The Monolithic Myth

December 7, 2007 | 62 comments
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Much of the commentary and criticism swirling around Mitt Romney and the religion issue seems to take as its starting point the assumption that there is a single Mormon view on any particular issue, decided by LDS leaders and accepted by the LDS membership. Too bad there isn’t a Mormon view on particular issues. That kind of kills the theory.

Surprisingly, it’s not just critics who give Romney a hard time, insisting that as a Mormon he needs to affirm Mormon views (seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are LDS politicians of both parties and a wide variety of views). Mormons, too, have been eager to assail Romney’s pledge to place his oath of office before any private or religious commitments, a view which if announced would put LDS politicians in a position similar to and as untenable as that espoused by critics who want to paint Mormon politicians into a Mormon corner. Perhaps some facts will shed a little reality on this strange discusion. If anything, the record shows LDS politicians were independent from the very beginning and remain so today.

Here’s from the Ostlings’ Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (rev’d ed., 2007):

The twentieth-century LDS record has not always been what simple stereotypes might suggest, nor have Mormons automatically followed their leader. The powerful U.S. senator and church Apostle Reed Smoot defied the church president by voting to override President Taft’s veto of an immigration bill. The First Presidency favored the League of Nations while Smoot was vocal on the successful negative side. Smoot opposed Prohibition, which was backed by fellow apostles. In 1933 the teetotaling First Presidency and Twelve Apostles decided the church would not campaign against the repeal of Prohibition because it was a partisan political issue, although the quietly hoped that good Mormons would vote dry. As it turned out, Utah was the state that put the constitutional amendment repealing Prohibition over the top.

And here’s the official LDS policy on neutrality: “Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position.” Hard to state it any more simply, and it does accord with the facts, always an advantage. So why do so few people accept it? Why is the myth of monolithic Mormonism so pervasive given the obvious and easily obtained facts to the contrary?

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62 Responses to The Monolithic Myth

  1. Ray on December 7, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Because people don’t believe what they see; they see what they believe. If you doubt that, read some of the comments about Romney’s speech.

    The most ironic charge in this entire discussion is the one coming from the evangelical community that wouldn’t even consider voting for a Democrat – and embraces Huckabee *solely* because of his religion. Monolithic is a very good description of their voting record – much more so than the Mormon record.

  2. bfwebster on December 7, 2007 at 1:07 am

    So why do so few people accept it? Why is the myth of monolithic Mormonism so pervasive given the obvious and easily obtained facts to the contrary?

    Because it feeds into the myths of Mormon ‘sheep’, the oppressive Mormon hierarchy and Mormon anti-intellectualism. Here’s what really scares both the secular left and the religious right about Mormons: we’re well-educated, generally successful at life, and yet really believe all these ‘weird’ things that we purportedly believe. (Do a Google on “Mormons weird” — 600,000+ hits). Both the left and the right think we’re all brainwashed (Google ‘Mormons brainwashed': 228,000 hits). Of course, anyone who has ever served in a bishopric laughs at the concept of Mormon sheep.

    I’m preparing a post (or series thereof) on ‘Myths of the Mormon hierarchy’. (Google ‘Mormon hierarchy': only 46,000 hits, but undoubtedly growing.) ..bruce..

  3. David Clark on December 7, 2007 at 1:40 am

    Monolithic is a very good description of their voting record – much more so than the Mormon record. I don’t think voting statistics would back you up on this. Mormons are among the most reliable Republican voters in the nation.

    And there are other reasons for an evangelical to vote for Huckabee above any other candidate, other than being a fellow evangelical. Huckabee is the most socially conservative candidate, and these issues animate evangelicals above fiscal and foreign policy issues. Also, you can’t just claim that evangelicals go for the Christian candidate, Jimmy Carter in 1980 proves that one wrong.

    Too bad there isn’t a Mormon view on particular issues. That kind of kills the theory. This may hold for politicians, but for Mormon voters it may as well be true. If you take a sample of U.S. Mormons you can predict with a high degree accuracy what pretty much every position they support will be, probably 70-80% of the time.

  4. Russell Arben Fox on December 7, 2007 at 1:41 am

    “Why is the myth of monolithic Mormonism so pervasive given the obvious and easily obtained facts to the contrary?”

