Romney and the LDS Church

Photo by Infrogmation, via WikiNews

Question from the gallery:

How much do you think it will matter that Mitt Romney is a Mormon? And does it matter in your own thinking about him?

Since I think at this point it’s all but certain Romney will be the GOP nominee, I’m not sure it’s mattered greatly in a negative sense. I’m pretty sure in a couple of cases it will work to his advantage; for example, tonight, in the Nevada caucuses, as Nevada is the state with the 7th largest population of LDS folk (4th biggest per capita), LDS folk tend to skew Republican/conservative, and in the 2008 Nevada caucuses, LDS folks who voted GOP went 90% for Romney and were 25% of the caucus voters. So, yes, in Nevada? Not a problem.

Is it a problem with the GOP elsewhere? Possibly, although I don’t have the stats at my fingertips. I will say it’s possible it may have been more of a problem if Romney had been in a more competitive field of candidates, but he got lucky in his GOP opponents this time around. With apologies to Santorum and Paul supporters, at this point it’s between Romney and Gingrich. While you can’t count Gingrich out unless you stake his heart, chop off his head, fill his mouth with garlic and bury him at a crossroad, I think most GOP voters realize at this point that the vampire treatment is exactly what Obama would do to Gingrich in the general election. There’s also the very real possibility that in going down, Gingrich would take all of the modern GOP with him, on the thinking that as he was the one who birthed it, he might as well kill it off, too. Romney, whatever his other flaws or advantages, at least won’t immolate his entire party if he loses the election.

At the end of the day, Romney has consistently been the GOP frontrunner in this election cycle. Gingrich spikes up past him now and then, but that’s just it: He spikes. Then people remember Gingrich is Gingrich (Romney spending millions in attack ads helps) and then it’s back to status quo. I know of grumbles of Romney’s LDS affiliation among some evangelical GOP voters, but it seems like it’s been just that: grumbles. There’s also this: When it comes right down to it, do these evangelical GOP voters dislike the idea of an LDS member in the White House more than they dislike Obama? I’m gonna go with a “no” here.

Regarding the general election, I think Romney’s major problem is not his religious belief but everything else about him, starting with the fact he’s socially clueless about how obnoxious he is about his wealth, and (conversely) how much the electorate is becoming sensitized to the fact he’s a clueless rich dude. I’m not going to suggest his LDS affiliation won’t matter to some voters; it will. I just don’t think it’s going to land in the top five concerns that most voters have about him.

Does Romney being a member of the LDS church concern me personally? No. Readers here will recall that of all the GOP candidates this cycle, the one I liked best (and even sent money to) was Jon Huntsman, who is also a member of the LDS church. So my recent track record on this particular aspect of a candidate’s profile is at the very least neutral.

In a larger sense, on a purely personal and anecdotal level, my overall feelings about LDS church members defaults to vaguely positive. This is mostly because I know a fair number of LDS folks, and the ones I know personally tend to be good people whose company I enjoy. I allow that this may have less to do with their church affiliation and more to do with the fact I like good people and don’t tally church affiliation of any sort as an automatic negative. Good people you like are hard to find and you should cherish them without the use of a checklist. Be that as it may, that’s my initial default, so it doesn’t hurt Romney any.

Regarding the LDS Church as an entity, there’s a lot about its political and social positions I dislike and disagree with, and I think its theological underpinnings are a heaping stack of nonsense. This puts it on a par with a number of churches, including the Catholic church, a whole pile of protestant churches (particularly evangelical churches), and pretty a fair number of non-Christian religions (and/or their various sects) to boot. I certainly could not be an LDS church member now; if I were born into it I’m pretty sure I’d be apostate. But again, that’d be true regardless of church. Luckily for me, aside from a baptism I didn’t have a vote on and wasn’t followed up on in any event, I’ve never had a church affiliation. I don’t have to be apostate; I can just be not religious.

I don’t automatically hold official church positions against church members, regardless of religion. I assume individual church members have brains and agency and may or may not agree philosophically with every single proclamation that comes out of their particular hierarchy. People who assume that Romney will take orders from Salt Lake City are on par with the voters of 1960 who assumed that Kennedy would take orders from Rome. I have no intention of voting for Romney in the general election. But when I don’t vote for him, his being a member of the LDS church won’t be a part of it.

Would I ever vote for a member of the LDS church for public office? Sure, if their political positions were aligned with mine for the office they were seeking. Romney’s don’t, which is why he won’t get my vote in November.

125 thoughts on “Romney and the LDS Church

  1. A quick note to say that I understand a number of regular commenters here have major issues with the LDS Church, particularly as regards its positions (and actions) regarding same sex marriage. So do I. Nevertheless, keep your passion on this issue on the correct side of venomous when you comment, please. And do try to avoid derailing into a general discussion of your issues with the LDS church.

  2. Very clear and rational thinking. Thank you sir; this is why I read your blog. Despite me being of the reformed tradition, I can easily say I agree with you on a lot of different subjects.

  3. As a Republican, I tend to agree with most of your sentiments – though I will likely be voting for Romney over Obama, if Romney becomes the Republican nominee.

    Like you, I think Romney’s Achilles heel is his insensitivity regarding the struggles of average people. I recently wrote a blog post about this weakness. Suffice it to say, you can’t claim to have hit a triple when you were born on third base. Though in all fairness, Romney hit a home run with his life.

    I also agree with your assessment of the political calculus of the GOP electorate. Given the choice between voting for a candidate who champions a philosophy that is alien to their core beliefs and one who agrees with them on most issues, but has a different religion, I am confident they will side with Romney over Obama.

  4. As a life-long member of the LDS faith (been on a mission, married in the temple, etc.), I’m very comfortable discussing differences of philosophy, social issues, religious beliefs, etc. but when it gets personal, I get tired. Most of the issues people have with Mormons have been covered ad nauseum and there’s not a lot of new ground to cover. Being a member of said church doesn’t make me a bigot, prejudiced against same sex marriage practitioners, a racist, or a brainwashed mass-following fool. I do have my own opinions (as do Romney and Huntsman) Thanks for the clear and rational comments.

    That said, I won’t be voting for Mitt anytime soon. I have yet to give my vote to either of the major parties in a presidential election. Huntsman was honestly the closest I’ve ever come but he’s far too in the middle (which is where I reside politically) to receive support from either party.

    Shameless adoration: Love your work – your books, your articles, and your blog. Thanks for the clear rational thinking.

  5. My prediction on Newt versus Romney?
    Newt would energize the left to get out and vote. From the left’s point of view, Newt is Satan. Newt would run the most hateful attack campaign we have ever seen. This would get the left voters out in droves.

    Romney would de-energize the right voters. While they would never vote for the secret muslim from kenyen, they would be most likely to just stay home.

    All of this ignores the worst part of what is yet to come. Karl Rove and the other anti-Obama PACS.
    We are going to see hate adds like we have never seen them before. We are going to see the right spend billions of dollars to do everything that they can to destroy President Obama’s reelection chances.

    That being said, the left has a ton of PAC money too and will use everything which has happened during the GOP primaries to remind the voters just what a clown Romney is.

    /I bet you 20,000 that they run a lot of ads using debate footage.

  6. As a Republican and a recovering Mormon, I group the folks making hay over his being a Mormon with the same folks making hay about Obama being (supposedly) a Muslim. I don’t particularly care what religion someone may or may not subscribe to, I care about their policies and the way they conduct their life and business.

  7. Actually, this is an issue I’ve been thinking about lately, mostly because: what does it say about me, and my belief in freedom of religion if I am disinclined to vote for Romney (just) because of his LDS affiliation? The problem is partly that I’d be disinclined to vote for Romney anyway–not a Republican, here–but it still worried me.

    I’ve been fascinated by the history and development of the LDS church for, oh, 25 years now, for reasons that are largely irrelevant and would lead to a major derail if I went into them. So in the course of worrying about my own convictions and gut responses, I decided: given that there are beliefs/actions that the LDS church has officially espoused that I strongly disbelieve in, it is fair to ask Romney (and Huntsman, and everyone running, for that matter) just what his position is on those beliefs and actions–as an individual. It would be wrong to assume he agreed unthinkingly (even if he agreed with his church, there is also the possibility that he does so thinkingly, that is, that he has reasons)–and that’s about as far as I got. (Because of that whole, y’know, not-a-Republican thing.)

    I want to believe that the rest of my fellow citizens are at least as capable of looking at the individual running for president as an individual, and not as some robotic-religious-wind-up-toy; so far, it looks like that belief is pretty justified. But I did read the other day that Romney’s campaign is likely less a “Kennedy in 1960″ moment for the LDS church and more of an “Al Smith in 1928″ moment. However, since I also suspect he’s going to lose (for all sorts of reasons), I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to be sure of what impact his church affiliation had on his electability.

  8. Give the LDS beliefs a few thousand years to marinate and they won’t seem any weirder than burning bushes or water into wine.

  9. “Would I ever vote for a member of the LDS church for public office? Sure, if their political positions were aligned with mine for the office they were seeking. Romney’s don’t, which is why he won’t get my vote in November.”

