Mormons speak for the faith

With former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney both believed to be gearing up for a … Continued

With former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney both believed to be gearing up for a run for the presidency, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has again found itself answering questions about what these two prominent members believe.

Post reporter Sandhya Somashekhar wrote in a story published Tuesday that Mormon leaders see the ascendancy of these and other Mormons (such as convert Glenn Beck) as a sign “that the community has finally ‘arrived,'” but added “researchers say there remains a deep mistrust of Mormons and that little has changed in public opinion to suggest that voters will be more open this year than they were in 2007.”

If conservative Christian and Mormons share a political agenda, why do suspicions still plague Mormon politicians? Do media personalities such as Glenn Beck help or hurt the cause?

It’s ironic that a discussion of the public’s comfort-level with Mormons should be pegged to a question about politicians, since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is meticulously neutral in partisan politics.

Actually, the Church may be making good ground, if a Washington Post report less than two weeks ago can be relied upon. Neither can I accept the gross overstatement that suspicions “plague” Mormon politicians, as the question claims. That would be news indeed to the 15 elected members of the current Congress for whom their church affiliation has never been a barrier for them or their diverse constituents.

In reality, Americans don’t look to high-profile politicians, such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, or to former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr., to understand our faith. Neither do they look to personalities like Glenn Beck, who touches on his faith occasionally but who doesn’t claim to speak for the Church or other members. I suggest that people are much more likely to dismiss stereotypes after associating personally with their Mormon neighbors or colleagues at work – the people they know best.

There aren’t many Mormons who think that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “finally arrived” if that implies that the United States has been swept by a wave of enlightened understanding about Mormons and their beliefs. We are a long way from that. But I think most Mormons do believe that time is on their side, in the sense that with six million American Mormons and growing, Americans are having more and more interaction with ordinary Church members and that will lead to some good.

Mormons encourage such interaction. Most recognize their relative public “obscurity,” but they know that the past decade has brought significant increases in visibility. Big events like the 2002 Winter Olympics, the presidential campaigns of 2008 (and probably 2012), and the emergence of a number of prominent Mormons in politics, business and in arts and entertainment has helped make Mormons feel that they are a much more common topic of conversation. Many Mormons have entered into public debate with enthusiasm, especially in this Internet age. Countless thousands of Church members blog – a phenomenon noted in the emergence of the tongue-in-cheek word “Bloggernacle,” and the strong Mormon presence in the world of “Mommy bloggers.”

Like many others, Mormons love to tell their own stories. Take a look at this unscripted YouTube video, for instance, on how one young man brought more than 20 others into his Church congregation in Florida. At the other end of the spectrum, the Financial Times recently produced an insightful feature on what’s behind Church growth, and attributed a great deal to the tradition of missionary service and an emphasis on higher education. The opportunities for social interaction between Mormons and their neighbors at every level of society is substantially enhanced from what it was in the 1950s, when the vast majority of Mormons were found in Utah.

As the barriers of personal prejudice come down, it will become more apparent that while Mormons expect to be seen as an integrated part of American society and culture (or that of Brazil, or Ghana, or Korea, or wherever else they live), they don’t want to trade the distinctiveness of their faith for mere popularity. Mormons know that their faith and some aspects of how they live are distinctive. It may be that very distinctiveness that is attracting followers. The Church is bucking a general trend of falling church attendances, and it’s not doing so by being exactly the same as the church on the next block.

Certainly there is in Mormonism a remarkable sense of community and belonging, and a sense that life has a specific purpose. While the membership itself is quite diverse, that membership is bonded together by a particular understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ, and how that belief should be reflected in how they live their lives.

Community service, for instance, is integral to church life. While it’s easy for non-Mormons to dismiss the prophetic role of Joseph Smith or the relevance of the Book of Mormon as scripture, these are part of what creates a sense of community and identity that is quite unique in Christendom.

