Mormons And Politics: What Counts In Life
So a heated electoral season in America is over. I’m glad it’s over, because I figure some people will get their lives back. Since many of my brothers and sisters have taken stands in the season’s issues and expressed them in ways that some may find divisive, I would like to say this:
People live different lives in different circumstances. Because of their different experiences they can have different ideas about politics. Stuff like issuing school vouchers or zoning or how to finance infrastructure projects. They are all important things to decide on, but they aren’t what counts in life.
What counts in life is whether we find a deeper meaning and purpose for our existence than just the bottom line. In Jesus’ words, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33) To me it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay any attention to the temporal stuff, but that our priority should be the Kingdom.
What is the Kingdom, then, that we should seek? I see the Church as only a part of the Kingdom. The Kingdom in the expansive sense is everyone who has a sincere desire to do God’s will – remembering that it is God’s will that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Few things in life are as frustrating as to see good friends begin to consider each other enemies because they disagree on mundane matters.
Moreover, our earthly institutions are, while important and, according to our scriptures, instituted of God, there to take care of things until the King of Kings takes his rightful place. Don’t get me wrong. I am a reserve officer trained to defend my country (although by now basically too old to be activated in a general mobilization) and my father, grandfather etc. have defended this country with gun in hand. And I deeply respect the sacrifices made by the earlier generations. But in an even deeper sense I see myself in a line of people ever more aware that all humans are the children of our Heavenly Father, not just those who look and think like me.
I have written elsewhere about suffering. I think that in all suffering there is a test for those who have the means to alleviate it, but do not. I think we should identify more with people, who are wiped out in hundreds of thousands if not millions each year by preventable calamities. Let it be war, famine (often a byproduct of war), malaria or AIDS, we can do something about it. We can’t eradicate poverty in one fell swoop. We can, however, give what we can – and there’s nothing wrong with getting involved close to our own homes.
Let me take this a little further. Read chapters 5 and 7 in Alma, for example. In chapter 5 Alma asks, “have ye spiritually been born of God … [h]ave ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (verse 14)” In chapter 7 verse 12 he explains to the people of Gideon that “he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities”. The Lord knows what we are going through because he “descended below them all“.
The point in my rambling? Political posturing is often antithetical to humility. In 3 Nephi 18:34 the resurrected Lord, while teaching the Nephites, exhorts them not to have disputations (see scripture search on the word). The word used here is not in its academic sense of benign presentation of theses, rather it means controversy, violent argument, contentious speech (see online dictionary). Peace can be had, but for a price. That price is submissiveness. Submissiveness does not have high ratings. Humility is often perceived as weakness. But they are characteristics that are expected of the disciples. It doesn’t mean that we don’t defend what we believe is right. But it means that even in disagreement we can be graceful and meek and avoid burning bridges.
We can have peace in this world if we let Christ in our hearts.