Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quote of the Day

"My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined.
I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."

Senator Harry Reid,
addressing students at a BYU Devotional on Tuesday, October 9, 2007


buddens said...

Love it! That needs to be on a sign somewhere in Utah. Maybe at the entrance to General Conference? Or maybe implement it as a new lesson in the Sunday School manuals and title it "Democrat is not a swear word."

Bryan Hickman said...

Of course, Harry, there was that whole Marriage Protection Amendment that the Church told its members to support...but...you know...whatever.

Marc said...

Hickman - Ha. How did I know you'd be among the first to respond with something like that? Your comment is unfair on a couple of fronts:

(1) The letter from May of last year did not tell members to support the Amendment. It asked them to "express themselves" to their representatives. While the Church supported the amendment, Dallin H. Oaks says in an interview on the Church website: "There are people who oppose a federal Constitutional amendment because they think that the law of family should be made by the states. I can see a legitimate argument there." This is why Reid opposed the amendment.

(2) The Church makes clear that LDS politicians are, ultimately, supposed to do what they think is best. Again, on the Church's website: Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.

Marc said...

PS - I opposed the Amendment too.

Bryan Hickman said...


1. I was mostly joking. I don't think that the Church dictates party affiliation or even a particular vote on the MPA.

2. I too believe that states should be able to make their own policies regarding gay marriage.

3. That being said, while Harry Reid and other Democrats opposed the MPA on "states' rights" ground, I seriously doubt they would support a constitutional amendment that would guarantee states the right to set their own marriage standards because this would, in effect, prevent the courts from imposing gay marriage through judicial mysticism (divining constitutional rights that are neither mentioned in nor logically inferred from the Constitution) -- the Democrats preferred method of policy making.

3. Nor do I think they'd agree with a Supreme Court decision finding that states have the right to outlaw gay marriage under the Constitution. In fact, I think they'd publicly decry those pesky originalists on the court for refusing to "safeguard civil rights" or whatever the crap they say about judges who don't pick the winners of court cases based on the identity of the parties.

4. Whenever Democrats come out in support of states' rights, you know there's something fishy. In this case, Reid and his hippy friends use the "states' rights" argument so they don't have publicly admit to supporting gay marriage. Darn cowardly if you ask me.

Dan Simpson said...

Politics aside, I have issues with a comment like this:

"In the past years we've had some very prominent members of the church, like Ezra Taft Benson, who are really right-wing people.
"Members of the church are obedient and followers in the true sense of the word, but these people have taken members of the church down the path that is the wrong path,"

So, Ezra Taft Benson, the Prophet Seer and Revelator (according to members of the church, if you're not a member, think whatever you want) led members down the wrong path. I don't care how he votes on marriage, that statement to me shows how he holds his political opinions higher than his religious convictions.


"I say our diplomatic army should be larger than our military army."

is just blind, pandering, tripe. It is one of the stupider things I have heard a politician say in a long time.

Marc said...

Damn... just as I was starting to get some work done. Couple of thoughts in response:

1) I think your argument doesn't really have legs. Reid voted to support the Defense of Marriage Act which guarantees states the right to set their own marriage standards by allowing them to refuse to recognize the marriages from other states that are prohibited under their own state law. It's not been overturned, nor is there any indication whatsoever that it will be. There's no reason for a constitutional amendment on this issue nor does the country need what would certainly be a divisive push to pass one.

2. Your idle speculation that Democrats would disagree with the Supreme Court finding that states have the right to ban gay marriage is without any shred of support.

3. Your subtle digs on judicial philosophy are distractions. There are activist judges on the right and left. Originalism often ends up being pretty activist actually. Clinton appointed two minimalist judges who have legitimate and defensible judicial philosophies.

4. Sounds to me like your real problem with Harry Reid is not with the position he's taken on this issue, it's more simply that he's a Democrat. To this I'd quote the late Apostle Hugh B. Brown:

"Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion, and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of our definition of religious orthodoxy a variation in political belief."

Marc said...

