Living in the Field

July 2, 2012


Post by Hannah Wheelwright –

I have been told I live in the field. I’m not talking about the mission field that is white already to harvest – Utah is actually rather cloudy and brown right now from all the fires, not to mention the raining ash. (Last days, anyone?) I’m talking about a unique field in which I’m a progressive liberal Mormon living in the heartland of conservative, Mormon majority, Republican Utah.  I’m a sophomore Political Science major at BYU who works full time at the MTC, and every day I am reminded that I’m different (and not just because almost everything I own is plastered with Obama stickers and logos).

I wasn’t always so vocal about my political opinions here in Provo. During my first few months at BYU, I distanced myself from identifying with any party; I knew I was liberal, but I was hesitant to endorse a platform about which I felt under-informed. I feared the inevitable moment when some far more educated person would tear my opinions to shreds with their superior evidence and research. But the more I found myself making pro-Democratic comments in my small Honors American Heritage class (many thanks to my professor, Greg Taggart, for always giving me the floor to make the opposing point) and the more I studied the issues, the more I realized I needed to come out of the closet and simply embrace my affiliation with the Democratic Party.

Since then, I’ve become much more comfortable with identifying as a Democrat – not just because I can’t in good conscience endorse the alternative, but because I believe so strongly in the vision and commitments of the Democratic platform. While it’s annoying to frequently hear anti-liberal, pro-Fox News comments, and while I am in the political minority of students at BYU, living in Provo has forced me to be able to articulate exactly what I believe and why I believe. I’ll always be grateful for that.

I’m proud to say, and I say it at every opportunity I get, that the BYU College Democrats is the largest College Democrats chapter in Utah. I love the shocked expression people acquire when they hear that, because it emphasizes that Mormons are not a unified voting bloc, and that the youth and young adults of the LDS Church will become increasingly more diverse in their political views than ever before. We’ve seen already the groundswell of support for the LGBT community within the Church, and much of that support comes from young adults who did not grow up with the same biases and culture that older members of the Church may have.

Of all the challenges of being a liberal in Provo, the deepest and most hurtful will always be the questions of my faith. I don’t write about this to ask for your pity or to encourage you to be more loving to everyone. I write about this simply because it is the hardest thing for me about being a liberal in Provo.  It’s not easy to be told that you have less faith, that the path you are on will likely lead you to become apostate, if not at least to leave the Church, and that then your future children will grow up outside of the gospel all because of your selfish choices. When I was quoted for an article about Pro-Obama Mormons back in May, the comments users added online questioning my standing in the Church were the most troublesome. When the ruling on the Affordable Care Act was announced, (I was eagerly listening to C-Span live with headphones on my computer at work,) I wanted to leap for joy and celebrate. But as my other coworkers at the MTC began to trickle in (this was 8:00 AM in Utah, being two hours behind D.C.), I could see their crestfallen faces. It was the only time I’ve been really glad that they all know I’m a Democrat – I did my best to hide my glee, and they shut the door so I could only hear muted expressions of their frustration and anger.

It’s this mutual agreement to leave each other space to celebrate our views that I appreciate the most, and at the same time it’s a cause of concern, given that it’s only July now and there’s still several months before the election. Because I am the field organizer for Obama’s campaign in Utah County, the Co-President of the BYU College Democrats, a volunteer for several local political campaigns, and because I hope to be more involved with Mormons for Obama efforts, I can sense that my political activity will lead to some kind of conflict sooner or later.

But despite all the tensions I’ve already experienced and expect to experience as a progressive Mormon, I know I can never go back. I’ll always feel a connection to that wonderful hymn-singing, nourish-and-strengthen-our-bodies praying, no-TV-on-Sunday, family-home-evening culture I was blessed to be raised in, but I will continue to study and seek after more knowledge about my questions without clinging to the conservatism that was also part of that culture. And with all its quirks and all my questions, I know my own journey of finding my way through this concentrated conservative field as a liberal Mormon will not be a walk in the park.

