Mitt for Mormonism?

(politicizing)



My short answer is “No!” But maybe not for the reason you think.

I’m feeling a little political today, probably because my religion is hitting the papers again. And I know that of the three things you shouldn’t discuss in public, religion and politics are two of them. But hey, the media started it. Plus, this is my blog. I get to talk about what I want.

Every time I see a new headline with the words “LDS” or “Mormon,” I cringe, thinking, “Oh boy. What are they going to get wrong now?” Sad, isn’t it? I’ve turned into such a skeptic. In the media’s defense, I will say that the overall coverage on Mitt Romney’s religion has been more accurate this time around. 2008 was a major-cringe year for me. I’m sure it has to be difficult to try and define the LDS/Mormon religion to people who’ve either never heard of us, or have only heard the ‘dark,’ but ridiculously false rumors.

Still…

The funny thing is that I cringe almost as badly when I see articles written by Mormons, because, let’s face it, even some Mormons define my religion differently than I would or do. For example, there’s an article in the NY Daily today by Ken Jennings entitled:

“How Mormons See the World.” 
(my shoulder muscles are tensing up just typing that title)

I guess the article gains a little credibility because it’s written by a Mormon but, no offense to Ken Jennings, who is he to speak for 14 million other Mormons? Who are any of us for that matter? Obviously our leader, President Thomas S. Monson, would be the only definitive source, but I don’t picture him using such sweeping generalizations either. I mean, put any other group of people in that title, and see how it sits with you: 

“How Do Catholics See the World?” 
“How Do African-Americans See the World?” 
“How Do Middle-aged Women See the World?”
“How Do Martians See the World?” (That one might have a little credibility. Then again, maybe not. Maybe one Martian sees our far away world differently than the next.) 

It’s possible Ken Jennings didn’t create the title. I can see the NY Daily doing it to generate some readers. Either way, it still bugs me.


I personally think the article would have been better titled, “How a Mormon Sees the World.” Or “How some Mormons See the World.” I just really hate absolutes. If all 14 million Mormons saw the world in the same way, we wouldn’t have politicians on both sides of the US table.
For example…
Mitt Romney
Jon Huntsman
Harry Reid
Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader-Democrat) have very different views of the world and America, and yet they are all Mormon. As a Republican, I personally don’t agree with Harry Reid’s democratic view, but another Mormon friend of mine might not agree with Mitt Romney’s. And that’s fine. If you aren’t aware, the LDS Church is politically neutral. They do not and have not endorsed a specific candidate or political party. I like that. So if someone wants to write an article entitled “How Mormons See the World,” they better have an awfully large umbrella to lump us under.
One thing Jennings said that I agree with is that Romney’s rise “makes us (some of us at least) uncomfortable. What will they say about Mormons at work every time Romney makes a debate gaffe or an unpopular policy move?” With few non-LDS people in the media actually having a good, accurate grasp on the LDS Church, it makes me squirm to have Romney as the ‘new face’ for the religion. I personally think he’s a good, decent guy, and even a good Mormon. But he’s still a politician. And even the best politicians get ripped to shreds. And make mistakes. I don’t like the thought of my church being ripped to shreds right along with him. So yes. Having Romney as the front-runner makes me a little nervous.

However…

Having Romney in the spotlight has allowed many people around the country to sift through a lot of the myths and see our religion more clearly. And really, if I had to choose between those three politicians to represent my faith—Romney, Reid, or Huntsman—I would choose Romney because at least when he’s asked, “Are you a Mormon?” he gives a “Yes, and proud of it!” answer without worrying about the political fallout. From what I’ve seen of the other two, Huntsman and Harry Reid tend to stutter out an answer and try to change the subject quickly. And call me crazy, but I actually like that Romney donated a substantial portion of his money to a charitythat is known around the world for its humanitarian efforts

Ugh. The media.

Do any other Mormons out there cringe when you see headlines pop up? Am I just overly-sensitive? How about non-Mormons? Do you think we’re too sensitive on this? (Ha, you thought I just asked a sweeping generalization, didn’t you? I was testing you. If you answer choose to answer the last question, feel free to answer about me personally or another Mormon you know.)

Related blog post: Are Mormons Christian?
                           Mormonism 101
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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

10 thoughts on “Mitt for Mormonism?”

