that part of Utah, you will not love."

Then in a hush "Oh, I know, that's the only reason (husband) is hesitant to go. He doesn't know if he can handle it. That's his only gripe about Church members."

Over lunch, I was moved by this sisters conversion story.  Her husband's testimony was such a strength that blessed her whole family and some of his own extended family members.  I recalled a talk he had given earlier this summer. His topic was charity, and I have always remembered it for it's gentle undertone, a polite reminder that we should never turn any beggars away.

"I remember his talk, it's been like 6 months . . . but I will always remember his talk."

"Oh my goodness, I threatened him. You better not do that, or I won't go. I'll tell him you appreciated it. It's so weird that you noticed that," her thoughts were back to facebook.

"I'm kind of obsessed with politics," and then we had to part -- return back to the group where neither one of us would dare let all the other sisters know we were likely to vote for Obama and roll our eyes in disgust over Utah politics.

I'm not sure why I was always convinced I was a rare breed. When I look back at my life, I see clearly that there have always been good LDS Democrats around me. Serving as my Stake President, my home teachers, or even just my friend, they have all been a guide of charity and humility. Hopefully, with this election year underway, we can all acknowledge our differences, avoid shoving our opinions at one another, and still be thoughtful enough to consider each other's concerns.


Polly Blevins said...

It's weird how people care so much about each others affiliation. Talking politics is fun whether you agree or disagree (then again, it is easy for me to agree to disagree peacefully). It is just sad how people let it define who they are. It is like sexual orientation. Sure, homosexuality is not right, that does not mean that I don't like the person. Religion is the same. Do I dislike anyone who is not LDS? No, it doesn't matter. Our actions and heart should define us not these other things.

Kelli said...

Another good post, Liz. I wish we lived closer. I would love to talk more politics with you. I am a political novice. Only in the past couple years have I started getting into it more. Before that I was ignorant and didn't even know where to start to change it. Anyway, I want to know more and understand both sides better. I've had fun watching the GOP debates, but I wish there were also Democrat debates because it's fun to watch and learn. I look forward to watching Obama and the GOP candidate.

Anonymous said...

Great post sis. I do not envy your LDS friends who are moving to Utah. It will be a major cultural and political shock to them. I have known good Mormons -- Republican and Democrat alike -- who regretted their move to Zion, as it was not at all what they envisioned it to be. Unfortunately they discovered a narrow mindedness never before seen -- especially with our ultra right wing Republican Legislature. Hope they have strong enough testimonies to handle Utah reality.

Life is much easier for you in Utah if you are a closet Democrat. I'm ashamed to admit it, but most of the time in public I am just that. On occasion, I will pipe up and say something like "You know what you are saying is offensive to some people in the group -- or at least me." A lighthearted comment such as that usually will change the topic. Unfortunately most Mormons in Utah think that everyone thinks alike -- and most of them do -- but that does NOT make their line of thinking right or wrong.

I was appalled to hear the poll that 85% of Mormons prefer Romney, followed by Huntsman, with less than 5% preferring Reid. The reason behind those survey results, in my opinion, is that we are so trained as a people to be lock-step, non thinking conformists that we must weigh in on the side of the majority or we fear we are not choosing the right (the extreme far right most of the time). Of course you have to consider that I would have cast 50% of my vote for Harry, 49.99% for Jon and .01% for Mitt!!

I was thinking back to when I was a child. Delta was 99% LDS, 55% Republican. At that time, it was okay to be a Democrat, but an inactive LDS person was not treated so kindly. Of course I was in that lot. As an adult, Delta is 70% LDS and 85% Republican. Religion has become less of a discriminator and political ostracism has risen dramatically. There are still those select few who believe they are the "chosen" by virtue of the LDS tag, but I think there are many fewer than when I was a child -- a very good thing. Let's face it, I'm just doomed to life on the "other side of the tracks."

I think "life on the left" actually has enriched my life -- I could never ever be a sheep. I herded sheep for hours as a child and next to chickens they are the dumbest animals I know.

Now don't go drawing any unintended conclusions!

Love, Pa

Scott and Claudia said...

Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we could all be respectful of each others opinions. Agree to disagree. Attack the issue without attacking the people or party. Politics unfortunately do not foster that environment. They seem to sometimes bring out the worst in people. Sorry I told you and Phil to shut up when discussing the death penalty!! Love from mom

Scott and Claudia said...

Have a great evening! xoxox MOM

Cami said...

Now one of your lurkers must come from the shadows to share a recent experience:

Someone in Sunday School mentioned that Harry Reid is LDS, to which the teacher responded, "He's not active." (Because, you know, no active member of the Church could actually be a Democrat.) She wasn't very happy when I told her of a recent interview I'd heard with his home teaching companion, who attested to Bro. Reid's activity, and also his perfect record of home teaching.

Love your posts, Liz.

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