Mormonism and American Politics

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


There are two Mormon candidates in contention for the 2012 GOP nomination. Richard N. Ostling, former religion writer for the Associated Press and Time Magazine and co-author of Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, discusses how Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman balance their religious and political identities on the Brian Lehrer Show today.

The Church of Latter Day Saints is becoming more and more a political force and a player in the 2012 presidential race, as two GOP candidates are Mormon. With Harry Reid on the left and Warren Hatch on the right, what are the church’s politics and values?

The Church prefers the use of the name the Church of Latter Day Saints, but Ostling said he isn’t sure why there would be resistance to being referred to as Mormon, especially given that their holy book is the Book of Mormon and their best known cultural institution is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I think it’s good practice if you’re writing an article, to use.. the full official name in the first reference and then afterwards, use Mormon nickname of LDS.. I think part of it is nervousness about the phrase “Mormon fundamentalists”, which is typically applied to Mormon polygamous sect groups, and of course the main body of the LDS abolished its polygamy practice way back in 1890 and has been trying to live it down, in a sense, ever since.

The church is growing, Ostling says there are currently about 6 million baptized Mormons in the US, but the majority of LDS members today are overseas. Even within the US the religion is expanding beyond the southwest.

It’s really becoming a national denomination.

The issue of Christianity and Mormonism is complex. Ostling says it’s very offensive to Mormons not to be thought of as Christian. 

If you’re a Mormon, do you view Protestants and Catholics as Christians? And I think the honest answer is not really, or precisely in the way we understand Christianity, and the reverse is also true. The Vatican and a number of more conservative and more liberal Protestant groups in this country have said not exactly that Mormons aren’t Christians, but that they do not adhere to and teach the Christian faith as we have understood it the past 200 years. They usually try to phrase it that way.

Ostling said it is true that there is variety in political views among Mormons, however it does lean heavily to the right.

The LDS membership, notably in Utah, is the most faithful to the Republican party than any other group, even more than people who identify as evangelicals.

Ostling said while the church does not get involved in partisan politics, they do take stands on political issues, such as their strong opposition to same-sex marriage.

The parallel would be Catholic or evangelical action on the abortion question.

Despite the separation of church and state, religion is always a huge part of candidates’ platform. Yet Ostling doesn’t think that Huntsman and Romney will suffer in the polls from their declared religion.

I think the religious issue with Perry or especially Bachmann is going to supplant or overshadow the Mormon issue.




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Comments [10]

Ciro from New Jersey

If we live, and believe, in "Separation of Church and State", why are we so concerned about Mormons?

Are their views, and values, any more dangerous than those of Christian Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, "Normal" Christian Sects, Catholics - Conservative or Progressive, Jews - Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Messianic, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.?

Why do we care? Is it about Fear ... Our Judeo-Christian conditioning? Are we becoming no better, in our views, than any Extremist, Dogmatic, ideology-driven Religious Sects?

Have we learned nothing from History ... when we overtly, or covertly, demonized Al Smith, JFK, Joe Lieberman, Barack Obama, and other candidates?

May the answer to our dysfunctional governance dilemma be to elect an "out-of-the-mainstream" President? Would that unite Congress to "Protect" the Nation from giving the President too much influence, and power?

In essence, could that force Congress to finally do the "People's" work?

Aug. 22 2011 04:08 PM
Eric from Manhattan

@Jennie: this is patently false. During each election cycle, a statement from the church is read to the congregation which encourages church members to engage in civil duty and vote, but also stresses that the church in no way whatsoever supports any particular candidate or party, nor are local leaders allowed to endorse a particular candidate or party. In my experience in both NYC and elsewhere, local leaders go to such painstaking lengths to comply with this that it's often impossible to decipher their own personal political views. A church leader who publicly endorsed a candidate or party would immediately be censured by church authorities.

There may have been isolated cases of disregard for this policy, but suggesting that "Church leaders routinely advise the ward (congregation) on who to vote for" is a blatant mistruth.

Aug. 17 2011 02:01 PM
Jennie from Fort Greene

i was raised LDS and have many family members who are still active members. Church leaders routinely advise the ward ( congregation) on who to vote for.

The "Prophet" directly commanded them to oppose Prop. 8 with their money and time.

My grandparents voted for FDR but that was 70 years ago. Democratic Mormons are virtually nonexistent, ostracized into oblivion.

A Romney Presidency would be a Theocracy.

Aug. 17 2011 11:49 AM
Damon from Manhattan

While the Church of LDS appears to take offense at the suggestion that Mormons are not Christians, my understanding is that the Church of LDS does not consider Catholics and protestants to be "Christian".

Aug. 17 2011 11:47 AM
Josif from manhattan

What was the mormon stance on black people?

Aug. 17 2011 11:46 AM
teresa from Manahttan

We all have faith. We all believe in a higher power. We may not all believe in what the other believes nor should we be defined by this.
We should not care about a candidate's religion. When a politician puts "their" faith in the forefront, I don't hear anything they have to say. Because I may not believe in what they stand for. If you want to be considered a candidate, keep your religious beliefs to yourself. Keep the civil, moral, ethical issues on the table. That would be a level playing field for all beliefs. That I believe would make a strong candidate.

Aug. 17 2011 11:46 AM

Mormons do not belong to the International Council of Churches because they are not monotheistic, they believe that men become Gods within their own famlies.

Aug. 17 2011 11:42 AM
jmurphy from long island

Mormons do not adhere to Christianity as taught in the Bible. For Protestants, the Bible is the only holy book. Mormons have beliefs outside of the Bible and the division only widens from there.

Aug. 17 2011 11:38 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My main question about Mormons is, how is that they are so good-looking and have such straight white teeth with such beautiful smiles? Is it genetics, or something to do with their book?

Aug. 17 2011 11:37 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

Jon Huntsman announced that his campaign HQ will be in Orlando. Funny. In "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway, the 19-year old Elder Price prays to be sent on his mission to Orlando. The Church sends him to Uganda, instead.

Aug. 17 2011 11:34 AM

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