So what’s a liberal Mormon, anyways?

I guess if we’re going to be elitist and pride ourselves on being liberals, it might be helpful to set some parameters or definitions of some kind. Note that I won’t impose any definitions, of course, because I’m not some kind of dictator.

I found The Political Compass to be a reasonably reliable indicator of political/social leanings; I have a feeling that Mormons are going to be a tighter grouping on the grid of politics than Times & Seasons would indicate. In other words, we’re all pretty conservative – some of us just a little more so than others. Or perhaps the liberal/conservative distinction applies in terms of social politics but not in terms of economics? Anyways, I found the test to be interesting (I’ll post my own results later), and thought it might be interesting to y’all.



  1. (continued):

    I say that liberal mormon ideas take the form of such questions, because the liberal mormons I know rarely have answers; we’re more interested in where the questions take us. That may lead liberal mormons to not take immediate stances on some issues.

    I’d like to hear more thoughts about what “liberal mormon” means to you (Michelle) as well as to the rest of the world. Michelle, your own blog is distinctly on the ‘right’ side of the political spectrum — yet you’ve shown that you can consider and debate both sides of many issues. In your mind, does that make you ‘liberal’?

  2. (I’ll do this comment in two parts b/c of space limits)


    What are liberal mormon ideas? Interesting that you express it in terms of potential actions. In my mind liberals are deathly afraid of putting their ideas into practice :)

    I’d say, if we can relate back the Political Compass, that liberal mormons have their liberalism mostly in terms of social freedoms, rather than economics (or that economics are secondary). Liberal mormon ideas might take the form of questions like whether the BoM should be taken as an accurate historical record or not; whether male church government adequately addresses the concerns of women (is the relief society a mere show piece); whether we are still a church of miracles (at least of scriptural showy miracles); etc.,

  3. At the same time Steve, it is also liberal Mormons who seem to get excommunicated for non-sexual reasons. A person must be comfortable in their faith before they decide to start questioning it.

  4. Back to the question: So what’s a Liberal Mormon, Anyways?

    It has potential to be an interesting question, but I fear otherwise. Mormon ideas by definition are liberal because they go against almost 1,700 years of Christian tradition. Usually, however, liberal Mormons are really just liberals, who come up with an after-the-fact Mormon rationale so they can parrot the politics of their friends and suburban neighbors. Good for them.

    So what are liberal Mormon ideas? Something like calling men to Primary presidencies? At-home fathers with wives who work? Advocating for a flat-rate 10% tax scheme? Compromising our national security because charity never faileth?

    Whatever it is, I’m happy to align myself with your liberal Mormon movement. Incidentally, my scores:
    economic left/right: 1.00
    social libertarian/authoritarian: -0.92

  5. Does it make me a liberal in your mind?

  6. Economic -7,12
    Social -6.46
    I hope that when the current regime puts us in jail that you fellow liberal Mormons will be held in a cell close to mine!

  7. Economic Left/Right: -2.50
    Social Libertarain/Authoritarian:

    Does this mean that I’m going to be thrown in prison for 27 years and then emerge to become the nations president?

  8. Economic Left/Right: -3.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 0.26

    That surprises even me…

  9. Fat chance for Clark!

    Sorry, not much of a politico.

  10. Fat chance for Clark? I guess you don’t follow the democrats too closely. He dropped out a while ago.

    Well one liberal Mormon I love is Hugh Nibley. I was at his ROAST a couple of years ago. Who was the guy who did all the impressions of GAs? That was hysterical. His Monson and Maxwell were dead on perfect. Can I hire him for a party?

  11. FROM AN ABUNDANT LIVE: Hugh B. Brown moved here from Canada…
    I asked the brethren if I should be a democrat or a republican…Heber J. Grant told me if I wanted to belong to a party that represented the common people, then I should become a democrat but that if I wanted to be popular and have the adulation of others and be in touch with the wealth of the nation, I should become a republican. I became a democrat and have stayed a democrat.

  12. Hey Karen–good to hear from you. Law school moved me to the right so don’t be scared (or proud)–I’m the one who has changed. Or as it was so eloquently put over at T&S–“whatever”.

  13. Karen Hall says:

    HLS sent you in the conservative direction? Whatever. :o) (I suspected you were a secret T&S lurker–you really ought to stir things up more often. Steve and Aaron B. really have more work than they can handle.) Back to the political compass, I suppose my score would change if I took the test in a different mood. I’ll try again in a couple of weeks.

  14. Kristine says:

    Hmmm. I’m afraid to post my score for fear that my spot at Times and Seasons and/or my church membership will be revoked. But I’ve got you all beat .