    This assumes that his mis-alignment and his religious affiliation are not correlated. Is that possible?

    If one considers most churches’ theological underpinnings to be a heaping stack of nonsense (as I do), and most churches’ political and social positions to be disagreeable (as I do), then what does that say about the political and social positions of the individual that considers himself a member of that church? (Particularly one like LDS, where “membership” implies a considerably greater dedication and commitment than just dropping by on a Sunday now and then.)

    Yes, individual church-goers may have brains, and may not agree personally with every church dictum. But either these individuals agree with the majority of their church’s stances, in which case their religious affiliation is indeed the root cause of my dissatisfaction with their political positions, or they *disagree* with the majority of their church’s positions, in which case I have to wonder what they’re doing there in the first place, because they’re not really an adherent of that religion if they doesn’t believe what its doctrines tell them to.

    John won’t vote for Romney because Romney stands for things John doesn’t like, not because Romney is LDS. But mustn’t a big part of the reason that Romney stands for things John doesn’t be precisely that Romney *is* LDS? Doesn’t that necessarily have to be a principal guiding force in the reason Romney believes what he does?

    This could be a terribly naive question on my part. I’m from Canada, where religion never gets talked about in a political context, because it’s never an issue. To a non-American, the fact that religion plays such a great role in US politics is one of the most confusing and frightening things about it.

  10. “To a non-American, the fact that religion plays such a great role in US politics is one of the most confusing and frightening things about it.”

    Exactly. Add to that that USarian social trends tend to swap over here in Europa and you have the reason I watch the US elections with such a worryed eye.

  11. “I assume individual church members have brains and agency and may or may not agree philosophically with every single proclamation that comes out of their particular hierarchy.”

    As a lapsed Catholic who disagrees with many of the proclamations from Rome, I’d hate to be judged on the behavior of the so-called faithful. Mitt has plenty working against him (I’m also a Massachusetts resident) without bringing religion into it. The South Park guys sum up LDS well — lovely people, wacky belief system, none of my business.

  12. Romney has two things going for him: a) he is NOT President Obama, and b) he isn’t an atheist.

    As regards the LDS affiliation I personally don’t care. In basic traing (Fort Lost in the Woods in a State of Misery, ESSAYONS!), some of my closest friends were Mormon. At that time I was still a “practicing” christian, but i found my fellow trainees of the LDS to be very nice people. The didn’t try to convert me or anyone else, but where more than happy to talk about their beliefs and were more than happy to loan their texts to anyone who wished to look through them.

    I personally don’t care what religion someone has (or in my own case no religion), I just care what policies they wish to put into place. Sadly, Mitt and the rest of the God’s Own Party crowd (not to be confused with old style Republicans that I’ve voted for) do NOT in any way, shape or form espouse the beliefs that I have. Their treatment of homosexuals, women and minorities is something I find abhorrent. I seriously would not under any conceivable (at least to me) circumstance put any of the current crop of GOP Pretenders to the Throne upon said throne.

    As a side note, I DID vote for Huntsman in the primary here because he actually seems to think that science might actually be scientifical and all that jazz. If I HAD to live under a Republican President, I would at least want it to be one who understands that well yes, Science isn’t a tool of the Devil.

  13. My view of the evangelicals is a bit narrow and perhaps more cosmopolitan than southern evangelicals, being in northern California, but among the evangelical Republicans I know, they don’t seem to care too much.

    I don’t think in the final analysis, the LDS issue moves any state over to one column or another. Does Obama win Mississippi? Or Tennessee? Or Texas? And in the states that might conceivably flop over by a low evangelical turnout, if it’s close enough for Virginia or North Carolina to stick with Obama (something I very much doubt this time around), Ohio and Florida have already gone for Obama.

    (While I’m more than happy to vote Romney (not that in matters here in California), I do look forward to seeing just what Romney’s percentage is in Utah come November. McCain got 63.2%. Bush got 71.0% in 2004. I’m guessing it brushes 80%).

  14. As a Liberal Mormon (yes, there are a few of us, we’re the ones that support same-sex marriage) I won’t be voting for Mitt because I don’t agree with his politics. I think he’s a fine enough person, but I just don’t think he and I align.
    And I’m glad you brought up the point that what someone believes in isn’t necessarily what defines them or what you should judge them by. I think everything would be a whole lot better if we didn’t meld people with what they did (or didn’t) believe.
    Good post.

  15. Stephen McNeil:

    “This assumes that his mis-alignment and his religious affiliation are not correlated. Is that possible?”

    There are certainly other politicians in the US whose political opinions run counter to the official teachings of the church to which they belong. There are any number of pro-choice, pro-same sex marriage politicians who are Catholic, for example. So, yes, it’s possible.

  16. I think one big thing that hurts Romney way more than his faith, among conservative and evangelical voters, is the perception that he flip-flops. It appears he was way more moderate when he ran for office in Massachusetts. A lot of people, including myself, get the feeling that he was either pretending to be moderate back then or is pretending to be conservative now. (As a liberal who thinks there is a reasonable chance this man could end up as president, I hope the second is true.) That’s not exactly the kind of behavior that makes people excited to vote for you. That’s why I think Romney is getting a lukewarm, reluctant reception from GOP primary voters; I think his faith is not as big of a factor.

    Stephen McNeil @ 1:14 pm: It’s true that, in general, Latter-day Saints tend to be conservative and tend to be Republicans. That said, it’s not universally true–for example, Harry Reid (the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate) is a Mormon. In my personal conversations with people of LDS faith, I’ve found a variety of political views.

  17. “John won’t vote for Romney because Romney stands for things John doesn’t like, not because Romney is LDS. But mustn’t a big part of the reason that Romney stands for things John doesn’t be precisely that Romney *is* LDS? Doesn’t that necessarily have to be a principal guiding force in the reason Romney believes what he does?”

    Well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon Democrat. He’s not the only one either. And I know plenty of liberal Catholics. Quite frankly, a moment’s thought will reveal that the religious cover all parts of the political spectrum. I have no idea what that says about the sincerity of their beliefs or adherence to official religious doctrine. But I would be wary of concluding that being for Political Position X means that you’re either a tool of the Church or an insincere believer. People are complicated and contradictory.

    All religious people pick and choose when it comes to their religion. It’s impossible to literally believe everything in the Bible or Koran or whatever no matter how fundamentalist a person may try to be. So, maybe Mitt’s political positions are informed by LDS doctrine and maybe they’re not. Who knows and who cares? The point is whether you want to vote for someone who holds those political positions.

  18. bt said, “As a Republican and a recovering Mormon, I group the folks making hay over his being a Mormon with the same folks making hay about Obama being (supposedly) a Muslim.”

    Except for the fact that the folks making hay about Obama being (supposedly) a Muslim are, shall we say, lying. Not exactly the same thing.

  19. Does the Left really hate Newt so much? Until this year, I hadn’t really thought much about him since he left office. If anything I love Newt because he’s such a caricature of a what the Left perceives the Right to be.

    Back to Mitt and the LDS. As I will not live to see the day when there’s a candidate from a major political party who shares my personal theology, I don’t see why it should matter if he’s a Mormon, a Presbyterian or Reformed Druid of North America. If anything, I’d be happier with a candidate who is true to his beliefs versus one who puts on religious airs for political gain.

  20. I only think Romney’s religious affiliation will be a factor if a viable, conservative, third-party candidate gets into the race. I could see Gingrich in that role if enough reality is able to filter through his ego that he realizes that he will never get the nomination. This general election will be close enough that a third-party candidate can position them self as a spoiler in the race.

  21. CLP wrote:

    I think one big thing that hurts Romney way more than his faith, among conservative and evangelical voters, is the perception that he flip-flops.

    Well, yes – at least with Rick Santorum you’ve never in doubt he’s a triple-decker turd burger with extra secret sauce. No matter how much much Romney tries to pretend his record as a reasonably moderate Governor of Kennedy Central never happened, those damn Bible Belters know how to read and use Google. :)

    That said, I’ve got to agree with John that “Obama is a secret Muslim-Marxist anti-Christ” trumps “anyone but Mittens The RINO” with that demographic.

    John Scalzi wrote:

    There are certainly other politicians in the US whose political opinions run counter to the official teachings of the church to which they belong.

    Like the other Governor Romney – whose support for civil rights was not universally shared among LDS leaders?

  22. Romney? Gingrich? Obama? Who cares, we’re all fucked when the Hulk gets back.

  23. What I’m wondering now is how close the election would be between Romeny and Obama, and if the evangelical Christians who WOULD stay home if the vote were between a conservative whose religion they felt was heresy and the liberal president they dislike — would those folks staying home be enough to allow Obama to win? Especially if there’s a conservative third party candidate, which is Not Unlikely?

  24. I could see Ron Paul as a third party candidate, but I don’t think Romney would need to worry about him stealing the evangelical vote, so much. I think where religion could hurt Romney is there might be a few voters who won’t turn out and vote where they otherwise might – but I think that his positions on social issues are (broadly) sufficiently aligned with theirs that it probably won’t be an issue.