    Because the things we claim about prophetic and priesthood leadership, the things we teach our children to believe about prophetic and priesthood leadership, the way we act in common, everyday Mormon life when it comes to dealing with prophetic and priesthood leadership, makes it 1) very easy to believe, and 2) entirely plausible to assume that Mormons ought to be monolithic on not just “any particular issue,” but in fact on a whole host of them. I am not saying that such is the case, nor am I saying it would be a good thing if it were the case, nor am I saying that there are any indisputable doctrinal reasons to believe that ever could be the case. I am simply pointing out that the notion of a politically monolithic (or mostly so) Mormonism is both simple to believe and, in some ways, appealingly consistent with the typical Mormon way of life.

  5. Aaron Brown on December 7, 2007 at 2:13 am

    Amen, Russell.

    Anyone who has spent any time in an LDS Gospel Doctrine or Elders Quorum class should not be surprised by this at all. If you teach incredibly robust notions of prophetic leadership and authority, fail to discuss historical Church teachings that complicate them one iota (or begrudgingly acknowledge them only on the rare occasions that you’re forced to play defense), and fail to inculcate awareness of historical incidents that problematize the rosy picture, and then you mix all this with a Mormon populace composed of a very large number of folks that just “know” the Prophet “cannot lead us astray,” or that maybe remember Ezra Taft Benson’s observations that the Prophet is “not limited” in just about anything (including the political), then lo and behold, you get a lot of churchmembers who conclude our collective political and theological views are monolithic.

    Shocker.

    Aaron B

  6. WillF on December 7, 2007 at 2:19 am

    Because they haven’t found out that Harry Reid is Mormon yet? ;-)

    To be fair,Harry Reid also recently gave an excellent speech on being a religious politician: http://news.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071009/NEWS18/71009014&oaso=news.rgj.com

    I find it humorous that people are complaining that Romney didn’t go into enough detail about his beliefs, when Reid’s more personal BYU address is out there on the net staring everyone in the face (of course the intended audience was meant to be church members rather than the entire country, making it easier to speak personally).

    I don’t typically agree with Reid, but after I heard his speech I had new respect for him and a better understanding of where he is coming from.

  7. Bob on December 7, 2007 at 2:30 am

    “Why is the myth of monolithic Mormonism so pervasive given the obvious and easily obtained facts to the contrary?” I believe there is something monolithic in Mormonism, but I have no idea what it is. I don’t think anyone does, not even Mormons. Maybe, maybe, Joseph Smith did (?). Somehow, it fills a need in some, somehow it fails to fill a need in others.

  8. Ivan Wolfe on December 7, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Synchronicity –

    I swear I did not know about this post before I posted over at M*. But my new post over there could as well be an answer to this post:

    http://millennialstar.org/index.php/2007/12/07/the_stage_mormon

  9. Mark B. on December 7, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I thought about this last night while watching the CSPAN rerun of the speech, and the listening to those who called in. One of the callers (who lives in Phoenix among “those people”) said that all America need to wake up and realize that we intend to take over and set up a theocracy.

    Yeah, right. And we can’t even get the elders to do their home teaching.

  10. Sherri on December 7, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Referring to Aaron’s comment #6–I am going to “teach incredibly robust notions of prophetic leadership and authority” in Relief Society this Sunday. The lesson is called “Shepherds of the Flock”. I grew up near San Francisco and usually vote Democratic. I loved Romney’s speech but still don’t plan to vote for him. I do follow the standard church doctrine in the area of moral behavior. The closer I have followed the advice of the prophets, the happier I have been in the long run. The few times I have diverged have brought considerable anguish. I have repented but find it hard to forget my misbehavior in those instances. I don’t think there is a single Mormon view, unless it is that we should be the best and most moral people that we can be.

  11. Joel on December 7, 2007 at 10:01 am

    “Also, you can’t just claim that evangelicals go for the Christian candidate, Jimmy Carter in 1980 proves that one wrong.”

    Evangelicals voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 because he was an evangelical Christian. His refusal to act as a monolithic Evangelical created a powerful, right-leaning backlash that ultimately led to twelve years of Republican Presidents supported by the religious right.