Like any major faith, the Church will always have its critics, and it’s probable that the larger we get the more of those critics there will be. Ultimately, it is the church’s own people – all of them, not just the more prominent – who will play a crucial role in increasing understanding among the public as a whole.

Written by

  • areyousaying

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is meticulously neutral in partisan politics. I planned on not bashing Brother Otterson because I think there should be no religious test for Romney and Huntsman and Beck is a bullying exception to the majority of Mormons but Otterson’s statement above is simply not true.Mormons formed a huge multi-state PAC for Propostion 8 in California including mailings and sermons from their lay ministry to members implying they should support the proposition. In the past, they have directly given several hundreds of thousands of dollars to support anti-gay propositions in both California and Hawaii. Anyone who has ever lived in Utah knows that rarely do “gentiles” get elected to office higher than city or county government and Mormon politicians are “urged” by the Church.Congress is afraid of both Catholic and Mormon voting blocks and, for this reason, never look into pulling their tax exemptions for blatant examples of interfering in politics and holding themselves above civil law.

  • volkmare

    Yes. the members of the LDS church took a stand against prop.8. they did so because it was in stark contrast with the bible. to sit back and say nothing would be stupid.Mark

  • volkmare

    I take the attacks on Mormonism as a complement.When I was racing at the Bonneville salt flats, when you weren’t setting records you were everyone’s friend. However, as soon as you set a record, you become a target for you must be cheating.So, when someone attacks us, I take it as a complement for they only attack those who are right or who are winning.Thanks for the attacks. Bring it on!!!Mark

  • areyousaying

    Yes. the members of the LDS church took a stand against prop.8. they did so because it was in stark contrast with the bible. to sit back and say nothing would be stupid.MarkSo you admit Otterson is not telling the truth and the Church violated it’s civil law tax exemption?In 1998, the Church directly donated $500,000.00 to Alaska’s anti-gay campaign.In Hawaii on 14 May 1998 – Save Traditional Marriage-’98′s report to the Hawaii Ethics Commission indicated donations from the following LDS sources: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ($4,225), POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER ($1,025), BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY – HAWAII ($1,200); HAWAII’S RESERVE, INC. [the LDS Church-owned land management corporation] ($1,000); and LAIE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION [an appointed unit of HAWAII RESERVES, INC] ($1,000)).

  • areyousaying

    Notice how if anyone disagrees with Mormons or points out facts, their members feign being victims of “attacks”Try growing up in Utah as a “gentile” and you will soon find out what being a victim of an attack is.

  • llamalady

    Contrary to the headline, I didn’t read exactly what the beliefs of the LDS are.

  • dcdinnell

    Not sure why Prop 8 was brought in, but in California there are 8 gay adults for every single man, woman and child that belong to the LDS church. Who had the biggest voting block???Despite political diatribe by the uneducated…Romney has successfully and profitably managed large businesses, created more private sector jobs and saved more private sector businesses (Domino’s Pizza & Staples, a few of many) than any other candidate. He knows and understands world economics.He has succeeded at every job he has had. Yes, that’s right, he is not a “Career” Politician.Funny. Half of MA loves what Romney did, the other half hate him, maybe because he left after completing only one term. Again, he has not been a “Career” Politician.Yes, he worked as the MA governor for his entire term for FREE!!! Who would do that!?MA had a huge deficit when he started, and he left MA with a surplus and balanced budget without raising taxes at the end of his term. Who has done that? He can’t help it if they screwed up after he left.Since states have their own rights as to how they operate, “Romneycare” never has been the same as “Obamacare”! MA’s super Democrat controlled legislature wanted desperately some kind of Universal Health care program. Romney, a republican, worked with them to create one that would work, similar to mandated auto insurance (what state allows you to legally drive without insurance?). It is estimated that 98% of the residents are now covered. Romney wanted the requirement that everyone should pay something towards it with no exceptions, and it was within projected budget, until Romney left and the state super Democrat controlled government made changes to the program and now it is costing them.He compromised on some things in order to keep the state government working together and moving forward.He turned around a struggling 2002 Winter Olympics and made it into one of the most profitable Olympics in history. And only took a $1 dollar salary. Who would do that!?He is against federalization & big government. Believes in state’s rights.He lives the example and believes in the importance of family.He is for a strong military and believes the borders should be better protected.The list of real positives is far greater than the supposed list of negatives.

