Religion & politics has been a topic which I have enjoyed reading in the many posts that have been written throughout the Utah blogosphere since Cliff's piece, "Special Conversations". As a conservative-leaning Republican this topic has made me reflect a great deal on my own political views and how my religious views intermingle.
I must concede that there are a fair portion of members of this state's majority religion who view their Church's statement of neutrality as a "wink and a nod" endorsement of the Republican party. This problem of course is one that comes because many people don't take the time to know what the party they affiliate with stands for, and use one or two issues to classify their political ideals. I have even heard one member hear go so far as to state that "How can a Latter-day Saint be a Mormon and a Democrat" simply because his pet issue (abortion) trumps all others in his political paradigm. I'm sure cases of narrowmindedness like this and others aren't isolated in Zion, although I hope them to be the exception an not a norm.
As the LDS Church's neutrality statement suggest both parties have views and positions that are in harmony with the precepts and doctrines espoused in Mormonism. As I have noted in the past the neutrality statement does have a legal reason for its existence, but it has a sound religious doctrinal purpose as well "members (and all citizens) should study and pray about the candidates" rather than blindly voting down one column of a ballot. I believe this sort of proactive participation is the democracy that the founding fathers had in mind when writing the Constitution, and not vote strictly per myopic, mind-numbing, black and white political paradigms in which many Americans exist. With that thought it may well be said that full and utter allegiance to one political party over another hinders the development and progress of our nation. Party alignment is necessary, however our commitment to democracy needs to be deep enough that we seek candidates who have positions consistent with right principles, and candidates who that stretch their positions beyond the narrow borders of party talking points.
Democracy is one of the greatest inventions in the history of the world, it is an invention that was inspired by God. With such a great gift from God there comes responsibility, our responsibility is to be engaging, thoughtful, prayerful, in the decisions we make when we go to the polls. May we as Utahns, Mormons, non-Momons, Americans stretch our voting decisions beyond party allegiances to learn and vote according to the merits of every candidate rather than the rhetoric and stigmas connected to respective political parties.