But we are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er, and that won’t just be November 2012. I look forward to the challenges in the hopes that I can convince even just one soul to understand why I believe what I do. Who knows, maybe I can plant some seeds in this field.

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15 Comments on “Living in the Field”

  1. JJK Says:

    great post! i was at BYU before my true liberal “conversion.” but even then, i was considered more liberal than most. glad you can represent Mormon democrats in such a stellar way!

  2. Scott Says:

    Wonderful post…From a 48 year born and bred @BYU… Good for you for realizing at such a young age where your political/religious values lie…

  3. Linda Romney Swain Says:

    My husband and I are coming to the realization that our extended family members may never understand the appeal of the Democratic party. Its focus on helping the poor, rather than enriching the wealthy, for instance, seems to go right over their heads. Somehow they’ve come to see that as socialism or fascism or some sort of evil “-ism.” In Alma 34:28-29, Amulek tells the people, “…if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and the afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need…behold, your prayer is in vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith. Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross…” That sounds pretty clear to me. We’re to help others with whatever we have to share.

    • Nicholas Itri Says:

      The scripture you quote has absolutely nothing to do with the Democrat party and everything to do with the fact that Heavenly Father asks us to help the poor and the needy, which we do of our own free will and choice through the payment of tithes and offerings and the programs of Home and Visiting Teaching. The Democrat party despises free will. They despise our devinely inspired constitution! (D&C 98:4-9) They despise our devinely inspired founding fathers; men who were raised up and sent to this earth to create a foundation of freedom that would allow our church to be established and prosper in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Democrat party flourishes under the principles espoused by Lucifer in the pre-existent life. The government will force all men to be equal through its demands that we be such. Witness the eggregiously erroneous decision of the Supreme Court upholding the right of the government to force us to buy medical insurance. The Obama administration will eventually be historically reviewed as the most corrupt and morally bankrupt in the history of this country. “Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn.”

      • JJK Says:

        wow. did you even read her post? i think you missed the whole point of what Hannah was trying to say. And there are ample scriptures, general conference quotations, and this recent statement on the Church’s website that request a bit more civility in our discussions:

        i think that you should take your hate speech (you just said us dems are of satan) and post it on glenn beck’s website where it belongs.

      • jeremy Says:

        Did YOU even read Nicholas’ post? He did not say you ‘dems’ are of Satan, he said the democrat party flourishes under principles espoused by Satan. BIG, BIG difference. I voted Obama ’08 but not sure I will this time around. I’m not a registered Democrat either, I like to look at the individuals running and pick the one that best fits in with my personal philosophies. (That’s actually how the church teaches us to vote) But what he says about the party is absolutely true. Most democrats run on a platform that proposes to have solutions to every problem of every aspect of our lives. I don’t need governement deciding my fate, I will choose for myself, thank you very much. By the way, I didn’t find anything in the previous post to be hateful, but rather it was an opinion of how the other side feels about the direction this country is going in. I personally am not that worried. I thinks things will work out and order will be restored. The point Nicholas makes, too, about the scripture Linda quoted is exactly how I feel. Christ expects us to give of our time, talents and money to serve others not to just vote for politicians who increase our taxes on the assumption that the money will be used to bless the lives of the poor. How long has the war on poverty been going on? Seems like forever, and what change has it made in the long run? None. More poor people now than ever before. I can help change a person’s life more in one day with heartfelt service and sacrifice than any government welfare check because I can help share the Gospel of Christ through said service. We’ll see what happens though come November. Obama has lost support from many people who voted for him four years, myself included, simply because he seems to think the government has all the answers and that one answer seems to always be…WE NEED MORE MONEY!!!

