Many religions are often dominated by a conservative political mindset. You frequently hear the term religious right and how they have power and influence in conservative politics. This is something not nearly as evident when it comes to the religious left -- people of faith who are politically liberal.
One such religion where liberalism seems almost non-existent is the LDS faith.While the LDS church publicly maintains that it is politically neutral and does not endorse certain parties or political candidates, the overwhelming majority of its U.S. members identify with conservative political beliefs. A study done by the Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of Mormons identify as Republican/lean Republican while only 22 percent identify as Democrat/lean Democrat. The LDS faith is a fairly conservative religion whose belief system seems to align quite well with conservative politics. Like many conservatives the faith does not support same-sex marriage or abortion. A majority of faith members don't believe in the theory of evolution and also prefer a smaller government that provides less services to its people.
So one might ask, how can liberal political beliefs fit into a religion that seems so conservative? As an liberal Democrat I believe many of my political beliefs are quite congruent with LDS principles. Here are several reasons why LDS liberalism resonates with me.
1) Economic opportunity should be available to all and not just those at the top 1 percent. We are taught in the Mormon faith to lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate. The way in which we can do this is by restoring a system of American prosperity; we need to level the playing field. Everyone should have the chance to get ahead and stay ahead.
2) Healthcare is a right not a privilege. Mormons believe in financial responsibility -- the LDS leadership often reminds the members to stay out of debt. Healthcare debt is a huge problem, we now see medical bankruptcy accounting for the majority of personal bankruptcies. Guaranteeing health care to all citizens allows more money to stay in the pockets of everyday American families and less in the hands of the healthcare insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
3) Investing in higher education should be a priority in this country. Mormons believe in the importance of education. That's why, we continually encourage young Mormons to go to college. If we as LDS members truly value education we will elect representatives who will work to increase student aid and lower the federal student loan interest rate. More and more of our young people should be given the chance to go to college, free from the near mountain of debt they are currently faced with.
4) Mormons believe in supporting and strengthening the family. Issues such as paid family leave and equal pay for women will strengthen our families. When women and families succeed, we are better off as a church, as a community, and as a nation.
5) Mormons value safety and sadly, gun violence claims the lives of nearly 90 people every day (7 of which are children and teens). Thoughts and prayers will do little to stop the gun deaths unless we actually put them into action by working to pass common sense gun laws. The laws should include mandatory background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, repealing the gun industry's unique immunity protection, and an assault weapons ban.
6) In regards to abortion I believe an increase of sex and health education in our schools, along with access to contraceptives, will decrease the need for abortion. As a pro-choice Mormon I believe that every child born should be wanted and loved. There are certain circumstances in which abortion may be necessary and therefor should be safe, legal and rare.
7) Mormons believe this earth is a creation from God. We also know that the science is clear -- climate change is real and caused by human activity. As Mormons we have a moral obligation to work toward protecting this earth and its resources. This means lowering our CO2 emissions and investing in sustainable energy sources. It means continuing to strengthen the environmental regulations that keep our air and water sources clean and healthy.
8) Political participation is highly encouraged for LDS members. We are asked to study the issues, register and then vote. Like Mormons, liberals also believe the right to vote should be protected by law. Conservatives on the other hand work to disenfranchise many American citizens from voting including the elderly, minorities, and young people.
9) We are a country of immigrants and stronger because of it. As President Uchtdorf recently said when meeting with President Obama on immigration reform"Our principle, I declared to the president, is that we love our neighbor, which means we love all people, in all places and at all times," President Uchtdorf said. "One of the core values we stand for is families. The separation of families (in U.S. immigration policy) isn't helping."
10) I, along with a growing number of Mormons, believe that supporting the family means ALL families. We must always practice the love and acceptance Christ taught which means, that our LGBTQ family members, friends, and neighbors deserve the same rights and privileges afforded to any other person in this country. I firmly support trans-rights, improved conditions for all LGBTQ people (including LGBTQ people of color), non-discrimination laws, and marriage equality.
Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader and an active Mormon stated it best when he said, "I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."