Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Gloves, They Are Coming Off When It Comes to Faith

First, let me begin by saying that my views are in no way affiliated with John McCain's official campaign.

In recent weeks, much hay has been made over whether to include discussions of Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. True, members of the McCain and Giuliani camps have engaged in rather bigoted criticism of the Mormon faith, and have recanted. The Romney campaign has done well to minimize the issue of Mitt's Mormonism by associating any critique as tantamount to "bigotry". What is all this hubbub about?

It is about an open society. Americans have questions about Mormonism because for some time, the Mormon faith has been rather secretive. As a mere tourist, I could enter St. Peter's in Rome or any evangelical church with open arms; I do not have to be a member. However, a "non-Mormon" cannot enter the Temple in Salt Lake. Should your non-Mormon child marry a Mormon, you will not be able to witness the wedding ceremony in the temple. In an open society, citizens are skeptical of such secrecy. Such secrets are the antithesis to an open society like ours, and are bound to raise questions. That is why, when one staffer calls Mormonism a cult, or another person denounces Romney's faith, it is out of frustration.

Romney himself had a chance to bury the issue a few weeks ago, when he was asked point blank about his Mormonism. I will repeat this observation from a previous post:

"....he eluded to Kennedy not being a Catholic running for president, but an American…and [Romney] said “and I am a Mormon”. Romney would not go as far as saying 'I am not a Mormon running for president, but an American running for president'".

Romney cannot, by the rules of his own faith, "denounce" his Mormonism. Nor should he have to. However, he cannot assure the country that his secretive faith can or cannot influence his decision making. If this position matters in determining your vote, then Romney continues to have some explaining to do. Recent polls suggest 28% of Americans will not vote for a Mormon to be president. When over one-fourth of the electorate is skeptical, whether it be bigotry, bias, questions, intrigue or whatever, you have a problem with openness.

The Romney camp is trying to quash any criticism or even intellectual curiosity about the Mormon faith as "bigotry". Romney himself went as far as to label Al Sharpton as one of those "Mormon Bigots", in a vain attempt to label any critic of Mormonism as basically "Al Sharpton"...a kiss of death for most Republicans. Rather than be associated with Al Sharpton in a presidential primary, the other candidates hopefully will back off the Mormon Question.

Americans are tired of secrecy in government. Congress is enjoying an all-time low approval rating. So is the president, as the result of a secretive administration. If we cannot have an open discussion about religion in the United States under a Romney presidency, where will the secrecy end?


Laird said...

It might surprise you david but many, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the mormons) also cannot enter the temple. It is not just so for non-members. Shame on you for trying to tie the requirements to Presidency of the United States to ones faith. What the requirements for Presidency should be based on ones ability to lead the country. Mitt Romney pulled the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics from financial ruin to be very successful, has successfuly governed a very liberal state, Massachussetts, and has owned and operated a venture capital business. We are voiting for one to run this country, not for a Pastor, Priest, Nun, or a Sunday School teacher.

David G. Henry said...

I couldn't agree more. But your comment proves my point that we cannot have a discussion on the issue itself, and that the defense of the Mormons usually points back to highlighting the good stuff. As I said, in an open society we have questions. And when these questions are brushed aside, we have more questions. A faith that is so secretive is bound to draw some questions. When Lieberman balanced the ticket in 2000, the country enjoyed a veritable seminar on Judaism. Should we not expect, for the sake of understanding, a similar exploration into what makes a candidate "tick"?

I never made the claim that there be any requirement to the presidency, except perhaps, some honesty in the matter. We are voting for someone to run this country, but if the secrets begin here, where do they end?

Adam G Partridge said...

A better analogy would be whether a non Catholic or even a Catholic can walk unimpeded into all areas of the Vatican. (Certainly ANYONE can enter into ANY Mormon church-LDS temples, like the vatican for Catholics, is not the typical worship place)
Since the answer is no, then I reckon it's okay to attack a Catholic candidate because there are areas of the vatican that are not available to the public, nobody knows what goes on there and the canidate did not explain these secrets to your satisfaction?
Criticism or intellectual curiousity is fine, but when reporters or campaign hacks exclusively ask or attack one candidate based on religion and not the others, by definition that is bigoted. If McCain is asked to defend the Angican church (either doctrine or previous actions), Guilliani to defend Catholic doctrines (etc.) then such inquisitions of Romney will not be so bigoted because other candidates are getting the same treatment.

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BTW...I am a volunteer for the McCain Campaign up in New Hampshire.

David G. Henry said...

For Adam, perhaps the analogy was too simplistic. However, there is a difference between some access to the general public and "no access". Of course, this is besides the point of why it is, that any questions about the influence of faith are just considered "off limits". when you stand for public office, you are open to public scrutiny. And when you hope to represent the entire country, it would be nice to know where you stand on some issues....and when asked if your participation in any club, church, or business venture might adversely impact your decision making as president...all Romney would have to had said is "I am not a Mormon running for president, but an American running for president...ala JFK. Unfortunately, Mormons do not enjoy anyone questioning their oblique practices to such a degree, that any inquisitiveness is treated rather hostile.

