Who we are

December 13, 2007 at 11:21 pm 11 comments

I was very glad to find this article from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal (available for free here). In it the author, Naomi Schaefer Riley, discusses the issue of Mormons in politics, specifically as it relates to Mitt Romney. There are some specific parts of the speech worthy of mention: 

A recent Pew poll shows that only 53% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mormons. That’s roughly the same percentage who feel that way toward Muslims. By contrast, more than three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of Jews and Catholics. Whatever the validity of such judgments, one has to wonder: Why does a faith professed by the 9/11 hijackers rank alongside that of a peaceful, productive, highly educated religious group founded within our own borders?

I was actually a little shocked by that poll. I would have thought we would be closer to 75%. She continues a bit further on:

The young men and women at Brigham Young University are among the smartest, hardest-working and most pleasant college kids you will find anywhere. (For better or worse, I have visited dozens of college campuses.) The student body lives by the Mormon principle: “The glory of God is intelligence.” Most reside off campus without adult supervision, yet they adhere strictly to curfews, rules about contact with the opposite sex and every other church directive. They are purposeful but seem to enjoy themselves, spending their free time hiking in the sprawling desert. And BYU has America’s largest ROTC program outside of our military schools. This last fact is one I had occasion to think about on my trip. I left for BYU on Sept. 7, 2001, and returned home a week later. On 9/11, the students gathered for a campuswide devotional. The university president tried to comfort the students with “the eternal perspective.” My eternal perspective is not the same as theirs, of course. But hearing more than 20,000 young people around me reciting the Pledge of Allegiance made me realize that our temporal perspective is the same. I’m sure Sam Adams would have agreed.

I was there on 9/11. I was at that devotional, and as I read her words I felt a kinship to the author, something that comes when just by being in the same place as someone else during an event that is transformational. The entire article is worth reading, but that part was so evocative of my feelings as an American and a Latter-day Saint.

I hope that those unfamiliar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make the right decision. That doesn’t necessarily mean voting for Mitt (much as I would like that). It means looking at character and commitment, not falling prey to insular and ignorant religious bigotry.

 Soon enough, we’ll know.

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Entry filed under: Commentary, Current Events, Mitt Romney. Tags: , .

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ian in hamburg  |  December 14, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Perhaps the low poll results have nothing to do with religion per se but are a reflection of a general shift back to the Left in American politics, where Mormons are associated with the Right, Jews and Catholics with the Left.

    Something to hope for, anyway.

    Reply
  • 2. lowdogg  |  December 14, 2007 at 7:05 am

    The poll I cited in the post refers to 53% having a favorable view of Mormons and you attribute to a shift in political preference? As in, “I prefer the Democrats, so I don’t like Mormons.”
    If that is the case than that is nothing to hope for.

    Reply
  • 3. Mikel  |  December 14, 2007 at 11:58 am

    I don’t think that’s it Ian. Most on the left are very comfortable with Mormons, even having a Mormon elected as Majority Leader of the Senate.

    Reply
  • 4. JL  |  December 14, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I hadn’t seen that article in the WSJ, thanks for highlighting it.

    Reply
  • 5. Joey  |  December 14, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I’m not sure why Ian persists in making me rein him in, but it would be incredibly inaccurate to say, even to hope, that there’s a general shift to the left in American politics. All demographic evidence seems to point to a consolidation of the left in American cities, where birthrates will continue to decline, and a consolidation of more-or-less rightist people outside cities, where birthrates in some areas are actually increasing (this is astonishing, by the way). It is also important to remember that the left’s traditional base of low-income or immigrant workers is very vulnerable to any kind of expansion of the middle class, since expansions of the middle class draw from a) middle class birth rates, and b) poorer workers who make good. And what we call the middle class is still expanding. This is very bad for the left’s future.