  • kingcranky

    Why does the Mormon church practice posthumous baptisms on the dead of other faiths, including Jews killed in the Holocaust and Pres. Obama’s mother?

  • volkmare

    amelia45 Get your facts strait.1 The gay issue is not politics. It’s covered extensively in the bible.2 Religon by its nature (all faiths) are conservative.Mark

  • JUSTACOMMENT

    @VOLKMARE,You wrote: “Get your facts strait.1 The gay issue is not politics. It’s covered extensively in the bible.2 Religon by its nature (all faiths) are conservative.”1 – By trying to influence legislation, you are tying religion and politics. If you are mormon and do not like gays, don’t try to to segregate them by law from marriage or military. A law will affect non mormons that may or may not agree with it. Just keep it withing your religion, denomination, cult, holy-business or whatever mormonism is.2 – Agree, religions by nature are conservative, aka retrograde, and would like that the world have stopped progressing centuries or millenniums ago. Religion only change when a cultural change and secular laws affect their market, so they adjust a little bit in order to not to lose adherents. Here my definition of adherents = good people with brain washed since crib time and that ignore that they are suckers. Notice that leaders and champions that post in blogs like this are not part of my definition, they know the truth.Volk, in point number 2 you sought and found some truth.

  • IN_IT_WE_TRUST

    …………|……/……….

  • Rom08

    Churches of all denominations have every right to speak out on issues that are central to their beliefs without jeopardizing their tax status. That has always been true whether the issue was slavery, civil rights, gambling, temperence, war and peace or any number of other “political” issues that touch upon a communities deeply held beliefs.Furthermore, unlike other tax-exempt organizations the tax exempt status of churches in not only derived from the internal revenue code. It is inherent in the constitutional protection of religious belief. As the Supreme Court has stated in another context, “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” Therefore churches also derive their tax exempt status from the Constitution itself.

  • bjsworld

    I’ve been on both sides of the fence as a “convert” to the LDS faith.Start with the basics – the Church is politically neutral when it comes to candidates. Church leaders are carefully instructed to not endorse any political candidate OR party during election cycles. Rather, the Church provides clear direction that encourages members to vote for candidates that best align with their personal beliefs, regardless of their party affiliation. Today, that means that Mormons tend to vote Republican. However, many Mormons do vote Democrat.As for issues – of course the Church takes sides. One role of the Church is to promote ideals that align with Church teachings. For example, being an active homosexual flies in the face of the Church’s official position as outlined in the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It is entirely natural and responsible to support measures that agree with Church doctrine and oppose measures that don’t. To somehow suggest that the Church shouldn’t play a role in issues of morality is flat out wrong. All faiths play in the political space to some degree. As do other non-political (wink/wink ACORN) non-profit organizations. Finally, let’s talk specifics. Proposition 8 was in response to an earlier California initiative, Proposition 22. That Proposition was secured by a majority (61%) vote in 2000. That proposition clarified an earlier statute regarding a man and woman marrying. Prop 22 did not CHANGE anything. It clarified and codified traditional definitions around marriage. Despite the overwhelming support of Californians on Prop 22, millions of votes were off-set by a single judge when the State Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the statute was invalid.As a response to this judicial miscarriage (overturning the vast majority of the will of the people), Prop 8 came about to insert the definition of marriage into the state Constitution. Again, CA voted and again the will of the people approved a continuance of the traditional definition of marriage.Neither Prop 22 or Prop 8 sought to CHANGE anything. It was those on the other side of the fence that pushed for change. And when they couldn’t muster the votes necessary they had rely on an out of touch judiciary to come to their rescue. Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals all stood together in supporting our existing laws as it relates to marriage. It was the opposition who sought to impose their will and change the law.This isn’t about denying anyone rights. It’s about changing the definition of a word that carries significant doctrinal and historical significance for many people of faith. I’m all for allowing ALL people regardless of the sexual orientation the same rights as a married couple when it comes to taxation, visiting rights, inheritance law, etc. However, I stand firm on my position that the word Marriage remain the same as it has for thousands of years.