  25. Well, since there’s only one member of Congress (Pete Stark who’s been willing to go on record as not being a member of any religion. Since I’m an atheist, essentially I always have to vote for a Senator or Representative whose professed religious beliefs I would categorize as a steaming pile.

    Oh, wait. I live in DC, so I don’t get to vote for Congress anyway.

  26. If anything I love Newt because he’s such a caricature of a what the Left perceives the Right to be.

    Many conservatives loathe Newt for the same reason. But I guess it’s different if your politics are “this is what I believe” rather than “my politics are whatever liberals hate”.

    WRT being a member of any particular faith, I’m pretty sure the LDS church does not make literally adherence to every political tenet shared by the church a condition of membership.

  27. “And do try to avoid derailing into a general discussion of your issues with the LDS church.”

    Blah, no fun. :P

  28. With me being a “young” evangilist at 9 years old, and learning the “hard” truth about religion in it’s many and varied forms, All I can say about organized religon, in all it’s many veried forms is….
    THE SHOW MUST GO ON…
    Wait …
    that also menas that Politics is ALSO a Showplace for ….
    people who have no idea what the MASS of humanity is living by an ethic, that is being twisted and buffed to show only THIER verson of THIER truth.
    But thats how I see it.

  29. I’d like to says Paul make a strong showing as a third party candidate. I don’t believe he has an honest chance at winning, but perhaps he can do well enough to give potential third partys a legit chance in further coming elections. We get so terribly caught up in the short term here, that it seems very little headway is made for the long haul. To me it just seems that the choice between two partys that have both seen much better days is no real choice at all. And why should they work that hard? Reds, are you gonna vote for baby killers? Blues, are you gonna vote for anti-choice anti-gay marriage backwards non-sense? They have things so terribly polarized that there doesn’t seem to be an honest choice here.
    I would LOVE to see the field busted up. Have some more party choices so we actually have OPTIONS. I won’t be voted for either Rom or Obama. I just am not happy with either. I’ll vote for a third party, or even write one in if that is the only option. And I’m sick to death of hearing people talk about ‘wasting your vote’ like a vote doesn’t matter unless you think your guy is gonna win., Winning has become more important then voting where your heart lays. Eff that.

  30. As a few people online have noted, Republicans as a rule fall in line, Democrats don’t. Conservative evangelicals will be more prone to stay home, but quite a few will still vote, and they’ll hold their noses. As an example, the local Paulite horde here in Fairfield, Iowa, hates Obama more than they dislike Romney.

    The real story about the elections looks like it’ll be about Obama’s narrow win with record fundraising, even more insane SuperPAC spending, and how the GOP used it to win both houses in a staggering landslide of local and regional contests.

  31. Jack Lint @ 1:54 pm: Well, I’m generally considered Left, and this is what I said about Newt on this blog, back on 1/23

    Democrats don’t just dislike Newt, oh, no. We hate, despise, loathe, and fear him with the fiery passion of a 1.7 million flaming queens. We would shove him out the airlock w/o a suit, while singing “Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead.” We would wrap him in a flag and set him on fire. We would feed him to the pigs and the vegetarians would eat bacon every single day for a year.

    There would be a Get-Out-the-Vote movement that would make the earth tremble. Whole counties would be buried beneath postcards, flyers, yard signs, and circulars. Your phone would never quit ringing, your mailbox would collapse, people wearing socks with Birkenstocks will be camped out on every public sidewalk, asking if you are registered to vote and if you would like to donate to the Keep Gingrich Away from the Football Campaign.

    In re: Romney & the Deep South, I usually poll my relatives. They tend to be a pretty good litmus for rural, white-ish, conservatives, and they will almost certainly be staying home, if it comes down to Romney vs. Obama. States like SC, MS, etc., will probably be close w/ low turnout, I suspect, since many white evangelicals are suspicious of the C of LDS, and also think Obama is, er, well… black. Honestly, no matter what words they put around it (socialist, Muslim, anti-colonialist-Africanish-non-American), the upshot is that the man is black, and that freaks a lot of white, conservative, Republican-ish folks right out. Seriously, every conversation involves a subvocal “that uppity colored boy”, and Fox knows it, and plays to it.

    So I think African-Americans will probably turn out for Obama, in those states, while white evangelicals stay home, and the result will be a wash.

    Personally, I find all religions silly, but am unlikely to let that affect my vote, because in the US I haven’t ever had the choice to vote for an openly atheist candidate. Should I ever have such a choice, I might choose the atheist candidate out of sheer wonder, although I hope that I would never vote for an atheist whose views on every subject other than god appalled me. That’s not been tested–fortunately or not.

  32. My issues with Romney are only related to his being a Mormon insofar as his beliefs as a Mormon have informed his politics. But considering his flip-floppery, it’s hard to say what he really thinks about anything except his wife and kids. I was going to vote Obama this year regardless of who the GOP chose, though. No way am I letting my vote help those anti-American trolls continue to destroy this country in the name of the ultra-rich.

  33. I have no problem with voting for a Mormon as such, but Romney is such an egregious liar that I couldn’t conceive of voting for him. That’s my major objection to him, although I don’t know anything else about him that’s positive. Well, he seems to be a good family man. As was said of James G. Blaine in the 1884 election, “His family life is impeccable, although his public life is not. Therefore let us retire him to family life.”

  34. I don’t particularly care what religious affiliation a candidate has, so long as that religion is no part of his platform and he has no history of inflicting his religious views into his political actions and rhetoric.

    I am cynical enough to think that anyone who manages to make it into a presidential election is not seriously religious, they are just conveniently so.

    In Romney’s case, my reasons for not voting for him do not include his religious background. They include his political views and history.

    It would be nice to have a tough decision to make in this upcoming election, but the GOP has not put up anyone who will tempt my vote away from Obama.

  35. @ DavidNOE: If Seamus was still alive, I wonder what he would think about the “good family man” thing.

    More generally, I think Romney being Mormon won’t matter much *directly*, but I think it feeds into the general lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. He’ll be acceptable as a vote against the scary Muslim, socialist, gun-stealing, Alinsky-worshipping nig, er, Kenyan, but a stuffed suit with a flag pin on the lapel would get as many votes.

  36. While you can’t count Gingrich out unless you stake his heart, chop off his head, fill his mouth with garlic and bury him at a crossroad, I think most GOP voters realize at this point that the vampire treatment is exactly what Obama would do to Gingrich in the general election.

    This is beautiful, but you left out the part about burning him to ashes BEFORE burying the cremains at a crossroads. Then I might be believe he’s out…

  37. John,

    My wife was baptized into the LDS several years ago. While she is no longer active with the Church, for the time that she was I spent a good deal of time with the Ward members and especially the Elders. For the most part my experience with LDS members is that they are genuinely good people. Of course we also avoided talking directly about contentious issues for the most part, but when we did they preached a message of, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I don’t honestly think they managed it, but I at least gave them some credit for trying.

    As to the faith itself, as you alluded to, every religion has its own share of what I call “goofy shit.” A burning bush, feeding thousands with a handful of fish, all those various things in the people seem more acceptable I think because they happened 2,000 odd years ago. But Jesus appearing to Joseph Smith in NY a century and half ago is just too recent. We have an idea of biblical times as being full of miracles. Mid-nineteenth century? Not so much.

    That being said, I really don’t find either to be more goofy than the other. Perhaps if we had more documentation of the Jew’s Exodus we would have more issues with Moses’ account of things as well. Mere age is not necessarily enough to discount the miracle if indeed you are partial to that kind of faith.

    If you have not seen the South Park episode about Mormonism I highly recommend it. I thin it is easily one of their better episode.

    All the best,
    Paul

  38. I tend to disagree on the religion thing. I’m usually suspicious of people who are members of a church with abysmal official positions, until I’m certain that they not only don’t support those positions, but are actively working to change them.

    Like political affiliation, religion is generally something one chooses as an adult. Even if one is born into a faith, so to speak, one always has the option, outside of theocracies, to leave that church. One may still be culturally Catholic, LDS, etc., but that’s a different thing from sitting in the pews and tithing every week. People who can’t bring themselves to fight against their church’s horrible bits are being complicit in the damage those horrible bits do. It’s not enough to say you weren’t physically part of a lynch mob if you actively contributed to its funding and cultural power.

    If one happens to be a true believer in the theology of a given faith, then fair enough. But belief in theology and supporting the earthly endeavors of a church are two very, very different things. And if you’re too afraid of $deity’s retribution to not go to a church you fundamentally disagree with, then I’m probably not going to get along with you anyway.

    Bottom line: Religion is a choice, and I see nothing wrong with criticizing people on the choices they make, if said choices are harmful to others.

  39. But at what point are we going to end up drenched in blood saying Newt’s Dead Enough and walking away?

  40. So only one member of congress admits to not having a religion, I wonder how many really don’t now, or how many didn’t in the past. How many presidents?

  41. I think the same sort of evangelical hardliners who would likely hold Romney’s church against him are also likely to hold Gingrich’s marital turnstile against him, so in the primary I doubt it’d make much difference. People in that camp will either hold their nose and pick one of them anyway, or stay home.