    Karen, Michelle–you DO need to comment more at T&S. I’m not doing a great job at the token woman spot, and I could use the help.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    I agree with Karen that the merit is in the dialogue.

    But Karen, when you said, “I’ve known plenty of questioning thoughtful (and respectful of others’ ideas) conservative Mormons,” I found myself full of jealousy. Such has not been my experience. It has perhaps colored me against conservatives more than I should be. I will make an earnest effort. But as I said earlier, I have met in recent years, some conservatives that break the pattern.

  16. I’m Canadian, but I got:

    Economic Left/Right: -2.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.36

  17. Karen Hall says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with Steve here on the “intelligent” point. I don’t think these categories (in my anecdotal experience) have a causal relationship. I’ve known plenty of questioning thoughtful (and respectful of others’ ideas) conservative Mormons. I also have known some annoying knee-jerk liberal Mormons.

    I honestly think that the difference is between what one chooses to stress in their faith, and then how it manifests itself in politics. I’m what I like to refer to as a “mercy Mormon” I’m more likely to stress the forgiveness and charity aspects of the faith. And sometimes–perhaps to my detriment–de-emphasize the justice aspects of faith. I think this bleeds into my political philosophy. Although I have an appreciation for economic libertarian principals, I’m not wedded to them as a sole solution, and am willing to look to compromises in solving the realistic problems of our society. I find most conservatives to be too theoretical for my taste.

  18. In 2000, I might have bought into Nader’s argument that both parties are the same. But after watching the policies of the smirking Chimp since he stole the election I would say there is a massive difference. Dubya and co. despise the poor and are systematically dismantling everything that used to be kind and fair about government. Most Mormon conservatives are too blinded by red herring issues like gay marriage and abortion to realize the core belief of the democratic party is to help the poor and PROTECT FREEDOM.

  19. Kaimi,

    do you want to post a link to rameumptom over at T&S? I can’t wait to see how those guys compare…

  20. Kaimi, you Nazi. Try this on for size:

    Economic Left/Right: -4.38
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.56

    That’s what I get for being Canadian.

  21. Karen,

    Misery loves company–I’m in my office too. I guess that means that anything I post on here belongs to my firm.

    I was talking to my wife–you probably remember Gigi–about what she would blog about this morning and she suggested something about telling everyone to stop blogging and go home to their wives a little bit earlier. I do wonder how some people manage to be so prolific–it seems that the folks over at the Volokh conspiracy must have hours of free time–since they are mostly academics I guess they don’t have hourlies, but all that serious publishing might be just as bad.

  22. Karen, I totally sympathize with you about the family conversation point. Let’s just say that Sumer’s parents are a little more…. conservative.

    I guess what I’m seeing so far (based on a quick look at T&S’s results so far as well) is that mormons vary dramatically in terms of economic left/right, but apparently not as dramatically in terms of social liberties. Is this because we are constrained in terms of the commandments? There were a lot of sexual-related questions which mormons would likely be forced to all answer alike…

  23. Karen, you’re one to talk about being a lurker — where have you been lately?

    As for me and Aaron, you’re probably right, although I think Aaron has favorite topics he returns to more often than me. I’m a general-purpose gadfly.

  24. Steve Evans says:


    Liberals don’t have a monopoly on doctrine-related excommunications. Extremists from either side can (& should) be subject to reprimand by church leaders.

    I agree though that the level of questioning needs to be proportionate with the level of testimony. You can’t be nothing but questions — a member needs the bedrock of faith first.

  25. Kristine,

    I think you’re doing a great job at the token woman spot. :)

    We have a few regular female commenters over there. Karen and Michelle are among them, as are Renee, Julie Smith, “Cooper” and Melissa Proctor.

  26. Kristine,

    I’m sad to see you comfortable NOWHERE. I almost feel like changing my way of thinking just to make you feel more comfortable (almost being the key word there). :-)

    My score:

    Economic Left/Right: 4
    Social Libertarian: -1.03

    If anything, I should be the one feeling comfortable nowhere… My group seems to be, by far, the minority.

  27. Kristine,

    What I find puzzling is that members of your congregation think you’re a minion of the devil merely because you come out on the more liberal side of politics. And I don’t understand how those politics affect your answers in Sunday School — how are your comments “liberal”? My beef is more with those who call themselves “liberal Mormons” when in fact they’re just liberals (who happen to be Mormons who like to bring up unanswerable questions); my beef is with those who pride themselves as “liberal Mormons” because they think it’s cooler or smarter. I don’t get that feeling from you. I don’t see any disconnect between being liberal and being Mormon. Are they really mutually exclusive?

