Being Civically Engaged Involves Voting… and a Whole Lot More
Election season is upon us in the United States and other places. Primaries are underway for local and state offices in many Western States with large Latter-day Saint populations, and many Church members are on the ballot running for many offices. Some places are holding special elections for federal offices (such as Utah’s 2nd Congressional District) and various ballot initiatives.
In an era where differences overshadow commonalities, we note that the health of the planet knows no borders or party affiliations and serves as an important reminder of our shared humanity. In the values and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as recent academic research, an emerging theme is: collaboration is not just recommended, it’s imperative.
Church doctrine established that we should “be subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” as stated in Article of Faith 12. We also embrace the “free exercise of conscience” (Doctrine and Covenants 134). Church leaders encourage members to “play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues, voting in elections, participating in governance processes and (as they desire) seeking for elected, appointed or voluntary office.”
The Church does not endorse specific political parties or candidates, but it sometimes speaks out on moral issues, and strongly supports members being engaged citizens. Church doctrine overwhelmingly supports caring for all life and replenishing Earth’s natural resources and ecological systems as foundational principles of belief and values. Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance views responsible stewardship of the Earth as a matter of moral and ethical concern and a common cause that can sometimes unite the human family across political differences.
Bipartisan capacity for environmental action is evident, even on sometimes controversial issues such as climate change, as a recent CIRES study conducted by researchers Renae Marshal and Matt Burgess attests. Their research shows that one-third of climate-related bills passed in Republican-controlled legislatures, emphasizing that there are important opportunities for cooperation. The researchers point out the importance of “working together across party lines” as a key solution to many environmental challenges. Renae also saw through her studies, “The more polarized we get, the more of a barrier there is.”
When Church leaders encourage informed, civil engagement in civic affairs, it is not just a suggestion but a directive that carries immense opportunity. As the First Presidency reminds us, our engagement should be “respectful and aligned with Christlike behavior.” Christ was patient, kind, and forgiving, as well as persuasive, direct and encouraging.
As we navigate upcoming elections and civic conversations, maintaining a demeanor of respect and civility is essential for reaching solutions. By fostering a culture of positive, optimistic leadership that values civil discourse, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be leaders and collaborators on environmental issues.
Behavioral scientists in the UK have found that enabling people with specific, actionable environmental goals is far more effective than employing strategies rooted in fear or guilt. We can collectively drive the change we need for a better world that honors our Creator.
So here’s our call to action this election cycle: let’s actively embody the spirit of cooperation, civility, and shared responsibility. Engage in conversations about environmental stewardship with candidates and voters with openness and respect, regardless of the other person’s political or religious leanings. The road ahead requires all of us to work together to reflect stewardship as a cause to unite us, and leave an abundant and positive legacy that future generations can inherit and enjoy.