  • Rom08

    KingCranky, that’s a very odd way of looking at the Mormon ritual of baptism for the dead. In fact your comments suggest that you either don’t know very much about it, or are intentionally misrepresenting the practice.Mormons don’t “go meddling into the deaths of others” or perform the ritual “on the dead.” Nor is their ritual motivated by arrogance. Mormons, as many other Christian denominations believe that baptism is a prerequisite for salvation. That however, leads to the obvious moral conundrum: what about people who didn’t have the chance to be baptised?The Mormon ritual is performed by Mormons baptising other Mormons as proxies for those who have died. They believe that those individuals will have the opportunity to accept or reject that baptism in the afterlife. There is no huge imposition on those peoples’ decendents. All the Mormons do is look up the names of people who have passed on. In the end, if the Mormons are right, those people will have the opportunity to accept salvation. If they are not–well then, no harm done is there?You clearly are not a fan of Mormon beliefs, but mischaracterizing those beliefs just calls into question your own integrity, not theirs.

  • volkmare

    kingcranky,it’s in the bible, you should read it some time.also, we only do ir for relatives.mark

  • amelia45

    Otterson: “It’s ironic that a discussion of the public’s comfort-level with Mormons should be pegged to a question about politicians, since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is meticulously neutral in partisan politics.”Well, that would be absolutely wonderful if it were true. But the LDS funds all kinds of efforts to keep gays from marrying, out of the military. They are heavily involved in political life. And, they are closely aligned with conservative republican causes. I have a problem with any church that gets a tax exemption and attempts to influence politics. It is wrong for church’s to directly fund efforts to influence legislation or to endorse any political candidate for office. They should lose their tax exempt status the moment they do. It is ironic that if this were a “christian nation”, the Mormon’s would lose because they are about as christian as Muslims. Both Islam and LDS give a nod to roots within christianity, but then veer widely and wildly from the core of that faith. It amuses the tar out of me that there is such a linkage between evangelical christians and LDS now, when not too long ago the LDS was considered a cult.Oh, well.

  • Rom08

    How is that a moral conundrum?Worst case scenario for you is you have to tell that to the two enthusiastic young men in name tags who approach you in the afterlife. But since you don’t believe in that, what are you getting so bent out of shape about?

  • Rom08

    Haveaheart,Yes, it is an issue of respect. And you should have enough respect for Mormons (and really everyone else) to know what you are talking about before making unfounded accusations on comment boards.I’ve already explained that Mormons don’t believe that performing a vicarious baptism can supersede a person’s choice. Mormons believe that the dead will have the choice whether or not to accept the baptism that is perfomed vicariously for them. Mormons simply do not believe that anything they do will change anyone into a Mormon unless that person so chooses. Mormons do not believe that they are imposing-nor indeed that they could impose-their beliefs on anyone.You are right about one thing: Mormons, like so many other faith systems, believe that they have the most truth. But you are simply wrong if you think they are any more disrespectful of other faith traditions than anyone else. In fact, I am quite confident that you will never find a Mormon on this message board openly attacking the faith traditions of others, no matter what those traditions may be.

