Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Newsweek on Mitt Romney: Personal Belief and Presidency

The sub-title of this most recent Newsweek article “Voters can't connect with a candidate they feel they don't know. Mitt Romney has to decide how much he wants to share,” is evidence of an unfortunate misunderstanding about LDS Doctrine with regard to the responsibility of a an LDS member who serves in public office. A member of the LDS Church is expected to live up to his personal and religious beliefs in any and all circumstances but a public servant is admonished never to legally force or impose those beliefs on a majority who do not share those beliefs (Mosiah 29: 26).

Mitt has been clear that he doesn’t want to talk about the LDS Church but Newsweek claims, “Romney has downplayed both his religion and his own family history.” The LDS Church is not running for the presidency—Mitt Romney is. Jesus Christ taught that believers should not “cast their pearls before swine.” LDS members do not interpret this to mean that non-LDS are "swine" but that there is an appropriate place and time to speak of sacred matters. LDS hold their beliefs sacred but not secret. If a person wants to learn about the LDS faith, they are invited to speak to LDS missionaries who are appointed by the church to teach the LDS message.

Newsweek criticizes Romney for not reminiscing with a reporter about his attendance at an old LDS church in Pontiac, MI at the age of 10. I’m not sure I could say much about my membership in the LDS church before age 10 except for my baptism day. Maybe he could have talked about his happy childhood but there is nothing special about an LDS church building itself. They’re all the same. That’s why LDS members say they can go anywhere in the world and hear the exact same gospel message and feel the exact same Spirit. For LDS members, the joy comes from Christ, His gospel, and fellowship with the saints, and not the building.

Newsweek says, “Mindful of the sway of evangelical Christians over the GOP base, he has positioned himself as the candidate with conservative principles and strong faith, even adopting evangelical language in calling Jesus Christ his "personal savior" (vernacular not generally used by members of the Mormon Church).”

Yes, Mitt wants the support of the evangelicals. But to say that members of the Mormon Church don’t generally call Christ our “personal savior” is inexcusable. Other than the phrase “my personal savior” being grammatically redundant, every testimony given of Jesus of Nazareth from Joseph Smith, through all the Apostles and Prophets down to the prayers given by LDS members at home or over the pulpit has contained the confession of belief that Jesus is the Christ, Savior, and Redeemer.

Mitt’s response to the “Baptism for the dead” question with the remark, "I have in my life, but I haven't recently" is more a reflection that these baptisms are more generally done by LDS adolescents (which the article explains later on) than Mitt trying to distance himself from his religion.

Newsweek claims that “Romney has been unable to shake his authenticity problem,” calling Mitt a “flip-flopper" for his “all-too-convenient conservative-conversion” with regard to gay rights and abortion. When Mitt ran for governor of Massachusetts, he knew the majority of the electorate was pro-choice. It should be well known to the media from the famous Reed Smoot hearings that LDS Doctrine holds that LDS leadership and members need not impose their personal or religious beliefs on the majority. We call that “unrighteous dominion,” which is expressly forbidden in our Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 121: 37, 39).

So, there is nothing, which detracts from Romney’s faith for him to say when he was running for Governor of a state where a majority of it’s residents are of a liberal political ideology that, as governor, he wouldn’t try to impose his personal belief’s on his constituency by overturning Roe v. Wade. Although at the same time, as governor, he fought hard to preserve the status quo and oppose a vocal minority who sought to propagate an ideology of death against the wishes of the majority of his constituency.

The account of the exchange student Tito Cortella who lived with the Romney’s is a profound example that is in stark contradiction to the author’s conclusions. Tito recounts that the Romney’s strongly encouraged him to attend the local Catholic Church and allowed him to smoke in his room. Other clear examples of this principle are beautifully described in the article including how the Romney’s kept alcohol in their home for guests and how Romney approved an investment in a media company which also included R-rated material. Romney approved the deal but did not invest any of his personal money.

Now that Romney is running for President, his constituency shares his personal ideology of life. Therefore he can, without reservation, run a campaign based on that ideology. This is not Romney re-inventing himself. This is a man who is running on the principle that a leader should not impose his ideology on others but he should persuade them to do well by patience, perseverance, and example.

(The LDS Church encourages its members to be politically active but does not support a particular party or candidate, even if he happens to be LDS. But don't be surprised if Romney win's Utah)


R. Gary said...

American statesman Henry Clay (1777-1852) said he would "rather be right than president." Mitt Romney, on the other hand (as you have clearly demonstrated), is an unprincipled politician who would rather be president and not talk about right or wrong.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

In response to R. Gary's comment, I'd have to say I agree with BRoz here.

There is a clear difference between living your own beliefs and imposing them on others.

Agency is key here, and I believe brother Romney has done a wonderful job in preserving that freedom to everyone without setting aside his own personal morals and beliefs.

Great post, BRoz. I love reading your stuff.

BRoz said...

The media tried to worry the public that a Mormon president would impose his personal views on the majority. They tried to worry the public that an LDS president would be controlled by the Mormon prophet.

Now that there is clear evidence that an LDS govenor like Mitt Romney and an LDS senator like Harry Reid are not controlled by the LDS chruch, they still criticize.

I'm not sure the media really cares about the LDS church. I think they just want to bring out and focus on differences between the LDS faith and other demononational Christian religions. I don't think it is disingenous for Romney to focus on commonalities and what makes LDS Christians similar to evangelical Christians than focusing on differences. The ability to focus on common beliefs is a skill that all great leader must possess.