    All this makes the policy proposals being floated by the American left seem very cynical, indeed. First, HRC proposed yesterday that all post-2000 tax cuts be repealed. This would include the child and education deductions. Nothing like removing incentives to reproduce and educate your young to preserve a base of people who are poorer and stupider than they would otherwise be. Increasing marginal tax rates and repealing important tax breaks would further allow the left to consolidate power through dependency-inducing programs, and through restraining economic growth, and the ability of the economy to benefit its participants.

    As another vivid example, leftist environomental proposals attempt through various levers to limit economic growth (and hence, middle class expansion), to curb birth rates (and hence, middle class expansion), to consolidate people into cities, which are admittedly “greener” than the burbs, (and hence, to curb middle class expansion), etc.

    Healthcare is an issue for another time, but the left’s proposals there are similarly full of self-serving roadblocks middle class expansion. Even if the American left is just really, sincerely committed to a revival of socialism, they cannot deny that their proposals make people, especially the middle class, worse off in order to advance their own political success. This is the very definition of cynicism.

    Based on the obvious failure of Pelosi and Reid to advance anything like the policy agenda the Democrats were supposedly elected to achieve, I would say, if anything, that the recent resurgence of leftist voices in American politics is inadquate to creating anything like a groundswell of support for leftist policy prescriptions. The fact that leftists are super loud does not mean they are super effective, or that their ideas are terribly appealing to a growing middle class.

    So, Ian, I’m afraid your hopes of a leftist America are going to be dashed over the next few years. I know it hurts. Be strong.

    Reply
  • 6. Sportsattitude  |  December 14, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    I have to admit to trying to play “catch-up” on the specifics of the Mormon faith since starting to get more involved in the Presidential process. That poll result to me simply reflects ignorance on the part of most folks – including myself – who just don’t know yet what being of the Mormon faith really means. I’ve never known anyone of the faith personally. When you keep only hearing stuff about multiple wives being ok in its history, minorities being “held back” from certain status until the last couple of decades, etc. the uninitiated – those of us who have never been exposed to or involved with the religion – have to start to think (at least for polling purposes, I guess) maybe the religion is “outside our borders” even when it’s not. Before Mitt “arrived” in the Presidential race, I think a lot of us outside of the Mormon faith – because the mass media previously has only “exposed” the masses to it when they had a sensational aspect (of its past) to report – put being a Mormon in an “uncomfortable” category in our small-minded, uninformed minds. In short, if you don’t know something about something you generally aren’t in “favor” of it. I think those poll results reflect a lack of knowledge in the faith, not a “rejection” of it.

    Reply
  • 7. dianarn  |  December 14, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    People are afraid of the “unknown” and they are afraid of getting out from their comfort zone to experience this so-called “unknown,” therefore, everything that’s outside their bubble is bad.

    Reply
  • 8. Lindsay  |  December 17, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    I agree with Sportsattitude’s assessment of the situation. Great insight.

    Reply
  • 9. lemare  |  December 18, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    What do you think about this Q&A posted on Fox News?

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

    Reply
  • 10. lowdogg  |  December 18, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I saw it this morning. I don’t know illuminating it would be for a non-member. Maybe Sportsattitude could let us know.

    I’m glad the Church refused to answer questions that they deemed unconstructive. As a missionary you learn who is asking questions to learn and who is asking questions to provoke.

    I wanted to find the Pew poll cited in the article:

    http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=267

    Fortunately 66% of Americans said that Mitt’s religion would make no difference in how they voted.

    Reply
  • 11. Sportsattitude  |  December 18, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    My opinion of the Fox News piece is some of the questions absolutely seemed designed to provoke rather than reveal. I had not previously heard of Planet Kolob, specialized underwear or the fact Starbucks is taboo. Lowdogg nailed it perfectly. I think any questions America has about the Mormon faith revolves around the main stereotypes of equal status for minorities not appearing to come until the late 70’s…the historical acceptance of multiple spouses…the distinction between God, Jesus and their “travels” – these are the things non-members would be curious about. I give the Church credit for even acknowledging the request for the “interview” and answering what they did.

    Reply

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