“If you are voting for [candidate], unfollow me right now.”
“I can’t believe that [family member] became a [party member]. Do they even have a brain?”
“It’s official. If you’re voting for [candidate], you hate America.”
“I used to be able to understand [people of other party], but at this point, I just don’t think there’s anything we can agree on.”
“I don’t know how you can vote [candidate] and still be a member of the Church.”
“Everyone voting for [candidate] is either brainwashed or just evil.”
“I would bet my salvation that the leaders of the Church are not voting for [candidate].”
Read all of the above, dropping in your preferred candidate and party, then repeat with the opposing side.
How many of these have you heard? If it’s under half, please tell me in the comments how you live your life, because I want to know your secrets. But I would guess you have heard all or most of these lines (or at least read them in the Facebook comments).
I have heard nearly all of these statements spoken verbatim or at least in sentiment about members of not just one but both major political parties and their candidates. My own family, like many others, has members divided against one another over this election.
Let me be clear: I fully believe in being informed about candidates, their platforms, and how their policies align with the Constitution and principles of the Gospel. I believe in having political opinions and voting according to our conscience. (See “Don’t Be Afraid of the P Word – Why and How to Embrace Politics”)
I care about your political opinions, and I like hearing all sides of political issues.
But frankly, who you vote for is not the most important or interesting thing about you—or anybody else.
Your divine identity
I believe the most important thing about you is your divine identity and potential.
I would suggest that if we have said any of the things on my opening list about someone whose political views don’t align with our own, we are doing it wrong. If you honestly can’t empathize with somebody who disagrees with you, you need a divine realignment. We must keep first in our minds, hearts, and lives our divine identity that is so much more important than our political orientation. (See Elder Oaks’ talk, “Love Your Enemies”)
The following three points outline just a few other things that are much more important things to remember about yourself and other people.
1) You are a child of God.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.Romans 8:16-17
You are a child of God, created by Him in His image, and He loves you. Do you treat yourself as if you are a precious child of an omnipotent, omniscient Father in Heaven? Do you treat others as if they are also His precious children?
2) You have divinely-given gender and family roles.
Gender and family roles are another piece of what I believe to be the most important things about you. We learn the following from the proclamation on the family:
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Whether or not you have a family right now in this life, you are destined to fulfill a role as a man or woman, son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, father or mother.
3) God intentionally sent you here on a specific mission.
President Nelson recently gave me a bit more of a glimpse of my divine history and destiny. In September of 2019, BYU hosted a devotional for young adults with President Nelson, who invited all young adults to participate virtually around the world. His address has had a remarkable impact on me and on my understanding of my divine potential and relationship with my Heavenly Father and Savior.
He powerfully states the following:
We are here on earth to do so much more than become political activists. While our political beliefs and behaviors can enhance our ability to fulfill our divine mission on earth, they are not the only or primary thing we can do to gather Israel.
In this discourse, President Nelson also reminds us: “God loves every one of us with perfect love.” It is this love for every person around us that we must keep at the forefront as we work to complete our mission.
We can’t treat ourselves or others like our political party supersedes our divine identity or potential. We are so much more than who we vote for or the political party we subscribe to.
But also, voting does matter
Make no mistake: our actions matter. What we do in this life is part of what determines our eternal futures and identities.
Who and what you vote for does matter; we should celebrate voting as an opportunity to deliberately practice our agency. The Church always encourages its members to be politically informed and involved, including and especially in voting for candidates and policies that we best see aligned with our values.
While I still hold that somebody’s political views are not the most important thing about them, I understand that political views reflect personal behavior, religious belief, and knowledge. I claim that political behavior and beliefs reflect two things: a) your underlying actions and beliefs, and/or b) those of the people you listen to, particularly in the case of apathy toward or inaccessibility of truth.
On an individual level, we have to believe the best of intentions of all people. Of those closest to me who disagree with me politically, I seek to trust that they are attempting to allow their religious and moral compasses to direct their political views. This has never meant that we all end up on the same page, and we have to accept this.
However, speaking broadly, I am concerned that there may be those attempting to adjust their religious views to fit their political views; we should do it the other way around. We must allow our religious views to act as the mold for our political views. I claim there are political views and behaviors that simply do not provide fertile ground for your testimony; some people may remain in the Church while believing and acting a certain way, but that does not mean it is sustainable. We should never be so committed to a candidate or party that it overshadows our commitment to the Lord, His word, and His commandments.
I see many online figures repeating taglines like this: “Just vote.” I disagree. We should not just vote. I believe we must also seek knowledge from both research and from the Lord.
I have a very strong testimony of praying over my ballots. It sounds weird, but let me explain.
My weird and amazing story
When I was on my mission, my mother forwarded me my ballot. It was the first election I could participate in, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Before my mission, I was about as proudly apolitical as possible, and on my mission, I was wholly committed to the work.
However, the Church had just launched its new religious freedom campaign, including then a new website and firesides in all wards and stakes. (Religious Freedom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) I felt urged to at least try to do my part.
After letting it sit on my desk for several days and almost ripping it up and throwing it away a few times, I opened it up and looked at the names. I didn’t recognize almost any names on the ballot.
Resignedly, I said a prayer and said something to this respect: “If you want me to do something about this, you’re going to have to tell me which ones to vote for.”
I was rather surprised when I immediately received an impression to vote for a presidential candidate of one of the major parties. I knew extremely little about this person, and what I had heard was all negative. I prayed to check one more time that that really was an impression from Him. Upon confirmation, I filled in the bubble.
I was guided to vote for a couple other candidates as well. I said a final prayer, sealed up my ballot, and mailed it off.
This last election, I have had much more opportunity to study out the candidates and the issues, which I believe I have done extensively. I still have attempted to approach my ballots with prayer and humility. This time, I have felt the Lord’s guiding hand both confirm good choices and also change my vote toward ones I had previously chosen against.
I dare you
I testify that God wishes to bless us all, and, if we allow Him, He will work through us to accomplish his work. I have learned to accept that I don’t know everything about any candidate or issue but that He does. My knowledge of the past, present, and, especially, future is extremely limited; His is complete. I must trust that He knows better than I which things must be brought to pass.
I dare you to pray with me as we complete our ballots this year. Let’s all pray to have a little more humility and faith in God’s work. (See “Change the World with a Prayer / Cambia el mundo con una oración”)
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LordProverbs 3:5-7
Have you ever prayed over your ballot? Have you ever prayed to understand someone else’s political views? What happened?