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July 6, 2015

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Mormons see bright side to election despite Mitt Romney’s defeat



This undated file photo shows the Salt Lake Temple in Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney arrives at Salt Lake City International Airport during a visit to Utah for a pair of fundraisers Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

PROVO, Utah — Sitting cross-legged on a lawn with two other students, Whitney Call, a 23-year-old creative writing major at Brigham Young University, took satisfaction in at least one aspect of the outcome of the 2012 presidential election:

Mitt Romney might not have won, but he demonstrated that being a Mormon, like her, was no barrier to winning the nation’s highest office.

“His faith was not a factor in the election at all. Maybe that means that people are beginning to realize that Mormons are more mainstream than they thought,” she said.

Romney lost “because of his politics and not his religion, and I can live with that,” she said.

Since 2008, when Romney first sought the presidency, the question has hung in the air: Are Americans ready to vote for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as their president?

More specifically, there were doubts that evangelical Christians, many of whom are taught that Mormonism is a cult, would ever vote for a Mormon candidate.

For the Utah-based church, those questions seemed to have been answered Tuesday. Some of Romney’s strongest support came from evangelical Christian voters who swept aside their theological differences and supported the candidate whose political views most closely matched their own.

Evangelical Christian voters — many of whom had turned their backs on Romney during the Republican primary — supported him in the general election at the same 4-1 ratio as did Mormons, according to exit polls analyzed by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

That was a higher rate of evangelical support than Republican John McCain received in the 2008 presidential election. In addition, evangelicals appear to have turned out in higher numbers in 2012, putting to rest the notion that they would sit out the election rather than vote for a Mormon candidate.

There were even those who said the outcome of the election was a win-win for the Latter-day Saints: It exposed Americans to a positive view of Mormonism without running the risk that a Mormon president might not be successful.

“What if Romney won and it turns out he was a jerk, that he let down the country and his faith, as well?” said Steve Fidel, the faculty director of the BYU student newspaper, the Universe. “For Mormons, that would have meant four years of embarrassment.”

That is undoubtedly a minority view. Matthew Bowman, a visiting professor of religious studies at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and a member of the Mormon Church, said most Latter-day Saints were confident of Romney’s abilities. But if the much-touted “Mormon moment” is over, and the spotlight on the faith dims a bit, that’s also fine, he said.

Romney was the first Mormon nominated by a major party for president, and from the beginning of his campaign, it was clear that he considered his faith to be a touchy issue. For months, he avoided mentioning it. In May, he gave a speech on faith at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian college in Virginia whose catalog includes a course on “the major cults,” including Mormonism. Romney referred to “people of different faiths, like yours and mine,” but did not use the words “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint.”

That changed somewhat at the Republican National Convention, when Romney spoke about his experience as a local leader of the Mormon community in Boston and allowed members of that community to offer testimonials about his role. He began inviting the news media to accompany him to Sunday services at various Mormon wards around the country.

Not only was there no apparent backlash, but the glimpses into Romney’s religious life also may have helped to soften his image as a cool and aloof businessman.

The Mormon church had been wary about the campaign. On the one hand, it was eager to portray itself as part of the American fabric, but it was leery of being accused of meddling in politics, especially after the criticism it faced over its leading role in the successful 2008 campaign for California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. (It was later found to be unconstitutional.)

Last week, the church issued a statement congratulating President Barack Obama, asking the nation to pray for him, and commending Romney “for engaging at the highest level of our democratic process.” There was no mention of his faith.

“I just think that attitude shows who we Mormons are,” 22-year-old John Fredrickson said as he walked between classes on the BYU campus. “We get it. Our man didn’t win. But we’re praying for the man who beat him. We know the difference between religion and politics.”

David Campbell, a scholar at University of Notre Dame and co-author of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” said Romney’s candidacy may have increased the degree to which Mormons are associated with the Republican Party (even though Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, also is a Mormon).

