11 Points Mormons Should Use in Evaluating Political Candidates

These Guidelines Are Tailored to Mormons But Others Can Benefit From Them

Trying to identify who and what to vote for can be perplexing. There is guidance in scripture. What follows should help you faithfully perform your citizenship duties, especially if you live under a democracy or a republic. 

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Ask for Spiritual Assistance as You Evaluate Candidates

Constitution, bible, gavel and hammer
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We pray for a lot of things. Heavenly Father commands us to pray for and about all things. So, why do you need to be told to pray about who you vote for? It is a no-brainer. Heavenly Father knows the thoughts and intents of people's hearts. He knows who the best candidate for office is. Do your homework, follow these guidelines and then make it a matter of prayer. He will help you!

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Rely on Reliable Voter Information Websites and Sources

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You can find information about candidates all over the place. Obviously, some resources are better than others, and some are the best. If you have not explored Project Vote Smart, it is time you did. It is one of the best!

In our digital age, every candidate has his or her own website you can access. You do not need reporters or commentators to tell you what you need to know. You can access it yourself.

Political parties and some organizations often sponsor a Meet the Candidates night, usually at a convenient location, like schools and libraries. There is no real substitute for seeing a candidate in action. Call your local or state political parties for details and check your local newspapers, when elections are pending to discover these events.

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Identify and Examine the Candidate's Values

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By knowing what a candidate's values are, you can project how he or she will feel about issues. Many values have their roots in religion and LDS members are no exception.

For example, if you know whether a candidate highly values the traditional family, this can probably tell you how he or she will vote on family issues, like marriage tax penalties,adoption, same-sex marriage, etc.

In short, you need to identify what values guide the candidate in all decision making, not just a particular position on one issue.

News media, especially in political polling,  generally focus on superficial issues. You need to probe deeper for the underlying values, in order to make good voting decisions.

Values are deeper than opinions, but opinions stem from values. Opinions are often issue specific and can change more easily.

Past behavior is a good indicator of values. What do a candidate's past activities say about his or her values today?

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Determine the Candidate's Personal Honesty and Integrity

Vote for Integrity
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Honesty and integrity should be a particular concern in how LDS members evaluate political candidates. High standards of truth and personal integrity should be evident in every aspect of the candidate's life.

Remember the lesson of Ether 10:9-11. Morianton was a just ruler, but he was corrupt in his personal life. We must look for leaders who are righteous, both in their personal lives and in their public lives.

The Book of Mormon provides good examples, such as King Benjamin, King Mosiah, Alma and many more.

The higher the office, the more honesty and integrity the voters should expect. There are plenty of checks on ordinary people to make certain they are honest and act with integrity. There are fewer checks available the higher you go in any power structure.

People with power must police themselves. Voters can vote them out, but there are few tools to police them while they serve in elected positions.

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Determine if the Candidate is Able to Wield Power Righteously

Scales of Justice, gavel and law books
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In D&C 121: 39, 41 we are taught that few people handle power righteously. Those who cannot handle power righteously, should not be given any power, ever.

Evaluate candidates by how they treat those below them. This would includes members of their families, their employees, anyone who has served in a subordinate position to them, etc..

If they exploit or abuse anyone, this should be a concern. Look for abuse in any form, whether it is physical, verbal, emotional or otherwise.

People who cannot handle power, should not have any. Since acquiring power is a goal of any Gadianton type conspiracy, it is something we should guard against as we ponder our votes.

Try and select leaders who would make good church leaders and you should have a winning formula to apply against political candidates. Apply righteous leadership standards when you decide what candidates to vote for.

Anyone who seeks power is suspect. Good leaders usually accept it reluctantly and handle it carefully.

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Determine how the Candidate Uses Information and Makes Decisions?

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Elected leaders are largely responsible for making important decisions while others implement those decisions.

In order to make good decisions, a person has to have accurate and correct information. In government, decision makers have access to all types of information. What sources they rely on and what procedures they use to make decisions is important for voters to know.

