Can an Evangelical Vote for a Mormon?

As we begin to approach a new presidential election season I thought I’d write up my thoughts on this controversy. This is not intended in any way to be an endorsement of Mitt Romney or any political candidate. I don’t think Gov. Romney has much hope in becoming the Republican candidate much less win the presidency (because Evangelicals won’t vote for him). But his candidacy offers the opportunity to talk about some larger issues. There are two objections I most often hear expressed against voting for a Mormon.

1. When Salt Lake City Calls

When Salt Lake City Calls” is the name of a book that supports this line of reasoning.  Its premise is that because of the covenants made in LDS Temples a Mormon President would have a higher oath to the Mormon Prophet than to the people of the United States or the U.S. Constitution.

I don’t disagree at all that such oaths are made by Mormons who attend their temples.  Investigating the wording (and penalties formerly associated with the covenants) will reveal that they are serious, literal and binding.  Mormons are indeed asked to place allegiance to their church, its prophet and its message at the highest priority.

The question unanswered is “If a Mormon President holds to this covenant as rigidly as we might imagine, does it pose a threat to the United States?” I don’t think it poses any threat at all.  Knowing that the LDS Church and the President are going to be carefully watched and scrutinized about the nature of their relationship, I don’t think either would be interested in abusing this oath.  The image-savvy Mormon church is already quite sensitive about being accused of being a cult. They don’t show a pattern of wanting to reinforce that stereotype.  If anything, I imagine there would be a distancing in the relationship between Salt Lake City and Washington DC while a Mormon sits in office.

Second, let’s suppose the worst.  Let’s imagine that the LDS Prophet receives a revelation that all religious organizations in the United States should come under his control and he calls on every Mormon to make that vision a reality.  Let’s further suppose that the Mormon President makes such legislation a top priority in his administration.  The chances of him enacting such a law would be infinitely small.  He would be unable to find cooperation from the House of Representatives or the Senate. He’d stand no chance before the Supreme Court and the state houses of 49 states would find their own ways to nullify such a law.  He then would likely be impeached for not upholding the Constitution.  I can’t really imagine the LDS church asking a Mormon President to do anything that might harm the values of the nation, but if it did, the President would have little support from our (very intentionally) separated powers.

The truth is Mormonism is perhaps one of the only religions in the world that recognizes and cherishes the United States Constitution.  When Mormons have been persecuted it has always been their belief that the Constitution (and Heavenly Father) would save them.  Joseph Smith many times would extol the virtues of the Constitution and even predicted that there may come a time when the Mormons are the only people left to preserve it.  The Mormon church used to make American Independence Day celebrations part of its worldwide curriculum because Mormons recognize that they were able to form a new religion precisely because of the religious environment afforded by the US Constitution.  It would be out of character for the Mormon Church or a Mormon President to harm or change it.

Most of these issues were previously discussed in our history during the Reed Smoot Hearings in which it was decided if Mormons could qualify for federal public office.

2. Won’t a Mormon President Legitimatize Mormonism and Make it Mainstream

In truth, I think it will. Evangelicals will need to hold this in tension as they weigh their political choices.  But I would like to question if a mainstreamed Mormonism would be something Evangelicals should fear.

The first concern is that an increased awareness of Mormonism might cause more people to investigate the LDS church and consider becoming members.  History doesn’t really bear this out. George W. Bush and William Howard Taft were by far the most outspoken Presidents about their Evangelical faiths. Neither caused an increase in attendance at Evangelical churches (if anything their presidencies might have set the Evangelical movement back). I don’t believe any evidence exist that John F. Kennedy was able to drive a spike in Catholic conversions in his presidency either.

The second concern is that Mormonism would likely lose it’s image as an “outsider religion”.  Evangelicals might very much like to do what they can to keep the LDS church from gaining that sort of credibility.  I can appreciate the concern for aiding or boosting the heresies taught by Mormonism.  But I think an investigation into Mormon history might convince Evangelicals that a mainstreamed Mormon church might inspire reform within Mormonism.

Culturally there is a large portion of Mormons who want nothing more than to be viewed as normal.  They are aware of some of their church’s previous difficult doctrines and practices but because they don’t have to live with them they are able to pretend they don’t exist.  Many of these Mormons are actually unaware of the origins of some of these practices and assume the folk explanations they’ve heard must be true.  A Mormon President would cause Mormon origins to come to light.  An increased public discussion of these issues is exactly what is needed to cause Mormons to distance themselves from their spiritual ancestors.

When Mormonism interacts with mainstream American culture it has a habit of conforming. Mormonism wants to survive and it has a clear history of doing whatever is necessary to survive.  Polygamy (Reed Smoot Hearings), the black Priesthood ban (NCAA boycotts against BYU) and even temple death oaths (The GodMakers) are all examples of how Mormonism caved to public pressure once broader public awareness was brought to those issues. Even former LDS prophet Gordon Hinckley denied specific Mormon doctrine when asked about it in front of a national audience and claimed he didn’t know if they even taught such doctrines. Mormons will insist that these changes were made as a result of Heavenly Father’s direct intervention and communication. That may indeed be the case, but it’s peculiar that these changes occurred after outside pressure was exerted on the LDS Church.

Currently the LDS church growth rate in the United States is about the same as its birth rate.  The church’s missionary efforts seem to be faltering in countries with widespread internet access.  Free access to information about Mormonism doesn’t help the LDS church’s efforts.  Particularly when that information contradicts the LDS church’s faith-promoting version of the story.  A larger public discussion of Mormonism would only bring that information to further light.

David Clark recently stated on this blog “For now, I’d be satisfied if Mormons would be more open and honest about their history and doctrine at their public church meetings. If that were to happen, I think the LDS church would reform in short order.” I tend to agree.  There are a great many Mormons who have knowledge of and a great love for Mormonism’s many peculiarities. They will never want anything to change.  But I do not believe that is true for the majority of Mormons.  A Mormon presidency coupled with an organization’s desire to survive might be just the thing to cause a Mormon reformation.

As we speak, individuals and organizations opposed to Mormonism are forming materials and strategies to use a Mormon candidacy against the LDS church.  Add to that a candidate’s political opponents who are willing to use anything to hurt him and I think the LDS church has reason to hope there is never a Mormon president.

Compromise is demanded of every person who enters into democratic politics.  This even extends to individual voters.  A perfect candidate who matches every one of a person’s values is not likely to exist.  If it does, that person may not be electable (you might as well write your own name in on the ballot). It’s an Evangelical’s duty not to vote for the candidate that perfectly matches their values, but instead to vote for the candidate from the available and viable choices that most closely represents their values.  I think if a Mormon candidate matches an Evangelical’s political values and they think that candidate has the best possibility of winning they should feel more than comfortable in voting for that candidate.

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91 thoughts on “Can an Evangelical Vote for a Mormon?

  1. Sure!

    Or that ought to be the attitude, anyway.

    I’m always reminded of what Luther said, “I’d rather be ruled by a smart Turk (Muslim), than a stupid Christian.”

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  3. I’d definitely vote for a Latter-day Saint if he or she were the right person for the job. So long as their political platform is more or less what I think the country needs and I’m confident that the candidate in question is capable of dealing with the demands of the office, at least.

  4. I think you made a good argument for why the US has checks and balances to provide a protection against argument #1, but you failed to recognize that the Mormon church doesn’t have those sorts of checks and balances of power to account for human foibles. Your entire arguments rests on “I can’t imagine the LDS church….” but the point is that other people CAN imagine it and do imagine the worst and there’s no structural framework for preventing it. It’s all based on confidence, but polls show that that sort of confidence in Mormons doesn’t exist… So, how does the rest of the country make that leap without the reform that you argue will happen after a Mormon is president? I say it has to happen first.