  • haveaheart

    “But since you don’t believe in that, what are you getting so bent out of shape about?”Rom08,This is a simple issue of respect, something that Mormons don’t understand because they are not respected by their church and its authorities.If you genuinely believe that your baptisms have power — and one assumes you must believe that in order to defend this practice — then you believe that these dead people will be changed into Mormons in the afterlife. And if you believe this and feel it is the right thing for everyone, then you are forcibly imposing your religious beliefs and declaring that those beliefs are superior to all others.In other words, your very actions — based on your belief — are intended to deprive the dead of whatever blessings, promises, and covanants they may have received or entered into with their own religious authorities.It doesn’t matter whether the dead person (or his/her descendants) believes your theology or not. What’s important is that you believe it and seek to impose it — fully confident that your religious ideology will undermine theirs.Your disrespect for other human beings, other belief systems, and individuals’ free will is staggering in its arrogance.

  • areyousaying

    “If the Mormons really believe that the salvation of millions of dead people is dependent upon what they do (i.e., submitting to many baptisms on behalf of others), why on earth would they mutually sign a contract with the Jews not to practice “proxy baptism” on behalf of victims of the Holocaust? Is Bible truth on the “trading block,” so that it may be bargained away because someone is upset over a matter?”www.christiancourier.com/articles/990-lds-baptism-annulled-due-to-protest-from-jews

  • Vanka

    “Like any major faith…”A major faith, Mike?It is a cult if ever there was one.Fewer than 3.5 million Mormons are “practicing” in the US.Romney and many others are “Temple Mormons”. Faith is one thing. But oaths and loyalties that take priority above the United States of America and its Constitution are threats to the sovereignty of this nation.When Mitt Romney went through the Mormon temple, he became “endowed”. In order to become endowed, Mormons have to pass an interview (like a catechism for Catholics). The endowment ritual includes many things Mormons are not allowed to talk about outside of the Temples. These secret (“sacred”) things include special promises and covenants Mormons make to the Church and to God. One of these “oaths” promises total and complete loyalty to the LDS Church and its leaders, including being willing to give all your possessions to the Church if needed.The oath is something like this:”Each of you bring your right arm to the square. You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, …that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.”They also promise:”And as Jesus Christ has laid down his life for the redemption of mankind, so we should covenant to sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God (LDS Church).”Mitt Romney has made this oath, and repeats this oath each time he returns to an LDS Temple.For a POTUS to have made such a secret oath violates the oath of office of the POTUS. The POTUS must not have ANY higher loyalty than to the United States of America and Constitution.”Endowed” Mormons should be automatically disqualified because of their secret oaths in their temples that place their loyalty to the LDS Church above their loyalty to the United States of America.Back a few years ago when Mitt Romney became “endowed”, Mormon temple oaths included “penalties” for breaking the oaths:”We, and each of us, covenant and promise that we will not reveal any of the secrets of this, the first token of the Aaronic priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign or penalty. Should we do so, we agree that our throats be cut from ear to ear and our tongues torn out by their roots.””We and each of us do covenant and promise that we will not reveal the secrets of this, the Second Token of the Aaronic Priesthood, with its accompanying name, sign, grip or penalty. Should we do so, we agree to have our breasts cut open and our hearts and vitals torn from our bodies and nd given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.”It is foolish to even consider having a POTUS who believes thus and swears such oaths.

  • Rom08

    @Vanka,Well, first of all, the Mormon temple ceremonies can’t be all that secret, now can they? I mean, people are all over the internet and television (and now this board) claiming to know their contents.But more importantly, why is it that you and others on this board can only attack Mormons for what they used to do or believe? Let me make a suggestion. All you have to do is make friends with a Mormon and they will tell you what they really believe. Then you can let go of all of your silly misconceptions. They are just trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ with an emphasis on faith, family and service. That is what they believe.It is true that committing oneself to the building up of the Kingdom of God is an important part of Mormonism (and the rest of biblical Christianity). However, you may rest assured that religious pluralism and self-determination are just as important.The Mormon’s 11th Article of Faith states that:”We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”As for the presidential oath of office, a President need only pledge to faithfully defend the Constitution of the United States. Of that Constitution, Mormon scripture has this to say:Doctrine and Covenants 101:77″the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles.”Doctrine and Covenants 109:54″Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the nations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the Constitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.”So a Mormon President, at least as much as any other religous person, can uphold his oath of office without violating any other commitments he made to the Kingdom of God.I’m sure you are relieved to here it.