Does a candidate only access information brought to him or her, or does he or she go out and seek it?

In short, what is the candidate's information behavior?

History tells us that leaders who do not like criticism or negative news eventually do not receive any because their staff and colleagues cease telling them anything bad. In order to make good decisions, leaders must ensure they hear both the good and the bad.

Leaders that decide things quickly, without many facts, are just as dangerous as leaders who cannot make decisions and constantly sift through reams of information and remain undecided. There needs to be a balance.

Good decision makers will identify critical information, process what they can and make decisions in a timely matter, when they must be decided.

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Ignore or Avoid Examining Voting Records

Health care reform legislation
This stack of papers is the Health Care Reform legislation from 2009 that the United States Senate was voting on. Brendan Hoffman / Stringer / Getty Images News/ Getty Images

Voting records are usually poor indicators on which to judge candidates for the following reasons:

  • Voting on legislation is rarely an up or down vote on the merits.
  • Legislation is complex. You have to look at it as a package, not one item.
  • You cannot know from one vote, or even a few votes, which provisions in the legislation the candidate supports and which he or she does not.
  • Hundreds and thousands of votes can be cast. It takes time and expertise to accurately evaluate anyone's voting record.
  • Opponents and others tend to distort the candidates' voting records.
  • A leader may have voted against a piece of legislation he or she might ordinarily support, because an unacceptable amendment was attached to it.
  • We cannot know what is going on behind the scenes when legislation is being considered. This can dramatically affect how someone votes and why.
  • Sometimes decision makers are waiting for studies and reports to be completed so they have sufficient information on which way to vote. In the meantime, they may withhold a vote, or vote an issue down, so that it may be examined in better detail later.
  • Hindsight is always better. Decisions that seemed good at the time may be rendered bad because new information is discovered or knowledge and conditions change. Making a bad decision may have been unavoidable for even the best decision maker. Allow people to make reasonable mistakes, without persecuting them.

Project Vote Smart provides voting record analysis done by specialized organizations.

Review it and look for broad themes but keep your mind open to other explanations.

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Candidates Inherit Conditions and Decisions Made by Their Predecessors

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New candidates to office inherit a lot of programs and decisions made in the past. No one starts with a clean slate. For example, a president who would not have begun a war may take office while one is under way. The crucial question is what will he or she do with a war in progress?

All candidates must walk into complexity. How they handle existing conditions is more important than how they would design and function in a perfect world.

The world is not perfect. Very little is under their direct control and some important things may be entirely outside their control.

Candidates can promise anything to the voters that voters want to hear. They can promise voters anything. Voters must be able to determine if the candidate can actually deliver.

Voters may not be able to predict how a candidate will act in office, but they can analyze how a person has behaved in similar situations in the past.

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Allow Candidates and Office Holders to Change Their Minds

U turn sign
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Voters should not expect candidates to always stick to their positions on issues. New or undiscovered information can, and should, cause people to change from time to time.

You would want someone to change their position, if they became convinced it was wrong or flawed. Allow them to do just that.

However, that does not mean you should overlook complete flip flops from candidates with no credible rationale explaining the change.

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Is the Candidate Willing to Work Hard?

Hammer flanked by flat
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Mormons value work and they have a right to expect their leaders to be hard workers.

Public office at any level is not easy. Candidates must be willing to put in the time and attention it takes to make good decisions and fulfill their responsibilities.

Indications that a candidate is a hard worker should be evident from their past activities. Schooling, demanding employment, heavy church responsibilities are all good clues.

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Remember That Laws Can Become Corrupted

Corruption in government
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From the Book of Mormon, we know that when the majority of the people choose evil, that the laws will become corrupted. This point is emphasized in Helaman 5:2:

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.

Mormons should not vote for candidates who accept and embrace evil because the majority of the people believe in it.

Societies that do accept what we know to be evil will be destroyed.