    In fact, I’d argue that you fed into evangelical fears by this sentence alone: “The truth is Mormonism is perhaps one of the only religions in the world that recognizes and cherishes the United States Constitution.”

    Really? And you wonder why evangelicals are suspicious?

    To me, that statement encapsulates the reason a Mormon won’t and probably shouldn’t ever have presidential power.

  5. DPS, can you elaborate why the Mormon recognition of the US Constitution is a reason that a Mormon should not be President? I’m not following you.

    You are correct that there may not be an internal check within Mormonism to prevent abuse (just as there may be no internal check within Catholicism to prevent abuse), but my argument was the government’s separate powers would prevent any possible abuse by the LDS Church.

  6. It’s not the fact that the Mormons recognize the US Constitution favorably. It’s the unwitting use of the phrase “only religion in the world…” You asking the me to clarify only underscores the fact that Mormons are clueless as to how that sort of language marginalizes the entire rest of the religious community.

    I’ve had several conversations with Mormons trying to explain how the doctrines of the apostasy and restoration carry the same sort of arrogance and doesn’t sit well if you’re part of an “apostate” church with some of the truth, just not a fullness. You can smile a lot, claim respect for other religions and say that other churches aren’t bad-mouthed, but as long as those remain doctrine then the message is that all others are somewhat less-than.

    I’m not even saying that that’s wrong. If it’s the truth then own up to it. Don’t pretend publicly that Mormonism is just another religion and then teach in Gospel Doctrine Class that you believe in the “one true church.”

    I only say that in the eye of the public it’s not comforting enough to have just the US balances of power. If I’m going to vote for a Mormon…or Catholic…or whatever, I want to know that they exist on that side of the coin too. And I thinks it’s especially necessary for a Mormon above those other religions because they don’t have the bad rap or suspicious nature in the eyes of the public that Mormonism does if you believe the polls.

  7. DPS,

    I’m not a Mormon. I didn’t say that Mormonism is the only faith with a high regard for the Constitution because I think Mormonism is superior in this regard. I said it because it seems to be the only religion whose leaders have officially interacted with the Constitution in their sermons, lessons and publications. (I’ll readily admit there are many Protestant pastors at local congregations with the same viewpoint, but not religious leaders).

    Does that change how you view the post?

  8. An interesting analysis of a hypothetical situation. I am surprised you didn’t mention that many of the same arguments you mentioned (particularly the first one) were nearly verbatim of what was said of JFK during his candidacy. There was a fear that the Vatican would exercise undue influence of over the affairs of the United States through a Catholic president (which in retrospect seems laughable since I doubt anyone would characterize the Kennedy’s as ‘devout.’) I think you are absolutely correct that both the LDS Church leadership and the presidential candidate would be overly selfconscious about the appearance of undue religious influence in politics, and vice versa.

    Perhaps a better prediction would be to see how current high ranking LDS politicians are viewed. Is Harry Reid’s LDS faith really much of an issue when compared to his other political beliefs and actions? Senator Orrin Hatch? Governor Mike Leavitt? Granted there is a big difference between these offices and the Presidency, but I think they are more indicative than pure hypotheticals.

    Here is another interesting hypothetical. Would evangelicals vote for a self pronounced Muslim president? (I know there is ongoing debate on its influence on Barack Obama, but still.)

  9. Yeah, it changes it slightly, but not enormously. I’d still say that if I’m an evangelical or any other group and hear Mormons extolling the virtues of the Constitution and read about how they think they’ll save it one day, what I really hear is that Mormons want to save THEIR interpretation of the Constitution or to change it to match THEIR ideals. Because it can and has been changed by virtue of amendments.

    I think badgerdude’s question is also interesting. If our balance of powers are so strong would evangelicals or Mormons vote for a Muslim?

  10. Just a couple things for now:

    Tim said:

    George W. Bush and William Howard Taft were by far the most outspoken Presidents about their Evangelical faiths.

    Is there any reason Jimmy Carter isn’t in this list? Just wondering if the omission was deliberate or not.

    DPS said:

    but you failed to recognize that the Mormon church doesn’t have those sorts of checks and balances of power to account for human foibles.

    Perhaps there’s no balance of powers per se, but there is a check nonetheless: Ultimately it is the members of the Church who decide, through personal revelation, whether the leaders of the Church are carrying out God’s will.

    Aside from that, as well as the unlikelihood (for reasons Tim gave and others) that church leaders would ever order a U.S. president to take some particular action, the record of Mormon politicians kowtowing to church leaders hasn’t been particularly strong when doing so runs against their own political instincts; most recently, just see how the Mormon Republicans in the Utah Legislature have responded to Church leaders’ calls to have a compassionate attitude toward illegal immigrants. And the highest-ranking LDS politician in the country has been critical of the Church’s role in California’s Proposition 8. And quite a number of years ago, Utah (which had a majority of its voters as Church members) went against the Church leadership in voting to repeal Prohibition (and was also one of the last states to enact it).

    BrianJ said:

    By the way, did you read that Huntsman is stepping down as Ambassador to China. So it looks like you’ll have another Mormon presidential candidate in the mix:

    He’s actually one of those rare Republicans I’d consider voting for. If he does run, though, I hope he doesn’t do what Romney did, and that’s pander to the far right and downplay his moderate (and quite commendable) record he had as governor of Massachusetts.

    BrianJ also said:

    Overlooking a few barbs thrown in here and there …

    I’m working hard at overlooking them. Just for the record, though, my lack of open disagreement with some minor points in Tim’s post doesn’t mean I agree with them nor that think all his facts are accurate.

  11. Oh, and to answer DPS’s final question, I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for a Muslim (or an evangelical, for that matter) for president or any other office if he or she shared my values.

  12. I don’t consider a candidate’s religion at all when I vote. I look at what he or she says about the issues and vote accordingly. Since entering the ranks of registered voters, I have voted for Episcopalians, Baptists, Mormons, Catholics, and members of the Assembly of God and the United Church of Christ. Those are just the ones that I can think of off the top of my head. I think the more important question is: why should a candidate’s religion matter? If they make it a point of emphasis when discussing issues, I can understand, but I haven’t seen any candidates around here say, “I believe in [issue] because I am a [religious designation].”

    DPS, I still don’t understand why you think Evangelicals should be suspicious of Mormons who say they cherish the Constitution. It is a requirement of the Oath of Office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” – shouldn’t everyone want to do that? We have some 300 million people in our nation, and everyone interprets the Constitution a different way. That’s part of the awesomeness of the document.

  13. Perhaps there’s no balance of powers per se, but there is a check nonetheless: Ultimately it is the members of the Church who decide, through personal revelation, whether the leaders of the Church are carrying out God’s will.

    A simple question: What exactly do the church members do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?

  14. Brian and Eric said

    Overlooking a few barbs thrown in here and there …

    I’m working hard at overlooking them. Just for the record, though, my lack of open disagreement with some minor points in Tim’s post doesn’t mean I agree with them nor that think all his facts are accurate.

    This post was written to persuade Evangelicals. I have no doubt that Mormons will disagree with me that their faith will bow to mainstream convictions.

    Eric,
    I forgot about Jimmy Carter only because he’s easily forgettable 😉 You are right that he belongs on the list with Taft and Bush.

  15. Any person can do wacky things as president, when deciding on a candidate it seems their track record is more important than other things. Romney has no history of using his economic power as a CEO strangely to support the Church. Does Harry Reid do strange things for the church in the Senate?

    It seems that the Church’s interests would be more in line with Evangelical interests than say, the oil lobby.

  16. Tim’s post is thoughtful, and I appreciate his conclusion.

    While it may be true in extreme cases that a smart Turk (Muslim) would make a better ruler than a stupid Christian (as theoldadam feels), in my mind, a more important question is, “Is the candidate a Christian?” A Mormon Christian would probably make much better decisions than a non-christian Mormon.

