February 28, 2020

Good riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate leader

Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? – Interview question for church members wishing to enter a Mormon temple

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

We are committed to ensuring full equality for women: we reaffirm our support for the Equal Rights Amendment…

We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples…We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. – Three statements from the 2012 Democratic National Platform (“Moving America Forward”)

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Of all of yesterday’s election results, the one that made me dance a jig was the ousting of Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. From now on, he’ll have to shill for the casino industry as a regular member of the Senate. More importantly, the Senate’s most powerful perch will no longer be occupied by a Mormon who does not take his religion seriously.

As a bishop, one of my responsibilities is to interview members who wish to enter Mormon temples. During our conversation, I have to ask them 13 or 14 questions (the number depends on whether the person has previously entered a temple). Although I can ask them follow-up questions based on their answers, I am not free to omit a question or substitute other questions for the standardized ones. One of the questions appears above, and I do not know how someone who is a standard-bearer for the Democratic Party can respond in the negative.

While the 2012 Republican platform is almost unreadable, at least it does not contain statements that directly contradict LDS teachings. This could be one reason why 11 out of the Mormon Church’s top 15 leaders – and the only ones considered to be prophets by the faithful – are registered Republicans (the other four do not have a declared party affiliation, and none of the four voted in the 2012 Democratic primary in Utah). By way of contrast, the Democratic Party’s official platform contains several statements that oppose LDS teachings on family-centered issues that seem to matter most to our leaders.

Democrats still officially support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was publicly opposed by the Mormon Church in the 1970s. In fact, until the campaign against gay marriage, the ERA was the political/moral issue that had generated the most official LDS opposition in recent memory.

Democrats famously support a woman’s unfettered “right” to murder her baby in utero. The LDS Church is officially an anti-abortion church, although it does recognize a few situations where an abortion may be sanctioned. Harry Reid has a mixed record on abortion, but his claim that he personally opposes it while at the same time leading a pro-abortion-on-demand political party is nonsense. If it were up to Reid, pro-abortion Democratic senators, Congressmen, judges, governors, mayors and legislators would be elected from coast to coast. His cop-out is as believable as the Marriott family members’ claim that they were personally opposed to pornography while they continued to receive revenues from x-rated movies in their hotels (a practice which they have thankfully discontinued). If Reid really is opposed to abortion, then he should stop promoting candidates who support a woman’s right to kill a baby at will.

As everyone who follows this issue knows, the Mormon Church is unequivocally opposed to same-sex marriage. As everyone also knows, the Democratic Party is an unequivocal supporter of “marriage equality.” Reid also supports gay marriage, and once publicly suggested that the church’s views are changing on the issue (the church immediately issued a press release stating that, in fact, its doctrinal position remains unchanged). As I have previously mentioned in this space, Mormons who understand their church’s moral teachings can’t support gay marriage. Reid apparently believes that he is more inspired than our top 15 leaders – all of whom have signed a public statement declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman — on a major moral issue. Serious Mormons don’t believe this.

My disgust with Reid’s political prostitution comes from my weekly counseling sessions with Mormons who are serious about their religion, ordinary people who struggle with pornography and other addictions, relationship issues, crises of faith, etc. These are people who know what God wants them to do, and strive mightily to do it. They may fail at times, as we all do, but at least they are trying to adhere to their church’s teachings. Sadly, Harry Reid apparently believes that the church’s teachings on the evils of gambling, abortion, and same-sex marriage don’t apply to opportunistic politicians. I have no problem with an average Mormon in the pew who supports the Democratic Party because one of its issues or positions appeals to him. However, occupying a national Democratic leadership position is an entirely different matter. The LDS Church’s political neutrality can’t hide the fact that on virtually every important contemporary moral issue, at least from an LDS perspective, the Democratic Party opposes our positions. I have no doubt that Harry Reid is a wonderful man who loves his wife and kids, attends church, and is kind to animals. However, he is not a man of serious religious faith. Both Mormons and non-Mormons need a person with more integrity to lead the Senate. For Mormons who care about their church, the most appropriate word to describe Reid is one that he once used to condemn Justice Clarence Thomas: an “embarrassment.”  

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Disclaimer for my non-Mormon readers: Although they head congregations, Mormon bishops aren't spokesmen for the LDS Church. All of the opinions expressed in the essays on this blog are my own, and I am responsible for them.