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Full disclosure: I'm a Mormon. I go to church on Sundays, I try to serve others, and I vote in political elections. My faith is important to me, as is my desire to have a positive impact on my community.
Yet, somehow, the fact that I am a Mormon seems to lead some political candidates to the conclusion that I owe them my vote simply because we share the same religion.
The premise of this conclusion is puzzling. Mormons are found in each wing of political extremism, from Harry Reid on the left to Glenn Beck on the right. Using the logic that Mormon votes belong to Mormon candidates, who is one to vote for in an election between two Mormons? The question isn't merely hypothetical.
In the upcoming election, this scenario will manifest itself in a number of races. However, even in contests between two Mormons, there are still certain candidates who profess that their party's understanding of Mormon doctrine is more correct than their opponent's and that Mormons therefore owe them their votes. I don't understand this line of thinking.
For me, religion doesn't play a significant role in my voting decisions. If anything, I am cautious when voting to make sure that I don't vote for someone simply because we share the same religion. By the same token, I also won't vote for someone simply because we share the same race or gender or even the same party affiliation.
I understand the role of party politics in passing legislation, but party affiliation is a secondary concern; religious affiliation doesn't even register on my radar. If I believe a candidate represents my interests, I will vote accordingly whether that person is black or white, male or female, Democrat or tea party, Muslim or Mormon.
In 1843, Joseph Smith said, "One of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism' is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may."
It concerns me that as time goes on, more and more Mormon candidates seem to imply an addendum to this statement, "let truth come from whence it may unless it is found within the Democratic Party" or "unless it is found in the tea party."
All the while, these inferences are made using rhetoric that is hardly in line with what the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls "the Mormon ethic of civility." Furthermore, they are made in the face of seemingly endless statements from the Mormon leadership that the church "is neutral in matters of party politics." The fact of the matter is that elements of truth and goodness are found in each political party.
While religious affiliation does not dictate my vote, my religious beliefs do influence my stance on various issues. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. But in my mind, there is a significant difference between voting for a candidate because he or she is a Mormon and voting for a candidate because he or she espouses what I believe to be principles of my faith.
To me, the former represents an element of bigotry, while the latter signifies an appropriate and rightful expression of religious belief in a political setting.
I urge Mormon voters to consider the issues at hand and the character of the candidates in the upcoming elections. Religious beliefs need not and indeed, should not be set aside. But let our votes be cast for a cause more noble than simply belonging to the same religion as a candidate.
Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah.