by Cherilyn Bacon
Between now and the U.S. general election on November 2nd, Meridian Magazine’s Family News Network will feature a series of articles addressing what it means to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” in the political process. The series will cover a variety of topics selected from the following: how to volunteer for campaigns, setting family policy standards, where candidates stand on the issues, why this election is so important, the value of a single vote, getting out the vote and beyond the election.
The United States and nations of the world are at a critical, cultural crossroads. Decisions made on Election Day November 2nd in the United States. will bring global consequences for years to come. You can make a difference in your community and nation by standing for something good for the world to model. We hope that principles of responsible citizenship will resonate, motivate and translate into action wherever you live.
My mother, Dorothy Bacon, taught me the value of the vote literally from the day I was born. Numerous times throughout my life she recounted that day. It was Election Day 1950 (now you know how old I am). She was in labor on her way to the hospital, but first made the ambulance driver stop at the polls so she could cast her vote. I’ve been anxiously engaged politically ever since. You could say I was born to write this article.
“Anxiously engaged” is a phrase we hear often but perhaps neglect to consider what it means. Words have meaning. So important is etymology that at one point in our recent political history, the media bombarded international airwaves, newspapers, and the Internet with a prolonged and agonizing public debate over the meaning of the tiny word “is.” Former U.S. Representative Bob Barr, one of the presidential impeachment managers, has even written an entire book about it called The Meaning of Is.
Merriam-Webster defines anxious as “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency.” Another adjective is “worried.” As a political activist, opponents have asked me more than once, “What are you so worried about?”
Webster’s Dictionary 1828 Edition, contemporary to the early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, defines anxious as “greatly concerned. respecting something future or unknown; being in painful suspense, full of solitude, unquiet, very careful.”
Here’s a more upbeat definition: “ardently or earnestly wishing, eager.” I like that. Eager means “avid, keen, athirst.. Moved by a strong and urgent desire or interest..” Eager implies “enthusiasm and sometimes impatience at delay or restraint.” Keen suggests “intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action.”
Now analyze the meaning of “engaged.” You’ll love this one. As in, “I’m engaged to Sally.” Obsolete: (thankfully). “To entangle or entrap in or as if in a snare or bog.. To attract and hold by influence or power.” Aren’t we glad it’s 2004?
To engage is “to bind (as oneself) to do something.. Other meanings are “to involve, to take part in, to participate, and to pledge one’s self.” Here’s one that caught my attention: “to hold the attention of, as in engross – her work engages her completely.” No doubt, my friends and family would describe me as one “engrossed” in good causes ranging from my own children and grandchildren to local and national charities as well as defending marriage and family.
With meetings to hold, lessons to teach, deadlines to meet, clients to please, lawns to mow, cars to fix, taxes to pay, money to make, meals to fix, clothes to wash, children to raise, diapers to change, noses to wipe, boo boo’s to kiss, journals to write, gardens to grow, scriptures to read, prayers to say, tithing to give, testimonies to build, and genealogy to search, the thought of adding one more good cause to this run-on sentence of life could overload even the least anxiously engaged of Latter-day Saints.
Politics does take time. If you get hooked as I did, it can eat you alive unless you’re careful. Occasionally it’s been a good weight loss program for me. Not running faster than we are able is wise, and setting priorities depends on individual circumstances. The upside is that often you can choose short-term or long-term involvement.
To those Latter-day Saint moms or dads who bravely, and perhaps naively at first, became anxiously engaged in a political cause and it became their life’s work, let me say, “Thank you.” You have spent untold hours at your computers, on the telephone, at local school board and city council meetings, and at state capitols and the halls of Congress representing us. I admit that when a friend has thanked me for my small contribution, I’ve been complimented but conflicted with this glaring possibility: if more of us had been and were now involved, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing such troubling times.
