I have two recent experiences to share on this topic.
Last week, I attended a conference for work. I sat at a table with four other people. Two of them were a married couple who told me about the great work they were doing with their small non-profit. The wife mentioned they worked mostly with the youth of their church, and I asked which church they belonged to. I don't think she heard me, so I asked a second time. (I had a hunch she might say LDS... And she did!)
But the way in which she delivered her answer is what really shocked me. She looked to the left. She looked to the right. Then she leaned in closer, cupped her hand around her mouth and with the apologetic look of a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, whispered, "Los Mormones." (Spanish for "The Mormons.") I smiled at her and said as proudly and loudly (Relatively. I mean, we were at a conference. I wasn't going to shout it.) as I could, "Yo tambien soy Mormona!" (Spanish for, "I, too, am Mormon." Everyone at the table happened to speak Spanish. Even the French-Canadian guy.)
It made me sad that she seemed embarrassed to acknowledge her membership in the church. As I go about my days, I try my very best to actively live the gospel. I know I often fail, but I do the best I can. I almost go out of my way to make sure my friends and colleagues know I'm LDS, not because I'm trying to preach to them or wear my religion on my sleeve or anything (and I really hope I don't come across self-righteous or preachy or anything like that), but because I hope that I can be a good example and a good representative of my church and, most importantly, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tonight, I had a telephone conversation with my friend Kyle, who is also LDS. We talked for ... Hang on. Let me check my cell phone.... 1 hour and 24 minutes, mostly about politics (I'd say 95%). You should know that Kyle and I have very different political views. At one point, our conversation got a little... heated. But we were able to bring it back to a good place and find common ground on a few topics. I enjoyed being able to talk to Kyle, because I know that even though we have very different viewpoints on some big issues, at the end of the day, we'll still friends.
My conversation with Kyle made me realize that as members of the Church who are politically active, it is imperative that we live the Gospel. Kyle and I affiliate with different political parties, but wherever we go, we are also affiliated with the Church, and more importantly, with the Savior. We've each made baptismal covenants, which have included taking upon us the name of Christ. This means that wherever we go, the people around us should be able to recognize that we are followers of Christ. It's like... wearing a team jersey.
Kyle often wears his beloved (read: old) Yankees t-shirt, which is a clear indicator to the entire world that he is a Yankees fan. As member of the church, we don't wear a Jesus jersey, but people should know by the way we act and by the way we live and treat others that we are on His team, and that we're doing our best to live His gospel. In this case, living the gospel means it's important for our political discussions to be civil and calm and.... not heated. Not just with each other, but with anyone else. I think this is something that is lacking in our country. Most Americans (including me) are tired of partisan politics, of gridlock and bickering, of fighting and not comprising. If all politicians could remember that the person across the aisle is a brother or sister, if we were all trying to live the gospel just a little bit better, and even for those who may not believe in God, if we could all just be a little bit kinder to each other, our politics wouldn't be so bitter, and the world would be a better, more peaceful place. Even the folks whose opinions most differ from ours deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. I fully expect members of the Church and all other followers of Christ to be examples of this, because, guys... We know better.