Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mitt Romney and the Mormon Question

I had a call from a significant journalist in the US who wanted to discuss my views on anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney. I accepted the interview, hoping that somehow I might do more good than harm in spite of dealing with controversial topics and the unpredictability of the press. If any of you lose your souls because of anything I said, well, I hope it's because I was misquoted. In fact, let me go on record now to state that I categorically deny saying whatever it was I said. Hey, that was easy--maybe I should run for office, too?

Chances are that nothing I said will make it into print--I was just one of multiple sources being interviewed for a story on opposition to Mormonism sparked by the Romney campaign. The reporter raised some common issues: "Does Romney's religion and his religious values jeopardize his ability to serve in office? Will his religious values play a role in his political decisions? Can a President be loyal to America when they follow a Mormon prophet?"

I explained that these are aspects of broader issues that are not unique to Latter-day Saint politicians. Every individual has a set of values that influence how they see the world and how they act. Whether those values are based on some flavor of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, atheism, etc., or mixtures thereof, every politician brings a set of values and beliefs to the table, partly expressed in words but also expressed in one's track record. How those values affect future decision making is a fair question for voters to consider in every case, not just for Mormons. For example, if voters oppose abortion, then they should support candidates who also oppose abortion. I didn't mention this second example, but here's another one to consider: if people want more racial diversity in a America, then they should select a politician whose political and/or religious values will lead him or her to oppose abortion, which eliminates a higher percentage of black children than white children.

The concern that a Mormon President will betray America by relying on the Prophet for decision making is simply ridiculous. Our two most prominent Mormon politicians, Romney and Harry Reid, have been in office for years and have never shown a sign of such behavior. Both, in fact, have taken positions on some major issues that many LDS people might not feel are highly aligned with LDS inclinations. So what's the threat? Where's the evidence of putting Church and Prophet ahead of America? They have values, including some I strongly disagree with, but they appear to be their own men (or, less naively stated, at least owned by someone else besides Thomas S. Monson).

People were worried about Catholicism and John F. Kennedy. Could a Catholic be a good president, or would the Pope get his foot into the White House? Catholicism was not a problem, and with all due respect, I think President Kennedy would have been wiser and happier if he had been a little more Catholic in his behavior. But I'll leave that discussion for another day.

What irks me about the issue of Mormonism and Romney is that some unpleasant folks are using it as a cause to push their own anti-Mormon bigotry. Again numerous congregations are being told that Mormons aren't even Christian, using contrived definitions for "Christian" that would typically exclude Christ and the early Christians of the New Testament. The attacks are intended to scare people away from the Church, and for too many, they are working. Folks, check it out for yourselves and don't give in to the hysterical fear mongering.

As for politics, I've tried to give a relatively bipartisan flavor to my occasional denunciations of politicians in an effort to not be political on this blog. Bipartisan criticism is easy, of course, when one feels both parties in the United States are have let America down. Is Romney the answer? Well, first tell me what the question is. That is one of the biggest gaps in popular American thought--a failure to ask questions, especially meaningful questions. Over here in China, there are a lot of people asking good questions, like "How can America stay solvent if it keeps spending like a bunch of, uh, Americans?" For another day.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fact that the highest-ranking Mormon official in the nation is Harry Reid makes me proud to be a Democrat. I'd hate to see my own party squabbling over religion the way so many in the GOP are doing right now.

As for the fear that Romney would be a theocratic president, I can only say that he sure didn't toe the Church line in Massachusetts.

Papa D said...

A lot of people want to downplay the "Mormon question" - but to me it's really simple:

If Mitt Romney was Protestant, he would have wrapped up the nomination long ago - and everyone else would be positioning to be his running mate.

Really, that's the measure of the anti-Mormon sentiment in the Repblican Party right now. I loathe very few things, relatively speaking, but the sheer hypocrisy of begging for our support when they need it and rejecting us in every other situation is something I really do loathe.

As for the possible influence of SLC, that's ludicrous. As was said, Harry Reid is the best example, since he's one of the most powerful politicians in the country and is a Democrat - but Mitt himself is an excellent example. It's more than silly that his record isn't admitted by those who say he'll govern as a Mormon puppet.

Rusty Southwick said...