    Does anyone know if Mitt Romney is a Christian (has the Holy Spirit living in him)? If so, what makes you say so? I’ve often wondered about this because it seems he would make a great leader.
    Incidentally, I think he’ll be on CNN tonight at 9 for a lengthy interview.

  17. David Clark asked, “What exactly do the [LDS] church members do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?”

    That was answered in the last post—leave, unless they have family or close friends they don’t want to let go of.

  18. That was answered in the last post—leave, unless they have family or close friends they don’t want to let go of.

    Since I wrote that last post, I wouldn’t have asked the question if I thought it answered it.

    So, I’ll ask it more specifically: What exactly do the church members, as church members, do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?

  19. Tim said:

    I forgot about Jimmy Carter only because he’s easily forgettable

    In all sincerity, in my opinion he’s been the best ex-president of my lifetime.

  20. @ David Clark… the answer is simple…Nothing. Or as Cal stated, they leave. I don’t believe he was being snarky. It’s the truth…there is no place or process by which an individual member can dissent other than stew inside and pray a lot. Above all they must keep their mouths shut and not express dissent publicly.

    Mormon leaders are only seen as fallible in retrospect. In other words, a dead leader or past statement is often considered the doings of a man. But a living prophet or apostle is always considered the mouthpiece of God and once they’ve spoken, “The thinking has been done.”

  21. Eric,

    OK, balderdash.

    What exactly do the church members, as church members, do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?

  22. We are told that if someone has offended, you should approach that person privately and discuss the offense. If there is no resolution, than you take the matter to the Priesthood holder who has stewardship over the matter. See D&C 42:87-93.

    Or, in matters of church governance, section 107 of the Doctrines and Covenants clearly outlines the order of trying Priesthood leaders for transgression.

    Well, okay, so you said “not carrying out God’s will” – I guess that could be something other than transgression. Who are you to determine whether or not the church leader is not acting in accordance to God’s will? If it is a matter of doctrine, then it is a transgression. If it is a matter of policy or procedure, my belief is that it probably is not God’s will one way or the other. Just as I believe God does not care what I wear to work each day, I don’t think he cares if my Webelos Den Meeting starts at 5:45 or 7:00.

    Of course, this conversation in general is a bit removed from the topic at hand, which is whether or not an Evangelical can vote for a Mormon, but I join Eric in calling balderdash on this oft-repeated claim that Mormons are to sit down and shut up because “when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”

  23. If it is a matter of doctrine, then it is a transgression.

    Where does one find these doctrines which one uses to judge the leaders? Even more of an issue, that doesn’t answer the problems of when the doctrine is in error or the leaders simply change the doctrine.

    Besides that, you didn’t answer my question. I didn’t ask about what to do if someone offends you, for which I don’t need scripture to help me figure out what to do.

    As for your other suggestions, they only work on the smallest and most local of problems. The real issues have always concern the upper echelons of church leaders. How does one contact them or take stuff up with them when they have expressly and repeatedly told the members they aren’t going to bother listening to them?

    So, cry balderdash all you want. Every Mormon, liberal or conservative, is absolutely convinced that change is possible in the church. Yet, none has ever been able to answer this question:

    What exactly do the church members, as church members, do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?

    Don’t worry, it’s the last time I will write it in this post, because I know there isn’t an answer, just replies of “balderdash” with absolutely no attempt to answer the question.

  24. By the way, I think my question is entirely relevant to this post. I think the more you can answer the question I have repeatedly posed, the more comfortable evangelicals will be with a Mormon in the White House. The fear is that a Mormon president will simply comply with whatever the GAs say. However, if you can show that there is a robust way that Mormons can handle these problems internally, the less likely Mormons will be seen as just taking orders from Salt Lake.

    Further, I don’t think Mormons being seen as engaging in heresy and bad behavior, from the point of view of Evangelicals, is the only issue. Evangelicals have to deal with their own bad behavior and heresies. However, Evangelicals, and Protestants in general, have mechanisms for dealing with and minimizing these problems. I think Evangelicals would like to see that something similar exists for Mormons. Failure to answer these types of questions only adds to the problems that Evangelicals might see in a Mormon candidacy for president.

  25. Mormon scripture actually allows for dissent against church leaders. Take Book of Mormon figures such as Alma the Younger, Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite for example. Each of them saw a corrupt leadership, a sinful population and aggressively dissented.

    Historically Mormons actually voted for both policy and leadership positions and their votes mattered.

    Somewhere along the way, the current church invented this concept that the leaders can never be wrong and they removed the checks and balances of power that once accounted for human error. This is how Mormons believe it is to be handled:

    “Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true”

    Or as I heard it explained once… Catholic doctrine states that the Pope is infallible, but Catholics don’t really believe it; Mormon doctrine admits that the prophet is fallible, but Mormons don’t really believe it.

  26. Mormon doctrine and scripture teaches that we should accept the words of the living prophets as if it were God speaking. This is no different than any other time in history. Think of Moses, Isaiah, John the baptist, etc.

    Mormons understand that the prophet is not perfect but that God will not allow him to lead us astray. Mormons who do not believe this are on the fringe.

    Mormons believe that God has always worked through prophets. There have been times when prophets were removed because of wickedness. During these times, many would rely upon corrupt interpretations of the words of past prophets (think scribes and pharisees who Christ likened to whited sephulcres full of dead mens bones). Then when a new prophet would come along, they would be rejected and even killed.

    The church does not save people. It only adminsters the gospel. Mormons do not believe that all non-Mormons are going to hell. Mormons believe that all people will eventually be able to hear and understand the gospel in such a way that they can truely be accountable for their choice. Most people will have this opportunity after they die. So in this sense Mormons see themselves and everyone else as equals doing the best we can with what we know.

    As for politics; The doctrine of the Mormon church is pro constitutional and is very supportive of the law of the land. The church itself has an extreme hands off stance when it comes to government. On very rare occasions, the church will take a stand on a major moral issues such as Gay marriage. The church greatly encourages people to vote but never, ever recommends a candidate.

    Being a Mormon myself, I would probably vote for Newt Gingrich above Romney. However, Mormons are probably the poster child for Evangelical values. No one dislikes Mormon values. They only dislike Mormon doctrine. They love the fruit but hate the tree.

  27. David Clark: “What exactly do the church members, as church members, do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will?”

    I agree that your question is pertinent to this discussion.

    I think a good case study was seen with Prop 8 in CA (and other states, to some degree). Considering only those members who opposed the Church’s position: most simply did nothing. They ignored it, didn’t contribute time or money to the campaign, and didn’t help collect contributions, etc. And the Church’s response to their local leaders was essentially “If members choose not to support Prop 8 then let them.” That alone is a good response to Evangelicals who you say are fearful “that a Mormon president will simply comply with whatever the GAs say.”

    Other members, of course, took more direct routes of opposition. Some contributed openly to the campaign to defeat Prop 8. Some wrote directly to SLC expressing their opposition—either individually or as a group petition. And some members not living in CA took up gay marriage/civil union legislation in their own states.

    Now, that example is an admittedly limited response to your question, because the example only deals with a political scenario and not one where a member suspects Church leadership of heresy or immorality etc.; i.e., what we might call a religious scenario. But then, that’s what this post is all about: How can an Evangelical stomach a Mormon in a political office? It shouldn’t matter whether Mormons do or do not have a robust system in place for dealing with non-political internal disagreements.

