Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mister Brother Rutley

Across the Thames from the London Eye and under the shadow of Big Ben and the gothic towers of Westminster, the newest LDS member of Parliament (MP) met with the UK's J. Reuben Clark Society (LDS lawyers association) last night at Porticullis House.

David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield, seemed quite at home in the Thatcher Room among 40+ LDS lawyers, students, and missionaries.  Almost.  Both during his formal remarks and the Q&A period, he seemed eager to point out that while he was LDS and proud to be so, his job was to represent the people of Macclesfield.  When asked what he would say to encourage other Latter-day Saints in the audience considering public life, he professed not necessarily to want to encourage Latter-day Saints to run for office, but all people of "values," regardless of their faith or creed, or, in fact, any religion at all.

When pressed to help various Church members with events and concerns after the meeting, he again expressed on a personal level that his job, first and foremost, was to his constituency in Macclesfield.

I was impressed.  One would expect that among friends and like-minded church members, an LDS MP would relax and demonstrate colors favorable to that crowd.  But Mr. Rutley (I suppose I could call him Brother Rutley, as we do in the Church) was dogmatic about his primary concern as a member of Parliament.

Whether this resolve came from internal integrity, from a tough campaign wherein opponents raised the allegiance question, or a combination of both is unclear.  Yet the resolve was there.  As one who has known a few LDS politicians and who appreciates the work they often do on behalf of our shared faith, I agree with the late President Hinckley when he told U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (previously R-Oregon) that his loyalty lay first to his constituency.

This may seem odd coming from one who has made solemn covenants to give all to my faith.  Yet I believe my allegiance to a God that I love is actually strengthened by integrity to my employers, whomever they might be.  The two are not at odds, but complimentary.  History is fraught with battles which have been fought, won, and lost, over religious and political differences.  But it need not be so.  Joseph of Egypt did a wonderful job in his employ and served God simultaneously.  It was refreshing to meet another civil servant who likewise has learned that one does not compromise the other.

Yet I would be lying if I said Mr. Rutley did not play to his very sympathetic crowd.  He delighted us with stories of being a fresh, naive MP who did not know that the daily prayers in the House of Commons (not televised) are said by members while facing the wall, rather than each other (so that their swords would not clank on the benches when they knelt, clearly);  how his door-knocking as a missionary prepared him for door-knocking as an MP candidate; and how his colleagues thoughtfully arranged (without being asked) for him to be able to take his oath of office while placing his hand on both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

I look forward to my next interchange with Mr. (Bro.) Rutley.

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