Not surprisingly, Mormon Republicans strongly favor Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy, but polls show he is also popular with Mormon Democrats. No one should be particularly surprised at this example of religion trumping politics. Mitt and Ann Romney are the epitome of Mormon success—living proof that keeping the Word of Wisdom, holding Family Home Evenings, attending church, and magnifying Church callings results in blessings in this life as well as the life to come.
The Romney’s diligence in keeping the commandments has paid off with a large family of active Mormon children and grandchildren, prestigious church callings, and a really, really comfortable lifestyle—“Which Cadillac shall I drive today?” Church members need look no further for evidence that sacrifices made for good standing in the Church are worth it. The Romney example should also aid missionary work.
With so many pluses to the Romney candidacy, it’s small wonder that Republican Mormons can overlook his flip-flops on conservative issues as mere political expediency. A stranger support group are Mormon Democrats. For them Romney’s positions on social issues—more tax breaks for the über-rich, cutting programs that aid the poor—must matter less than his and Ann’s sterling example of devout Mormons making good in a corrupt world.
PBS’s Religion and Ethics discussed the effect of their religion on the Romney and Huntsman presidential candidacies on this week’s program . The consensus of the panel was that Evangelicals’ hatred of Obama would trump their dislike of and distrust of Mormons should Romney win the nomination.
For those interested in Huntsman, the moderate Republican, Paul Rolly has this bit of political history in his Sunday Trib column .
Monday I wrote about the idea of Mormons leavening the rest of the country. Today I want to address the issue of Mormons isolating themselves from outside ideas. A nugget of wisdom from a favorite book, Levi Peterson’s The Backslider, states:
Mormons are sellers, not buyers. They don’t import religion. They just export it.
While I agree that Mormons have some worthwhile ideas to share—such as setting aside one night a week to spend with family—I think Mormon leadership could benefit by looking at how other religions handle current issues and importing their good ideas.
Sam Brunson at Times and Seasons has a recent blog discussing the huge difference in the official Mormon statement on politics with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ statement. The Mormon statement, which we hear read over the pulpit before every election, affirms the church’s neutrality (which nobody really believes) and encourages members to vote. In contrast, the Catholic Bishops’ statement outlines social and political responsibilities for Catholics.
One statement I particularly like is the following:
Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.
This statement is a gem. It outlines members’ responsibility while allowing them agency in choosing how to fulfill it. I don’t recall ever hearing a General Conference sermon giving Mormons a moral obligation to solve social problems and to work on creating a more just, peaceful world that protects the vulnerable and defends human dignity. Mormon sermons tend to focus on obeying leaders and commandments and on missionary work—the assumption being that Church authorities will direct us on taking social action—and that once everyone is a Mormon, social ills will disappear.
Maybe the flat, even negative growth of the Church in the U.S. in recent years will motivate leaders to look outside our own boundaries for ways to motivate Mormons to seek the higher path.
A recent newspaper photo of a Utah legislator sitting at his desk in the state capitol with a revolver strapped to his side says it all. This year the state legislature repealed the law prohibiting carrying guns within 1000 feet of a school so as not to interfere with a law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms. A resolution to allow any citizen the right to carry an unconcealed weapon without a permit was proposed. Utahns worry a lot about the federal government taking their liberties. They rushed to purchase guns and ammunition as soon as Obama’s election was announced in 2010 knowing that Obama would take their guns away.
This paranoia extends beyond state borders. The controversial Arizona immigration law was written by a Mormon legislator. Although the Church officially takes moderate positions on both gun laws and immigration, Mormon political views do not reflect this moderation. I can’t help believing that the fear rhetoric heard in Mormon meetings creates a culture of fear that makes Mormons tremble for their personal as well as moral safety whenever they open their front door. It also feeds the perception that people of different color, religion, or even political parties are enemies.
Mormons hear on a near-weekly basis that Satan’s power is increasing and that the world is at near terminal wickedness. Boyd K. Packer opened his October 2010 conference address with this remark: “This General Conference was convened at a time when there is such confusion and danger that our young people hardly know which way they can turn.” If I took Pres. Packer seriously, I would probably stash a revolver in my purse even though I’m not one of the young people he worries about.
I doubt the Church wants members to be running around armed to the hilt or spouting wacky conspiracy theories. Leaders know this kind of behavior does nothing for Church PR. But I hope they will realize that fear rhetoric from official as well as grass roots sources feeds this problem. Plenty of positive reasons exist to motivate Mormons to keep the commandments and support the Church. Turn down the fear rhetoric!