  28. Mormon candidates aside, 2008 was a tough year to run under the Republican brand and the pickings were very slim. That said, the anti-Mormon bigot block vote managed to nominate a very weak candidate (a vote for Huckabee was 100% a vote for McCain). In 2012 they’ll be a richer Republican field and I hope the sizable anti-Mormon bigot vote can at least gravitate towards a more viable candidate and not a total loser like soft on crime Huckabee in the hope for a more competitive robust general election which is a good thing for any democratic republic.

  29. In response to a Romney campaign American evangelicals will eight run around in a panic as if Romney just stepped off the set of September Dawn or they will try to join with Mormons to legislate the moral law on Americans. Neither of these options will look attractive to non evangelicals nor will they help spread the Gospel. In the end the Bible has precious litter to say about democracy and the voting patterns of the Church. As a person who was turned off to religion and churches for years because of the political wrangling of the religious left and right I would vote for Romney just tic off Jim Wallis and to make Jerry Fallwell spin in his grave. Plus Romney has good hair.

  30. David Clark said:

    What exactly do the church members, as church members, do if they decide the leaders are not carrying out God’s will? Don’t worry, it’s the last time I will write it in this post, because I know there isn’t an answer, just replies of “balderdash” with absolutely no attempt to answer the question.

    I’m more than happy to attempt to answer the question; my call of balderdash wasn’t directed at that question but at the suggestion in another message that Mormons are a bunch of mindless robots because we’ve been told not to think for themselves. And that’s just flat-out not true, and for outsiders to continue to repeat that claim approaches being a display of bigotry. In this day and age, we don’t hear anyone criticizing Catholic candidates for being Catholic, and they believe in the authority of a church leader who conveys the will of God just as much as Mormons do. Are Catholics a bunch of mindless robots because they have a Pope? Why, then, the double standard for Mormons?

    I’m not going to dwell on the question here, though, as I don’t particularly see its relevance. It doesn’t really matter what I would do if I believed that church leaders were acting contrary to the will of God (the quick answer is that I would pray about it; my many options after that, depending on what I was led to do, would include any number of actions ranging from changing my mind to ignoring them to writing a letter to them to refusing to sustain them to to not paying tithing to leaving the church). I honestly don’t see what the big deal is; nearly all of us are involved in situations where our loyalties may be divided, and all of us have the potential to face crises of conscience. But the bottom line, at least in terms of our relationship with the Church, is that its members have told to, through the Holy Spirit, seek confirmation for ourselves of what we’re told. And if we don’t do that, it’s not the Church’s fault.

    What matters is what Mitt Romney thinks about his relationship as president would be to the Church. This is what he said in his much-publicized 2008 speech on church-state relations:

    Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

    As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution — and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

    I find that an appropriate position and, furthermore, well within the bounds of LDS teaching.

    Now you can choose to believe Mr. Romney or not. But to suggest that he doesn’t mean what he says simply because he’s a member of the LDS church strikes me as a position that isn’t supportable by the facts.

  31. The church does not save people. It only adminsters the gospel.

    Can I make the suggestion that Mormons stop using the term “administer the gospel” when speaking to non-Mormons? Nobody knows what the heck you mean when you say that.

  32. BrianJ

    I think your comment is very well argued and I don’t disagree.

    I wonder what your response is to this post:
    http://www.nine-moons.com/?p=830

    Particularly this line :(the worst part about being asked by the Church to do something is you really can’t say no– and if you do, you just don’t get it)

  33. Are Catholics a bunch of mindless robots because they have a Pope? Why, then, the double standard for Mormons?

    It’s not so much a case of double standard as it is ease of making the argument. The function and authority of the Pope is different than is the function and authority of the LDS Prophet.

    It’s easier to make the charge against Catholics than it is against Protestants, and it has been made in the past. And it’s even easier still to make the charge against Mormons than it is against Catholics, which is why the charge still floats around. And when I say easier I don’t mean easier to prove, I just mean easier to make the argument. And since easier arguments are, well easier to make, people will tend to gravitate to the easy arguments.

  34. Eric, quoting Romney: ” I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution — and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.”

    I think that may be the other edge of the sword: how many people who identify themselves as Evangelicals when they go to the polls would actually prefer to have a candidate who imposes his Christianity on his office? (Now, I’m specifically differentiating from people who are Evangelicals but do not think of that in their voting choices.) They don’t want Romney.

  35. “Can I make the suggestion that Mormons stop using the term “administer the gospel” when speaking to non-Mormons? Nobody knows what the heck you mean when you say that.”

    It’s okay Tim: I don’t know what that means either.

  36. “Administer the gospel”

    Read: Administer the required ordinances, on behalf of the living and the dead, in an authorized manner and with the authorized authority.

  37. Tim: I remember the NineMoons post well. I didn’t comment on it because, well, I thought it was just going to be a firestorm.

    My response to the post was (and is) that I’m happy for David and his wife, that the dilemma seems to have worked out for them—meaning, at least that they are comfortable with the process, their prayers, etc.

    I disagree, however, with his view that “you really can’t say no.” That is true on some level when asked to serve in some calling at church—I really believe that the default response should be a trusting “yes,” and even if there are reasons one thinks one should decline a calling the answer in most cases should probably still be a trusting “yes.” But “default” is not the same as “only.” And Prop 8 was not even a calling, so it didn’t even deserve quite that same default treatment in the first place.

    Still, in a hypothetical situation where the First Presidency tells me, “Vote for Candidate X this year,” I would probably do so unless I had reason not to. Just as when my doctor tells me “Take this pill,” I do so unless I have reason not to: I’ve vetted the FP and my doctor and find them trustworthy.

    I think there are many many many Mormons who think they way NineMoons David does. But it is by no means universal and certainly not mandatory. So the question for voters (Evangelical or even Mormon) who worry about SLC running the White House is: Has the candidate demonstrated that he/she can think independently? In Romney’s case, the fact the he came right out and said so indicates that he would act independently.

    One more thing: If a Mormon president did something that many Mormons viewed as contra-FP, you better believe many Mormons would be all over the Net in disagreement. And then it’d be abundantly clear that Mormons can disagree on politics. And yet, with Reid running the Senate and enjoying full membership in the Church, I’m surprised this is still even a question. Just goes to show how much all my rhetoric is worth!!

  38. David Clark, re “Administer the gospel”

    I think sometimes Mormons mean more than just administering the ordinances of the Gospel, and include actually preaching the Gospel as part of that phrase. But I could be wrong.

  39. ‘And yet, with Reid running the Senate and enjoying full membership in the Church, I’m surprised this is still even a question.”

    What do Evangelicals think about Sen. Harry Reid? Or do they not think about him at all? He is, after all, the highest ranking political figure in the nation who is also a Mormon, yet, as Brian points out, nobody seems to be concerned about him allowing SLC dictate the rules of the Senate.

  40. I think Reid is probably the perfect counter-point. I’m sure some would probably say that it’s obvious he’s not really a believer.

  41. Has the candidate demonstrated that he/she can think independently? In Romney’s case, the fact the he came right out and said so indicates that he would act independently.

    According to various accounts, there were some higher-ups in the Church who were displeased with his relatively hands-off stance on abortion when he was running for governor. While I can’t vouch for that, it’s pretty clear that he didn’t take the approach to abortion that many members of the Church would have wished that he had. In fact, there are some leaders in the anti-abortion movement who oppose him to this day because he didn’t make opposition to abortion a litmus test for his judicial appointments.

    But I doubt he’s going to use this in his campaign. I can see his commercial now: “Some people fear that if I’m elected president, I’ll be doing the Mormon church’s bidding. But my wishy-washiness on abortion while I was governor is proof that’s not the case.”

  42. I think Tim’s original post emphasized something that is the issue of disagreement. In quoting David Clark, one of them bolded the word PUBLIC in the following quote, “For now, I’d be satisfied if Mormons would be more open and honest about their history and doctrine at their public church meetings.