    Part of the problem is that Mormons, along with most other Christian denominations, claim that some parts of our religious are monolithic. The church is built around the assumption that Truth (notice the uppercase T) exists, and that Mormonism is a method for finding and engaging this Truth. Yet except for some very obvious exceptions (I’m thinking Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Temple Rites) the church doesn’t delineate exactly which beliefs are fundamental. We don’t require everyone to believe everything, and our rejection of creeds represents an acknowledgment we don’t have a standard position on every doctrinal issue. Thus, we also permit non-vocal dissenters to retain membership and really believe whatever they want as long as their behavior remains within certain bounds. This ideological hodge-podge causes both internal and external confusions.The dialectical relationship between Mormon authority and personal revelations drives outsiders crazy.

  12. Matt M. on December 7, 2007 at 10:44 am

    One of the things I most value about my Church membership is the solidarity in core matters of faith and religious practice with fellow members, around the world and in my own community, who due to a variety of backgrounds and innate sensibilities live out their religion in a number of ways both inside and outside the Church context. Indeed, I think the scriptures are pretty clear that it is important for the \”body of Christ\” to encompass a healthy amount of diversity as long as we all look to Christ as our head.

    That being said, it is irritating to me when some – generally those who perceive (probably rightly) that they hold a majority view when it comes to things like politics – forget that that diversity exists and talk as if we were all in lockstep in everything. Specifically, I am irritated by those who unthinkingly assume that as Latter-Day Saints of course we will be supporting Mitt Romney. Though I am not necessarily opposed to seeing Romney in the White House, I am one of those who favors other candidates at the moment (and no, none of them are Republican). To my mind, the blind support of Mitt just because he is LDS is not much different than someone NOT voting for him just because he IS LDS. Although I also understand the tendency to gravitate towards someone who seems \”like us\” – in that respect I have to smile a bit at all the grand talk in LDS circles about religious tolerance toward one of our own, and wonder if we would really extend the same toward one whose religion (or lack of same) WE would consider bizarre…

  13. valerie on December 7, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Okay, I’ll wade into the waters here.

    The reason that Mormons seem monolithic is because that is the image presented by the media AND because Mormons don’t do alot to challenge that view beyond defensive counter-attacks.

    Mormons are a hard group of people to get to know. You aren’t very open about your beliefs or your history. I’m not saying you have to explain yourselves or apologize for anything but the simple human interaction between Mormons and non-Mormons that would dispel some of these myths does not happen. Mormons seem to be so scared of opening themselves to scrutiny that that defensiveness creates a vacuum that can be filled with misrepresentation. Anyone can make up lies about you when you don’t talk about who you are and what you believe.

    The reason I started reading this blog is because as an African-American I wanted to find out from Mormons themselves about the history between African-Americans and the church. This blog has been a great resource but outside of this blog there would be no way for me to get to know you except for the two missionaries I sometimes see strolling through the neighborhood.

    Someone upthread mentioned a BYU address by Harry Reid and marvelled at the fact that people didn’t know about it. How would anyone outside of the Mormon community know about that speech? It’s not like that speech has been advertised anywhere. Has that speech been even talked about on this blog? Believe it or not the rest of us aren’t privy to all of the conversations that you have amongst yourselves. There are alot of things that we don’t know because we are not part of the conversation that would allow us to know about all of the information out there.

    As a non-member I can’t walk into a temple or attend services. It’s your right to place that kind of restriction on who can attend religious gatherings but I know that in my life I learned alot from attending the bar-mitvahs, christenings, weddings and other ceremonies friends and gained a greater respect for faiths that I previously knew nothing about. I don’t think you realize how much it hurts the potential dialogue that could happen when everyone is banned not necessarily from participating but from being able to witness part of what the Mormon faith is about.

    I know it’s easier to start a conversation about how the world misunderstands you than to look into your own hearts and lives in how you really interact with others but part answering the question about why people don’t know you has to start with your own fears and resulting insularity.

    There are alot of us who really want to get to know you. But you guys make it really damn hard.

  14. Dave on December 7, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. You know, re-reading the quote from the Ostlings’ book, it strikes me that the reason Smoot’s independence is so evident is because LDS leaders did take stands on political issues and those stands became publicly known, so when Smoot pursued a different course, the divergence was evident for all to see.

