LDS members should vote carefully, letter says

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    By Scarlett M. Barger

    With elections in November, LDS Church leaders and campus political clubs advise students to vote based on what they feel is important.

    Church public affairs representative Dale Bills said the First Presidency sent out a letter dated Oct. 4, for bishops to read to their congregations, re-affirming the Church’s long-standing policy on political neutrality.

    “Latter-day Saints are under special obligation to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are ‘wise,’ ‘good’ and ‘honest’ (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10),” the letter stated.

    Both BYU Democrat President Jake Rugh and BYU Republican President Brandon Minster said one of their main goals this semester is to register students to vote.

    BYU students need to recognize the right and responsibility they have to make a difference, Minster said.

    Rugh said he personally prefers the Democratic Party because he feels it is the party of social justice and seeks a role in which the government can help the public.

    On the other hand, Minster said he feels the Republican Party has more faith in the common man.

    Minster said that although he prefers the Republican Party, he sees the value of the two-party system in bringing about change.

    Since students are bound to disagree with every candidate on something, they should not judge candidates on a “one issue basis,” said BYU political science instructor, Byron Daynes.

    “Take account of their background experience; their vision for America; their leadership abilities. See how they respond to the needy and destitute, those who have the weakest voices. Look at their humanity, then make up your own mind,” Daynes said.

    Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the First Quorum of the Seventy also talked about the church’s policy in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune dated April 23, 1998.

    In Utah, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state legislature 3-1, and the ratio is similar in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Idaho, Elder Jensen said in the interview.

    Part of the reason for this in Utah is because of the prevailing notion that good Mormons cannot be good Democrats simultaneously, Elder Jensen said.

    This notion, however, does not reflect the Church’s opinion of politics, he said. LDS people are encouraged to use their agency to decide which candidate will best promote their views, he said.

    Elder Jensen said ideas and stances of parties change over time, so it is better to not be tied down to one party.

    He explained that the differences in parties are a positive thing because dialogue between parties can influence real societal change.

    “There’s some substance to the differences there, and if the one voice is basically unrepresented, then we’re going to suffer, I think, over time,” he said.

    Church members should also run for office and become more actively involved in politics to make sure LDS values are represented, he said.

    Sometimes, it isn’t always easy to decide whom to vote for, but it can be done, Elder Jensen said.

    “I think everyone who is a good Latter-day Saint is going to have to pick and choose a little bit regardless of the party that they’re in. But I think there’s room for that, and the gospel leaves us lots of latitude,” he said.

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