“What has happened is a partisan polarization in attitudes toward Mormons,” Campbell said.

He also said that while the campaign provided an opening for better relations between Mormons and evangelicals, there was no guarantee it would last.

Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University who has written widely about her Mormon faith, said the lack of hostility toward Romney’s religion was “significant ... and worthy of celebration.” But she said she wished he had spoken out more about his faith and its values.

Brooks even wrote a speech that she wished Romney had delivered, talking about how the history of his faith had taught him that “big dreams require sacrifice and hard work.” She wondered whether the time would ever come that a candidate for president could talk about his or her Mormon faith that way.

“That’s a question that another generation will have to take up,” she said.

Landsberg reported from Los Angeles.

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  1. Jeff,

    Mitt Romney policy position changed daily. The mormons I know are not like the Mitt Romney we saw on the National stage. Essentially, Mitt Romney told lies as a Presidential candidates. The mormons I know don't tell lies, under any circumstances. Mitt Romney had no problem talking to millions of Americans and telling outright lies.

    Mormons did not gain in this election. There is no bright side if your using Mitt Romney, the candidate, as an example. If any, this election set back the Mormons. Many Americans see Mormons as not being trustworthy, because of candidate Romney. In addition, Tag Romney displayed to America that he will do anything on the political level, like running false adds, and saying he wanted to throw a punch at the President. That not what everyday Mormon do.

    Hurt, is a more appropriate word to describe what the election and Mitt Romney, and his sons, did to the Mormons. Hurt. Many are ashamed of how Mitt Romney and his sons acted.

  2. I would argue that his faith had a lot to do with his losing the election. He followed the Mormon tradition of Lying for the Lord, he garnered his 1930's view of women from his religion, He developed his staunch stand on women's reproductive rights from his religion and he followed the Mormon church on his biased view of gays and blacks.
    So yes, being a Mormon played a huge role in why Romney was not elected.

  3. Mitt Romney was being told what to do and what to say, by the RNC, in other words they just needed a warm body to sign the BILLS the then hopeful congress and senate were going to start designing to ruin our country, but it never materialized "GOOD"---------

  4. Members of the Mormon Church 'help' in communities and help other families in an effort to recruit their membership. They will 'help' you for 2 years and if you don't convert by then they drop you like a hot potato.

  5. Values do not need religion to back them up. They are part of reality which existed long before the world religions of today. They can be derived without ritual, ceremony, mythology or holy books. Faith today is used to take a person's money, tell them how to vote and ignore reality.

    On Monday, November 12, Cardinal Timothy Dolan told US Catholic Bishops that "The premier answer to the question 'What's wrong with the world?' is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming ... none of these, as significant as they are," citing many of the issues that have become favorite targets of the hierarchy.

    Instead, Dolan said, quoting English writer and Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton, the answer is contained in two words: "I am." (NY Times)

    Thus, one of the largest religions in the world tells us that the words and concepts of "I am" is the central problem in the world today. There is no doubt that Dolan understands his religion correctly.

    Faith is belief in what we are told and not what we see, measure or experience. It subconsciously lectures that we are nothing without the directions of the (generic) Church. From Dolan's studies he learns: "For we live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7.

    This may seem to be a minor philosophical point but since Democracies are based on the principal "I am", it is easy to see why world religions (including Islam) have resisted democracies since their inceptions. People left Europe in order to leave the Church but it continues the attempt to smother personal freedoms. The examples are endless and leave little to crow about.

  6. @JeffFromVegas...c'mon man, lighten up. Religion in this country is a mile wide and an inch deep. Most Christians could not explain any of the theological underpinnings of their religions. Mormons are Christians by culture but not by theology, but very few people care about those distinctions. Back in the old days of the Latin Mass, nuns with bamboo sticks and buggering priests we learned that every Protestant was going straight to hell.

  7. Separation of Church and State was a wise policy for our Constitution.

    Laws based on some individuals personal religious beliefs in contrary to other's beliefs should not be applied to the entire country.