    In the general election I don’t have any thoughts either way.

  42. I fully agree that LDS is not an issue any more, or any less, than any other religious belief. Won’t for him because of his positions. As an atheist I have generally voted for people who profess faiths in various religions. It does sort of bother me that the Republican party has made faith, of some sort, a litmus test for being electable so that being an atheist is a preclusion from office. I really wonder whether other people’s faiths make that sort of difference to Romney. (Ie we should not look at his faith, but the turnaround is not true.)

  43. Dave H:

    I think the example of South Carolina (a hotbed of religious conservatism) disproves your thesis about evangelicals disliking Newt. I understand why you’d think that, but IMO what you’re missing is that Gingrich really played up the “I’ve found redemption through Jesus” thing that evangelicals eat up.

    I think we might have a atheist presidential candidate in my lifetime, but it’ll be a long wait.

  44. Well we already have a clueless rich boob in the white house so i do not see that as a problem. I think people will like obama’s hair and personality better so he will win.

  45. Constance @ 6:16 pm:

    You forgot about dissolving the ashes in acid. Otherwise, he could always be raised just by adding the Essential Saltes and reciting a few lines from the Necronomicon. “Y’ai Ng’ngah, Yog-Sothoth…”

  46. The LDS church is the implacable and vicious enemy of every GLBT person, period. However, so is the Roman Catholic one (maybe a little less vicious), and that wouldn’t have kept me from voting for Ted Kennedy if I had lived in his state. Nor would being LDS rule out Harry Reid.

    Mitt Romney is personally a gay-hating shithead, though. Or at any rate has positioned himself as one by signing a pledge to use the Justice Department to harass the GLBT community. Even if I’d consider voting for a Republican (which I won’t, since Obamacare saved my life), I wouldn’t vote for HIM.

    I don’t feel bad about hoping his LDSness hurts turnout among the Talibangelicals, because it would just be karma for the GOP to lose votes to religious prejudice!

  47. Dave H is likely onto something with the notion that, between “Romney being LDS” and “Newt being a serial divorce-ist”, it is indeed likely to be a wash between the two.

    Those offended at one are likely to be offended at the other, but there’s liable to be correlation between that and imaginations of a “Crypto-Muslim-Marxist-Kenyan president.” I expect a lot would be willing to hold their nose and try to vote Obama out.

    Cthulu for President, anyone?

  48. @ Edward Brennan: Faith of some sort is an electability litmus test for Dems too, even if it’s not as rigorously — and as loudly — applied as it generally is for Repubs. Maybe less so for lower offices, but I don’t see it as any more likely that Dems would nominate an atheist for President than Repubs would. Partly it’s just a facet of the circular reasoning that makes up the whole “electability” shtick, but not all of it.

  49. Jack: If anything I love Newt because he’s such a caricature of a what the Left perceives the Right to be.

    “perceives” would generally be used if there was a difference between perception and reality. “caricature” would generally be used to note that reality has been distorted for effect. But since Newt really *is* as bad as the Left says the Right can get, and he really *is* as bad as he is (which is to say, one doesn’t have to distort reality to show just how insane right wing Newt is), the use of those two terms seems a bit unfair to reality.

    Mary: Actually, this is an issue I’ve been thinking about lately, mostly because: what does it say about me, and my belief in freedom of religion if I am disinclined to vote for Romney (just) because of his LDS affiliation?

    I don’t care what religion you belong to as long as you keep it *your* religion. When you start relating to *your* religion as if it had somehow magically been *our* religion from the founding of America onward, if you think that “in god we trust” was put on US currency by Thomas Jefferson, when you think separation of church and state means children in public schools should only pray to your god, when you use your religion to inform you that the life of a woman who has gotten pregnant as a result of being raped and whose life is endangered by a medical problem with her pregnancy, if your religion informs you that she should just suck it up, if your relation to other religions is “my god is bigger than your god” and any nonbelievers are your righteous cannon fodder, then, yeah, I have a problem with your religion.

    Unfortunately, in America, this has become all to common a position for politics on the right. (Of course, once would be “all too common”, but unfortunately, its more than once). So, I don’t think it totally unreasonable to be wary of a politicians potential for extreme religious views affecting what he would do in office.

  50. @ Miles Archer

    Give the LDS beliefs a few thousand years to marinate and they won’t seem any weirder than burning bushes or water into wine.

    Who needs a thousand years? Bonkers is bonkers right now. Of course my problem with religion isn’t their bonkers superstitions; to each their own. My problem is what clergy do when they get into political power.

    @ sterlinglikesilver

    What I’m wondering now is how close the election would be between Romeny and Obama, and if the evangelical Christians who WOULD stay home if the vote were between a conservative whose religion they felt was heresy and the liberal president they dislike — would those folks staying home be enough to allow Obama to win? Especially if there’s a conservative third party candidate, which is Not Unlikely?

    I highly doubt any significant fraction of Republicans (socially conservative or moderate) will vote for a third option, or that Gingrich will do anything but throw support behind Romney when the primary is over, even if hard core social conservatives would prefer Gingrich. There are plenty of Dems and other libs who liked Nader over Gore for 2000, but still speak his name as a curse for “dividing the vote”. And Dems, in my personal experience, are a lot less of the attitude that when the general election comes around, you shelve your doubts and vote for your side than Republicans tend to be. Hence the abominable two-party system.

    @ Theanderblast

    What if Romney (or in general,one of the major candidates) was a Scientologist?

    More interesting question – at least to I who will never vote for Romney anyway – what if Obama was a Scientologist?

  51. As a canadian, I can barely stomach the bile and rhetoric that comes across the border as “right wing” politics. Although I’d never vote for Romney, it has nothing to do with his faith or my citizenship. As far as I’m concerned, even the “left” (democrats) in the USA are too far right for my taste.

  52. Seems to me someone thinks it is an important issue. Have you seen the “And I’m a Mormon” and on TV and on billboards. There is even a series of the commercials on YouTube.
    A certain Salt Lake City based church is spending millions of dollars to tell the rest of the USA that they are just like everyone else. Any connection to Willard Mitt Romney running for President? Coincidence or massive PR campaign for Willard’s nomination bid?
    I wonder if they decided on this ad blitz before or after Christine O’Donnel’s “I’m not a witch” ads.

  53. So, how do ya’ll feel about Gingrich?

    Romney carried the evangelical vote in Florida. The only sector of the Republican base he lost to Gingrich was the “strongly conservative”.

    And the only Republican I know who gives a crap about him being a Mormon is my mother, and she would walk across Newt’s burning ashes to pull the lever for Romney to get Obama out of office.

  54. Dave: As a canadian, I can barely stomach the bile and rhetoric that comes across the border as “right wing” politics. Although I’d never vote for Romney, it has nothing to do with his faith or my citizenship. As far as I’m concerned, even the “left” (democrats) in the USA are too far right for my taste.

    Obama’s election campaign rhetoric placed him way, way, waaaay to the left of where he is now. That was the guy I voted for. Unfortunately, Campaign Obama didn’t make it into office.

  55. David Hall @ 11:19 pm: The NYT ran a story last fall about the “I’m a Mormon” ads. Apparently, the campaign has been a few years in the making, after it was suggested by some PR consultants. Also, the church isn’t running the ads in any states with early primaries, “to avoid the perception that it was trying to influence politics”. What’s most interesting about the article, though, is that it says the church is fretting about the downside of a Romney nomination:

    “You would think,” said one person involved with the advertising campaign, “that the higher Romney’s profile, the better it is for the church. It’s actually the opposite.“The people who are very savvy within the church and understand media,” this person said, “know that if Romney gets the nomination, ultimately for the church it’s a problem. Politicians are polarizing figures, they’re not uniting figures. What it does is completely eliminate the option of Mormonism among a whole swath of people who will never ever consider it. They’ll say, I know one Mormon — our president — and I hate that guy.”

    Maybe if Romney gets the nomination, they need to put Senator Reid in some of those “I’m a Mormon” ads.

    But yeah, I don’t think the ads are an elaborate campaign for Romney to win the nomination.

  56. John, I respect your objectivity when it comes to separating a politician from all of the doctrines and teachings of his religion and your willingness to give them the benefit of having free will and choice when it comes to matters of public policy. However, as a former Mormon, I won’t give that kind of leeway to Romney. If you want a president who believes and adheres to all the of the teachings of the LDS faith, Romney’s your man, from its white supremacist doctrinal foundation to its female disenfranchisement. See, he’s not just a politician and a businessman, but he is and has been a high-ranking church official, a gatekeeper of worthiness for temple attendance and regional leader (stake president). For that reason, his situation is not analogous with Kennedy who never held a Catholic position of equivalence and never presided over congregations, doling out judgments and forgiveness.

  57. @ Greg

    Obama’s election campaign rhetoric placed him way, way, waaaay to the left of where he is now. That was the guy I voted for. Unfortunately, Campaign Obama didn’t make it into office.