It's not so much the Republican Party per se that is fearmongering about Romney's religiosity, but rather certain Christian sects, which contain many Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic ones will get on board once Romney has it in the bag as the rival candidate against Obama.

The political argument against Romney's religion is disingenuous and illogical, in the same way that anyone could somehow determine objectively which Christian-believing denominations are "true Christians", but even to a more absurd level. For to be able to determine which church(es) are purely Christian is also to unequivocally claim which church(es) contain the true gospel itself. There is no objective doctrinal body that could make such a determination. The Council of Nicea continues on in various manifestations throughout modern history, even in the Republican primaries. However, doctrines cannot be debated on a mostly intellectual level, otherwise they cease to be doctrinal.

Christ himself said that the way to determine who His followers are is by their fruits, not by some certain popularized interpretation of doctrine that favors a certain camp. The interesting thing about the doctrinal argument is that the LDS Church more literally follows Biblical teaching than does the Nicene Creed, which creed today's evangelicals trumpet as evidence that "Mormons aren't Christians."

So now it's being taken up another level and being applied to the political spectrum. I'd say by these heresy-crying denominations' theo-political fruits ye shall also know that they're opportunists, and therefore propagandists. Notice also I'm not denying their Christianity. Their belief is valid. But their politicized bent is misguided, and their criticism of the LDS Church is an un-Christlike act of desperation.

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Nicely done. I hope they use your interview.

Anonymous said...

What I find amazing and that is never brought up is the concept of Unrighteous Dominion which I have always taken to mean that no one shall exercise authority over that which they are not in charge of. I think that the Wikipedia article about priesthood does a nice summary:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priesthood_%28LDS_Church%29

If a Mormon were to be elected president of the USA, that is his office and his office solely and not the office of his ecclesiastical leaders.

Anonymous said...

1. Of course Mitt would follow the Prophet, and the church has been getting involved in some political battles.

2. The white horse prophecy is being discussed.

DW said...

To anonymous in post 1: you may be proud to be a Democrat now but I wonder how you will feel when the Dem's knives come out against the Church if Romney is the GOP nominee. I hope Harry Reid will not stand by quietly as the Church is daily smeared in the media during the general election.

Bookslinger said...

I hope that Romney is not the GOP candidate. I'd like to see a _real_ conservative run on the GOP ticket. Romney is too much like McCain, who compromises away far too much.

If Romney is the GOP candidate, I'll support him all the way. Any Republican will be better than Obama.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Bookslinger writes that "Any Republican will be better than Obama."

There's a sense in which this is obviously false. I suspect that even Bookslinger can think of some Republican somewhere who, as an individual, would be worse than Obama.

I realize, Gunslinger, that you're probably speaking figuratively rather than literally here. I'm just trying to warm up to my point, which is that there's another and more important way in which your statement makes good sense. What I mean is that if you're a Republican, you should always vote for the Republican candidate. (And vice-versa if you're a Democrat.) One thing I can't stand is when people say they vote for the INDIVIDUAL who best represents their values, or seems most competent, or whatever.

I say it makes much more sense to vote for the candidate whose PARTY best represents your values.

Political parties are a bit like churches in this respect. Individuals can do a certain amount of good qua individuals, but they can do even more good when they band together into a church. There are certainly downsides to being a member of church, starting with the fact that no single church is a perfect fit for a given individual's values and beliefs. Part of being in a church is having to suck it up sometimes and submit to some idea or project one doesn't agree with. Ditto for political parties. In both cases, if people are habitually opting in and out every time they dislike this or that candidate or bishop or whatever, then the organization won't be strong enough overall to achieve its general aims. You've got to pick your team and then stick with it.

-- Eveningsun

Bookslinger said...

Okay, how's this:

Any Republican who can get the party's nomination for the 2012 race, would be better than Obama.

mkprr said...

Eveningsun,

Your point makes a lot of sense but my problem has always been, I can't agree with either party on more than about half of the issues. For that reason, I usually don't vote by a strict party line.

jackg said...

Is Huntsman LDS? I like a lot of what he says. Anyway, Jeff, I really enjoyed the post. I, too, think it is ridiculous to believe that President Romney would equate to President Monson (within the context of US president, of course).
Peace...