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Why Elect A Mormon?

Rob Long’s brilliant and gutsy post reminded me of something I thought of during the first presidential debate, as I watched Mitt Romney passionately make his case against President Obama. It was reinforced during the second debate and the Al Smith dinner, and I’m pleased both Romney and Ryan beat the odds and beat this.

What Rob’s post recalled for me is how earnest most Mormons are. It used to annoy me when I was a brain-dead liberal. I recall in high school traveling across the (Wyoming) border filled with a sense of misplaced sophistication and self-righteous cynicism into the heart of the Beehive State because one of their silly universities had the temerity to offer me a full-ride journalism scholarship. I went there primarily to slay them with my progressive worldview and to carve a righteous notch into my ideological gun.

It didn’t work, though. At each meeting with Mormon professors and representatives of the college,  I found them to be cheerful, sharp, optimistic, self-deprecating, and sincere about wanting me to enroll. It was horribly depressing. Despite my sneering and obvious (to me) superiority, they really wanted me to come to their university. Despite my bad attitude, they pressed on as if I’d some day share their optimism. Not only that, they invited me to dinner at their homes and introduced me to their wives (note: one wife per professor) and children and overlooked my eye-rolling snark.

I remember driving home confused. These people I thought I disliked had turned out to be friendly, nice, well-read, smart, and humble. They were so used to being attacked by self-righteous jerks like me that they grinned, overlooked it and moved on. They were intelligent, ridiculously and sincerely nice, and gleeful free-market capitalists. Plus, they were patriotic. Oh, and their wives and daughters were (and are) absolutely gorgeous.

I ended up not attending the University of Utah. But on that recruiting trip, I learned something — although it took a couple of years to sink in and admit. Despite the problems I have with the origins and beliefs of that church, their faithful are among the most terrific people in this country.  And because of their crazy and hard-to-explain faith, they’re used to being dissed by people like me (in a younger version). Luckily, their faith and optimism is strong enough to overlook sophomoric attacks.

Which is why Mitt Romney might turn out to be an amazingly well-prepared and great president.

  1. dittoheadadt

    Why is there such an obsession (not necessarily just here) with a person’s religion? I frankly don’t care one iota about a candidate’s religion (so long as it’s not a cult…or Islam, since that’s not really a religion, it’s a totalitarian ideology).

    CJ, I mean you no disrespect, truly I don’t. But I read Rob’s post yesterday and I thought it was a pleasant post. I didn’t find it brilliant or gutsy (no disrespect intended, Rob). It was about Mormons and Mormonism and how, gee, aren’t they decent people?  Well, why wouldn’t they be?  They’re not waiting for a spaceship or a comet to come take them to the Promised Land. There’s no date-certain when the rest of us turn to gummy bears and they ascend to heaven.

    I just don’t get this preoccupation with religion.  If someone is a good and decent person by generally objective standards, and expresses faith in the US Constitution and American exceptionalism, and we have reason to believe they’re sincere, I don’t care if a candidate is an atheist.

    Why should I care otherwise?

  2. Mel Foil
    dittoheadadt: ……I just don’t get this preoccupation with religion.  If someone is a good and decent person by generally objective standards, and expresses faith in the US Constitution and American exceptionalism, and we have reason to believe they’re sincere, I don’t care if a candidate is an atheist.

    Why should I care otherwise?

    If you know that THEY take it seriously, it helps to determine what motivates them.

    -

    From Deseret News: (excerpt) As a stake president, Romney served in an administrative position similar to that of bishop in other Christian churches. He was the spiritual leader for a number of LDS congregations in the Boston area. Those individual congregations are called “wards” and are led by a lay minister called a “bishop.” Romney served as a bishop of a Boston-area ward from 1981-86. When Romney was president of what is called the Boston Massachusetts Stake, from 1986-94, all of the bishops in the stake as well as all of the members of the church who lived in that geographical area were within his jurisdiction.