    I think that highlights the fact that most of us recognize that there’s a difference between what Mormon Leaders and members say publicly and what each member follows privately. The truth is that we don’t know anyone’s heart privately whether it be Reid, Romney or Joe Mormon down the street. But we CAN see see a difference in what the Church says and does to the public and what it expects of its members in private.

    In this public forum members claim that there is no feeling of compulsion, but the Nine Moons blog admits to feeling that pressure. There’s a public claim here that member don’t just follow leaders blindly, but I could provide at least a dozen of LDS Leader quotes where they instruct the membership (not the public) that when a leader speaks the argument is finished. There’s a very common pattern to speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Mormons publicly claim to have disavowed Polygamy, but it remains doctrine in D&C132 and widowers are sealed to 2nd and 3rd wives every day in LDS temples. The public claim doesn’t match the private reality.

    So when Mitt Romney or any other LDS leader says publicly how he won’t be persuaded in the least by Salt Lake City I don’t believe him. I know he privately promised to contribute 100% of his time, talents and other gifts to the LDS Church. I know privately that the “unwritten” rules (covenants)and patterns of behavior carry as much weight to a Mormon as the US Constitution…and they admittedly do value that highly.

  43. The anti-Mormon bigot block vote is not inspired by God, as Steve EM and the word “bigot” implies.

    What do Evangelicals think about Sen. Harry Reid?

    I don’t believe Democrats are generally good for this country. And Harry Reid apparently doesn’t read the Scriptures much.

    Someone said, “Mormons understand that the prophet is not perfect but that God will not allow him to lead us astray.”

    This may be the most foundational false belief of the LDS because it has caused Mormons to believe all of Joseph Smith’s comments without measuring them against the Scriptures and the Spirit.
    1 Kings. 13:18-21 shows that true prophets are capable, and do, give false prophecies inadvertently. I have read many books by prophets. They all say they have made mistakes in hearing and relaying messages from God. God has given us FREE AGENCY.
    I hope you search this out and pray about it, Peter and company.

  44. I am so looking forward to Evangelicals having to choose between Romney and whatever other warm body the GOP can throw up there. (again) The icing on the cake would be a Romney vs. Obama general election.

    As to your post Tim – Although I am not a fan of Romney – I agree that the more public Mormonism becomes, the more Church headquarters will be forced to reform problematic doctrines (and that’s a good thing).

  45. dps: “In this public forum members claim that there is no feeling of compulsion….”

    Will you please quote that for me? From this forum? I know that I made the distinction between the feeling of compulsion and the actual existence of compulsion. Perhaps you missed the nuance, or perhaps I missed where someone else here actually said that no Mormon ever feels any compulsion.

    “There’s a public claim here that member don’t just follow leaders blindly…”

    Yes, and there’s also a reference to verifiable and recent examples where Mormons did just that: viz., did not do just what SLC told them to.

    “…but I could provide at least a dozen of LDS Leader quotes where they instruct the membership that when a leader speaks the argument is finished.”

    Please do so. I want a minimum of 13 such quotes—a full baker’s dozen. And while you’re at it, please include as many quotes from LDS leaders instructing members to go directly to God for confirmation of what to do or believe; i.e., the ultimate “here’s how you can reject anything I tell you” instruction. Then ask yourself if perhaps you’re selectively missing the point.

    “Mormons publicly claim to have disavowed Polygamy…”

    lol.

    “So when Mitt Romney or any other LDS leader says publicly how he won’t be persuaded in the least by Salt Lake City I don’t believe him.”

    That’s okay: I don’t believe you. I think you really do believe him. Of course, my belief is based on nothing and is in total contrast to what you have written, but hey, just following your example.

    “I know privately that the “unwritten” rules (covenants)and patterns of behavior carry as much weight to a Mormon as the US Constitution.”

    Nonsense. Why would a faithful Mormon value the Constitution anywhere near as highly as covenants they made with God? There’s no comparison: covenants >>>> Constitution.

  46. David Clark, re “Administer the gospel”

    I think sometimes Mormons mean more than just administering the ordinances of the Gospel, and include actually preaching the Gospel as part of that phrase. But I could be wrong.

    To include preaching the gospel in a definition of the gospel would involve circularity.

  47. BrianJ — Good response to DPS. It had more class than my response would have had. I don’t deal very well with thinly veiled bigotry.

    Cal said:

    Harry Reid apparently doesn’t read the Scriptures much.

    On what do you base that supposition?

  48. DPS: My apologies for the “thinly veiled bigotry” remark was uncalled for and should not have been written.

    I do find it difficult to take you seriously, though, as to me your arguments seem absurd.

    If you can find me not even a dozen, but, let’s say, three different “LDS Leader quotes where they instruct the membership that when a leader speaks the argument is finished” from within the past 10 years, I’ll listen to you. Really. (By “leader” I mean an apostle or member of the First Presidency).

  49. David Clark: “To include preaching the gospel in a definition of the gospel would involve circularity.”

    I didn’t include gospel in a definition of the gospel. I suggested that Mormons who use the phrase “administer the gospel” include preaching as part of that administration; i.e., I included “preach” in a definition of “administer.”

  50. Pingback: “The Question” Is Back…, and more | Article VI Blog | John Schroeder

  51. Two talks in the most recent General Conference of the LDS church quoted Ezra Taft Benson’s “fourteen fundamentals” and approved them for church members. They run as follows:

    1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

    2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

    3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

    4. The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

    5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

    6. The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

    7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

    8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

    9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

    10. The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

    11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

    12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

    13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

    14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the first presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

    (See Claudio R. M. Costa, “Obedience to the Prophets,” in Ensign, November 2010, pp. 11-13, and Kevin R. Duncan, “Our Very Survival,” ibid. pp. 34-36.)

    I find it really hard to see how these 14 points do not position the leaders of the church as absolute dictators. There is no way to disagree politely or legitimately with men who claim the right to comment with divine authority on everything without regard for anyone else’s interest or expertise. If there is any leeway granted for dissent here, it comes from the leaders, who may choose to exercise self-restraint, not from the members, who are expected to obey no matter what, leaving the judgment of the prophets up to God as per point 4. (Benson and Costa quote Wilford Woodruff here to inform us that if a prophet were to attempt something God did not approve, God would remove him from office. Historically, the only way to remove a prophet from office is to wait for him to die.)

    For what it is worth, I agree with Tim’s contention that no church president would try to dictate to the US president. This does not change the fact that he continues to claim divine right to do so. Here the LDS prophet is much like the Catholic pope. In the past his claim to command absolute obedience carried more weight with power players than it does now, but exile from relevance in the highest circles of government has not really taught him humility. If Benedict XVI could be Gregory the Great, he would. And if Thomas Monson could be Brigham Young (or even something bigger), he would. Historical circumstances have intervened to make the religious sphere of influence narrower in practice than it claims to be in theory. Some believers like this. Some lament it. But the rhetoric of leadership in both churches ultimately brooks no opposition in theory, for all that it may allow it of necessity in practice. The question for me is, why should we claim in theory what we neither have nor find terribly moral (in a good way) in practice?

  52. Here the LDS prophet is much like the Catholic pope. In the past his claim to command absolute obedience carried more weight with power players than it does now, but exile from relevance in the highest circles of government has not really taught him humility. If Benedict XVI could be Gregory the Great, he would. And if Thomas Monson could be Brigham Young (or even something bigger), he would.

    Hermes,

    I think you are misreading both history and the source of the fear of evangelicals.