  28. Lynne, that’s a great book, and a great quote. Is it really true, though, in light of how the parties are so homogenized? I mean, a look at the spread at the Political Compass shows everybody pretty close together ideologically.

  29. Mathew,

    Does your wife have a blog? Does she comment on any? I’d be very interested.

  30. Mathew Parke says:


    Gigi doesn’t have a blog and she doesn’t participate in a blog. Maybe you can convince her to do otherwise–I haven’t had any luck so far. She did ask me to post her score though: -1.25 and -2.15.

  31. Stephen Evans says:


    I don’t believe in cool mormons (see the comments to “Wonder Twins,” above. So liberals are no cooler than conservative mormons. They are smarter, however, if only because the liberalism is an offshoot of a tendency to explore issues without preconceived conclusions. Those kind of mental exercises give liberal mormons their increased brain size and mental powers.

  32. Steve Evans says:

    Michelle, I’m kidding — mostly.

    But I do have to admit that the smartest mormons I know (yourself included) are those that are willing to make serious inquiries into their own beliefs and consider multiple perspectives on issues. Now, reasonable people will differ in terms of outcomes on such issues, but the important thing is that the search has been done in a thoughtful, smart, and prayerful way.

    Sadly, it’s been my experience that the more ‘liberal’ mormons are the ones most likely to engage in that type of exercise. You, and Marcus, and a few others I’ve met since being in NYC, are among the rare conservatives I know who are interested in bona fide discussion, not just rants.

  33. Kristine says:

    Michelle, the “just a liberal with an after-the-fact Mormon rationale for the comfort of matching my neighbors” charge is one that Nate has lobbed at me over on T&S a couple of times, and I find it puzzling. In fact, being politically liberal and still a participating Mormon tends to make me comfortable NOWHERE–my liberal neighbors assume I’m a nasty homophobe and pathetically oppressed victim of the patriarchy, while members of my congregation think I’m a minion of the devil, participating merely for the sake of leading them astray with my radical comments in Sunday School. I’m honestly not sure whether the Mormonness of my liberal views is after-the-fact or not, but I don’t think it’s motivated by a desire to more comfortably fit into some peer group, and I’m curious as to why you would think that to be the case.

  34. Karen Hall says:

    My comments got cut off. I’d like to add that I have a great deal of respect for my conservative friends who argue with me on these, and other points, they keep me on my toes, and keep me from taking myself too seriously. The merit is in the dialogue…

  35. No, it doesn’t, IMHO. It makes you intelligent. But you’re politically more conservative than me, I think — or at least, you are more willing to inject your beliefs into the political spectrum.

    I wouldn’t call you a liberal, anyways, but that may not be as important a distinction as being open to discussion and discovery of new ideas.

  36. Oh and Steve,
    check out my numbers.
    Economic -7,12
    Social -6.46

    I’m not that close to the center.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Steve and Karen,

    I actually have no favorite topics at T&S. I just try to be as offensive as possible whenever possible.


    Aaron B

  38. Steve, I’m going to hope that you’re kidding.

  39. Steve, we’ll all be on our knees if Bush gets FOUR MORE WARS.
    Hey, I’ve only ever tried out blogging at the CLARK site. Do we have any other Clarkies among the liberal Mormons?

  40. Us week-kneed liberals don’t stand up well in prison, Lynne.

  41. Well, I must confess, for a liberal Mormon I’m not all _that_ liberal.

    My political compass is:

    Economic Left/Right: -1.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.56

    It varies a little from time to time, but consistently places more or less in that range.

  42. Karen Hall says:

    Where have I been? In trial. Where am I now? In the office on a Saturday evening supposedly catching up on all my other work, but instead amusing myself with all things blog.

    I now vow to lurk no more. I was on the phone with Matt Evans a week or so ago, and he said something about “my voice” would be a good addition over there. I don’t know if that’s because I’m liberal, single or a woman, or a combination of the three, but I now feel like I have some sort of duty to mix it up. Since I’m some sort of a Mormon minority, albeit an unprotected one. :o)

    I totally applaud the gadfly approach. I’ve been avoiding the really philosophical stuff lately because of brain drain…and sticking to the lighter topics, but then it occured to me that was kind of like women in general conference only talking about funny things that primary kids do….so….

  43. Karen Hall says:

    Wow, I just beat Mat Parke in a liberal contest. (BTW, hey there, been a couple of years!) I don’t know whether to be proud or scared…

    economic: -4.38
    social: -2.62

    Mostly, I just beg all of you not to tell my parents! I try to keep the family peace by smiling cryptically when talk turns to politics.

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