How to become more involved in political, community and government affairs

After working on Capitol Hill, I found that members of Congress really value the opinions of their constituents and want to hear from them. Following are ways to involve yourself in the political process:

Become a registered voter in your area and participate in every election. Your vote is your most powerful way to express your beliefs, and your one vote can make a difference in the outcome of an election. Become educated about local initiatives as well as candidates and their platforms.- Become knowledgeable about current issues that affect your city, county, state and country. Read articles in the newspapers that have a local, state or national scope. The Internet is an excellent resource for information. Most congressmen and senators regularly publish newsletters or have home pages where you can find information about issues that affect your area and their efforts to combat problems. Attend town meetings or other forums and get to know the people who represent you in your state capital or in Washington, D.C.

Express opinions about issues you are interested in. Let your elected officials know how you feel they should vote on legislation that affects you and your family. This can be done through a personal meeting, letter, e-mail, fax or phone. Legislators often respond by reporting on how they voted on a particular issue. Share with your children what you have done and invite them to write your legislator on issues that affect them.

Consider running for office, starting at where you are comfortable, such as a position on the PTA or local school boards or city councils. Volunteer to serve on neighborhood or community councils or in non-profit organizations. Every Latter-day Saint can be an influence for good, especially when interacting with community members as the First Presidency recently stated in a letter to members of the Church. - Kathryn Baer, Arlington, Va.

What we did:

Volunteer for candidate

I've found that perhaps the easiest way to get involved in politics and government affairs is by volunteering for the political candidate of your choice. Not only do you learn about the political process and the hard work necessary to run a successful campaign, but you also get a stronger understanding of the key issues facing the voting public.

Additionally, many municipalities seek volunteers for school-tutoring programs, historical commissions, recycling programs and a variety of other community-related activities. Find a topic that interests you, and then go to your local city/town hall to inquire about volunteering your time and efforts. If there's nothing that suits your interests, investigate developing your own program. - Brad MacDonald, Wakefield, Mass.

Be consistent

In Scotland, we have public consultation meetings, area committees, community councils, and community groups with a wide range of interests. I am sure other countries have similar facilities.

Don't worry about compromising your Church standards. Put on the armor of God and serve graciously.

Don't stick the Church or your religion up people's noses. Nevertheless, this is missionary work without preaching. People don't listen to what you say. They watch what you do.

Do be consistent, reliable and on time. - Hugh Stirling, director of public affairs, Paisley Scotland Stake

Good experience

After many years of working in PTA, I became interested in working politically to strengthen education. My husband and I contacted the leadership of our political party and found they needed our help. We found ourselves working with a wonderful group of people who were concerned with the same problems in our area that we were. To my surprise, I was drafted to run for political office. After fasting and praying, my husband and I felt I should accept the challenge. Although I didn't win, I made many new friends and feel the open debate over issues brought some balance to politics in our area that had been lacking. It was a good experience. - Monti Jones, Providence, Utah

Professional association

My field in health care as a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator changes so fast that my husband and I decided that involvement in the local chapters of my professional association would help me maintain contacts and keep current professionally. Over the past 11 years I have served in many capacities. In each, I have had responsibility either directly or indirectly for legislative activities related to my profession. This has given me the opportunity to learn how our government works. I have had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., on three occasions as a volunteer to lobby issues important to my profession. In 1998 my involvement at the state level suddenly became much more than I had ever imagined. I became a volunteer lobbyist for a coalition of groups. I was able to help pass legislation to mandate insurance coverage of diabetes education and supplies in Colorado. I also met the governor and had the opportunity to take one of my children with me to the Capitol on April 17, 1998, for the signing of the bill. - Rosanne G. Ainscough, Englewood, Colo.

Citizen involvement

Here are some things you can do:

Talk with other volunteers when doing community service projects about what needs improvement in your community. Then go talk to your city council about those things and offer to help make the changes.

Contact your stake director of public affairs. He or she may be able to refer you to people who follow politics closely. Ask them for advice or information.

Attend candidate forums. Ask them questions about the issues you care about.

Pray for your community and for guidance for elected officials and candidates.

Don't be cynical. Most people who run for public office do so out of a desire to serve and improve their communities. - Janice Rutherford, Fontana, Calif.

Benefit a charity

I love to create events to benefit a charity of some sort. Many people believe that their efforts may not make a difference or go unnoticed. Everyone who makes an effort to volunteer to help the community is setting an example of what we truly believe in - love and service patterned after the example of Jesus Christ. - Christine Slaby, Lawrenceville, Ga.

How to checklist:

1 Vote wisely; be knowledgeable about issues and candidates.

2 Express views; attend town meetings, forums.

3 Volunteer to help political, community organizations; run for office.

4 Be active in the community; make improvements.


June 6 "How to help heal a family after a loved one has caused deep hurt."

June 13 "How to avoid the gambling trap."

June 20 "How to utilize modern technology to enhance family history research."

June 27 "How to help young people learn homemaking skills."

July 4 "How to develop more gratitude as a family for freedom."

July 11 "How to overcome compulsive eating."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to supplement your regular income," "How to rear children in light and truth," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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