PROVO—If you have been concerned at how divided and bitter political battles have become, there is a new publication that might interest you. The just-released issue of BYU Studies takes up the questions, “What is good government, and what can citizens do to promote and preserve it?”
Sue Young of Ephraim (aka, Susan Elizabeth Howe) was one of the four editors of the issue. “Preparing these articles for the journal made me aware of my own failings in how I think about and act towards those I disagree with in politics,” she said.
“The country is at a critical juncture, where we will either separate into hostile tribal factions, or we will begin to talk to each other and seek common ground in order to solve our problems. I hope we will return to respect and cooperation, but I’ve learned for myself that it takes real work to change.”
One of the most important articles, “To Moderate and Unify,” is by Spring City resident Kristine Hansen. It argues that citizens need to return to a model of listening to each other and speaking persuasively to choose the course of action we should follow.
To persuade someone is far different from calling them names, distorting their ideas, or shouting and disrupting a meeting to keep them from speaking. Effective communicators demonstrate fairness and honesty, and they seek to establish common ground with those they hope to persuade. They seek to modify extreme positions and to arrive at solutions that address problems.
The issue is full of examples of groups and individuals who are trying to do just that. Dallin Oaks of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explains how Latter-day Saint and LGBTQ leaders came together to learn from each other and then compromised to pass legislation in Utah that preserved two important constitutional principles—freedom of religion for people of faith, and equality in housing and employment for the LGBTQ community.
Keith Allred, author of one of the articles, has based his organization, Commonsense American, on the principle he learned from James Madison in the Federalist Papers and King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon: The majority of people are likely to choose what is fair and right.
He explains how a small percentage of Americans are running both the Republican and Democratic parties, and how they are much more extreme in their positions than the majority of those in either party, as well as independents, all of whom are looking for fair, just and effective legislation.
Anyone can join Commonsense American. By completing surveys expressing ideas on individual issues, members provide the organization with information to convince partisan legislators that the citizens they represent support commonsense—not extreme partisan—solutions to such problems as infrastructure and medical care.
Sharlee Mullins Glenn, founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, explains the principles on which the organization was founded. If one begins with one’s deeply held religious beliefs rather than the positions espoused by a political party, one is more likely to choose to support some candidates from one party and some from another, rather than to begin with loyalty to party before any other consideration.
According to Sue Young, there are many more ideas in the issue for improving government. The entire content is available free of charge at the BYU Studies website, or a hard copy can be ordered for $9.95 by calling the offices at (801) 422-6691.