Harry Reid and the LDS Church

A fascinating article in yesterday’s Las Vegas Sun analyzes the hostile relationship between Nevada’s LDS senator, Harry Reid, and the majority of members of his own faith. 

One reason given in the article is that, in 2006, when church leadership supported a proposed constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage, Reid not only voted against it, he publicly spoke in opposition to it.  The Church doesn’t seem to pursue people’s membership for such public opposition anymore, but there was a time when they would have, and certainly the lay membership understands that such a stance is not in complete harmony with the expectations of faithful members to support our leaders. 

Another major example of Reid’s public dissention, not mentioned in the Sun article, was a 2007 speech at church-owned BYU.  In his remarks, he criticized some prominent, recent church leaders, specifically naming former church president Ezra Taft Benson, and said, “I think they’ve taken members of the church down a path that is the wrong path.”  Wow.  Calling out a prophet for leading the church astray, which our beliefs strictly say that God wouldn’t let a prophet do?  That’s a little bit out of step, to say the least.  What exactly is this “wrong path” down which we’ve been taken, Senator?

Just to show that this lack of charity isn’t only for his own brethren, though, Reid said in that same speech, “They are the most anti-Christian people I can imagine, the people from the Christian far right.” 

I suppose I’ll be criticized here for a lack of charity myself, but a couple of things need to be understood.  First, I’m not attacking Reid.  I’m not questioning his faith, his worthiness, or his value as a person.  Such vicious hostility is wrong, and I do not support it, not toward Harry Reid, not toward anybody.  I am, however, pointing out some difficult facts about him that we need to accept and confront honestly when we discuss religion and politics. 

Second, that is totally appropriate.  Reid is a veteran public figure, whose public statements, even on his private beliefs, can and should be open to scrutiny.  If a conservative member said such disdainful things about church leadership from their political perspective as Reid has, liberal church members would be rightfully indignant.  It is absolutely reasonable to consider Harry Reid a poor example of loyalty to the church that I’m sure he sincerely believes in, just as much as a Catholic politician who repeatedly votes for abortion bills. 

I’d also like to add that I can’t wait for this election to be over.  I’m getting tired of thinking about Harry Reid, and writing about him.  After November 2, hopefully I’ll never have to again.

6 comments on “Harry Reid and the LDS Church

  1. With all due respect, is it Christian to tell Hispanics they look like Asians and thereby demonstrate insensitivity to and disregard for the feelings of one’s fellow beings, to deny others what you yourself have (i.e., nice government pensions and health care), and to lie about your opponent by suggesting he wants to help child molesters (and how about that commandment about false witness?). Meanwhile, the same candidate attacks Harry Reid’s wealth while being either dishonest or ignorant about how he became wealthy–meaning, also, that he supports policies that hurt his wealth by not advocating Republican policies that favor the rich. Which is more Christian? I seem to recall some guy named Jesus feeding the masses.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Michael.

    First, attacking Sharron Angle is not the same as defending Harry Reid. My post here has nothing to do with either of their respective sets of policies, but Reid’s tendency to throw his church under the bus when it’s politically expedient.

    Regarding the issues you raise, though, they’re slanted to the point of inaccuracy. Angle, for example, wants to open up more options for people to have health care, including the kinds that she and Reid have, where Reid is trying to force people into a single federal mold, and Angle only questioned where Reid’s wealth comes from–a natural enough question to ask. There was no accusation, only an opportunity for him to explain himself, which he did. Are tough questions somehow forbidden of political candidates?

    Nothing definitively says that personal Christian principles should be enshrined in governmental policies or not (though I’ve noted that liberals who want to do so are practicing what I’ve termed “liberal theocractic fascism”). Slamming someone who may or may not be personally active as a Christian for not advocating to implement those ideals in public law is disingenuous–there’s no clear standard being violated. I could just as well criticize Reid because Jesus never practiced “charity” by misappropriating excessive taxes to bail out corporations who furthered his agenda. Touche, right?

  3. On the other hand, Harry Reid along with a number of Catholic senators and representatives, are perfect evidence that militantly secular philosophers are up in the night with their paranoid declarations that religious people, especially those from authoritarian religions, are unfit for public office — see, for example, Damon Linker’s recent The Religious Test and interviews like this one where he claims that Mormons and Catholics by definition cannot uphold the Constitution or engage in democratic deliberation.

    Mormon politicians are in an impossible position. Mormons expect Reid and others to walk in lockstep with whatever we think represents Church doctrine or political preference (and Mormons are not always correct in their judgments about what really is Church doctrine — too many of us let our politics delineate our religious views, rather than having our religion shape our political views). Non-Mormon secularists seek to bar us all from participation in the political sphere when Reid or others do appear to be walking in lockstep. The Smoot hearings are bound to be repeated in one form or another in the next few years.

    The best any of us can do, I think, is to choose candidates who are basically decent, smart and moral, who vote their conscience, and who generally support/oppose the same issues we do, in the most important cases, even if that’s not 100% of the time. You and I are going to differ over whether “smart” trumps “moral” or vice versa, or which candidate, Reid or Angle, embodies any of those traits. But when we’re talking principles rather than specific cases, I suspect we have a lot in common.

  4. To Ardis E. Parshall observations above, its been my observation that church membership takes their moral guidance more willingly when it emulates out from political pulpits and talking heads than we do from our religious leaders in SLC. In instance after instance the church has moved one way only to see membership move the opposite direction in pursuit of political gain and pride.

  5. I am grateful Angle was defeated. Angle truly was a nut and most of what she believed lay well outside the political mainstream.

    Harry Reid is not perfect, but his personal life shows that he has honored his committments to the church and to his family.

    I do not believe that our Savior is either a Democrat or a Republican. I think if he were here he would find both good and bad in two major political parties in our country. I think he would be very troubled by our incivility, our unwillingness to compromise on economic issues and taxes (which are not really covered by any of the Commandments), and social policies which lead any mother to regard abortion as a choice.

    I think many of my bretheren with their rightwing, uber-libertarian, and corporate oligarchy views would not find they were particularly approved of. The Founding Fathers believed and thought many things which are completely outside the realm of Glen Beck and his followers.

    Fortunately, the best man the Nevada Senate race this year. Harry Reid still has promises to keep, promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps.

  6. Mark, I happen to believe that we need candidates who are outside the “political mainstream” because the “mainstream” is the reason why we’re currently on the path toward fiscal destruction. Both parties have contributed to this disaster. Harry Reid has contributed to it his entire career. He might be a fine dad and a wonderful home teacher. But he has moved our nation closer to the brink with his support of ObamaCare, a program that we really can’t afford since we can’t even afford Social Security and Medicare, two programs that have unfunded liabilities in the trillions going into the 21st century.

    Surely there is more to the political left than constant vilifying of Glenn Beck and Fox News. I watch neither. Tell me why tax-and-spend is really the best way of government; that’s a much more interesting argument to make.

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