Dan - I believe the comment was directed at Benson's controversial political activities in the 1960's which basically had the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles irritated. His interaction with the John Birch Society, his approval of the insinuation that the former President Eisenhower had communist sympathies, his accusations that Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rest of the Civil Rights leaders were leading a communist revolution, etc. Most of the Twelve, regardless of political affiliation, opposed Benson's political activities and he was directed to cease them after President McKay died. By the time he became prophet, he was much more apolitical. If you haven't, you should read David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.

Dan Simpson said...

I will do you a favor, that you obviously can't extend to me. I will assume that you aren't an idiot.

Though you may think, man this guy doesn't know much about how extreme Benson was in the 60's, I won't make such assumptions about your knowledge.

First, while I think the book you mention has some great insights, I also think it must be taken for what it is, a fairly unverifiable history. It is primarily based on the notes of a secretary, released decades after the fact. I find these questionable for two reasons. By the time the book comes out, anyone able to confirm or deny such happenings is dead. Secondly, and it goes much less to the veracity, but more to the motivations, such notes, if true and accurate, would have been a sacred trust. The fact that she, or more appropriately, her nephew or whoever the guy was, would make them public smacks of agenda, and/or desire to get gain. Let me be clear, however, my problems with this book are based on its shoddiness as far as it being an historical work, not because it happens to cast someone in a bad light.

While I am more than aware of Pres. Benson's earlier political leanings, and don't myself subscribe to all of his personal thoughts, I also have the capacity to see them as such. I would ask you to point to anywhere he contradicted the teachings, or doctrines of the gospel? He saw a big communist scare, well duh, he lived through the worst of the cold war. Though its easy to look now and see that the Soviet Union's collapse was imminent, the threat then was big, and it was real.

I don't subscribe to the idea that democrat and mormon are mutually exclusive. However, I also don't see people in the church clinging to the republican party for any sort of reason that could be attributed to 'right-wing nuttery' of Pres. Benson. Most of the republican/mormons I know, are that way, and strongly that way because of one simple subject, abortion.

Is it a bit short-sighted, yes. But I can understand it, because it is a fairly major idea, one of the few things that can make it so you can never go on a mission. (Maybe later as an elderly couple, I am not sure about that).

I don't think either party lines up with the Church's stances, I think its ridiculous to line one's self up with either party, as I think they are all wrong together.

When he says that Pres. Benson has taken members down the wrong path, he has nothing to back that up with. Whether you are talking about an Apostle, or the President of the Church, they are, at least according to members, prophets, seers and revelators. I think you better have something better to back that up with than you disagree with their political stances.

Marc said...

Dan - Your initial comment insinuated that Reid was claiming that Benson, as prophet, led the Church down the wrong path. My comment was intended simply to rebut that and point out that, in all likelihood, Reid was only referring to Benson's political activities in the 1960s. I made no assuming or snide remarks in my comment.

I also don't have the time to get into a philosophical discussion about historicity here, because I recognize its limitations, but I will point out that the David O. McKay book is based almost entirely off primary source materials (Decades of David O. McKay's personal papers) and is about as verifiable as history gets.

Benson's political activities in the 1960's ran deeper cannot simply be written off as opposition to communism. It seems that everything gotten swallowed up into communism in his world view, prompting Harold B. Lee to once exclaim that it appeared as though anyone who disagreed with Benson was a "communist." Former President Eisenhower once asked an LDS politician just what had happened to Eisenhower's former Secretary of Agriculture, whom he had stood by during controversy during his administration.

I don't want to end up being an apologist for Reid here. It wasn't the wisest remark to make, regardless of what truth may or may not ultimately lie behind it. And in the end I agree with you. No one should cede their decision-making to a party. They should think about issues themselves and decide what they believe irrespective of party platforms. They may fall more comfortably within a political party based on those positions, but they shouldn't let parties dictate to them what their positions should be.

Dan Simpson said...

One note, the book was based almost entirely on McKay's secretaries papers, not his own.

Dan Simpson said...

Other than that, we have little disagreement.

Marc said...

