When most people think of Mormons and politics, they think of ultra-conservative Republicans with a particularly moralistic streak. They think of Mormons as being anathema to progressives, and hating anything to do with Democrats. The secular liberal community wants nothing to do with Mormons, and for the most part, Mormons feel similar.
But I reject that. I reject the idea that Mormons can't be liberals. I reject the idea that Mormons are moralists. I reject the idea that I can't be a secular leftist in my politics while using my LDS faith to inform my values. I reject the idea that I must be hostile to minorities, because "that's what Mormons do". I reject the common Mormon belief that "free agency" means "government can't tax you". I reject all the political stereotypes placed on Mormons.
I am a proud Mormon liberal, and here's why.
First off, I believe that LDS scriptures support a progressive point of view. I'll give a couple of scripture passages, and context to back it up.
On the economic side of liberalism, The Book of Mosiah is very clear about poverty and wealth. The first five or six chapters involve the Nephite (a people from the BoM) King Benjamin giving a massive speech (sort of a State of the Union) to his people. Mosiah Chapter 4, verses 13-24 are of particular interest. I'll bold the parts I think are most relevant.
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.
14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the devil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
16 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; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 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—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
I think that this is one of the clearest religious admonitions against economic greed I have ever seen. It speaks out against the anti-poor viewpoint, it endorses social welfare, and I would say it endorse single-payer healthcare, or at least rails against fully private healthcare, on the grounds that denying someone their health is a sin. This is one of the passages that solidifies my faith, as I truly believe at least this part is divinely inspired.
Mosiah Chapter 18 verse 27 goes on to mention that the righteous followers of the prophet Alma (who have fled from the corrupt King Noah, descendant of King Benjamin) follow a form of progressive taxation (it's not fooling anyone with the phrase "that ye impart of your own free will"):
And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.
Then in Mosiah Chapter 21 verse 17, yet another ruler, King Limhi (who is noted to be very righteous) explictly taxes his people to provide for the welfare of his people after a devastating war:
Now there was a great number of women, more than there was of men; therefore king Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children, that they might not perish with hunger; and this they did because of the greatness of their number that had been slain.
So it's clear to me that my left-wing views about welfare and taxation are valid according to LDS scriptures. These are only a few of the many progressive economic messages in the Book of Mormon. I'll admit that culturally the scriptures are not so enlightened, but I don't use the scriptures for culture.
I guess you could say that I'm a secular multiculturalist when it comes to culture. I know that my Church has had (and still has) many problems with race and ethnicity, but I am very proud that we have members from hundreds of different cultures and nationalities. I love especially that we have a thriving Polynesian Mormon culture, (I find the Church's history in Hawaii fascinating) and that we're slowly trying to make amends and get African members. I love diversity for the sake of different viewpoint, and I find the fact that refugees from Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq settle in Utah very interesting.
And I'm not the type of guy who dislikes other religions; one of the principles taught in LDS theology is that people of other religions aren't heretics or heathens destined to hell, but that all religions have at least a small portion of God's truth. I wholeheartedly believe that, and add the caveat that good-hearted atheists also have God's truth in them as well.
Now at this point, I know some of you might be asking if I support the LDS Church's position on same-sex marriage, or if I support Prop 8. I'll be blunt, I don't, I think that Prop 8 was a waste of time, money, and human labor, and ultimately did nothing but harm the public image of Mormons, even liberal Mormons who didn't support it. I also think that as long as the LDS temples aren't forced to conduct marriages that they don't believe in (the pro-equality side repeatedly point out that they won't force anybody to do that, so it's all good), then we should let people use their own free agency (LDS term for free will) to do what they want with people they love. God will sort everything out in the end, and we shouldn't judge people's preferences. Plus, I have a sister who is gay. Why would I want to deny her marriage?
When it comes to foreign policy, I'm anti-war, but pro intervention in certain humanitarian situations (Libya, Syria). In the LDS scriptures, the usually righteous Nephites always over-extend themselves and face many hardships when they try to aggressively conquer their enemies, rather than simply defending themselves. Plus, I've grown up in the post 9/11 era. After seeing that debacle, of course I'm anti-war. Oh, and unlike most Mormons, I am not pro-Israel. While our scriptures and mindset do support a very pro-Israel view, I feel that Israel has violated the trust of the international community too often, and has turned into what they hate by repressing the Palestinians. I still believe Israel has a right to exist, but I think it needs to have better morals regarding Palestine.
One of my many issues of interest is immigration, and I have a compassion-oriented and history-oriented view towards it. I believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants, and that immigrants strengthen the community, economy, and culture of the nation, regardless of legality or not. It's also clear that to deport immigrants means breaking up families, and that is immoral to say the least. And I think that the history of the LDS supports immigration reform; when we arrived in Utah, we certainly weren't legal immigrants, yet we stayed and made the desert bloom. Why should we weaken our society by deporting those who can make the desert bloom in their own way? I basically support the Obama immigration plan, and the LDS Church recently endorsed it as well.
I suppose you could call me pro-life, as I'm deeply uncomfortable with abortions, and agree with the LDS Church that abortions can usually only be justified in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother being in danger, and genetic diseases that would kill the baby anyway. I'm no abortion extremist though; I'm comfortable with birth control and condoms being used, and would rather have that than abortions. I do think that it's the most morally correct choice for mothers who don't want a baby to carry the fetus to term then give it up for adoption rather than aborting it, but if they abort it, I won't be calling for their heads or anything, I'd just be disappointed. I think that adoptions should be more widespread to lessen abortion. And I'm not going to call for Roe v Wade to be overturned either. I know that back-alley abortions are worse than legal abortions. I also consider myself pro-life because I oppose the death penalty in all but the most heinous of cases (rapist, child molester, and multiple murderer), and even with that, I'm becoming more merciful.
One thing that you think I'd be conservative on is drugs, but honestly, I'm cool with them. While I have the Word of Wisdom, which prevents me from smoking and drinking tea/alcohol/coffee, I feel that that's my own choice, and that similarly, despite my revulsion for drinking and smoking, I don't begrudge you your right to do so. I think marijuana should be regulated and taxed, and I think the War on Drugs is a brutal, vicious failure that causes more suffering than drugs ever did. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the War on Drugs is Satan's plan.
I'm in favor of good education, and increased funding, and I see it as a God-given duty to educate people. After all, the scriptures say that we should build our churches and homes as a "house of learning".
Finally, when it comes to energy, I like to call myself a "clean energy capitalist". I understand the problems of climate change, but I prefer to focus on the opportunities of a clean energy industry and the benefit to local environments. I love the aesthetics of clean energy technology, and I really believe it's the next big thing. There's not much in LDS scriptures to support this view, beyond the "and they pollute the earth" passages, but I think it's no coincidence that the areas where Mormons have settled are ripe for clean energy.
So there you have it. I am a firm liberal Mormon, I know why I am so, and I am proud of it. Thanks for reading.