    I’m the last person to disagree that Obama’s presidency has been a mighty disappointment. But I may be less disappointed than some in that my expectations weren’t all that high to begin with. Listening to all those folks in 2008 saying, At last, our nightmare is over, I though, that’s gonna be a helluva a backlash when reality sets in. Electing one person to one office, even POTUS, isn’t going to miraculously transform Washington.

    @ CLP

    What’s most interesting about the article, though, is that it says the church is fretting about the downside of a Romney nomination:

    I don’t mind saying that it’s music to my ears whenever any religious institution wants to keep its distance from political offices. I don’t doubt that the LDS Church still wants to influence politics, but the fact that they are least leery about being publicly associated with high public office is heartening.

  58. Any Scientologist candidate would have an uphill battle with voters in both parties. To over simplify: Scientology is far too “new agey” for the Republicans and has too strong of an authoritative reputation for Democrats. The candidate would also have to fend off Anonymous for the whole campaign.

    Now, a Church of the Evolved Lamb candidate is one that would win universal support.

  59. Maybe ‘Campaign Obama’ didn’t make it into office, or just mayyyyyyyybe the Republicans have marshaled every ounce of energy they have into obstructing everything Obama tried to do.

    Y’know, like they repeatedly said and did?

  60. John won’t vote for Romney because Romney stands for things John doesn’t like, not because Romney is LDS. But mustn’t a big part of the reason that Romney stands for things John doesn’t be precisely that Romney *is* LDS? Doesn’t that necessarily have to be a principal guiding force in the reason Romney believes what he does?

    I’m just going to put this out there — my wife is probably to the left of Scalzi. She considers the Democrats to be Republican Lite. She votes World Workers Party, for heavens sake. And she also teaches adult Sunday school every week at our ward, which is the Mormon word for parish. All of this is a wordy way of saying that LDS doctrine does not “program” a person to be conservative or Republican, though a great many of us are. There are some LDS members who take the doctrine and chart a very different political course, compared to what you might expect. Overall, I’m convinced that ours is a fairly elastic faith in that you can be a liberal or a conservative and never miss beat, in terms of hewing to the core principles.

    Seems to me someone thinks it is an important issue. Have you seen the “And I’m a Mormon” and on TV and on billboards. There is even a series of the commercials on YouTube. A certain Salt Lake City based church is spending millions of dollars to tell the rest of the USA that they are just like everyone else. Any connection to Willard Mitt Romney running for President? Coincidence or massive PR campaign for Willard’s nomination bid? I wonder if they decided on this ad blitz before or after Christine O’Donnel’s “I’m not a witch” ads.

    The ongoing national PR campaign is probably as old as I am. If not older. More to the point, the former President of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley, was an educated public relations master who spent much of his time making national and international PR a focus. (That, and constructing new LDS temples.) The current President is largely carrying on with that focus, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the PR is Mitt-timed, but more probably Mitt just happens to be coming up nationally at the same time the LDS church is getting more national and international exposure — both good and bad — than it ever has before.

    Speaking purely as a member, I think the exposure is a net positive. More Americans specifically are discovering “The Mormons Next Door” and even though productions like Stone & Parker’s THE BOOK OF MORMON lambast the church for its doctrine and its cultural goofiness (as they see it, and they’re often discerning, those two) I think this too helps boost signal. And not for increased membership as much as evaporating preconceived perceptions or outright ignorance among non-members.

    Xopher’s correct in that the LDS church proper is unlikely to be getting along with GLBT activists any time soon. This document explains more or less why. Which is not to say LDS and GLBTs cannot find ways to get along. My wife and I have never been shy about welcoming GLBTs into our social circles or into our home, and while the church upholds certain doctrines which are simply anathema to GLBTs, the individual relationships between LDS members and GLBTs are just that: individual, and dependent not only on the openness and tolerance of the LDS member, but the GLBT person(s) as well.

    And before I go too far off-topic, I will come back around to stating my support for Mitt, which I’ve not been shy in demonstrating on John’s blog. I think Mitt’s got the potential to be a very effective President in an economically awful period in American history. If he somehow survives to inherit the oval office I will pray mightily that a) Mitt somehow avoids the honey traps of Washington D.C. and that b) despite his silver spoon nature, he’s still going to make decisions and push for policy that reins in federal expeditures while also bringing a little springtime to the business and job markets; seeing as how we’ve slumbered through several cold years of late.

    Does Mitt earn my vote because he’s a Mormon, like me? Nope. It helps a lot, but not enough to sway me entirely.

    Does Mitt earn my vote because I think he’s actually going to try to be a cleaner-upper in D.C. and chart a better course than has been charted in the last dozen years? Yep.

    Whether he’s the Republican nominee or not, whether he’s the winner in November or not, I like to think that Mitt’s just another reminder to the country — and the world — that we exist, we’re in every walk of life, every kind of job and field of expertise, we come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and political flavors, and while we do have a rather strict code of personal conduct, we really aren’t all that different from most everyone else.

  61. I’m a republican and a conservative christian, and I’m probably going to vote for Obama. Maybe I just watch too much Daily Show, but all the republican candidates seem like idiots. I can’t believe this is the best we had to offer. I feel like the party is phoning it in, throwing out some entertaining clowns before they concede. Except the clowns are terrifying.
    There are intelligent, compassionate conservatives, please believe me.

  62. If you want a president who believes and adheres to all the of the teachings of the LDS faith, Romney’s your man, from its white supremacist doctrinal foundation to its female disenfranchisement.

    Well, for once, it’s me who gets to say, “I see what you did here.”

    I really don’t blame ex-LDS for being “ex” because I was going down that road myself. Then I met a woman (who would become my wife eventually) and she — along with some personal spiritual experiences which are a little too personal to delve into here — turned me around and made me realize that for me to be true and authentic to myself, I had to stick with the Church. Warts and all. Incidentally, my wife’s not white, and about as fire-breathing-feminist as they come. I’d talk her into commenting on this, but she already thinks the time I spend on blogs is dumb, so that won’t be happening.

    I’m bummed that your departure from the Church seemingly left you with a sour taste in your mouth.

    I’d have done the same, but as I said above, I met someone rather amazing who helped me to re-think some things.

  63. @ John

    Folks, let’s remember to keep the focus here on Romney and not Gingrich or Obama.

    Sorry. I though you were aiming for a discussion of how and whether religion effects electability. If I’d known you wanted this to stay Romney-specific, I wouldn’t have thrown in the question I did. If you want to edit my reply to Theanderblast out of my post at 11:10, I won’t mind. I’d do it, but there’s no comment edit function.

  64. Like Brad said, the fact that Mitt is a member of the C of LDS doesn’t bother me. I didn’t start out as a huge Mitt fan because I felt, as a neoconservative (Yes, folks we still exist!), that he didn’t understand or sympathize with fiscal and foreign policy conservatives. I think he is a very pragmatic and tactical politician who would not put up much of a fight against the expansion of the federal government. Obama sees the federal government as the cure for all our society’s problems; Mitt doesn’t quite see it that way, but he’s not above creating government programs out of good intentions that make the situation worse. Has the cost of healthcare gone down in Massachusetts? No, and the Romneycare approach that Obama pushed onto the national level won’t solve the problems of insurance costs and health care access.

    On the other hand, I liked the fact that he has tons of executive and managerial experience both in the public and private sector. I’m not worried that Mitt will lose his head in a crisis and make a bad situation worse. I also think he’s shown a lot of experience in taking failing companies and turning them around and saving them from bankruptcy and dissolution.

    Ironically, while I could feasibly support Mitt in the general election, the odds are I will not bother to vote in the general because I live in Vermont, where the only way the good liberal majority of this state will not vote for Obama is if he launches a preemptive nuclear war against China or Iran and permits a massive expansion of domestic oil drilling. Fat chance of that! Hehe

  65. CV Rick writes: “If you want a president who believes and adheres to all the of the teachings of the LDS faith, Romney’s your man, from its white supremacist doctrinal foundation to its female disenfranchisement.

    Well, no. In fact there are issues on which the LDS church is well to Romney’s left. Religions are complicated things, and few people inside of one perfectly mirror its official line. Generally they contain a great deal more argument, dissent, and change over time than they officially admit. In fact, the idea that a religious affiliation is some kind of simple ideological macro–poof, you’re a Seventh Day Merovingean, so you now agree with every single SDM pronouncement about opera and dairy products–is a common failure of secular people looking at religions from the outside. This is not what actually happens on the granular level of actual individuals.

    “See, he’s not just a politician and a businessman, but he is and has been a high-ranking church official, a gatekeeper of worthiness for temple attendance and regional leader (stake president). For that reason, his situation is not analogous with Kennedy who never held a Catholic position of equivalence and never presided over congregations, doling out judgments and forgiveness.”

    This would be a fair comparison only if Catholicism were a system in which practically all adult males were members of the priesthood and in which major figures in community life were regularly recruited into taking on high-ranking ecclesiastical posts on a part-time basis. Since nothing could be further from the truth, you’re not even comparing apples and oranges, you’re comparing apples and the fourteenth minute of Lou Reed’s METAL MACHINE MUSIC.

