Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Heubener" and Utah Politics

I recently watched Thomas F. Rogers’ play “Heubener,” the story of a young Mormon Elder in wartime Germany whose Branch President tries desperately to reconcile his faith with his citizenship citing the 12th Article of Faith of the LDS Church, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” However, he also tries to reconcile his beliefs with the dogma of the ruling Nazi party.

This attempt at reconciliation, in Rogers’ own words, “serves as the philosophical crux of the play,” which struck close to home for me in that I’ve seen in our own community, and by extension Utah politics in general, attempts by faithful Mormons to reconcile doctrine with political rhetoric. This attitude even has Mormons questioning each other’s morality and worthiness based on their political leanings despite statements issued by the Church that “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.”

It’s my hope, since we are currently between elections, that these observations will not be arbitrarily dismissed like so much political hot air. It seems that in our two party system––no matter how much the parties claim to be open to differing views––when it comes time to vote, all members of a party are expected to tow the line in accordance with the views of the party leadership (often representing the most extreme ends of the political spectrum). Such attitudes make the efforts of moderates futile.

When any one party is in control of government for an extended period of time, I’m reminded of Lord Acton’s caveat that “Power... corrupt[s] and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In our federal government we can recall major shifts of power in Congress to check the Executive branch mid-term; most notably 1994 and 2006. But what of Utah’s political climate in which, despite a state constitution that was modeled on the Federal one, has effectively become a one-party system over the last generation largely by appealing to Mormons by implying that their party is more righteous than others? How many Utah candidates include their LDS Missions on their resumes? All this flies in the face of established Doctrine: “We do not believe it just to MINGLE religious influence with civil government...” (D&C 134:9) (emphasis added) While the Church encourages its members to participate in all aspects of government from voting to running for office, even participation in political parties, it still places a great deal of emphasis on members thinking for themselves when casting their votes. “ for and actively support those YOU believe will most nearly carry out YOUR ideas of good government.” (emphasis added) I think Mormons would be better served by not allying themselves with any political party. An unaffiliated voter, either in the voting booth or on the floor of a legislative body, is freer to vote their conscience and would not feel politically pressured to “tow the line.”