    I have no idea why you selected Gregory the Great as an example of a power hungry pope, because he wasn’t. A much better selection would have been Innocent III. Papal power was at its highest point in the 12th century (the century of Innocent III), but interestingly enough the humbling of the pope was an almost entirely internal affair, stemming from the Babylonian Captivity, followed by the Great Schism, followed by a temporary rise in conciliarism. It was only after that that papal political power in central Italy started to come under attack from the rise of the nation state. My point is that claims to papal autocracy are usually overblown and misunderstood, usually because the person making the claim wants to make a rhetorical point, not based on actual historical facts.

    In any case, this has nothing to do with evangelical fears of a Mormons presidency. They don’t fear LDS leadership asserting or gaining political power, they fear LDS leadership asserting influence over one man. This is entirely unrelated to any political power the church might have. I do realize that if they did successfully assert influence over a president, they would have indirect influence over political power, but that’s different than what you are claiming.

    For what it’s worth I doubt the church would try it, and even if they did try it I highly doubt they would be successful.

  53. Interesting article today in USAToday Faith & Reason asks this question:

    What difference does it make if we run a “Christian-enough” test on this or any other president?

    But look at who it’s asking about.

  54. David, I concede that you are right about Evangelical fear of Mormonism. My only point was that Mormon leaders, like other religious leaders in history, claim the right to act unilaterally, answering to no one but God. This claim is belied all the time, when reality (not to say humanity) intervenes, but it persists nonetheless, and I find it rather disturbing (no matter the particular group it comes from).

  55. I’d like to hear Eric or some other Mormon explain the first two of Ezra Taft Benson’s “fourteen fundamentals”:
    1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
    2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

    I suspect these can be misleading without more explanation.
    ——–

    I had said, “Harry Reid apparently doesn’t read the Scriptures much,” to which Eric asked “On what do you base that supposition?”

    You’ll have to excuse me if Harry Reid is more conservative than I imagine. I don’t know much about his political views except that he is a Democrat.

    The Democrats in general are less likely to recognize that abortion is murder. They are less likely to recognize that homosexuality is harmful to those who engage in it and to society as a whole. They are less likely to support Israel. They are less likely to recognize the evil behind Islam. At least one poll I know of shows that they are much less likely to tithe or give $$ to charity (they appear to care more about the poor only because they want to spend more of OUR $$ to help the poor).
    I think Democrats are less likely to vote for a Balanced Budget Amendment (our debt is up to 14 TRILLION dollars and has skyrocketed more than ever since Obama’s “stimulus” package, which, by the way, will cost us more than the war in Iraq).
    Liberals are more likely to diminish our freedom to spread the gospel and worship as we please. They are less likely to protect free enterprise. They are less likely to know which countries deserve our government’s financial help. They are less likely to recognize that health care ultimately comes from the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.

    I THINK we’re still on topic!

  56. I’d like to make sure that this doesn’t turn into a “which side is more Biblical?” discussion. Please do your best not to engage Cal’s assertion that Harry Reid must not be reading the scriptures based on his politics. It’s off-topic and not helpful to the discussion.

  57. “I find it really hard to see how these 14 points do not position the leaders of the church as absolute dictators. There is no way to disagree politely or legitimately with men who claim the right to comment with divine authority on everything without regard for anyone else’s interest or expertise.”

    Hermes,

    While I openly reject more than one of ETB’s 14 points – its hard to see how they can put you in such a hissy. Unless you reject the characterisation of prophets as found in the Bible.

  58. CJ, the Bible is a composite piece of literature with many different perspectives on prophecy. I personally have no problem with voices crying in the wilderness, as long as they do not demand unqualified, uncritical submission to an ethical standard whose only justification is that God supposedly wills it.

  59. Hermes – You’re right that the Bible has various perspectives related to prophecy. Still, if you’ve ever read the Pentateuch, I’m not sure how you can conclude that God never calls a prophet to demand unqualified, uncritical submission to an ethical standard whose only justification is that God supposedly wills it.

  60. I have read the NT, where the old law is replaced with two much less problematic injunctions that have nothing explicit to do with prophets. (I can love my neighbor and honor God, however I choose to construe him, without recourse to ordinances, creeds, or the authorities that impose them.)

    I have read Ecclesiastes, whose view of futurity is virtually identical to my own. (You can think of the Preacher as one of my personal prophets, if you like.)

  61. You’re right that the Bible has various perspectives related to prophecy. Still, if you’ve ever read the Pentateuch, I’m not sure how you can conclude that God never calls a prophet to demand unqualified, uncritical submission to an ethical standard whose only justification is that God supposedly wills it.

    Simple, the Pentateuch itself is not unified in calling for the same thing, therefore one has to use wisdom and judgment in figuring out how one should live. For a simple example of this, try and harmonize the legal codes in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. None of those legal codes asserts it should have primacy of authority over the other codes.

    The issue for the LDS is that prophets do make primacy of authority demands. The current prophet always overrides the older ones. That’s one of the main take home messages of the 14 fundamentals talk.

  62. In my original reference to papal sovereignty, I referred to Gregory rather than Innocent because Gregory made a big deal of asserting the claim to absolute control that, as David Clark points out, ultimately was more of a reality under Innocent. What concerns me is the claim, not the historical reality behind it. Why do religious leaders (of all stripes) continually get sucked into this trap of making claims to universal knowledge, authority, etc.? What is there out there that makes this necessary to saving social order (in the eyes of many men who are not any more immoral than you or I, as far as we can tell)?

  63. Why do religious leaders (of all stripes) continually get sucked into this trap of making claims to universal knowledge, authority, etc.? What is there out there that makes this necessary to saving social order (in the eyes of many men who are not any more immoral than you or I, as far as we can tell)?

    They are human.

    And I might add the same goes for secular leaders as well.

    In any case, you simply can’t avoid the fact that people of all stripes are going to make those claims. If you think you can, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. What matters is having the guts to challenge those claims and even better setting up a system where doing so is not so expensive that only the heroically brave try it.

    That’s why I don’t think the Catholic church is a good example here. Claims to authority by the Pope have been repeatedly challenged, often successfully, both from within and from without the Catholic church.

  64. Thanks, David. That is a good answer. I should clarify that I find many things to admire in Catholicism (as in Mormonism, in which I grew up). Not everything I find in the doctrine (let alone the history!) of either inspires confidence. I believe that you are right, however, in finding the source of my problem in the way people always organize (under ideological banners that may be religious, political, or some odd amalgam of the two).

    Bottom line: I do not mean to paint anyone entirely black here. Thanks for humoring my question.

  65. Tim requested:

    Please do your best not to engage Cal’s assertion that Harry Reid must not be reading the scriptures based on his politics.

    OK. I’ll also ignore his question about the “fourteen fundamentals” because I don’t see them as being relevant to the Romney question. But I’d be happy to discuss them elsewhere.

  66. Sure, I vote for LDS every election.

    But I don’t think Romney will ever be voted in as President of the United States of America. As an active, believing Mormon his liability is America’s perception of his association with the high profile General Authorities in the land – Headquartered in our very own homeland (not like the pope in far away Italy). While running his term in office over the course of four years, how can the American people separate Romney from the centralized LDS Apostles in America? Impossibility.

    LDS Authority (both religiously and politically) in America is way too conservative for the American people.

  67. LDS Authority (both religiously and politically) in America is way too conservative for the American people.

    Probably. But is what Romney represents, whatever that is, too conservative to get the Republican nomination? I don’t think so. And the general election is going to be a referendum on Obama, so as long as Republicans don’t nominate an extremist (e.g., Jim DeMint) or someone incompetent (e.g., Sarah Palin), the Republican can win if Obama is unpopular next year. Romney is an excellent campaigner who exudes competency, and I think he’d have as good of a chance as any other Republican to win — if he can get the nomination.

