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How Can You Possibly be a Mormon and a Democrat?: Perspectives on Abortion, Economics, the Environment and Harry Reid Paperback – August 24, 2011
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Clinton "Joe" Andersen, Jr. spent two years in Russia as a missionary for the LDS Church. At age 19, he witnessed, firsthand, the devastation that Soviet communism had inflicted upon things like... customer service. That concept had been raped, pillaged and driven to extinction. There's nothing so strange as getting yelled at for not finding the sour cream on your own. It was no less strange for Joe to find himself, after two years, staring in complete awe and amazement at the cereal aisle of the grocery store. It was a formative experience, to say the least.
Upon his return, Joe met and married Karen, a woman with a special talent: a seemingly endless supply of patience with Joe's most eccentric undertakings, including a three-year venture into writing and publishing this very book. Before that, she endured a five-year construction project, which remained a constant eye-sore out the back window. During construction, Karen gave birth to two children. When the project was complete, Clayton and Shereen had a life-sized hobbit hole to call their own.
The Andersen hobbit hole has appeared in print media, such as The Mesa Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and Backyard Living magazine. It has also appeared on HGTV's "Offbeat America" and local news. In fact, it was awarded 3TV's "Best Home Sweet Home of 2006".
These media clips can be seen on Joe's YouTube channel at azhobbit.com, which also showcases his knack for video editing. Also on the channel is a true classic in filmmaking: "Clayton's Backyard Documentary".
In the meantime, with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from ASU, Joe has found work in various and surprising engineering fields: from water treatment plants to designing multiple subdivisions, from aerospace solenoid valves to turbine engine parts. It's not rocket science, but its close. Besides, Joe also found work in the field of brain surgery as a neurosurgical image guidance engineer.
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Top customer reviews
I have a lot of respect for this author. Andersen identifies as conservative, but he has a lot of respect for people with differing opinions. It seems like respecting others' views should be easy, but I've found in my limited experience that a number of Latter-Day Saints genuinely believe that anyone who isn't on the far right is a bad Mormon. Just look at the reaction to my review of Latter-Day Liberty and you'll see what I mean. It was great to read a book that could discuss difficult issues maturely.
I guess I'll start with one negative thing I'd like to get out of the way: the title is deceptive. This book covers a variety of topics, and some chapters have very little to do with the LDS faith. If I were to write a book that was meant to tell people that it's possible to be a Mormon and a Democrat, I would write a response to the arguments made by people like Cleon Skousen and Connor Boyack. A more appropriate title would be something like A Balanced Discussion of Modern Political Issues (With a Few Quotes from General Authorities and Orson Scott Card Thrown In). Really, it's not a very direct answer to the question on the cover. Also, when I first saw the book, I didn't even realize the title was supposed to be sarcastic. Now I feel like an idiot, but at the same time there are enough crazy people out there that I wouldn't be totally surprised if this were a book trying to prove that you couldn't be a Mormon and a Democrat.
The first four chapters take a look at some of the issues we face today, and each is split into a section giving the typical conservative viewpoint and the typical liberal viewpoint. The first chapter is on abortion, which is pretty much the only issue that I still feel like I have a firm stance on. I believe it should be illegal. But since it's an issue I used to have a strange obsession with, I had pretty much heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle. My real issue with this chapter, however, is that the liberal "Dan" is pro-life. He argues that you can be a pro-life Democrat, pointing to Harry Reid as an example, and then he proceeds to give reasons someone might be pro-choice. I think it would have been better if Dan had been pro-choice, and had argued that you could be a pro-choice Mormon. The issue of how a Mormon could justify a pro-choice position is swept under the rug. On a positive note, Andersen does do a good job of articulating the points that people on both sides of the aisle make. I don't want readers of this review to think that my major quibble with this chapter means I didn't like it. There just isn't much to expand on when I say that it was simply a well-written chapter. Read it for yourself.
Chapter 2 is about War. Again, I found that Andersen did a good job of having his characters make their points clearly and respectfully. The specific focus was the Iraq War. Andersen decided to have two "guests" write sections that give the pro-Iraq/anti-Bush viewpoint and the anti-Iraq/pro-Bush viewpoint. I don't think this was necessary, and it made the chapter way too long. I think we're all aware that you can support a president without supporting all of his decisions, and vice-versa. Then again, there are some people with a few screws loose out there. Anyway, my other problem is that once again, Dan doesn't really give a liberal viewpoint. He basically argues that Bill Clinton was just as effective as Republicans at fighting against terrorism. The typical liberal viewpoint would be that there shouldn't be so much military usage. I wish this chapter had just looked at the issue of foreign invasion more broadly and given the pro-intervention and anti-intervention viewpoints, with several arguments on each side being gospel based. Again, note that while the chapter could have been better, it was still interesting to read. I did give this book 4/5, remember?