    On the other hand, when LDS leaders proclaim neutrality and carefully refrain from taking public stands on political candidates or issues, then one can never really establish the independence of an LDS politician. And conspiracy types (i.e., most people) are always ready to read their own biases or suspicions into such a scenario, thinking that despite all appearances and with no particular evidence to support the notion, there nevertheless really is some secret Mormon political agenda and that LDS politicans are somehow part of the plot. The fact that different LDS politicians pursue inconsistent policies doesn’t seem to dislodge this idee fixe for most of those who hold it.

    So, surprisingly, LDS political neutrality is part of the problem here.

  15. Adam Greenwood on December 7, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Oh, did Salt Lake tell you to post this too, Dave B.?

  16. dangermom on December 7, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Valerie, do you mean ordinary Sunday services? Because while it’s true that temple attendance is limited, anyone is welcome at church meetings.

  17. Mark D. on December 7, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Valerie,

    There were several posts about Reid’s speech on various LDS web logs, including this one. There are also numerous posts that discuss the controversial episodes of Mormon history (and doctrine) in excruciating detail. The LDS Church has an extensive website containing virtually all church publications and general conference addresses for almost four decades as well. And finally, LDS church services are open to everyone.

  18. Bob on December 7, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    #14: “…no particular evidence to support the notion….”
    When I read this, it hit me the ‘evidence’ is (I’m not saying it’s true), to be Mormon is to have a very “secret ” dimension. Read that as it’s History, Doctrines, Temples, etc.
    Also, it does have an “agenda”. Read that to make everyone (living or dead), a Mormon. (see 50,000 Missionaries).
    Again, this is not what I believe, but this is the world’s “evidence” that they Mormons MAY also have a secret ” Mormon political agenda “

  19. valerie on December 7, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    dangermom and Mark D. thank you for correcting me about attending services and the Reid speech. I’ll check out the service one Sunday.

    Mark D. also thank you for directing me to the LDS website but that really isn’t what I’m looking for.

    I know I can find out about official doctrine but I am more interested about Mormons and their everyday lives.

    That’s why I’m trying to read more blogs because I feel I can see more of the debates that go on between people in the church which is something us non-Mormons don’t get to see.

  20. cindyf on December 7, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Valerie,

    Another good idea if you want to know more about LDS temples is to visit one during an open house. They hold open houses for a couple of months whenever a new temple is built, where everyone is invited to walk through and see for themselves what the inside of a temple looks like. I think they do a good job of giving you an overview of what goes on. The Visitor\’s Center in SLC on Temple Square also explains briefly the temple ceremonies and endowments.

  21. Chad S. on December 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    valerie,

    I’m a Mormon, and I’d be glad to share about my “everyday life.” If interested, click on my name, and it will take you to my blog. My contact info is in the “about me” section.

  22. cindyf on December 7, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    “If you take a sample of U.S. Mormons you can predict with a high degree accuracy what pretty much every position they support will be, probably 70-80% of the time.”

    I used to think this too, but living in Utah, I’ve been surprised at how Mormons tend to vote. For example, from the outside, you would think Mormons would be pro-voucher. It would give them the better opportunity to place their children in a private school that allows prayer, that’s the way my cursory thinking was going. But more than 60% of the people voted against vouchers, and my feel as to why most people voted against the vouchers is because most people in Utah believe in community and going to school with those you live around, regardless of their religious preferences. Also, here in Cedar Hills, we recently voted against two laws that would have required businesses to be closed on Sunday and for businesses to sale liquor (making us a “dry” town). Our city is probably 90% mormons, and as mormons, we believe both in no-liquor and respecting the Sabbath day, but yet, we didn’t vote for the two. Additionally, reading posts from the Princeton conference on this site re-affirmed that we aren’t all the same. Yes, we tend to lean Republican, but our definitions about being Republican are different, as well as many of us aren’t Republican.

  23. Adam Greenwood on December 7, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Actually, CindyF, I would have predicted that y’all would have voted to keep businesses open on Sunday and selling alcohol. Most Republicans would have voted the same way.

  24. cindyf on December 7, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Uh, good point. My thinking was limited when I wrote that. I was thinking strictly on the moral elements and not the monetary elements of momon-think. Let me quote Walt Whitman here: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. (I am large. I contain multitudes.)”

  25. Sherri on December 7, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Valerie,
    I wonder where you live. I don’t have blog and don’t want to put my email address on this site. If there was a way to contact you, I would also be happy to talk to you as an LDS person, a mom and a Democrat.

