Mormons and the Beltway

Here’s a long CNN article on the growing Mormon influence in the Beltway. Pretty much an all-purpose article on the intersection of Mormon and politics from the time of Joseph Smith to now.

Heres a section that seems interesting to discuss:

Mormon experts say the churchs support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. governments refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.

And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.

The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, Californias gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.

Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.

I would argue that since the 1980s, when Mormons started entering the government en masse — that while the lobbying isnt born from the LDS hierarchy — its still church-based given how Mormon culture functions. The top tiers of LDS hierarchy are considered directly connected to God. Basically, the hierarchy doesnt have to give orders because

The members will go to the hierarchy instead. This other article talks about Romneys frequent travels to Salt Lake when in Massachusetts, making sure he was still in good standing with the Church after having to talk about such things as equality for gays in order to get elected.

From the latter article:

Gordon Hinckley, the president and prophet with decades of ties to the Romney family (he and Mitts father, George, went to high school together), reportedly found the frequency and dithering, as Scott put it, a little tiresome.

heh.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Angela says:

    President Benson certainly had an intimate relationship with the government when he was alive. Granted that was a long time ago, but he was instrumental in helping form the earliest wards and stakes in our area.

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  2. 2
    chanson says:

    Regarding your main quote — I agree that it’s an interesting point to discuss.

    Frankly, I think that is exactly what the CoJCoL-dS PR department would like to have the mainstream press saying. I don’t think they could have hit it more exactly on this nose if church PR had composed that passage themselves and given it to CNN. And knowing the modern media’s inclination to simply relay press releases, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it turns out that it actually was written by church PR employees in the COB.

    As Angela points out @1, the late Church President ETB was quite politically active. He stirred up a bit of controversy by preaching John Birch Society anti-Communist ideas from the pulpit as a General Authority. But perhaps to the church, labeling people communists is a “moral issue” not a political one…?

    It’s probably true that “Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do” — but just because they do it differently, doesn’t mean they do it less.

       0 likes

  3. 3
    Alan says:

    Yes, good points. The belief of “separation of church and state” seems to come up for Mormon officials only when it comes to the state somehow negatively affecting the church, rather than also vice versa. When the Church acts in the form of the membership being politically active (church affecting the state), including the rarer cases when the hierarchy does involve itself in lobbying/voting (Proposition 8), it’s seen as inherently benevolent.

    Of course, it’s hard to make a case that Mormons participating in democracy, being in government positions, lobbying, etc, is inherently bad and that they shouldn’t do it. Somehow, though, I doubt Romney would make a pronouncement like Kennedy’s in 1960 and still consider himself a good Mormon:

    Whatever issue may come before me as President … I will make my decision in accordance with … what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.

    For Romney, the Church hierarchy wouldn’t be viewed as an “outside” religious pressure… adherence to it is inside his head.

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  4. 4
    chanson says:

    Naturally, I don’t think that Mormons participating in democracy is a bad thing. I just think that the above pull quote from the article represents poor analysis of the actual situation. One could just as easily say the following:

    Mormon experts say the churchs strong opposition to governmental interference in family and lifestyle choices is born of the U.S. governments attempts to use Christian morality arguments to persecute early Mormons on the basis of their non-traditional families.

    And one would be just as wrong, and for essentially the same reason: The CoJCoL-dS is still profoundly influenced by its early history, but it has reinvented itself culturally in many interesting (and dramatic) ways.

       0 likes

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