    I agree that Romney’s situation isn’t analogous to Kennedy’s, but it’s simply because Romney has been active in Mormon church affairs quite a bit beyond the (already fairly heavy) expectations placed on an adult male member of a successful Mormon family, whereas JFK was not noted for zealous overperformance of his Catholicism. The stuff about Romney having presided over congregations, etc., is a distraction and a bad argument. There are adult Mormon males with the sentience of linoleum who have presided over congregations and doled out judgement and forgiveness, because that’s how Mormonism is set up.

    I’m not saying any of this to attack or defend Romney, Mormonism, Catholicism, JFK, or anything else; only to put in the observation that this stuff is complicated.

  66. (Parenthetically, John, would you write Grand Old Party when you mean Republican? If not, is there a good reason to use the short form?)

  67. John – my question was, how whacky would a candidate’s religious views need to be before they influenced your voting choice in a negative way?

  68. Brad said:
    ” a) Mitt somehow avoids the honey traps of Washington D.C. and that b) despite his silver spoon nature, he’s still going to make decisions and push for policy that reins in federal expeditures while also bringing a little springtime to the business and job markets”

    As I understand it, and IANAR, a) part of Mitt’s problem among conservatives is that he couldn’t avoid the honeypots of Boston, and b) what do you mean “despite”? Those, combined with the fervent belief that what’s good for the rich is good (enough) for the poor, are the bulk of the goals of the silver spoon set.

  69. What policies, specifically, will Romney implement that will rein in federal expenditures and will also result in growth in business and job markets? I thought “Romneycare” was an epithet that his GOP opponents regularly hurled at Romney until it started to dawn on them that now is the time to worry about beating Obama.

    Personally, I see single-payer health care as one of the best engines for boosting small business. Large corporations can afford to give good health care plans to their employees; small businesses and start-ups can’t, and even if they are able to pay a competitive salary, they won’t be able to attract people who need health care. Taking that burden off their shoulders completely frees them from “I’d love to work for your company, but you don’t offer health insurance and MegaCo does.”

  70. mythago:

    He’s already promised to grow the US military without raising taxes[1], so I don’t see that happening.

    At this point I’m not sure if pity is the correct feeling for people who keep voting Republican and expect financially sensible policies, or if it should be a mix of that and disgust, or what.

    [1] allegedly several of his advisers are from the Foreign Policy Initiative, too, so expect more Bush II-like foreign policy.

  71. I feel that Mitt’s problem with the poorly-thought-out phrase about the poor is related to him being a Mormon. The Mormon church does have a great social network for their poor members, and I have an acquaintance who’s been landed in that for several years. Thus, it could give Mitt an extra level of insensitivity about what options are available to those who are not Mormon or those who don’t happen to have been caught in the safety net of his local ward.

    On the secondary question of Scientologists raised in this thread, I’m a former church member. I have been harassed by Scientology’s private investigators after leaving and speaking out. [1]

    What y’all may not know is that there is, and was, a Scientology member of Congress, and it hasn’t seemed to be an issue. Sonny Bono (as in Sonny and Cher) was a Republican member of Congress and active Scientologist until his death in 1998, when his widow (Mary Bono Mack), who apparently also was a Scientologist at that time (but may no longer be) took his seat. She has since remarried and still holds the seat.

    Many people credit Disney with the pressure to pass the Copyright Term Exension Act [2] because of Bono’s perceived ties with Hollywood, however, I don’t believe Disney was anywhere near as significant a factor in that as has been believed. Bono’s district includes Hemet, which is near where Scientology’s super-secret HQ, Gold Base, [3] is located and some senior celebrities, including Tom Cruise, have been. (It’s not clear to me if the base is still in California’s 45th or not, and frankly I don’t care enough to research it deeper.) I believe Sonny’s actions were far more about protecting the works of L. Ron Hubbard than about Disney.

    The real problem with Scientology candidates is all the stuff that’s coming down the pipe about the CofS and how it has treated people, especially members of its religious order. I highly recommend reading the opening chapter of Marc Headley’s Blown for Good. The opening sample’s available from your e-book vendor of choice. Further, there is a specific kind of blinders Scientologists are required to have about the flaws in their organization, and that would be cause for concern for presidential candidates.

    The current Scientology saga surrounds Debbie Cook, former head of the largest public-facing organization the church has, and the recent lawsuit filed against her. I recommend reading the saga of her interment in The Hole (though it is heavily laden with Scientologese). [4]

    [1] http://www.spaink.net/cos/rnewman/harass/timeline-95.html
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act
    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Base
    [4] http://markrathbun.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/reformation-division-within-corporate-scientology/ plus the three linked posts and http://markrathbun.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/45-days-in-the-hole-final-purges-part-4/ (this is the worst of them) and http://markrathbun.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/mometary-reprieve-final-purges-part-5/

  72. P Neilson Hayden. It was the OP in which the comparison was drawn and while you and I seem to reject the analogy for entire different reasons, it is rejected nonetheless.

    In my close and lengthy experience inside the church, those in leadership positions above a ward level (parish, single congregation, etc.) have never behaved, spoke, or taught anything against the base doctrines of the gospel, and never do speak out or preach differently than that which is handed down from Salt Lake City. Outside of my anecdotal experience, those who have done so have been swiftly and summarily disciplined. As with many religious orders, it has a firm top-down chain of command structure, which Romney very publicly and voluntarily placed himself squarely within.

    Brad R. Torgerson, don’t be saddened by my nonmembership. I could never be true to myself while pretending to follow a sham organization created by a charlatan. This, of course, describes many religious sects, not just Mormonism.

  73. I’m in northern Florida, which is basically the South (South Florida is more like the North, go figure). Down here, I don’t see Mitt getting much traction. People here are old-school religious, and Mormonism doesn’t play well. I don’t see them turning out for Mitt; Republican primary turnout was down 14% from 2008 in Florida.

    This is a swing state, so relative turnouts between the Republicans in the north part of the state and Democrats in the south can make enough difference to change the election.

    Of course, a lot of people around here don’t like Gingrich either (I’m one of them). I think Obama has this pretty much locked.

  74. I am not sure the question whether Republicans like a (Mormon) Romney more or less than Obama is relevant.
    I think it’s more to the point to ask whether the Romney candidature will enthuse Republicans to come out and vote on the day at all.
    It is probably a given that this election will not be a landslide affair, so how popular either of the contenders is does matter.
    Mind you, the problem for Republican party is that you can the same about Gingrich – with the caveat that probably the same amount of (left leaning) Democrats are unhappy with Obama.

    So this election could well be as close as the Bush-Gore one but with an equally high percentage of voters on both sides deciding not to bother to vote on the day.

  75. My personal experience with Mormons (I met and served with many in the military) has been mostly positive. They are exactly the type of people you would want as neighbors. That doesn’t mean that evangelicals (among others) are not freaked out by Mormon teachings. Sure, it sounds nutty, but so does every other religion except your own.

    Mormons just have not yet reached a threshold where the rest of the country is comfortable with them and regard them “us” rather than “them.” I think there would be less controversy over a Jewish candidate at this point in our history than a Mormon one, but I think eventually Mormons will reach the tipping point where they are considered part of “us.”

  76. Brad: while the church upholds certain doctrines which are simply anathema to GLBTs, the individual relationships between LDS members and GLBTs are just that: individual

    I suddenly have this vision of an individual LDS member saying goodnight to a GLBT person after a personal visit: “Of course, you’ll have the good taste not to mention that I spoke to you.

  77. Jantar @9:13 p.m.: You’re right about enthusiasm for Romney not being too high among Republicans, if the Nevada results (which I realize are still not complete) are any indication. Against a stronger field of opponents in 2008, including the eventual nominee McCain as well as Paul and Huckabee (the Iowa caucus winner), he got 22,646 votes (51.1% of the total), whereas by current count (87% counted, per AP) he has 14,535 votes (49.4% of the total).

  78. @ lil mike

    Mormons just have not yet reached a threshold where the rest of the country is comfortable with them and regard them “us” rather than “them.” I think there would be less controversy over a Jewish candidate at this point in our history than a Mormon one, but I think eventually Mormons will reach the tipping point where they are considered part of “us.”

    Whereas Jews…*shrugs*

    Not trying to snark and I know that wasn’t your meaning. You were making an observation not a judgement. I just found it morbidly fascinating what this says about the relative pace of progress the Jewish faith has made for acceptance that they so readily function as a litmus test of Us/Them.

  79. I suppose I could be convinced that a particular candidate’s religious views were important, but so far it has not happened. Goldwater was Jewish, JFK was Catholic, … hardly the most important thing to consider, or even an important thing..

  80. CLP and Brad R. Torgersen:
    Thank you for the information on the “I’m A Mormon” campaign. I was going by what I have personally seen. Living in Spokane, WA, a city with enough LDS members to warrant the recent construction of a temple, I did not see any I’m A Mormon TV ads or billboards in the region until about 6-7 months ago. And by that time Romney’s campaign was well underway. Maybe Spokane is behind the times.

