I read with interest Ralph Hancock’s article (“Can a Mormon be a liberal?” Oct. 14) in which he discusses “The Liberal Soul” by Richard Davis. He comes to the conclusion that Mormons can be liberal but asks if it’s worth the trouble. In his article, Hancock puts liberalism on trial and draws conclusions on what he believes it means to be a Mormon and a liberal. Hancock is right to challenge liberalism. When pushed to the extreme, liberalism can come into conflict with gospel principles.
I would like to point out, however, that when extreme conservatism goes through the same scrutiny it fares no better than liberalism. I can’t begin to count the number of times conservative friends have told me the poor need no help, and, even if they did, the government has no role in assisting them, even in times of abundance. “They’re only poor because they are lazy,” they assert.
They’ve assured me that the poor need no health care insurance, for they just need to go to the emergency room at any hospital. They’ve told me that all illegal immigrants are law-breaking crooks and should be sent back to their homes. “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you get?” is their popular catchphrase.
They want to lessen or eliminate regulations pertaining to air, water, food or drug quality. They want nothing to stand between them and their almighty dollar, including discrimination or protecting a fragile environment. “Profits, after all, are the nation’s fuel. A successful economy floats all boats.” I've even had conservatives tell me that a progressive tax system is satanic and anything that isn't a flat tax is bad.
The conservatism that many espouse seems out of harmony with the gospel as I understand it. If taken to the extreme, conservatism is without compassion and its practice will ensure we live in a polluted world full of poor uninsured individuals. Because student loans will disappear, only the rich will receive college educations. Only people born in America will have a legal home here. Only successful and rich people will have a retirement because even Social Security has no place in the world of ultra-conservatives. All this can foster elitism and a refusal to actually tackle society’s problems.
To me, being a Mormon means wanting a government that is compassionate, one that provides a safety net for its poor, that considers family values in making immigration laws, and that keeps the country safe from danger, both from within and without. Being a Mormon and an extreme conservative presents just as many moral dilemmas as being a Mormon and a liberal. I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. I’m a moderate with a strong belief that the best solutions to problems come when people talk to each other with respect and the best legislation is created where liberalism and conservatism meet.
We need both, and both sides need each other. It's a symbiotic relationship that will always exist, whether liberals and conservatives like it or not. We need to encourage politicians to find common ground. We need to elect people who understand this and engage in civil discussion for the betterment of the country.
Matthew King, a graduate of BYU, is an entrepreneur and partner at Shipley Associates.