Politics Explained: Mormons Ignore Romney as One of Them

In the last 6 months, as the election has been heating up, I’ve done a bit of travelling. I have been on the East and West Coasts of the US and up and down Eastern Europe. In my travels, I often wear BYU gear and when people see that they assume that I am a Latter-day Saint (LDS) (AKA Mormon). Their assumptions are good. But then another assumption is immediately made. “Oh, you’re Mormon…So you’re a Romney fan.” I shouldn’t be surprised by that statement because I get it a lot, but I’m always taken aback. I feel that my integrity as a politically involved member of society is in question when people make that assumption. I don’t want people to think that my political opinions are based primarily on a candidate’s religion. So I usually retort with, “Yes, I’m a Romney fan…but not because I’m a Mormon.”

Politics Explained: Mitt Romney speaks at Mormon University - BYU

Romney speaks at BYU commencement

Recently, I’ve engaged in some self-reflection. Why do I get so defensive when people accuse me of basing my political beliefs on my religious ties, and should I be? I think I get so defensive because I feel that me admitting that I like Romney because he’s LDS, would justify people not liking him for the same reason.

True as that may be, there is a fine line here. Was it wrong for African-Americans to be excited about Barack Obama becoming the very first African-American president? Was it wrong for Greek Americans to be excited about Mike Dukakis being the first Greek Orthodox nominee for president? What about Catholics and JFK? Now, can Latter-day Saints be excited about Mitt Romney as one of their own having a legitimate chance of victory? My answer is, yes.

Latter-day Saints, from both parties, should feel able to be excited about Mitt Romney as a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not always been even tolerated in the United States. In 1838, Governor Boggs in Missouri issued Executive Order 44 – commonly known as the Mormon Extermination Order. The Governor issued an order allowing citizens to drive Latter-day Saints from the state and kill any who resisted… Kill any who resisted…. That was not the only time Mormons were driven from their homes. Now, just under two-hundred years later, a member of that church that was forced from the country into the barren wasteland that became vibrant Salt Lake Valley is now competing for the highest office in the land. It’s a great moment for Latter-day Saints and should be celebrated.

Politics Explained: Mormons forced from America

Mormons Pioneers Forced West

Will Latter-day Saints vote for Romney knowing nothing more than the fact that he is LDS? I would hope not, just like I would hope that African-Americans would not vote for Obama just knowing that he is African-American. But can either of these groups be justified in citing their cultural ties as a reason for voting? Should society turn a blind eye to a candidate’s religious, cultural, and ethnic background? My answer to that is “no”.

My religion has made me who I am. From my religious upbringing, I have learned how I should treat other people and define my own priorities. My perspective on life’s problems would be vastly different if I was not raised LDS and served an LDS mission to Ukraine. To turn a blind eye to that would be to turn a blind eye to my character. To turn a blind eye to a candidate’s character is to turn a blind eye to how they are going to act in the Office of the Presidency.

Politics Explain: Mormons excited about Mitt Romney

Mormons Excited For Mitt

So Mormons, be excited about Mitt Romney. Don’t be ashamed of what you share a common set of religious beliefs. African-Americans, do the same. Look to the candidates’ character to understand how they will do their job, but understand that we are voting for the President of the United States, not the President of the student body. This is not a popularity contest; too much is at stake.

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4 thoughts on “Politics Explained: Mormons Ignore Romney as One of Them

  1. I disagree with your conclusion that members of the Church can and ought to be excited to vote for Romney based on the fact that he is also a member of the Church. I agree that it is a monumental step forward for the church, and to be excited for that is acceptable. However, I don’t think his being LDS should play a role, at all, in one’s decision to vote for him, period. Would you look at any other candidate and go, “uh, I don’t really care for baptists, not voting for him?” No, at least I hope not. Likewise, members of the LDS faith, who support Romney, should, as you say “support him, but not because you’re Mormon.” It’s fine to support him because his being LDS means, or should mean, that he has a great deal of integrity, or because he has a strong belief in the constitution, or because he won’t tolerate injustice or because he is supportive of X or Y domestic policy, but not soley because he’s LDS. If members of the Church vote for him simply based on his membership in the Church than they are no better citizens than are the people who refuse to vote for him soley based on his membership in the Church.

    • I agree with you entirely and I apologize that thought wasn’t properly expressed. I think a person’s cultural, ethnic, and religious background can and ought to play a role in selection of a candidate because of what those influences tell us about the candidate as a person. I am with you in saying that this should not be the sole or even primary factor in selecting a president. I think to do so would be foolish. I however also think it foolish to try and pretend those things don’t matter or even exist.

      • agreed. I think it’s just important to make the distinction between “I like him because he’s Mormon” and “I like him because he’s a good person, who has integrity, and has a strong work ethic, which I think was shaped at least partially by the Mormon church”.

  2. That an individual who comes from a demographic which has experienced a history of persecution and unfair treatment in the United States, and that individual comes close reaching the top job in the United States, I would say that is something to celebrate. That the barriers that divide us–race, religion, culture, socioeconomic level, political persuasion–can be overcome in this country is part of what makes us America. Furthermore, the event directs the public eye toward a kind of person that rarely gets much attention. That’s healthy because it helps us, as a body of citizens, to get to know each other better. We have to know and appreciate who we are if we are going to be united as a country. Sadly, with an election has been full of venom and criticism from all sides (although I have to say I see far more angry anti-Romney articles than I see unjust criticisms of Obama, although I know both forms do exist), this strengthening role that presidential elections should fulfill is hard to recognize this time around. Still, that a black man and a Mormon should be competing for office as president is something to be celebrated. We shouldn’t vote them in to office on that criteria alone–that much almost goes without saying–but those looking for things to be happy about in the world have reason to be cheerful about the turn of events that has brought such previously unenfranchised demographics into the presidential race.

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