  81. @ Gulliver

    Sorry if you find my comment “morbid.” I’m not sure how you read it that led you to interpret that way, but I think the Jewish analogy is a good one. When Joe Leiberman was on the Presidential ticket in 2000 in the VP slot, there was less comment or coverage on his religion than there has been on Romney’s, and most of the coverage with Leiberman had to do with the the restrictions he placed himself under by virtue of being Orthodox. A Reformed Jew would have probably received less comment.

    I could have used the Kennedy/Catholic analogy as well, but that seems to have been overplayed.

  82. David Hall @10:27 pm: The NYT article I linked to said the campaign was in the works for a few years, but had just recently started.

  83. htom @10:06 p.m.: As a (non-orthodox) Jew, I can tell you that Goldwater was certainly not considered Jewish by anyone I knew (although I was little then, I do remember the “AuH2O” campaign signs outside my elementary-school voting site on election day). According to a 2000 Baltimore Sun story I just located, ” ‘He considered himself Episcopalian with Jewish heritage,’ says Victor Gold, a Washington writer who was Goldwater’s deputy press secretary during his presidential bid. ‘He did not consider himself Jewish, but he never backed away from the fact that he had a Jewish parent.’ ” That is, Goldwater was no more Jewish than former Secretary of State William Cohen.

  84. gottacook — that would be the reality of Goldwater’s Jewishness. I was referring to the politicalness of it.

  85. I don’t think Romney’s religion will matter much anyways. Republicans are going to vote against Obama, no matter who is there. The independents and moderates don’t put as much stock in religion as the righties do. THe lefties are going to vote Obama.

  86. I’m a big believer in the “… no sillier than any other religion” school of thought, but I just have this different vibe when it comes to the LDS. It’s one thing to believe in a bunch of fairly ambiguous stuff with only the occasional debateable translation error which may or may not have produced provably false statements into an allegedly inerrant book. It’s another to participate in a religion which has been historically documented to be a fraud. That just seems like a whole different level of gullibility/willful ignorance/hypocritical opportunity-grubbing.

    I’ll take an opportunistic gullible hypocrite over Newt Gingrich every day of the week and twice on Sundays, don’t get me wrong. It just seems like an equivalence too far to say the LDS are no sillier than any other religion. Though I agree with you that most of the ones I’ve met seemed to be quite pleasant to be around for the most part, and the LDS is certainly way down on my list of “organizations to be repressed when I become Fnargl.”

  87. Given the high amount of UFO sightings in Utah, I could easily vote for an LDS candidate. Seriously, LDS is not an issue. National defense and appointment of tough crime fighting federal judges is more important.

  88. @ lil mike

    Sorry if you find my comment “morbid.” I’m not sure how you read it that led you to interpret that way, but I think the Jewish analogy is a good one.

    It’s a fine analogy. I find the implications of the comment morbidly fascinating, not the comment itself. I wasn’t criticizing your comment; I was criticizing what it said about society. The internet needs tone-specific fonts.

    A Reformed Jew would have probably received less comment.

    I live in Texas, where in 2010 some members of the Texas House tried to smear the incumbent speaker for being Jewish and stumping for replacing him with a “Christian conservative” speaker. Yes, I know Texas does not reflect the whole Union, but the evangelical Christian right wields disproportionate power in the GOP, and ostracism of anything and anyone not Protestant has become a revolting xenophobic staple of their arsenal.

    Sorry if it seemed like I was coming down on you personally. I just think that Jews have been the go-to ethnicity for scapegoating over several millennia and that has often foiled their assimilation in comparison to the progress of other religions and ethnicities.

    @ Marc Whipple

    It just seems like an equivalence too far to say the LDS are no sillier than any other religion.

    Fairy tales are fairy tales, in my estimation, regardless of how well the plot holds together.

  89. CLP says:
    February 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    David Hall @10:27 pm: The NYT article I linked to said the campaign was in the works for a few years, but had just recently started.

    As I stated before,: I was going by my own observations. The “I’m A Mormon” campaign did not appear where I could have seen it until October 2011. Did you read the Reuters article I linked to stating that fact?
    It is clear to me that the Mormons are on a PR blitz and have been on one for some time. Unfortunately the timing of the release made the whole enterprise look suspect.

  90. From here in Texas, my perception here is that most of the noise around other candidates being more “conservative,” being “more like me” or having “better values” are all mostly just code words for “not Mormon.”

    We had a local news story in the DFW area – 3-4 minutes, which is a lot of out a newscast – in which the primary issue was whether the LDS Church was a cult. One of Rick Perry’s supporters got to make the case in great detail, without any comment by anyone else. It was pretty transparent as planted pieces go. The pastor came to the amusing conclusion that in the Republican primary, people should vote for the “Christian” over the “non-Christian.” In the general election, though, people should ignore the fact that Obama is a “Christian” of an acceptable flavor, and instead vote for the more “Conservative” candidate.

  91. I’m a Mormon, and I consider myself to be fairly devout; politically, I also consider myself to be fairly liberal, I’m a registered Democrat, and voted for Obama in 2008 and will again this year. The only people I know who are more liberal than myself, actually (without being anarcho-feminists, and I’m not making that up), are my maternal grandparents—both in their 70s, both lifelong Latter-day Saints. Senate majority leader and Democrat from Nevada, Harry Reid, is also LDS.

    I think being LDS will hurt Romney in the South; John, I think you underestimate how despised the Church is among evangelicals and born-again Christians especially in that region. There certainly won’t be many liberals voting for Romney either, with his membership in the Church and its connection in turn to issues such as opposition to gay marriage. In the end, though, I agree that his disconnect with the majority of Americans as far a his wealth, and his overall aire of wishy-washy-ness, are what will keep him from being electable in a general election, and if a more stable candidate (like Huntsman) who also happened to be LDS were able to win a primary contest and the nomination of his party, there would be a good chance of having a President who is also a Mormon.

  92. Romney’s religion probably won’t be in issue simply because the public policy stances of the church are largely indistinguishable from the Republican platform. Imagine a Quaker making a stab at the Republican nomination and that’s when you’d have trouble. On the other hand, if a liberal Mormon tried for the presidency I wonder if the church would engage in the same antics that conservative Catholic bishops do– denying communion, organizing rallies, etc.

  93. @Tom Mink 4:08 pm-

    Imagine a Quaker making a stab at the Republican nomination and that’s when you’d have trouble.

    Er. Can we say Nixon? I do believe we’ve been there, done that.

  94. While the I’m a Mormon ads just started, the LDS has been consistently advertising for as long as I can remember – since 1980 or so – with those uplifting little vignette commericials. And I’m from Pennsylvania. I can’t recall any other group making such an overt and long lasting media blitz, which I always found interesting.

  95. @constance 4:24 pm
    I don’t think anyone could argue that Nixon was a particularly doctrinaire Quaker (is that an oxymoron?) given that he was also a Lt. Commander in the Navy. I’m not old enough to remember his political career except as history, but I don’t remember hearing that his religion was ever the issue that it was for, say, Kennedy. Then again, the Quakers don’t have anything like the kind of hierarchical structure that both the RCC and the CLDS have, so it’s not like people would suspect he was secretly taking orders from, I don’t know, a secret cabal of Quaker pacifists.

    I don’t have a particularly good picture of how Quakers are regarded by Protestants, having been raised Catholic. I was always given the impression that they were very moral, generally inoffensive, and to be admired for their stances on race and pacifism – but then again I grew up outside of Philadelphia. But I don’t get the feeling that they generate the same level of discomfort for most mainline christians as the Mormons do – a consequence of being slightly older and less mysterious perhaps?

  96. When it comes to people that make a point of telling me about their imaginary friends, we are well into the territory of choosing the ‘least bad’ option. However, Mormonism, like Scientology, seems to me to be so obviously a scam that anyone who *genuinely* believes in it is too gullible/brainwashed to make a good president. You need someone who can think for him/herself and lead. But I guess that’s my fundamental issue with Mittens; I just don’t think he has any moral convictions and he will say whatever he needs to in order to be elected.
    The other thing that struck me is that he was already a Bishop many years ago. Yet, now we are seriously expected to believe that he is *not* part of the church leadership. If I just cannot bring myself to believe that, am I being overly paranoid?

  97. @ Andy

    When it comes to people that make a point of telling me about their imaginary friends, we are well into the territory of choosing the ‘least bad’ option. However, Mormonism, like Scientology, seems to me to be so obviously a scam that anyone who *genuinely* believes in it is too gullible/brainwashed to make a good president.

    I highly recommend this movie:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZpREDn4NFA

    Just because an order of magnitude more people believe the scam doesn’t make it any less obvious, just old enough to have bred a bigger fan base. The difference between Scientology and other fantasies isn’t that it’s crazier than the others (or the others less crazy than Scientology), it’s what the Church of Scientology does to it’s members. Lot’s of people talk themselves into some totally irrational metaphysical cosmogony. Not all of them go off the deep end in their temporal lives. So yeah, I don’t much care for Romney’s politics, but his religious views are no more or less crazy than those in which President Obama seems to *genuinely* believe.