  • FredJ1

    @Rom8″You may disagree with the rationale, but there is nothing inherently disrespectful or arrogant about it. In fact, to me, the motivation of the Mormons appears to be just the opposite.”Sorry, ROM, I don’t really find that position persuasive – and I’m quite certain that the Jewish community doesn’t either, since they have several times voiced their objections directly to LDS leadership about it.

  • Rom08

    @FREDJ1Perhaps, but that just illustrates my point. The Mormon Church agreed to remove the names of holocaust victims who are not the ancestors of Mormons. It is just futher proof that their intention is not to be disrespectful or arrogant.Furthermore, it further illustrates the Mormons’ true motivations. The Mormon practice of vicarious baptism for the dead is generally done for one’s own ancestors out of love and respect for one’s progenitors, and not disrespect and arrogance as you have suggested.

  • Rom08

    @FredJ1″It is a fundamental act of disrespect (and arrogance) to incorporate the names of the general public (deceased, or otherwise) into Mormon ritual. How Mormons rationalize the act to themselves is irrelevant.”That’s an odd way to look at it. It seems to me to be fundamental act of respect and good will to recognize the good in all people and the good things they believe. Sure, some might question why people need to be baptized at all if they are fundamentally good. And I think the Mormons would answer: because that is what Jesus Christ taught in the Bible.You may disagree with the rationale, but there is nothing inherently disrespectful or arrogant about it. In fact, to me, the motivation of the Mormons appears to be just the opposite.

  • Vanka

    You don’t need to study much to discover the truth about Mormons.Mormons try to make us believe they are “really nice people”, but their history as well as current events contain facts that show it is all veneer – all keeping up appearances (like a wolf wearing a nice wool sweater).Mormons will quote their “Articles of Faith” and other scriptures from their “Standard Works” in an attempt to convince you they are “mainstream” and Christian.But we know from history that Mormons believe the word of their living leaders above scripture, and they are not above “lying for the Lord”.Case in point: The Mormon Church leader told all Mormons to “do all you can” to fight against same-sex marriage (Prop 8 in “It is NOT JUST for religions to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied” (D&C134). This shows without doubt that Mormons and their leaders will violate THEIR OWN sacred scriptures and principles when it suits them.Even polygamy was continued secretly for around 10 years after LDS Church leaders lied and swore to Congress that the practice had ceased in the Church (see Quinn).This means that not only will common Mormons lie for the Lord (the Church), so will the Church leaders! Even under oath to Congress!So stop denying what your Church really is: a secretive, elitist, imperialistic cult aspiring to “put an end to all nations”, and rule the world for a thousand years when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” that the Mormon Jesus is in charge!It is written clearly in their Temple oaths and covenants that members are expected to give all their possessions and use all their positions and opportunities (“everything with which the Lord has blessed you or may bless you”) for the building up of the LDS Church. This includes oaths to give one’s life for the building up of the LDS Church. That is an explicit oath regarding a willingness to “give one’s life” (suicide) for the Church.These are not oaths to do good, or to die for God or Jesus, in some abstract, harmless sense. These are radical oaths and covenants of loyalty to the Leaders of a Cult Church! In the Temple recommend “catechism”, Mormons covenant that they sustain the President of the LDS Church as “the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all [God’s] priesthood keys?”The LDS Temple ceremonies at the time Mitt Romney was “endowed” included graphic depictions of cutting one’s throat, disemboweling oneself, and other acts of suicide as a penalty for revealing the secret oaths and failing to be faithful to them.These are not lies. These are facts.The last thing we need is an irrational cultist, who inherited (not earned) his wealth, in the Whitehouse.