  26. WillF on December 7, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Valerie – What you said about not knowing about Harry Reid’s speech puzzles me as well, but for different reasons. What I don’t understand is why journalists decide to bring some things to public attention and not others.

    What I find particularly find odd (and ironic) is that Harry Reid, who is already elected and one of the highest ranking officials in our government, gives a speech on faith that goes into detail about his Mormon beliefs and the mainstream media ignores it. It is as if they decide the story will not resonate because it doesn’t fit their narrative on Mormons.

    We can’t exactly choose what grabs the attention of the public — that is really more up to the public and to the media that has the power to grab people’s attention. Harry Reid’s speech could have been covered just as easily as Mitt Romney’s — the intended audience may have been different, but with the flattening of media making it just as available, it shouldn’t make a difference.

  27. valerie on December 7, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Chad S. – thanks for the invitation to talk. I will email you.

    Sherri, I live in Maryland. I’d be happy for you to contact me. Mormonism is such a western American influenced religion that it’s not so much a part of landscape the farther east you go.

    WillF – I agree with you. The media likes to portray the Mormon church as entirely right wing. But I wonder since the church as an instution is politically neutral why more isn’t done to counter act those ideas.

    Harry Reid strikes me a quiter sort anyway. The louder and more strident voices will always get more press.

  28. David H. Sundwall on December 7, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    valerie,

    I live in Silver Spring, MD. If you have questions what the church is like in Maryland or where you can go in the area for a better idea, I’d be happy to be of help too.

    You can contact me if you wish by clicking on my name and getting my email from my blog.

    Good luck.

  29. chads on December 7, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Valerie,

    I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia (Salisbury and Chincoteague Island), and I periodically go back to Baltimore for school. I look forward to communicating with you.

  30. Bob on December 7, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    #22: Cindyf, As long as there are Math tests….. there will be prayers in public schools.

  31. Bruce Nielson on December 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Valerie,

    I\’d love to interact with you to. Do you have a way I can contact you? Guess it\’s not a good idea to put emails on a blog.

    Oh by the way, hi everyone. I\’m brand new. I found this blog by reading Bushman\’s book \”On the Road with Joseph Smith.\”

    Bruce

  32. Jason J on December 7, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Several good points so far.

    I would only add that the Reed Smoot examples took place in a vastly different era, a time when Mormons did not think you had to vote Republican to get a temple recommend. There were far more Democrats among the rank and file of the church than today. So perhaps the Smoot era does not represent political opinion in the church today.

    I see two reasons for the too prevalent view that Mormons have to vote Republican: 1) abortion – it changed things for many religious people, and (2) Ezra Taft Benson. I was not even born yet when President Benson was playing politics, but it sounds like he led a lot of Mormons very far to the right politically. We certainly owe a lot to President Benson as a prophet, but he is probably also somewhat responsible for the nearly monolithic conservatism of the church’s membership.

    As a side note, I am new to posting on the blog. To avoid confusion, I almost always hold my nose and vote Republican myself, but I don’t think that it is the “only true and living party on the face of the whole earth.” I vote largely based on what I think works practically.

  33. Dave on December 7, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Welcome to the new commenters. We don’t generally focus on politics at T&S, but this is an unusual week. Jason, I’d agree that abortion has had a rather polarizing effect on party politics, but it operates across all denominations, not just on LDS voters. It’s really hard to assess the impact that Elder Benson had on LDS political views. If anything, the episode reinforces the wisdom of the neutrality policy.

  34. Bruce Nielson on December 7, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Here’s an idea, Valerie, if you are interested in contacting me. You can go to this website: http://www.onlineroleplayer.com and use the contact link. I’ll be able to get the email…. hopefully… :)

  35. Rob on December 7, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Valerie, the LDS church is growing very quickly among African Americans in Philly, and other inner cities here in the Mid-Atlantic. You should be able to find plenty of folks to talk to. Try finding the closest congregation in your area here.

  36. ed johnson on December 7, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    Here’s what President Hinckley had to say on this issue.

    On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church.

    How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position

    In other words: Mormons are not monolithic, but on issues where the church takes a position, they should be monolithic.