Economics. Fun. Way more interesting than that foreign policy stuff. The conservative half covers everything you'd expect: the importance of individual liberty, the failures of government to fix economic problems in the past, and the dangers of price controls and minimum wages. This is pretty much what you'd expect to hear from a conservative, though maybe "Noah" should have set an example for other conservatives by responding more directly to the arguments for intervention. Still, Andersen did a fine job of discussing the value of a free market system. The left-wing half talks about progressive taxation, types of regulation that are appropriate, the dangers of "faith-based economics," and externalities. There are a few market weaknesses that he missed out on covering (income inequality, public goods, imperfect information), and he didn't spend any time discussing Keynesian ideas on why spending can stimulate the economy. That being said, he did a much better job than in the first two chapters of giving a true liberal viewpoint.
So the final chapter to follow this format was on the environment. I was expecting a discussion of global warming, which seems to be the environmental issue most frequently addressed by politicians. I was surprised to hear Andersen say in the introduction that global warming would not be covered at all. I think this was a good thing. There are many issues regarding our environment to worry about that shouldn't be cast aside just because of global warming. I also like how gospel based arguments were made on both sides. Well done.
From this point onward, the book jumps around a lot. The chapters are shorter, and many of them deal more directly with the gospel than the first four. In Chapter 5, Andersen addresses the fact that Dan didn't really give the left-wing position in the War chapter. He had a liberal friend of his read the chapter, and the friend was not happy with the arguments made. Andersen shares the angry-sounding responses of his friend, and points out that people are harder to take seriously when they are so disrespectful. While this seems obvious to me, I know there are plenty of people out there who could benefit greatly from taking this simple message to heart.
The rest of the book gives some discussions on Harry Reid and Glenn Beck, a story Andersen wrote that he believes can help you determine whether you are liberal or conservative, the Church's involvement in gay marriage, the benefits of having a variety of opinions within the Church, and relationships between Mormons and Muslims. This review is long enough already, so I won't go into further detail. I do want to give one last criticism, however. I really wish he had shared what it is exactly that led him to decide the Church was right about gay marriage. He acts like it was a journey for him, yet he barely touches on it. I want to agree with the Church, but I don't see why the Church feels such a strong need to get involved with this issue. It's been difficult for me because I had to vote on a Marriage Amendment in my home state of Minnesota and I still don't know if it was right to vote YES. I felt manipulated by the Church. I mean, I believe homosexuality is wrong (even though I wish it wasn't), but that doesn't mean we need the government to define marriage the way that our Church does. I could rant, but I'm not going to get off topic. I just wish that Andersen, who is clearly an intelligent man, could give an intelligent reason why the Church's involvement was so crucial that it was worth throwing away all that tithing money.
Overall, a great book. I would recommend it to anyone that knows they need to open their minds and expand their critical thinking skills a little.
I later stumbled across the author on Facebook and learned that he is really a fair minded guy and that this book was not what I thought it to be. I decided to purchase the book and read it.
The author sympathetically presents the "Mormon Democrat" point of view on issues like abortion, economics, the environment, gay marriage, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This reminded me of something I heard Stephen R. Covey say: that we should present the other person's point of view in a manner acceptable to him. The author also presents the Mormon Republican view, and then a synthesis of the two. An interesting addition would have been the views on these issues of Latter-day-Saints who are from other countries, but that was beyond the scope of this book.)
The message I took from the book was that we need to strive to not judge others because of their political views. Also that most of us want the same results, we just differ on what government should or should not do to acheive those results.
Our friends who are not of our faith would benefit from knowing that there are a variety of political views among us.
How Could You Possibly Be a Mormon and a Democrat is not as polished as I would like. I have to give it 3 stars for that. I would give it 5 stars for the idea, and 4 stars for how it made me think and feel.... that I am free to have any political views I want and still be a faithful latter-day saint; something I already knew, but it was still nice to hear it.
The take-away is that as with any religion, few members possess a firm grasp of the doctrine and even fewer live by gospel precepts. Add to this a misunderstanding of the Democrat Party platform and you get 'Mormons' who vote for Democrats.
Most recent customer reviews
to be more open minded and understand others views.