    And I think making an issue out of a candidate’s religion or faith because she or he is a Mormon is no better than doing it because she or he is a Muslim. If the person(s) making an issue out of it are doing so solely because they think drumming up fear can keep the candidate out of office, that’s just plain despicable. Romney has plenty of other flaws to fault.

  98. @Gulliver
    I enjoyed that movie a lot! I don’t always agree with Maher, but he’s right on that issue.
    As for the other comparison to Obama – do you remember how the media ripped into his church? He had to point out that he specifically did not believe some of the things that were said. I think that’s really the key: If you unquestioningly support a particular group, you do begin to bear some moral responsibility for the actions of that group (the SGK thread is relevant in that regard). I would say that particularly applies if you are a ranking member of an extremist group that you fund to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

  99. That fact that Romney is a Mormon elicits a big “meh” from me, and I’m a regular church-goer from a mainline Christian denomination. The fact, however, that the sum total of his possible interactions with, and understanding of, regular Americans can be summed up by the image of him leaning out of the side window of his Rolls and inquiring as to the availability of Grey Poupon ? Yeah, that matters quite a bit more…

  100. @ Andy

    I would say that particularly applies if you are a ranking member of an extremist group that you fund to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

    I tend to consider neocons more extremist than Mormons by a wide margin. Mitt could pray to Puff the Magic Dragon for all I care. His politics are the only salient aspect of him that I care about as a voter. Does his faith influence his politics? Almost certainly. But there are other Mormons don’t share his politics, so evidently they can convince themselves Joseph Smith’s magic plates support whatever their personal moral compass tells them is right. In addition to being confabulations, religions are almost all extremely vague. The only useful way I see to figure out what the faithful believe their beliefs tell them about living in the material world is to look at how they live, including what policies they actively support. By that measure, Romney and Huntsman are apples and oranges.

    A church, mosque, synagogue, temple, jinja, meetinghouse or Cracker Barrel is just a place for people who think the same bush or rock told their ancestors their Divinity’s instructions (or who are trying real hard to convince themselves they think it really happened). The more instructions, the more contradictions – which tends to happen when dehydrated ascetics scattered over centuries and multiple languages are trying to record the voices in their heads while perishing form torture and exposure – and the more ways followers will find to interpret them.

  101. I do find it interesting that Senator Harry Reid, Democrat, is also a Mormon, but this is rarely brought up in national politics. But then, he’s not running for President. I don’t think his religion makes him a better or worse politician.

  102. Greg, I am LDS and happen to have gay people in my personal and work life who are very dear friends to me. Any of them will tell you that when saying goodnight at the door to them, or to anyone, your “vision” is a hallucination. And I do not appreciate a false assumption that I treat anyone differently because of what my religion is.

  103. @Gulliver:

    Fairy tales are fairy tales, in my estimation, regardless of how well the plot holds together.

    Yeah, I really really get that you’re an atheist and think I’m mentally ill. I could respond in kind until Scalzi mallets us both into a fine paste but why bother? It is actually possible to make your point without being a flame-trolling dick about it.

  104. @ Craig Ranapia

    Yeah, I really really get that you’re an atheist and think I’m mentally ill.

    I doubt you’re mentally ill, at least not on account of believing highly improbable myths are true. In fact, going by your comments on this blog (the sum total of what I know about you personally), you seem like a swell person. But I’m not going to pretend that I believe those myths are anything other than what I do, and I believe they are fantasies. You have my sincere condolences if you perceive as a personal attack my express belief that something you believe to be true is flat-out false. I have no wish to antagonize you; but I won’t lie about what I believe (or disbelieve in the case of religion).

    I like your avatar image, BTW.

  105. You have my sincere condolences if you perceive as a personal attack my express belief that something you believe to be true is flat-out false.

    Gulliver. C’mon. This isn’t even artful. There is a difference between “I believe that what you hold to be true is false” and sneering about fairy tales, dehydrated ascetics and blind adherence to ancestors. The former is not an insult, and the latter decidedly is. You know this. I know this. Mossy things living on rocks struggling to evolve know this.

    Also, I have to say, while it doesn’t offend me if an atheist says s/he thinks I’m deluded and pathetic, it is really short-sighted and kind of dumb to refer to (any) theology as “fairy tales”, unless we’re talking about the Church of Tasha Tudor here. Mythology? Sure. But “fairy tales” is not only insulting, it’s inaccurate and kind of Philistine. It’s like saying that Shakespeare is stupid because it’s all made up and it’s a bunch of people pretending to be fairies or something.

  106. @ mythago

    It’s like saying that Shakespeare is stupid because it’s all made up and it’s a bunch of people pretending to be fairies or something.

    As far as I know, the Bard never claimed Oberon and Titinia were real people.

    Mythology? Sure. But “fairy tales” is not only insulting, it’s inaccurate and kind of Philistine.

    I really don’t see the difference between the two. But I take your point. I still think religions are based on fictions. Nonetheless, Craig and mythago, I apologize if I my word choice insensitive. I will make an effort to be more tactful in the future and less flippant about beliefs that mean so much to you and others.

  107. Wow – I’ll never understand how religious affiliation can play such a huge role for politicians in a country that has the seperation of church and state in their constitution.
    I don’t even know what – if any – religion our last Chancellors here in Germany belonged to. Angela Merkel I would guess to be an atheist as she is from Eastern Germany, but Schröder and Kohl I have no idea.

  108. I really don’t see the difference between the two.

    “Fairy tales” carries the implication that these are simple, light-headed fictions suitable for children who don’t know better. Mythology is a description of a system of beliefs without commenting on its truth or intellectual rigor.

    Shakespeare didn’t say the fairies were real, but his plays are certainly made up. Sneering at them on that basis strikes me as missing the point. It’s like rolling your eyes at Harry Potter fans who cried when a beloved main character died: dude, you know that guy is made up, right?

    Again, I don’t find it offensive if someone believes my religion is false or that its history never in fact happened. I do find it offensive to trivialize the history, literature and traditions of a religious group simply because you believe they do not have an objective and scientific truth. Things that are not real can nonetheless be true.

  109. mythago:

    You might be surprised what reaction you’d get to telling a strongly religious person that they believe in a myth – to them you’d be equating their religion to the old tales about Zeus that “everyone” knows are just stories.

    You’re right that it’s not as deliberately offensive as “fairy tale”, though.

    Anja:

    For a number of years the USA was the place for European religious dissenters to go practice their religion freely, so I think we’ve relieved a lot of the pressure on you from the nuttier religious people. You’re welcome. :)

  110. @ Anja

    Angela Merkel I would guess to be an atheist as she is from Eastern Germany

    Merkel’s a Protestant and leader of the Christian Democratic Union party. A couple years ago she made a few headlines worthy of one of our own nitwit politicians when she pretty much said that Germany’s multiculturalism had “utterly failed” and that Muslims should be more like Christians or skedaddle:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel#Failure_of_multiculturalism

    Fortunately for Germany, she seems to be in the minority, though I speak as someone following German politics from a distance.

    @ mythago

    “Fairy tales” carries the implication that these are simple, light-headed fictions suitable for children who don’t know better. Mythology is a description of a system of beliefs without commenting on its truth or intellectual rigor.

    To be frank, myths and fairytales strike me as equally transparently unrealistic. But I suppose fairytales do have a lower cultural status, so I won’t use it to describe religious traditions anymore. But, um, VeggieTales :D

    I’m joking!

    Like I said, I’m not out to trash others’ faith. I just tend to be an irreverent bastard. I’ll be more considerate in the future, however, since plenty of people I respect hold religious beliefs even though I don’t particularly respect the historical basis for those beliefs; and because I don’t want to be callous, on general principles.

    Again, I don’t find it offensive if someone believes my religion is false or that its history never in fact happened. I do find it offensive to trivialize the history, literature and traditions of a religious group simply because you believe they do not have an objective and scientific truth. Things that are not real can nonetheless be true.

    Oh, I think religions, myths, Shakespeare and even fairytales all have truth aplenty. I don’t think there’s anything silly about that at all. You may have heard me mention to Greg a few days ago that I’m an existentialist. When I was younger, Søren Kierkegaard was the first existentialist philosopher that interested me, even though I’ve never been a Christian, because he discerned many incisive truths through the lens of his personal faith. The saving grace of religion, as an social institution with a somewhat questionable history, is its ability to act as a repository of wisdom that leads people to good deeds provided they do not follow it blindly. I just think it’s silly to actually think anyone rose from the dead or all the other miracles that, to my mind at least, violate sound reason.

  111. @Mythago: Your very nice analogy seems relevant, but a little off target to me. Skepticism should not imply any disdain for Shakespeare’s plays because they are made up; but it should place a requirement for evidence on a person that insists that the bits about fairies must be literally true. (Obviously, many of the characters were based on real people…)
    Similarly, I would suspect that many fairy tales provide a moral lesson, albeit not necessarily a good one, based on an encounter with supernatural beings. And so, I must admit that I am genuinely curious: What exactly is the difference between an Angel and a Fairy?

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