  37. Bruce Nielson on December 7, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    I have a problem with the use of the word “monolithic” here. It’s a word with a negative connotation. If the question being posed here were reworded, it would take on a whole new meaning. Doesn’t monolithic, as we seem to be using it, really just mean “we agree” on some given point?

    Is agreement or being united in purpose a bad thing? Well, it is if the point a group is united on is itself bad. But if it’s a good point, it would be a good thing. (Think, for example, of being “monolithic” against slavery, for example.)

    Should Mormons be ‘agreed’? Why yes, or many topics! Should we all be agreed in our belief in God? Should we all be agreed in our desire to keep the commandments of God? Of course!

    Let’s stretch a bit further. Should we all be agreed that abortion is immoral except in the case of incest, rape, or heath of the Mother being at risk? Yes, we should. Does that united belief translated to a united political view on how abortion laws should be made? Clearly not.

    So Mormons should indeed be “agreed” (i.e. monolithic) on many points, even if we fall short of this goal.

    But even these statement seems to me to miss the real point: Is this even a Mormon issue at all? I don’t think so. Isn’t the whole point campaigning in the public sphere in fact an attempt at getting more people to be “monolithic” with you? Of course it is. Is that a bad thing? Note in the slightest. Every time you try to convince someone that something you believe is better than the alternative, you are encouraging them to be “monolithic” with you. It doesn’t matter if we are talking religion, politics, law, or even the top 40.

    Likewise, what would be the point of having a religion if not to form a group of people with similar beliefs on some set of subjects? What would be the point of having political parties? What would be the point of having any groups at all? Being “united” is THE GOAL of all these groups.

    So let’s not have any more silly talk of Mormons being “monolithic” or “not monolithic” or “should be monolithic” without a bit of clarity on what topic we are talking about and if it’s a topic we should be united on or not.

  38. Dave on December 7, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Good point, Ed. Still, I’d argue that counsel does not apply to elected officials. That is an exception explicitly recognized by the Church. Here is a quote from the newly-emphasized neutrality policy right off of LDS.org:

    Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position.

    I’m not sure they could make their point any more clearly.

  39. ed johnson on December 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Dave, is that a positive statement or a normative one? It sounds to me like they are just describing the situation, that elected leaders “may” disagree, not that God is giving them a special exemption from following the prophet. So I think the statement is not only ambiguous, but deliberately so.

    I’m sure you could also find statements from the church saying that individual members are free to vote how they choose. Yet the quote I posted from President Hinckley was specifically about a case where the members failed to vote for the church’s position, and about how this showed a lack of loyalty and faithfulness.

  40. Dave on December 7, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    But Ed, the fact that the statement I quoted is included in the LDS neutrality statement really belies your reading. The full statement recognizes that elected officials who happen to be LDS have responsibilities, for example, to the voters who elected them — and those voters will sometimes have legitimate policy interests that conflict with stated LDS positions. That’s a justifiable reason for elected LDS officials to take a different position.

    To suggest that the LDS statement is, in fact, questioning the loyalty or faithfulness of elected officials who are LDS who act just as they are authorized to do in the LDS statement is really an untenable position. The neutrality statement really does mean what it says.

  41. ed johnson on December 7, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Dave, now that I read the full statement in context, I think I agree with your reading. The full quote:

    Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.

    Also, I think I now see a way to reconcile this with the Hinckley quote I posted earlier. Politicians get an “exemption” because they face a couple of constraints that the voters on prohibition did not: they have a duty to represent their constituents, and they have to make trade-offs between competing political goals.

  42. Bob on December 7, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Wow! the last time ‘monolithic’ got so much ink, it was monolithic Communists. (It turned out they weren’t )

  43. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I think the statement is probably meant to say what Dave B. interpretes it, but it doesn’t actually say that. It says that officials will have a choice to make once the Church speaks to them, which is, of course, true. The Church doesn’t have microchips installed in our brain.

    The question is whether one can rightly choose to defy the Church, which the statement doesn’t say.

  44. JKC on December 8, 2007 at 10:51 am

    “Dave, is that a positive statement or a normative one? It sounds to me like they are just describing the situation, that elected leaders “may” disagree, not that God is giving them a special exemption from following the prophet. So I think the statement is not only ambiguous, but deliberately so.”