  68. I worked in L. Tom Perry Special Collections at the BYU Library from 2003 until my graduation in 2005. My boss, one of the curators there, was a Mormon (duh!) and a Democrat. Once in a while, we’d gently talk about politics; somewhat awkward given the yellow-dog Republicanism I embraced at the time, but we managed to keep it friendly. I still remember his excitement when Harry Reid became Senate Minority Leader. “He’s the most powerful Mormon in politics that this country has ever seen!” he exulted. Now that Reid is the Senate Majority Leader, I can only imagine that’s more true than ever.

    I have to wonder if my fellow political conservatives and fellow evangelicals who fear a Mormon presidency for reason #1 on Tim’s list have forgotten all about Harry Reid. If you really fear the LDS church’s ability to wield power through its Mormon politicians, tell me, what evidence is there that it has done so through the most powerful Mormon politician so far? And shouldn’t you be a lot more worried about Harry Reid than you currently are?

    I also wonder if my peers are ignorant of the more subtle, behind-the-scenes power Mormon politicians have wielded. Take Ronald Reagan, for example. You know, the Chuck Norris of recent Republican presidents? The guy who won 44 states the first time he was elected and 49 the second time? No, he wasn’t a Mormon–but he did use more Mormons on his Presidential staff than any other president in the history of the nation. Where were the insidious phone calls from Salt Lake City when Angela Buchanan (that’s Pat’s Mormon convert sister, btw) and Ted Bell were sitting on the Cabinet?

    It’s not so much that I disagree that, in theory, LDS church leaders could attempt to use an LDS president to meddle in the affairs of the nation. I just don’t think that they will.

    This is a very thoughtful post. Well done, Tim.

  69. Jack, Harry Reid is not even connected with the strong culture of S.E. Idaho. Mitt Romney is an altogether different Mormon in how he presents himself.

    I don’t think LDS General Authorities would attempt to use an LDS President. That would be disastrous.

    But when I think of any close connection between Harry Reid and General Authorities and Salt Lake City and the whole I-15 Corridor, I laugh.

    But when I think of Mitt Romney, I think of a man pushing himself now as a strong, Mormon Conservative.

    American secularists will be looking in all sorts of directions in how he might parallel the strong, Mormon, conservative hierarchy. Romney’s image is not going to work for the Presidency in America today.

  70. As one who has expressed a lack of confidence in the LDS system’s ability to prevent interference, I grant that the likelihood is very small. The LDS membership is only saved by the fact that by and large the prophet are decent people. My disagreement arises out of the acknowledgment that there are no LDS safeguards, checks and balances and on the membership side of the coin there is a great expectation and cultural norm that what the leadership says goes. This is the common way Mormon feel about it:

    “Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don’t need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” LDS President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting LDS President (and prophet) Heber J. Grant “Conference Report” Oct. 1960 p. 78

    I never responded to the earlier challenge to provide 3 quotes within the last 10 years because I was traveling, busy and because the 10 year rules seems pretty random to me. It’s like saying “give me 3 quotes that were all delivered at a Saturday General Conference Priesthood Meeting.” 10 is years ompletely random.

    That said, I think the 14 Fundamental certainly applies. For good measure, here are others:

    “When the Prophet speaks the debate is over”.
    N. Eldon Tanner, August Ensign 1979, pages 2-3

    “The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.”

    “Public debate—the means of resolving differences in a democratic government—is not appropriate in our Church government. We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord. They and we are all governed by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, and that Spirit only functions in an atmosphere of unity.”
    – Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, “Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, page 68

    “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (DC 21:6)”
    – Prophet Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 152

    “Each of us has to face the matter-either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”
    – President Gordon B. Hinckley. “Loyalty,” April Conference, 2003.

    “Obedience is a fundamental law of the gospel. It is not only the demonstration of our faith but also the foundation of our faith. But the philosophical standard of the world holds that unquestioning obedience equals blind obedience, and blind obedience is mindless obedience. This is simply not true. Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction — whether it be recorded scripture or the words of modern prophets — to be worthy of obedience.”
    – Elder Robert Oaks, Believe All Things,” July 05 Ensign, page 30

    Seeing as I violated you 10 year rule, I thought I’d provide a few more than 3.

  71. One comment regarding Harry Reid and then I promise I’ll stop. An anecdotal example. My former BIL once related how he had written Harry Reid a letter chewing him out for being such a horrible example of a Mormon. The reasons? Reid’s political views and behavior don’t sinc with “the brethren” and he thinks too much for himself.

    One can be sure that Reid doesn’t have a bloc of Mormon votes and that’s why there’s no danger there. Romney on the other hand would have to rely heavily on Mormon votes and would therefore be more susceptible to persuasion by his constituency. So the question might be better phrased as

    “Can an Evangelical Vote for a Mormon in conjunction with Mormons voters themselves?”

    That then eliminates Reid.

  72. Eric: I guess DPS showed you! How will you wrangle out from under such conclusive proof that the LDS Church is authoritarian as the quote DPS shared from Elder Oaks: “The Church will not dictate to any man…”?!

    DPS: I’m sorry that I can’t take your arguments seriously. It comes from the impression that you are not taking anyone else’s seriously.

  73. BrianJ,

    The “church will not dictate to any man” is pretty much undermined by the rest of the quote. Yeah, they won’t dictate, but they expect loyalty, won’t engage in debate, and expect you to be subject to their authority. So they won’t call it “dictating” but what they want is something very much like it.

  74. BrianJ: It’s a perfect example of what I mentioned above of how leaders speak out of both sides of their mouths. “The church will not dictate…” wink, wink.. but be loyal or you’re not really a good Mormon. And I apologize that I failed to list the source for that one quote. It was actually Gordon B Hinckley, prophet at the time himself who said that (President Gordon B. Hinckley. “Loyalty,” April Conference, 2003). In that talk he spoke of “uncompromising loyalty to the Church.”
    The following paragraph is the Oaks Quote.

  75. dadsprimalscream, I appreciate you saying that “by and large the prophet[s] are decent people.” (Watch out for those light sockets, though. :-))

    Generally, if Mormons holding public office let the General Authorities have a lot of influence on them, it will be primarily a good influence, as indicated by the following quote of LDS President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “I testify with all my heart and soul that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son and stands at the head of this great Church. . . . Know and remember this: the Lord loves you. He remembers you. And He will ever sustain those who ‘endure in faith to the end'” (“Hold On A Little Longer,” Jan. 2010 Ensign, p. 8).

    Ms. Jack: interesting info there! You’re no dumb blond, that’s for sure!

  76. David Clark: If someone is looking for quotes that prove that the LDS Church is a dictatorship, then yeah, I guess that quote can be read that way. It’s an effective proof-text—which is DPS’s goal with his/her quote-mining.

    But I know that you are open-minded enough to give that quote a “more charitable reading.” A reading that asks, What would the revised quote be? “The Church will…counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and then it will expect loyal members to totally ignore all that talky talk from their prophets and just stick to whatever ideas they had before the prophets spoke”?

    Of course the Church expects loyalty from members who profess to be members; the contrary is just nonsensical. Likewise, leaders who view themselves and are viewed as prophets expect that when they announce “the will of the Lord,” that members will have it confirmed to them by the Holy Ghost that it is the will of the Lord—and then those members will feel strongly persuaded to follow their leaders. The leaders pray and counsel about something, reach a decision that they unanimously believe is correct, and then they’re not supposed to be surprised when faithful members of the Church get a different answer from God?

    (I’ll just note that I write this as 1. a faithful Mormon who 2. has at times felt inspired to act somewhat contrary to the counsel/requests of my church leaders.)

    DPS: Why don’t you apply your “wink wink” logic to the quotes from LDS leaders that totally contradict your presupposed conclusion?

  77. BrianJ said to DPS:

    Why don’t you apply your “wink wink” logic to the quotes from LDS leaders that totally contradict your presupposed conclusion?

