Steven Kapp Perry
Crystal Young-Otterstrom, left, with daughter, and Craig Janis and Jim Dabakis, head of the Utah State Democratic Party.
I am a Salt Lake mom. So, stepping to the podium in a hotel meeting room, my heart skipped a beat (two actually) as I faced a bank of TV cameras and reporters from all over the world. We were less than a block from the Democratic National Convention.
The weeks prior were full of worry. What if nobody came? What if reporters attended but no Latter-day Saint Democrats showed up? What if church members came but no reporters? Last week, my dream to launch LDS Democrats on the national stage was fulfilled. Because of the work of countless people, LDS Dems in Utah has been a huge success. We have received calls from Boise to Baltimore of people asking to get involved.
It was time to go national and we did it in Charlotte. Well, they came — Latter-day Saints from all over the country came to proudly say they are faithful members and Democrats. The press crammed in as well. We were not anti-Romney. In fact, although we disagree with him politically on many issues, we are proud of Mitt Romney, his beautiful wife and family and are thrilled with the possibilities of the 'Mormon moment.'
Indeed, we thank him for sharing with LDS Democrats (however inadvertently) the 'Mormon moment.' But, we believe that it is the Democratic Party that best meets our values: strengthening families, helping the poor reach self-reliance, compassionate immigration policies, being good stewards of the earth, protecting our sacred wondrous lands for future generations and making sure that every American child receives a quality education.
In just 11 months, the Utah LDS Dems Caucus grew from birth to 2,000 members. It is the largest caucus in the Utah Democratic Party. We were welcomed with open arms. The party has gone out of its way to make sure that we are comfortable. No more Sunday meetings or official events in bars.
Back in Charlotte, we opened our meeting with a prayer. Crusty and battle-weary from a long campaign season, many of the reporters and cameramen bowed their heads. I was thrilled when the highest ranking Mormon in the U.S. government, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told us that he was proud of his church and that he is a Democrat because he is a Mormon. With spontaneity, he asked if I would sing.
Shaking from this surprise, I lead us in singing "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" We sang with pride and passion. There were few dry eyes in the room. A grizzled reporter told me that this was one event he would long remember.
Leaders of the national Democratic Party were strong in their welcome to LDS Dems. They are anxious for us to bring our faith, values and optimism to the Democratic Party. It is wonderful to know that both in Utah and nationally my religion is not only tolerated but welcomed in my political party. The strength and growth of the church can only be enhanced with active members of the LDS Church leaving their mark in both political parties.
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Last week, I had a thought about myself, my party and my church. LDS Democrats have a role to play. We are a world-wide church that must have a voice. A bipartisan voice. It is a broad voice that cherishes the need for many different viewpoints in the democratic political process.
I closed my remarks with these words, our message to the world: "We are strong Latter-day Saints, we are Democrats, and we are in harmony with our religion."
Crystal Young-Otterstrom is the state chairwoman of LDS Dems, an official caucus of the Utah Democratic Party. She runs a marketing and event planning business from home while her daughter sleeps.