    I don’t think the positive/normative distinction makes much sense in the context of the church. The church almost always writes is policies as descriptions rather than imperatives. Almost the entire handbook is uses this language.

  45. DavidH on December 8, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    An elected Mormon public official may choose to vote in accordance with the wishes of his or her constituency–even when it opposes the official statements of the Brethren–and not be formally disciplined by the Church. I do not think that is an “eternal principle”, but a practical one. If the Church taught otherwise, then why should anyone, except an orthodox Mormon, vote for a Mormon candidate.

    A different question, though, is whether the Mormon public official can vote against the express counsel of the Brethren (which implicitly represents God’s will) without jeopardizing his or her eternal salvation or exaltation. I think the offical can, but I suspect that many of my co-religionists believe that he or she cannot.

  46. Ugly Mahana on December 8, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I think the Church statement makes clear that the Church will not impose Church sanctions on politicians who take positions with which Church leadership disagrees. As Adam pointed out, the statement says nothing about the eternal liablilty of taking a stand with which the Church disagrees. However, silence on this point implies that eternal liability is an issue between the politician and God, not between the politician, the Church, and God. I think that is about right, too.

  47. Ray on December 8, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Sometimes we just think too much.

  48. Ugly Mahana on December 8, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Amen!

  49. Bob on December 8, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    #47: “Sometimes we just think too much.” If we stop thinking…we will then become….‘monolithic’!

  50. Bob on December 8, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    #47: Were you referring to the two “I think(s) in #46? (grin)

  51. Ardis Parshall on December 8, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    I agree with Ray in 47, who was probably referring to the immediately previous few comments. It’s like the old “I’ll pick A instead of B. Except that you probably *want* me to pick A, so I’ll pick B. But what if you were one step ahead of me and *knew* that’s what I’d pick? I’d better pick A instead. But then you probably knew I would think ahead this way, so I’ll pick B. But what if …” Sometimes we really DO think too much.

  52. Jacob M on December 8, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Ardis, you just reminded me of the argument in “Princess Bride” as to which cup to drink from.

  53. Bob on December 8, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    #51: So what do you replace thinking with? I like John Wooden”s: ” If everyone is thinking the same, then only one guy is doing the thinking.”
    I will go with sometimes our thinking is poor.

  54. Bob on December 8, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    #52: Damn! I knew I should have gone with “Princess Bride” over John Wooden…what was I thinking?!

  55. Jacob M on December 8, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    54 – Too much, evidently.

  56. Ardis Parshall on December 8, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Princess Bride … Star Trek … Barney Fife … Stargate … Leave it to Beaver … take your pick.

    (Somebody needs to put up a new post, huh? I think — too much? — that we’ve run out of things to say on the current posts.)

  57. Ray on December 8, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Fwiw, anytime The Princess Bride enters a conversation, ultimate understanding has been reached.

  58. Bob on December 8, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    #55: Good Answer
    #56″ Star Trek? No, No..The Borg! We can now REALLY start to talk about ” ‘monolithic’!!

  59. Y Stephenson on December 9, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Jason J. There are a still many Mormons who don’t believe they have to vote Republican to get a temple recommend. They usually hide though because so many of their peers would like it to be that way.

    I just read an article that seemed rather insightful about the reasons behind the fear. It is not that the church is monolithic and tells everyone what to think and how to vote. It is because the church proselytes in the United States and they are afraid a Mormon President would use the prestige of the office to make converts and doom even more people to hell. Because the President of the US is a world leader this influence could be wielded to the good of the church worldwide. In a word they believe a Mormon president would be the Antichrist.

  60. Dave on December 9, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    YS, you were sounding good until the Antichrist part. I’ve heard a lot of reasons not to vote for Romney, but not that one. I read the article, and I don’t recall the A-word coming up.

  61. Y Stephenson on December 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Dave, No, that word didn’t come up. That was my word. So, just disregard that when it bothers you. I’ve recently done reading on the end time beliefs of some that have been around for a long time and that is where I got that word. It wasn’t in the article. The article did say that 170 to 180 years of bad feelings is difficult to overcome.

  62. Bob on December 9, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    #61: “reading on the end time beliefs of some that have been around for a long time.. “. (That one’s is hard to leave alone).
    Romney’s speech was good. But if this come down to who is the best Preacher, Obama wins over Romney, Huckabee, or Hillery.