    Come on, BrianJ, you don’t understand how it works. If an LDS authority says something you think is bad, then the authority is telling the truth as he sees it. But if he says something else, then he’s lying. Like you said, it’s hard to take that sort of argument seriously.

    I really don’t want to dwell on this and get away too far from the issue of George Romney. But I’ll point to one recent talk (in fact, the most recent General Conference), and then shut up about this topic: Two Lines of Communication. To me, Elder Oaks makes quite clear that the Church has no interest in making our personal decisions for us — in fact, he chides some members for relying on Church authority too much and not seeking their own answers.

    Tood Wood said:

    Jack, Harry Reid is not even connected with the strong culture of S.E. Idaho. Mitt Romney is an altogether different Mormon in how he presents himself.

    You make good points. I think one reason that Reid doesn’t get much criticism for being LDS is that he doesn’t fit the LDS stereotype, whereas Romney does. (If I had been asked seven years ago to describe what an LDS candidate for president would look and act like, the answer would have been a description of Mitt Romney.) So whatever unease evangelicals (or anyone else, for that matter) feel toward Mormons doesn’t get transfered to Reid in the way that it does to Romney.

  78. But I know that you are open-minded enough to give that quote a “more charitable reading.”

    BrianJ, I read the article by Dallin H. Oaks in its entirety. You can find it here:

    http://lds.org/ensign/1987/02/criticism?lang=eng

    Having read it, I don’t think DPS shared the worst parts of that article. The whole article comes off much worse than DPS’ quoting of the article. For example this:

    It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.

    And this:

    “‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’

    And this:

    A different principle applies in our Church, where the selection of leaders is based on revelation, subject to the sustaining vote of the membership. In our system of Church government, evil speaking and criticism of leaders by members is always negative. Whether the criticism is true or not, as Elder George F. Richards explained, it tends to impair the leaders’ influence and usefulness, thus working against the Lord and his cause.

    I could go on. In all honesty the entire article tries to conflate speaking up for truth with petty criticism of church leaders. The article never comes out and says it, but the impression one gets is that the former almost certainly reduces to the latter.

    I did get excited when Dallin Oaks says there are ways of handling these kinds of problem, in fact he says there are five. Since I have asked this many times on this tread, I was interested in what he had to say. The five methods of dealing with problems in the church, in lieu of criticism are: ignore the problem, ignore the problem and think about doing something later, take it up privately with the problematic individual, communicate with the person’s superiors in the church, and pray.

    The first two on that list are not methods of dealing with problems and the last isn’t doing much on your own, it’s hoping that God will do something. So the list should really only have two entries, to call it five is a stretch to say the least. As for the two remaining entries, they only work with local leaders. You can’t possibly communicate with the GA’s, they have set up a firewall between themselves and the local members. Also, they really only work for petty things like getting offended as local leaders really only have minimal control in changing policy, practice, or doctrine.

    As it is, I’ll let you have the last word, this kind of stuff gets tiresome really quickly. I understand that most Mormons on the internet have a vested interest in explaining away everything Dallin Oaks was trying to say by telling me I just don’t get it, by redefining terms so that they mean something other than what the dictionary definition is, by saying I’m not being charitable enough, or some other apologetic tactic.

  79. Thanks for the link Jack. He makes a good case from my point of view.

    I didn’t like, however, that in reference to Glen Beck’s popular success he said, “those of us who are not Mormon should be depressed that such a small group has outworked, out thought, and out hustled us”—as though Mormons as a group made The Beck Show what he/it is today.

    Since that statement was made early on, I had my doubts about the rest of the article, but thankfully he dropped that line of thinking. It really was my only quibble with an otherwise very good article.

  80. BrianJ,

    I agree that Glen Beck is not a good example of one group outperforming another group, Beck’s success is his own.

    However, I think his larger point remains. Evangelical Christians tend to under perform in the political realm, at least when one measures the proportion of Evangelical Christians elected to national office vs. the proportion of Evangelical Christians nationally. I wish I could find an article I read on that a long time ago. Certain groups tend to over perform, i.e. get elected in proportions above their population proportions and Mormons are one of those groups. Jews are another.

    To be fair, Evangelicals have their own image problems, entirely different from Mormons. One could just as easily ask “What don’t more Evangelicals run for and win office?” as one can ask “Can an Evangelical vote for a Mormon?” In fact, there may be a lot of overlap in answering those two questions.

  81. David Clark: do you recall if the article discussed reasons why it might be more difficult for an Evangelical to win office? Specifically, if there is anything about Evangelicalism that makes it inherently more difficult for Evangelicals to win offices? I’m not proposing any answers here, but some questions would be:

    Are Evangelicals more likely to espouse highly controversial views and therefore alienate the moderates (e.g., extreme views on human embryos)?

    Are Evangelicals who do not adopt extreme views more likely to suffer a backlash from Evangelical voters—a backlash that would not be felt by non-Evangelical candidates? (i.e., Are Evangelical voters more forgiving of “wrong” politics if the politician is not also an Evangelical?)

    From the general population’s point of view, are Evangelicals less likable, or more difficult to relate to, or viewed more skeptically than other candidates?

    Certainly there are other factors one could investigate—such as maybe Evangelicals just don’t express much interest in politics (I wouldn’t, for example, ask any of the above questions to try to discover why there aren’t more Jehovah’s Witnesses in politics!).

  82. Generally, if Mormons holding public office let the General Authorities have a lot of influence on them, it will be primarily a good influence, as indicated by the following quote of LDS President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “I testify with all my heart and soul that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son and stands at the head of this great Church. . . . Know and remember this: the Lord loves you. He remembers you. And He will ever sustain those who ‘endure in faith to the end’” (“Hold On A Little Longer,” Jan. 2010 Ensign, p. 8).

    Just because someone has faith in Jesus Christ, doesn’t mean they’re going to give good political advice.

  83. I think Evangelicals worry less about Reid being a Mormon because they know that Democrats are more likely to believe in the separation of church and state. So it is unlikely that Reid would ever try to pass a law banning coffee for example because he would say that each person should make up their own mind and the government shouldn’t force someone to follow certain religious beliefs.

    It is interesting with Reid being so powerful as both a Democrat and a Mormon. With him and the Udalls I think it is a sign to the Mormon population that one does not need to be Republican to be Mormon. That will diversify Mormons politically and allow them to vote their conscience, which I think is a good thing.

    Mormons certainly have biases against them. One polls suggested 28% of the country would refuse to vote for a Mormon. But other groups have it as bad or worse. Consider gays, Muslims (as we can see by the lies Obama’s opponents spread about his religion, it is clear that many think that if Obama was a Muslim that would make him unfit for office) and Atheists (who almost half the population, in a recent poll, said they would refuse to vote for even if they agreed on everything else). It’s sad because I have friends who are either gay, Muslim, or Atheist who each would make better presidents than some of the men we’ve seen in office the last few decades. A person should vote based on the candidate’s politics, not based on any bigoted views they might hold about their religious views.

  84. I think there are two issues the primary and the general. In the primary the vast majority of people who are passionately anti-Mormon are likely to want to vote for one of the Tea party / Christian conservative candidates while they remain viable.

    In the general there are two types of people who would have troubles with Mitt Romney’s Mormonism:

    a) People that are against the Mormon church over Prop-8, the ERA… and various social issues. And roughly 100% of this group vote Democratic for national offices.

    b) Evangelicals. And if it becomes a question of religion Barack Obama belongs to United Church of Christ, which is liberal even by the standards of the 7 sister churches. And openly mocking of right wing evangelical Christianity. No way are they going to consider the UCC much better if religion becomes a topic of discussion.

    Mitt is fine in the general.

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