      • Laurie is Reading ContemporaryFiction/Mysteries/Suspense/Thrillers Says:

        I couldn’t agree with your MORE! OBAMA ALL THE WAY, BABY!!!!!
        You would NOT be following this blog if you did NOT agree with what this author writes!!!
        ALL the MORE to you, BABY, for NOT following the ‘Mormon Mainstream!’
        I DON’T agree with HOW you ATTACKED the woman who posted, but I did NOT like that she posted from the Book of Mormon, either! The ‘general public’ does NOT BELIEVE IN THE ‘BOOK OF MORMON’, that it is Scripture. If anyone is going to quote, it SHOULD BE from the Holy Bible that EVERYONE KNOWS! MY opinion, of which I AM allowed, thank you.
        I liked what she was implying, but toss out the quoting part!
        No, Obama’s answer is NOT ‘We Need MORE money’, it’s what HE HAS CUT! HE HAS CUT A LOT OF UNNEEDED SPENDING!!! KOODLES TO HIM!!! Huh!!! YOU KNOW!!!
        I KNOW you agree!!!
        (Besides, we have had to PAY FOR 2 WARS!)
        You voted for him to get him in office, and you AGREE with what he has done! So do I!!!!
        Yes, there ARE MORE poor people than EVER before, but we ALL KNOW it’s BECAUSE WE ARE PULLING “OUT” OF THIS RECESSION/DEPRESSION and we are INCREASING OUR INCOMES NOW!! ALLLLLL OF US!!! HOORAY!!! Getting good jobs, as SO many MORE are available, thanks to Obama!!!
        This year’s tax returns will SURELY SHOW OUR INCOMES ARE INCREASING as there are MORE jobs than EVER before, even better paying now, too! Thanks to Obama! Look at Michigan! Wow! We could have ALL been ‘in the system’, and he SAVED EVERY SINGLE AUTO COMPANY OUT THERE!! We are working STRONG!!!
        You are right on about what is NOT working is getting the LAZY PEOPLE OFF OF WELFARE! THEY are the ones who ‘need more money’, AS ALWAYS!!! Unfortunately, I have a few neighbors who COULD work, but WON’T work because they have more fun not working! I am NOT condoning ANY help to them, and yet THEY are the first ones to ask for it! I would NOT self-sacrifice and feel good about it knowing that I helped them SUSTAIN THAT TYPE OF LIFESTYLE. That has NOTHING to do with religion but REALITY. This is where what WE ‘think’ what we are doing is GREAT, and it is NOT. This is where there NEEDS TO BE RESTRICTIONS put into place for getting, keeping, and then GETTING OFF OF WELFARE! That works MORE than ANY person who donates time and food to them. We MUST be picky today about who ‘the poor’ are anymore. How LONG have they BEEN POOR FOR? How LONG have they been ‘in the system?’ Are they working to HELP THEMSELVES, OR RELYING ON OTHER PEOPLE’S DONATIONS??? In that case, it would NOT make us feel good at ALL, but quite the opposite. We believe in helping donate to organizations who KNOW HOW to pick and choose as to who needs help!
        To name-call is not right, but aren’t we ALL guilty of this in somehow or someway in some instance? Something HAS crossed your mind at some point, be it little OR big. To keep it to OURSELVES is BEST, but to outright call someone a name IS wrong. As ALL of God’s creatures, no matter what religion we are, we should NOT name call. Has THIS issue crossed people’s minds for getting Obama out? I SURELY hope NOT!
        I LOVE Mary Ann’s comment!!!!
        Don’t you?
        I am NOT name-calling in this statement, but, stating fact: Sometimes I wonder if Romney is an old, rich, white guy, who is terrified of the changes going on in our society around him. Therefore, RUN for president??? It doesn’t make sense??
        As for Health Care? “I” don’t like the fact that I MUST purchase health care, either. I have pre-existing conditions and CANNOT GET IT NOW!!! REGARDLESS OF THE CHANGES COMING!!! BUT, THIS ‘IS’ IN IT’S INFANCY!!! THERE IS SO MUCH MORE THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT IT!!! Obama NEVER got the opportunity to finish what he started with that, either. There are SOOOO many things he WANTS to do, especially if ANYONE read what he wrote and put out publicly on his website when he was running back in 08. He has NOT gotten a chance to even address 1/4 of what he wants to in ONE term! So far, I LOVE what he has done, the tweaking that needs to be done, and the things that he has not yet gotten to address because HE HAS HAD TO CLEAN THE BUSHS’ MISTAKES! And OH SO MANY! Not to mention Congress hasn’t been very nice to him!
        Thanks for allowing us to express our thoughts and our thoughts of what others have said!

