An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Harry Reid’

Circle or Noose?

As a gawky junior high kid, I loved MIA firesides. Dressing up and checking out guys from beyond my ward boundary was a cool way to spend Sunday evenings. As I advanced into high school, I enjoyed firesides less since they tended to dwell on chastity and I wasn’t having much opportunity to practice dating let alone restraint of passion. So I gave up on firesides until I qualified for those aimed at Young Marrieds.

Firesides (did we copy the name from FDR or was he copying us?) are an optional LDS meeting. Everyone is invited, but, unlike Sunday block meetings, it’s not a duty to attend. I like having the agency to choose my meetings. If Chieko Okasaki is speaking, I’ll forego Desperate Housewives to hear what she has to say. If the speaker is Sheri Dew, I’ll stay home. I already know my divine role on earth is motherhood.

Voting with my feet has always been my way of registering disapproval. That is why the Harry Reid fireside incident disturbs me. Apparently, a LV stake presidency scheduled Brother Reid as a speaker on their “Why I Believe” series of stake firesides. A flood of angry protests ensued. Both the senator and the stake presidency who invited him were called evil minions of Satan and threatened. The fireside was cancelled due to safety concerns. 

Why couldn’t church members who disagree with the senator’s politics have just stayed home? The fireside was not a political rally. It was an opportunity for Senator Reid to share his conversion story and bear his testimony. Why the fear that anyone who doesn’t share all our opinions is an enemy?

I wonder how people unable to see a church member of an opposing political party as a child of God treat family members who differ from their opinions. Is love for their spouse or child conditioned on adherence to correct political beliefs?

Drawing our circles to include only members of our own faith and members of our own political persuasion restricts our associates and our opportunities to learn and grow. And if we restrict our circle to members of our own party and church, what’s to keep us from tightening the circle to exclude people of different skin colors, different ethnic origins, different incomes, even different occupations? The circle could even constrict enough to exclude fans of different sports teams, drivers of different cars, owners of different styles of homes, non-home owners. The circle could shrink until it includes only the self. At that point, the circle becomes a noose. Shouldn’t church help us to expand our circles and keep us from choking ourselves off from the rest of humankind?

Politics and Religion

A beneficent God would have thrown an Iron Curtain or at least a bamboo screen between church and state in America this week. I knew where the week was headed on Tuesday morning when George glanced at the SL Trib headlines and yelled, “Harry Reid’s going to be excommunicated!” George relishes drama. But Reid’s statement (in a private meeting) that the resources of the Church “could have been put to better use,” does raise eyebrows about a Church that has not known what to make of Reid, the highest ranking Mormon ever in US government,  even before he criticized the Prop 8 involvement.

Had Reid been a Republican, he would have replaced the Osmonds as the preferred LDS celebrity success story the moment he became Senate Majority Leader. Mormons have never been shy about recognizing achievements of fellow Saints. Ezra Taft Benson and Esther Peterson, who served in Eisenhower’s Cabinet 50 years ago, are still used as symbols of Mormon success in public office. Stewart Udall who served in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations merits no mention. Besides being a liberal Democrat, Udall was a Jack Mormon.

But Reid is a devout Mormon, a convert. He arranged for last summer’s meeting  of Pres. Monson and Dallin Oaks with President Obama— an important PR photo op for the Church. A Virginia source tells me he arranged for LDS missionaries to serve as waiters at a dinner meeting of UN delegates from around the world. He publicly identified the missionaries as representatives of his church and urged UN delegates to allow them to work in their countries. Reid even dresses in the undertaker-conservative suits and talks in the slow measured cadence of a General Authority. The reticence of Church leaders and rank and file Mormons to claim Reid as their own smacks of politics.  

Reid’s gentle criticism of the Church involvement in Prop 8 will not affect his standing in a Mormon community which quietly hopes he will go away. And while Oaks’ recent BYU-Idaho address was likely not specifically aimed at Reid, the apostle’s over-the-top analogy likening backlash against Church involvement in Prop 8 to persecution of African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggle kept the religious/political pot boiling. Current Church leaders need a gentle reminder, the kind which Pres. Hinckley mastered, to put Prop 8 behind us and move forward on less divisive issues. As the old saying goes, “Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t hurt the manure, but it sure makes a mess of the ice cream.”

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