A Few Can Make a Difference
By adding a few more good people, we could make a big difference in the future. The founders of our country were only a few, but their constitutional ideas transformed the modern free world. Sadly, we are losing their genius and wisdom today because of a small, but vocal minority.
Though small, the opposition’s funds are enormous. For example, the ACLU (very occasionally they’re on our side) has an annual budget of approximately $200 million. The Utah-based Gay and Lesbian coalition, for example, opposing Amendment 3, which protects marriage between a man and a woman, has at its disposal at least $1 million to sway (and deceive) the voters before Election Day. Their deception began with scare tactics about contractual agreements and litigation-phantom arguments.
Now their coalition is employing a longtime and effective liberal strategy to label intelligent supporters with moral compasses as the “wacko religious right.” In debate, if you don’t have the rational arguments on your side, an effective technique is to discredit your opponent. Unfortunately, media sound bites do not allow time for the enormous body of scientific and legal analysis supporting marriage between a man and a woman.
If Latter-day Saint Citizens do not rise to their duties and become educated on these issues, our moral foundations will continue to crumble at a faster rate. Isn’t it time for more Latter-day Saint attorneys and business leaders with credentials and financial resources to become anxioussly engaged?
People sometimes ask me what motivates me to engage in such challenging moral causes that look hopeless in such an evil world. I tell them, “It’s my children. Their future is at stake. I will fight for their freedom as long as I live.”
Common Excuses: “I Don’t Have Time. It’s the Last Days. It’s a losing battle.”
Others make excuses for themselves with comments such as, “It’s the Last Days and these calamities are prophesied. I think I’ll stay home and protect my family.” While they are staying home protecting their family from within, the world is seeing to it that their family will not be protected from without. No wonder we’re losing our religious freedoms at an astounding rate.
We have a balancing act to choreograph. Elder Neal A. Maxwell described our obligation accurately when he said, “A person could get so caught up in making civic contributions to his community that he could lose his family. By the same token, one cannot readily save his family in an environment in decay. Thus we have obligations to contribute to the civic betterment of the communities in which we live.” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, ed. Cory H. Maxwell , 59).
My choice to be anxiously engaged doesn’t depend on whether we, with our value system, win or lose. We may lose. What matters is how I will account for my actions in this life. I cannot get out of my mind this thought: What will I say to my Maker when He asks where I was when pornography, gambling, violence in the media, or sodomy became the law of the land? Will I say, “Well, it was the Last Days, and I knew it was a losing battle so I stayed home and did nothing?” With all my other sins and failings, how could I justify such a simple omission?
First Steps to Our Duty
Register to Vote, Become Informed on the Issues, Become Familiar with the Candidates’ Positions and then Vote
Being anxiously engaged in politics doesn’t necessarily mean devoting one’s life to political causes above all else. But yes, it is election time, and I’m suggesting that we add another good cause between now and November 2nd: Get involved at a simple entry-level.
In a free society, registering to vote, becoming informed on the issues and familiar with the candidates and their positions, and voting are the most basic and important responsibilities, duties, and obligations of citizenship. These are the first steps every Latter-day Saint and citizen can and should take to become anxiously engaged. Utah women were the first to be granted the right to suffrage in the United States, even before the 14th Amendment became law. Ironically, statistics now show that Utah women were among the lowest in voter turnout during the last election. In a recent Primary, at least one Utah county brought out only 12% to the polls.
Likewise, showing up at the polls without a clue is akin to showing up for a final exam without studying, except it’s not a test you’re about to fail. It’s your children’s future.
In 1998, the First Presidency issued this statement:
“We wish to reiterate the divine counsel that members ‘should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness’ (D&C 58:27) while using gospel principles as a guide and while cooperating with other like-minded individuals.
“Through such wise participation as citizens, we are then in better compliance with this scripture: ‘Governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and . he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them’ (D&C 134:1).
“Therefore, as in the past, we urge members of the Church to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs. Members of the Church are under special obligations to seek out and then uphold those leaders who are wise, good, and honest (see D&C 98:10).