    • Allan Says:

      It would be wonderful if we could all live in a society where all of everyones needs could be taken care of with goods from a common pool. American history can show us at least one case where attempts at such have been an epic success and an epic failure. The success was that of Nauvoo, IL and the failure was of Jamestown, VA. In short, such a society can only succeed when a people are genuinly united for a common cause. In Nauvoo they followed a prophet. In Jamestown they were just trying to survive. While I am aware that we need to give of ourselves liberally to all those in need I am also aware that society purely based on such giving can not succeed in our day. I deeply appreciate the spirit of giving you portray. I must also say that America is near bankrupt and can not survive and continue to liberally give. It is time to conserve what we have left and rebuild our strenght so that we can later be ready to give once again.

  4. islandkween Says:

    I live in the South Pacific and am as ‘staunch’ as I could possibly be when it comes to being LDS.. but with US Politics – I will always always support Brother Obama!.. Its sooooo great and surprising to read that there are quite a few members who lean more towards the Democratic view than the Republicans and are not afraid to show it… Well done.. especially those living in Utah! lol – The Church is Still True … even after elections 🙂 Love your post Hannah Wheelwright!

    Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand

  5. Mary Ann Says:

    Barack Obama has my vote. If I had met Romney before I met others of the church, I never would have joined. He is for the rich, by the rich, and only cares about the rich. He lies constantly and has no real solutions for anything. If elected he will just be a puppet for the tea party. He detests immigrants, women, children and the poor… and if that was what this church was about, I would want no part of it. I hate that the church is being misrepresented by him. Brother Obama is more Christian than Romney in all ways.

    • JJbarn Says:

      hey joseph how bout that name calling? oh wait its a pro-obama site, so you wont be deleting this comment.

      • Joseph Says:

        I think considering the over-the-top comment by Nicholas that I let fly (“espoused by Lucifer?”) Mary Ann’s comment is rather benign!

    • Allan Says:

      Mormons always ask people to read the Book of Mormon before passing judgment on the church rather than basing the decision on what they hear from outside sources. I have read Romneys book and believe it portrays a man much different that what you have described. Is it fair enough to ask you to read his book and base your knowledge about him on it?

    • Dwayne Says:

      Romney’s a puppet? There’s no real difference between Romney and Obama, a/k/a Barry Soetoro, when it comes to key political ideologies. They’re both puppets of the off-shore central bankers. Obama is a much smoother liar than Romney and has the useful idiots that Lenin spoke of behind him.

  6. Laurie is Reading ContemporaryFiction/Mysteries/Suspense/Thrillers Says:

    My husband has a reply that I am typing for him as he does not have an account, nor does he want one at this time.
    There is NO STATE RELIGION. In the FIRST Amendment, there is a separation clause, “There will be NO THEOCRACIES.” (Separation of church and state!) There is NO CHURCH OF THE UNITED STATES!
    Let’s ALL keep this in mind!!!
    And IF the way people were brought up, be it Baptist, Lutheran, Catholicism, etc., it should NOT INTERFERE WITH ANY POLITICAL SEAT ANYONE HAS IN OFFICE.
    IF THIS WERE TO OCCUR, IT WILL SHOW UP WHILE THEY ARE RUNNING FOR OFFICE! It will look as if they are a puppet having their strings pulled! They will NOT MAKE OFFICE! The general public is NOT STUPID! We might identify as Christian, but we are not THAT RIGID about it! Plus, the fact that more and more people are starting to NOT identify themselves AS a certain religion anymore because once something becomes an organization where they have special privileges, costumes, offices, and MORE inside that organization, people LIKE this POWER-TRIP, AND THIS IS WHEN IT BECOMES CORRUPT! ALL organizations ARE susceptible to this because we are human and LIKE TITLES! We LIKE the attention ‘THIS BRINGS ‘ME’!
    This is why MORE and MORE people are NOT associating with ANY religion anymore. They are pulling OUT of ‘organized’ things.

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