  3. LCLee

    As a Mormon I appreciate your words. One of the teachings of our church is to be a good citizen that contributes to society through our talents and abilities. We are strongly encouraged to educate ourselves about issues and vote as we believe is best. You will never come into an LDS (Mormon) church and hear any candidate endorsed. We are encouraged to seek out righteous men and women and vote for those whose platform adheres closest to God’s teachings. LDS people are taught that as we serve others we are serving God. While I have seen many people question Mitt Romney’s motivation for seeking the Presidency, I have always believed that he is motivated by a desire to serve man and God. He is a man who has been blessed with success in his personal life and has been able to do many things to help others through his leadership roles. When he took on the task of the Olympics – it seemed like it was an impossible task. Few people thought he could salvage the mess. But he saw a need. He knew he had to serve. Again he sees a need and an opportunity to serve.

  4. Devereaux
    Rob Long: And what’s even more amazing: Romney — a devout practitioner of this eccentric sect — is more normal and mainstream than this president – a product of Columbia and Harvard. · 3 hours ago

    ?Really. ?You actually said this.

  5. Mollie Hemingway

    As a descendent of Mormons, someone who grew up in Mormon country (Wyoming and Colorado), and married to an ex-Mormon, I know enough of Mormons to know that they have the same variance as every other population. Some are awesome! Some are not!

    But other than determining that someone’s religious views won’t make them do something abhorrent, how important is it to view this particular election through this prism?

    I mean, I completely reject LDS teaching on the Godhead, the Scriptures, what the very Gospel is, etc. My doctrinal views on these things are far more important to me than politics. And yet they have nothing to do with whether I think a Mormon can be a good president. It’s important for people to separate out their doctrinal views on whether a particular set of religious teachings is true or not and whether someone who holds to those doctrinal views can be a better president than someone else.

    Too many people in this country confuse the office of president with some religious office. Some folks did it with George W. Bush and we see some folks doing it now with Obama. I’ll pass.

  6. Spud O

    Dittoheadadt:  If someone believes that a leader’s faith informs their decisions, then that leader’s faith is a factor when it comes to an election.  As Mollie detailed, some people have problems with the Mormon doctrine.  I find myself (as a Pentecostal) wishing there was another option, besides Libertarian Johnson, but if it’s Romney or Obama then the choice is clear.

    I doubt we’ll see a Pentecostal candidate anytime soon.  We all saw how the press ripped into the last Pentecostal candidate.  Palin may have been the biggest threat to a liberal, a female Pentecostal you betcha.  I’m surprised Obama has not tried to use Romney’s faith against him here in the southeast, but then someone can run a few ads showing his support of Muslims as well as some clips of his pastor.

    CJ:  Just finished Force of Nature and really enjoyed it.  I wanted a happier ending for Nate, but I guess he has a little more contrition to go through.  I’m hoping Romney will be a “force of nature” and clean out some of the dreck in Washington, though not necessarily Romanowski-style.

  7. Severely Ltd.

    Not having Christian doctrinal positions, I don’t dispute with Mormons on their religion, but ‘…by their fruits ye shall know them’ is wisdom whether you accept every word in the Bible as divinely inspired or not.

  8. Spin

    At our cub scout outing a couple of weekends ago, the question among the adults around the morning campfire was this:  as Christians, should we vote for a Mormon?  I answered the question this way:  would you rather vote for someone who shares most of your core values, though you may view his religion as a cult, and lives by those values?  Or would you rather vote for someone who claims to be a Christian but denies that by his actions?  I don’t like the Mormon religion any more than the next evangelical, but I am not electing a religious leader.   

  9. Frozen Chosen

    Having read all the positive experiences everyone has had with Mormons I am hesitant to attend any Ricochet meetups as I don’t want to ruin anyone’s record ;)

    Certainly Romney’s religion informs his viewpoint on life as it does for anyone who takes their religion seriously.  I have no problem with anyone who takes theological exception to our religion as long as it does not prevent them from voting for a Mormon, which would be silly.

  10. Larry Koler

    I agree with Mollie in her description of Mormons except in the implication that the Mormons are at the “same variance of other population.” They do indeed have a large variance but it must be said that in terms of percentage of the good people of America the Mormons are over-represented. I put it to their child-rearing (see my post on this) and family values — these are the Mormon values that I hope that Romney can help to raise and improve in this country. 

    It is in the area of family that we are in the greatest need in this country. We simply must go after the Marxist ideal of daycare for our children and all state involvement in child-rearing. And, in order to do this, we must promote strongly the incredible boon to society of intact families, good first marriages (even match-making) and mothers staying home with their children for as long as possible. 