  1. You are correct, I didn't write the headline. But I think the generalizations in the article paint a pretty accurate picture of most American Mormons.Also, if you think Romney "doesn't care about the political fallout" in regards to how his campaign handles religion…uh, I don't think you've been paying much attention to his campaign.

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  2. @KenI live in an area where Mormons are few and far between, but those I know are quite different than the picture you painted. They aren’t “suspicious” or “keeping to themselves.” I see them engaging in the world and their communities, and optimistically trying to live a good, happy life. For example, I don’t home school my children, which means that they are one of four Mormons in a school of 1600. They (and myself) have many good friends outside of our faith. I don’t think that is “disengaging.” I guess I’m seeing a different picture than you are, which is fine, but between the strong title and the way you worded things, you made it sound like all of us feel that way and I disagree. I don't even think it's the majority. As for the Romney fallout, I should have clarified. Romney (and his campaign managers) might 'worry' about the political fallout, but not enough for Romney to back down or shy away from his beliefs. I like that.

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  3. Ken, I think what Rebecca meant was the Mitt isn't usually trying to avoid saying the words "I'm a Mormon." At least, that's how I understood her post. The comparison I thought of was Huntsman's response when asked about his religion where he started talking about how lots of things define him and all the diverse backgrounds his family came from. Mitt says he is a Mormon. How he addresses his religion is definitely a concern for his campaign, I agree.Rebecca, I often cringe. Sometimes, I even get so stressed about it that it gives me a headache. Julia is the only Mormon girl in her class (not surprising since she's at a Protestant school) and so I often get asked about things in the news. When I saw the story last night about Mitt's tithing and how it works out as a tax benefit for him, I totally cringed. I disagree with your assessment though that we are sensitive. I would use the word concerned. We are concerned that people get it right so that we don't continue to be misrepresented and misunderstood. I know I am also concerned that people understand us because I feel like what our church has to offer can uplift and bless people. I hope you don't mind the long rant. :) Thanks for the post!

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  4. I love your post! Be brave and jump right into the political arena. Many of us fear to do so because it is so hard to keep up on all of it. As for me, though, I am not worried at all when the word Mormon hits the headlines. I see even the negative comments as an avenue to share my faith with those around me. When the media focuses on mistakes people may have made, I remind my non-member friends and family that we all make mistakes. Isn't it nice to know that we are all the same in that way? In truth, people of all faiths are just doing their best at living what they believe. We always have to help people understand that no one person represents an entire faith. I agree that not everyone in any faith 'sees' things exactly the same. Individuality is the name of the game. How did God manage to make us all so unique?

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  5. I read Mr. Jennings post and I agree with you. I don't know of many members of the church who hide in the corners. His article sounded apologetic of the church at best! I Love your blog keep writing. I am reading your book so far I am really enjoying it!!!

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  6. @Ken, I agree with Rebecca. I live in an area that Mormons are very few and far between, but we try to reach out into the community. Every Mormon family in our area puts their kids in public school, most of them volunteer a lot in the schools and in the communities. I have friends who are not of our faith and I enjoy my neighbors. I didn't agree with your article.

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  7. Rebecca, I also hesitate to read or listen to anything in the media that is about my religion. I am always concerned about what questions I will be asked by my friends who are non-Mormon because of something they have seen in the media. I do not hide my religion nor do my children. I am having anxiety because my daughters LA teacher asked her to write a story about how it feels to be the only Mormon in her high school of 1700 students for the school paper. I wonder if he really wants her view or if it is his way to slam her (he does that often enough).

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  8. This article raises a question. Does religion have a place in the political realm? If I were Romney I probably mention religion as little as possible — not because I am ashamed, but rather even mentioning the name Jesus in a political speach, I would be labled as some crazy person on a crusade regardless of which sect of christianity I belonged.This brings me back to the first question. Do religious views define a person? Our nation was defined under God … so why does he not have place in politics anymore?

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  9. Thanks for all the comments. I guess when you discuss religion AND politics in a blog, you get a lot of interesting comments out of it. If I take anything out of your comments it is that we should be quick to define ourselves, our beliefs, our stances on things, but not so quick to define others. If we are misunderstood, the responsibility lies somewhat on our shoulders to correct those misunderstandings. I tried to do some of that in this blog. It sounds like you guys have been trying to do that as well. Very cool. Thanks!!! And if anyone else wants to weigh in, feel free. I'm lovin' this.

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