Dan - That characterization is misleading and simply not true. The book was based on a collection of McKay's documents in every sense of the term. McKay's secretary of some 35 years compiled the collection with McKay's authorization, that much is true, but they are a collection of his documents, records of his meetings, etc. No one in McKay's position compiles those types of things themselves. To quote from the book itself:

"I [co-author Gregory Prince] was astounded at the detail of the record that Clare Middlemiss had compiled the particular diaries. Yet... the title "diaries," which is what both Middlemiss and McKay called them, [is] something of a misnomer. While there are abundant first-person dictations in the diaries (it is all typescript), they are only a small minority of the total record. The remainder consists of extracts from the minutes of various meetings, memoranda, letters, newspaper clippings, from 1967 on photocopies of [Elder] Alvin R. Dyer's daily record, and other materials. As a result, the diaries are rarely introspective."

Beyond this expansive collection of documents, the authors also relied on the existing published record of David O. McKay materials, various unpublished materials in the Church Archives, at the U of U, and elsewhere, and a couple hundred interviews conducted by the authors (including interviews of President Hinckley, Elder Monson, and Elder Packer).

Interestingly, a great deal of the Church Archives' McKay collection was compiled by Ms. Middlemiss as well.

There are few, if any, other books dealing with Mormon history that pull from a database of first hand sources more rich than this one. Given how restrictive the Church Archives has been since the early 1980's with many of its first-hand records dealing with Church leaders, it's possible we'll never see a collection of source materials that equals the one this book was based off of.

Marc said...

By the way, I have a copy of an interesting Washington Post article from 1965 that touches on the divisions within the Quorum of the Twelve that Elder Benson's political extremism was causing. It's worth a look. (Here it is in PDF format).

Treidi said...

errr. I enjoyed Harry reid's speech quite a lot.

He said some amazing things and i really respect him as a leader, church member, and all around man.

PS-that hugh b brown quote is a solid.

King Family said...

All members should agree that their political choices are most likely "intertwined" with their religion. What you believe in affects almost every decision you make. The tough part is accepting that we all receive different answers.
Its funny because growing up (and even now) my dad would always tell me, "Ang, if Heavenly Father had to choose a party-he would be a democrat." Not necessarily agreeing, just sharing.

Marc said...

Wait... is your dad Harry Reid?

felicity said...

"No one should cede their decision-making to a party. They should think about issues themselves and decide what they believe irrespective of party platforms. They may fall more comfortably within a political party based on those positions, but they shouldn't let parties dictate to them what their positions should be."
I like it, Marc. And I fully agree with you on this point (and many others, by the way). That said, why do you then so passionately embrace the democratic party? I never saw you with a "Friends don't let friends vote democrat" bumper sticker, for example, even though I do believe I've seen the opposite one floating around your home... :)
'Nanu hat gesagt'

Marc said...

"why do you then so passionately embrace the democratic party?"

That seems a little strong. I would certainly agree that on the political spectrum I lean left and, if anything, I call myself a Democrat. But my "embrace" of the party or label often depends on context. For instance, while attending BYU, I actively participated with the BYU Democrats because I felt very comfortable with the moderate left-leaning views the group espoused. While at law school, however, I was never really active with the GW Law Democrats because it seemed that the group was often highly focused on issues and rhetoric that didn't always sit well with me. As a member of the Church, in general, I don't shy away from acknowledging to other members that I consider myself a moderate Democrat because I run into so many members who simply assume all other members are conservative Republicans, something I think is bad for the Church and a distraction from the gospel. I like Harry Reid's quote because I too consider my faith to be at the root of many of my political positions.

You've never seen me with a "Friends don't let friends vote democratic" bumper sticker because I, personally, align more with the Democratic party. I do admit to owning a bumper sticker proclaiming the opposite, but would say it's more of a joke than anything. With a steady stream of conservative Republicans visiting me regularly, I've found it entertaining to see the reactions it provokes.

I think I should make clear, however, that I'm not opposed to "party politics." In our current political system, it's how things are accomplished. The point I was trying to make is that while people may typically support the Republican or Democratic parties or their respective candidates, I think it's important that they still think through the issues themselves and don't just unquestioningly accept the "party line" simply because they've agreed with it in the past.

So, while I may call myself a Democrat, I've voted for Republicans on several occasions and, as recently as last election, have refused to support the candidate from either party in certain races.

Salt H2O said...

Just like a Democrat- he gives a one liner and says nothing to back it up.

Marc said...

Just like a Republican- she gives a one liner and says nothing to back it up... ;)