    Edit: spelling

  11. Rascalfair

    I’ve never met a Mormon who wasn’t a fine person.  I know there must be some outliers, but those folks I know are admirable in so many ways, plain and simple.  I don’t know much about their church, but if they’d bottle whatever it is that makes them so, I’d drink it.

  12. Devereaux

    I have know few Mormons. I do recollect skiing in Utah and found the local liquor laws to be most hypocritical. Supposedly it was dry, but you could buy your beverage – at a slightly different spot – and then pay a “corkage fee”.

    That notwithstanding, I have been discovering that Romney seems to be a genuinely good man. His life has not been out in the open, so one didn’t really know that much about him.

    I am a bit worried about his “business” approach to things, but perhaps he has enough real conservative belief to stick to his guns on important issues. His previous stances may have been what was needed to win a republican governorship in a truly blue state, but it is still a little non-pulsing. Still, he is way better than Obama. The rest we shall have to wait and see. And keep him “informed” of what we think.

  13. Diaryof1

    I’m not voting for a Mormon and I don’t think most Americans are, either. I am voting for the only candidate who follows conservative and moral principles, has demonstrated his good character at every turn, and is uniquely qualified at this precise time in history to lead this great country.

  14. Annefy

    I’ve been mulling over something for months – havent thought it all through yet.  I have admiration for every Morman I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I feel the same about the Muslims in my life.  It occurred to me that maybe  Mitt is uniquely qualified to understand and deal with fundamentalism in Islam, since Mormans have had to deal with fundamentalists in their own religion. 

  15. Arahant

    Unlike CJ, I was never a liberal.  I started as a libertarian and am probably a few inches to the right of that, lo, these many lustrums later.  While I have had some issues with some parts of the “religious right,” I have come to appreciate them as allies in the general culture war.  Roman Catholics who actually try to live by the teachings and LDS folks are fine by me.  The more that the world shrinks, the closer we are on so many issues.  I’ll be happy to elect a Mormon.

  16. C.J. Box
    C
    Spud O’Chez: CJ:  Just finished Force of Nature and really enjoyed it.  I wanted a happier ending for Nate, but I guess he has a little more contrition to go through.  I’m hoping Romney will be a “force of nature” and clean out some of the dreck in Washington, though not necessarily Romanowski-style. · 3 hours ago

    Thank you, Mr. O’Chez.  I sent off the new Joe Pickett book to NYC yesterday.

  17. Tom Lindholtz

    Reflecting some time ago on what is required for greatness in a President, and on the characteristics that made Reagan a great President, I was struck by the possibility that Romney may wind up being the Reagan we were looking for.  We were looking in the wrong places.

    I think Reagan was great for a couple reasons.  Perhaps most importantly, he had a sincere belief in an Almighty God to whom he would one day give account. This may be the most critical, if counter-intuitive quality.  That quality gives a man humility; something required for greatness.

    Reagan had a cheerful disposition.  This is necessary for leaders simply because no one wants to follow someone who is negative.  And Reagan believed in America and the goodness of Americans.

    The point is, the folks I’ve known from the LDS church seem to largely share those qualities and Romney does not seem to be an exception.  Time will tell, but I have been very optimistic about Mitt’s potential ever since working through that stream of thought.

  18. Rob Long
    C

    Thanks, CJ. You know, on a larger note, it’s amazing how stupid we all are when we’re young. Personally, I voted in my first presidential election for Walter Mondale. What strikes me the most about Mormons, though, is how American they are. All of that hard-working Protestant ethic, plus a dollop of wide-open frontier weirdness. And what’s even more amazing: Romney — a devout practitioner of this eccentric sect — is more normal and mainstream than this president — a product of Columbia and Harvard.

  19. flownover

    As for whether or not make a decision on what the candidate’s religion is, I didn’t see too many splitting hairs when Lieberman was VP candidate.

    And besides, exactly what religion is Obama ,anyway ? Liberation theologist ? AME ? His father’s religion ? His stepfather’s religion ? 

    Talk about a unilateral deal—sheesh !

    Who cares with the mountain of debt ? We need a nututting bidnessman , especially one who has done turnarounds ! You really can’t focus on welfare with no money.