    Some values may be consistent across all normal segments of society, as common sense, and thus become acceptable, others limited to only parts of society, based on religious beliefs.

    In most cases, where religious principals or values are involved, there is freedom for the individual to choose for themselves what they would do. Abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are examples.

    People in politics should follow that separation of Church and State on a personal level as well, keeping their religion out of arguments and debates, subjecting their right to free practice of religion and speech in exchange for using Wisdom.

    Doing so saves them from the criticism of hypocrisy, and the religious institutions they are members of from negative impressions based on the actions/words of the politicians/members.

    Regardless of where our principles and values are derived, whether nature or religion, if each of us lives them to the best of our ability, within in the general framework of our laws, we can do more for our society in respecting the right of each individual to choose how to live their lives and respecting the right of others to do the same.

    I see no need for religion to enter the political dialogue, or influence by legislation what all citizens must adhere to relating to personal choice dictated by one segment of society over another.

    If we all, including politicians, acted and spoke from within our hearts, with love and goodwill toward all, free of anger and fear, our society might be quite a wonder.

  8. Religious Mormon Person he professed to be would not have gone against the poor in this nation while having the rich standing by his sides.. He mocked those in poverty in front of his rich financial peers. Mormonism must be different than my Catholic upbringing. We always gave to poor and prayed for them.

  9. "Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University...said the lack of hostility toward Romney's religion was "significant ... and worthy of celebration."

    Now look at the popular vote in Utah:
    Obama 24.9%
    Romney 72.8%

    As said many times, religion doesn't matter so long as the candidate is correct in their beliefs. What might Joanna Brooks call the vote in Utah? 'Informed' perhaps, but not hostile.

    Around 30% of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim although there isn't a shred of reality for that conclusion but Faith makes it true.

    Whitney Call from BYU said "His faith was not a factor in the election at all. Maybe that means that people are beginning to realize that Mormons are more mainstream than they thought".

    Unfortunately in Utah, it's America that still isn't mainstream.

  10. Mainstream is a function of time. Glenn Beck's 'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine served as the Case against out of control Government, but Beck misunderstood Paine completely.

    There is no doubt that Thomas Paine was one of the driving ideologists and pro-revolutionary pamphleteers. John Adams said that "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." (Wikipedia)

    Paine's "The Rights of Man" was written in France as the French Revolution (The Enlightenment) took place. To understand the basis for "The Rights of Man", read just the first 20 pages of Paine's "The Age of Reason", starting at Chapter 1. This book has been suppressed by those attempting to re-write the philosophical history of Revolutionary America because it clearly explains Paine's view about the three World religions of those times (including Islam).

    Digitized copies, printed in the 1800's have been available in the past through Google books as free downloads. These verify originality of the words without the possibility of editing. At Amazon, there is a Forgotten Books series that includes Paine's "Biblical Blasphemy" and "Examination Of The Prophecies" along with the Age of Reason.

    The unique character of the Revolutionary Government was that it was the ONLY Government in the World that did not include religion as a partner. It was a Government of Reason and Laws, not ancient beliefs. The separation of Church and State was designed by the Founders as a Wall, not a Nave and it is very clear that the "Rights of Man" do not come from Biblical values but rather, from Reason and Reality.

  11. Great informative comment, SunJon!

  12. <<Back in the old days of the Latin Mass, nuns with bamboo sticks and buggering priests we learned that every Protestant was going straight to hell>>

    Boy, if that isn't the truth!!! Back then, I took dance classes and became friends with another girl in the neighborhood. But felt guilty being friends with her because she was a PROTESTANT!! I couldn't overcome the nuns rant about Protestants were not the "True" religion and were all going to go to hell. Protestants were a minority in the Irish/Polish/German Catholic neighborhood we lived in!! And don't forget those nuns coming out of nowhere( or so it seemed) during Mass and slapping you on the back of your head if you weren't kneeling upright on the kneelers!