I had been home for spring break for mere minutes when my dad asked, concern in his voice, "Michael, are you a Democrat*?" The question was surprising not in its content but in its timing. My dad follows me on Twitter and while I tend to eschew political discussions, that is the platform on which I am most vocal about my personal beliefs. I had, not for the first time, retweeted something from Bernie Sanders and my dad had taken note. Alas, this "secret" I had been hiding from my family for the past several years was finally brought to light.
I don't know when I became more liberal than the average Mormon but my first few semesters at BYU, a more conservative university, were ironically instrumental in my discovery of my current political stances. While I didn't seek out political discourse during this time, a rumor reached my roommate that I was a "flaming liberal", likely a result of a discussion I had in which I disagreed with someone in my dorm that happened to be a relative of a certain LDS politician. (Discussion is a generous word. I said about 2 sentences; he spoke for almost an hour. I remember mostly just wanting to be left alone while I played pool.) Later, in American Heritage, I had a fateful reading assignment that profoundly influenced how I view welfare. I also had a classmate that shared more liberal viewpoints and our discussions allowed for a healthier environment for my own ideologies to incubate.
Before I was able to become a full-blown pinko, I served a mission. Focusing on something other than politics for two years effectively declawed the leftist lion cub maturing inside of me. I served in southeastern Idaho. I knew I would have to hold my tongue. That attitude has largely remained with my for the four years I've been back aside from one small community I interact with, which I affectionately call Liberal Mormon Twitter. It can be a bit of an echo chamber but I admit I enjoy hearing voices that have significant commonality with not just my religious but also my political beliefs. It's not even that I enjoy political discussion on Twitter; I'm mostly just there for the jokes and those people seem like they're able to take themselves less seriously than most Mormons I know. Maybe it's just the platform but I still love these guys. It's like a cyber-church where the average congregant is slightly to the left of the average congregant of the church as a whole.
*leans slightly left on politics because of Mormon beliefs and not in spite of them— Anthony (@wiffleballtony1) November 4, 2016
And if we're a cyber-church I guess that makes Ken Jennings our prophet?
Mormon socialists: there are dozens of us! Dozens!!! https://t.co/eJx3QnyXHn— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) March 17, 2017
I knew that not all Mormons on Twitter were left-leaning but I at least thought most of the more conservative Mormons online were like, "cool Republicans" that were comfortable calling themselves feminists. Unfortunately I recently discovered a handful of alt-right Mormons on Twitter and I fell down several late-night rabbit holes where I would read their posts and become increasingly frustrated and angry. These people openly identify with Nazi symbols and preach hatred. I try to be respectful of all political beliefs but it almost seemed like I was reading parody. How could I share a doctrinal foundation with these people but come away with such different political stances?
Eventually I identified what I feel to be the epicenter of this schism. I got the impression that all of their arguments seemed to be tied to a warped sense of morality, a morality which they seem to view as fundamental and God-given. Unfortunately this morality is really just a gussied up version of white supremacy. When that's your starting ground it's pretty easy to ignore that Jesus probably wasn't white and the Nephites probably weren't white and take some of the more colorful passages of the Book of Mormon (pun definitely intended) and use them to reinforce your warped morality and to justify racist political beliefs.
This also helped me understand more why I consider myself liberal. When Mormon scripture says that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God I believe it means every soul, not just the ones that look like I do. Ours is not a gospel for any specific group but for the totality of humankind. No moral code supersedes that we are all God's children, no matter our skin color, gender, orientation, or anything else. That's one of the greatest truths of the gospel because it unites every single one of us into something above all our earthly divisions. I don't want to get into any political arguments, especially not ones with internet strangers, but I hope that anyone who cares to will know that's why I feel the way that I do.
*For the record I don't identify with any political party but I did vote in the Texas Democratic primary and I also voted for the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.