“Thus, we strongly urge men and women to be willing to serve on school boards, city and county councils and commissions, state legislatures, and other high offices of either election or appointment, including involvement in the political party of their choice” (First Presidency letter, 15 Jan. 1998).
If you are not registered to vote yet, you can do it easily online. Here’s the link: https://www.eac.gov/register_vote_forms.asp
Go to the bottom of that page on this non-partisan site, click on the link that says For Public Use (under the heading National Mail Voter Registration Form) and follow the simple instructions. Do it soon because deadlines vary from state to state, and yours may be past already.
The Forgotten Vote: Missionaries and Students
Don’t forget to register your out-of-state students and missionaries. Deadlines for registration and absentee ballots also vary from state to state and may be past. What difference do these votes make? Utah alone has enough missionaries that, if they had been included in the census count filed, Utah would be at least one electoral vote ahead in this election. Similarly, simply registering your students and missionaries and requesting their absentee ballots can make a difference in this close presidential race. Helping your elderly parents and friends with a ride to the polls is another good cause.
An Obligation We Cannot Ignore
Cheryll Lynn May wrote, “We must not assume that since the Constitution embodies a ‘divinely inspired’ political system the machinery of checks and balances, separation of powers, and other constitutional limitations will automatically preserve political and moral freedom for the individual. The prophets have made clear that no constitution or set of laws, written or unwritten, can by themselves protect a nation from corrupt leaders. Brigham Young remarked, ‘No matter how good a government is, unless it is administered by righteous men, an evil government will be made of it.’ (Journal of Discourses, 10:177.) Bitter experience has shown that the best way to keep corrupt individuals from subverting constitutional and legal processes is for committed citizens to maintain a constant, careful surveillance over governmental activities, opposing individuals motivated only by selfish ambition in seeking public office. Although ancient and latter-day scriptures warn that increasing political violence and corruption will precede the millennium, Latter-day Saints must continue during this pre-millennial period to struggle to maintain the political freedoms essential to the spread and practice of the gospel.” [Cheryll Lynn May, “Beyond Voting: Some Duties of the LDS Citizen,” Ensign, June 1976, 46]
No Candidate Worth Voting For
Recently a fine Latter-day Saint said to me, “I’ve decided I’m not even going to vote in November. This campaign has become too contentious, too ugly. No candidate’s worth voting for anymore. They’re all a bunch of liars and should be thrown out.”
I’m always astonished by the cynical, negative and sometimes bitter responses of good Americans who watch the news, stay home from their town halls, caucuses, conventions and Primary elections, then look at the ballot line, and complain. How many letters or emails have they sent to their elected officials? How many legislative sessions or city council meetings have they attended? Why were there only about 50 people at the last political meeting I attended? How many corporations supporting bad laws with big money did they contact?
The Adversary delights in cynicism and pessimism. I’m sure he delights in discouraging as many as possible to stay home and not engage in the political process of a free society so evil can prevail to enslave humanity. Edmund Burke’s famous quote resounds in my conscience with a deafening whisper, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“No Choice” is a Choice
Whether your time is now to engage politically on a larger scale or not, every citizen can at least take those first steps to register to vote, to become informed on the issues and the positions of the candidates, and then to vote on November 2nd. Meridian’s Family News Network will do everything it can to help because we know the stakes have never been so high. As Sheri Dew boldly proclaimed at a recent conference on the family in Washington DC:
“Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family or against it. Every living human being will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice, that in itself will be a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.” (Sheri Dew, Feb. 28, 2004, Family Action Council International, Washington D.C., emphasis added)
Meridian will help keep you informed on the issues and the candidates. On November 2nd, exercise your agency and be grateful for your right to vote. Watch for Part 2 in this series, which will provide information about positions open for both paid and volunteer positions to get out the vote for your favorite candidates around the country. Now is the time to be anxiously engaged.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.