Mon November 5, 2012
LDS Democrats Growing in Influence
"We are. And Elder [Jay] Jensen is. And President [James] Faust. And Silvia Allred. Brigham Young."
What do all of these people have in common? First, they're Latter-Day Saints. What is less known is that they're also Democrats.
Crystal Young-Otterstrom, the LDS Democrats Caucus vice chairperson, says the combination is actually more common than you might think.
"We're not that small of a minority, as people might think."
And according to Joey Pitt, a proclaimed Democrat and Latter-Day Saint from Bountiful, studies have shown that Utah is home to one of the largest groups.
"The polling shows that 40% of Utah votes Democrat. There's more out there, but they just aren't talking."
Pitt says the reason they aren't talking is because they are, in effect, in the closet, and they are afraid to come out.
"It's hard to be a Democrat in Utah."
"I've heard it all from, 'You're a Democrat! You don't deserve to have a temple recommend.' Or, 'How can you be one or the other?'"
Pitt has heard similar criticisms.
"People have, on a couple occasions, questioned my worthiness as a member of the church because of my political affiliation."
Young-Otterstrom thinks such sentiment goes against her faith.
"People say, 'They should take Harry Reid's recommend away because he's a harsh critic of Mitt Romney.' And those are all statements that aren't helpful and aren't Christlike, honestly."
Kristen Steiner, an LDS Democrat in Logan says it is actually her Mormon ideals that reinforce her support of the party.
"To be a Democrat that, the equal-ness and fairness and the love that is felt for everyone, and the priorities that are put on by everyone, aligns with what I've learned in the gospel."
Pitt says his faith informs his politics, and not the other way around.
"I say that I'm a Democrat not in spite of my religion but because of my religion."
Young-Otterstrom notes a subtle difference in LDS Democrats and Republicans.
"For Mormon Democrats, it comes down to love. And for Mormon Republicans, it comes down to agency."
Pitt says now he's using practices he learned in the church to spread his message about LDS Democrats.
"The church teaches to be accepting of one another, regardless of who they are. They always say, 'Be a missionary. Be a Democrat and go out and be a missionary about it. Tell your other friends that it's OK to be a Democrat and a Mormon.'"