Adam G Partridge said...

Well there is "some access" to the LDS temples; the public can go on temple grounds, go inside the visitor center, even tour the entire temple before it's dedicated, etc., but I wouldn't say that was beyond the point if the essential point of this post is; if your religion has secret aspects to it, than it's fair game to criticize(which is what I took this post to be saying).
If you now want to change the meaning of this post to: we should be allowed to question everything about a candidate who is running for president (regardless of the secrecy of the organization), I wouldn't necessarily disagree. It's only when you question ONE THING about one candidate (particularly if the one thing is religion), that there becomes a problem. For example, why don't you also require McCain to say that he is not running for Anglican in Chief?
And please cite me one instance where someone in the Romney campaign said anything like "any questions about the influence of faith are just considered 'off limits'." Romney speaks about how his faith informs his values ALL the time.
What you're really doing is asking Romney to do two conflicting things: (1) you want him to explain and teach the Nation about the 'secret' Mormon doctrines (something you nor anyone else has not required of any other candidate), while at the same time (2) 'just say' he's not a Mormon running for president, but an American running for president.
Incidentally, to this last point, I wonder if it would relieve you to learn that Romney has said about a million times "I'm running for Commander in Chief, not Pastor or Theologian in Chief." Why is that not close enough to the magic words you're requiring?
Lastly, would you agree that ‘questions about the influence of faith’ is qualitatively different than attempting to link the Mormon church to Hamas and Mormon women to the Taliban, like the McCain staffer did? I mean how can you seriously defend that? If a Romney staffer attempted to link the Anglican church to Al Quada, would you find that to be a legitimate question about ‘the influence of faith’? If you did, I guess you’d be consistent.

David G. Henry said...

Let's put this commentary in perspective, Adam. According to your own info, you are an LDS and probably a Romney supporter (and by the way, are in California...this is an Indiana site).

The only thing I have to say really is that charging "inconsistancy" is a red herring...Here I am asking for some sunshine into a question that has been asked in the media...should Mitt's Mormonism matter? And the truth is, when there are so many questions behind the secrets of a small denomination of Christianity, I have to support some investigation.

Let the sunshine in!

It seems to me that every response has been something like "well, we should ask this question of all the candidates, shouldn't we?" Well, sure. However, unlike Baptism, Catholicism, and protestants, there are few questions left to ask on the specifics of their faiths. However, I think many seek to know more about how as you say, Mitt's faith informs his values. However, to make blanket bigotry claims when someone raises some concerns is to me, not being very open. Sure, Romney has explained the basics, much in the same way missionaries do. But how about some of the tougher the abrupt course corrections in doctrine (African-Americans, Polygamy), "mountain meadows" the Utah War, baptism of the dead (including Holocaust victims that are Jewish)...these things are legit questions.

Again, if these values "inform" Mitt's thinking, and these values are misunderstood by the electorate, they deserve to be aired out I should think. Certainly any value set that is used by any candidate deserves some explaination. However, Mitt has problems with consistant value keeping (ie Kerry-like flipflopping) outside of this argument that can be taken to task. This issue, which is so important to Romney, it follows, is important to the nation as well.

Savea said...

Certain ordinances performed in the Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are considered sacred, not secret. Only qualified members are allowed in the Temples. These qualifications include paying a full tithe and keeping the commandments of God. Many members of the church don't pass that, and they understand the reason. Certain areas in the old Temples/Tabernacles of Israel were not open to the public.

Ignorance can easily be resolved if people like you go to the right source, but if you don't believe the right source, then take your problem straight to God through prayer and fasting. If you seek these things with humility and a sincere heart, you may receive an answer right away or it make take weeks, months, or even years. Have faith and the truth shall revealed to you.

Why don't you say something about Harry Reid who's also a Mormon? And how about Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson and Mazie Hirono who are both Buddists, or even Obama's controversial religion?

Sadly, but it seems you've already made up your mind by your replies.

David G. Henry said...

If by mking up my mind on candidates, I am leaning obviously to McCain. If by making up my mind about LDS, no I have not.

There is a significant number of voters that have some reservations about voting for a Mormon. This is not me speaking, but the polls. I have to believe that it is because of the secrecy/confusion.

Even if that issue is resolved for voters, what is not resolved is why there is a blanket attack of bigotry/silence on the matter in the press and seemingly, from the Romney camp. If all was well in the Romney world, we would not be having this discussion at all. Trying to minimize it only brings more questions, hence the need for "sunshine".

Adam G Partridge said...

I hope you realize that you are arguing at least two things, one of which I agree and one I don't.
The first argument you make is something I whole heartedly agree with. I support all the investigation of the LDS church you want; as a member of the LDS church I encourage and welcome it. In fact we call those who study our church investigators. I have no problem with shedding sunshine on any aspect of Mormon theology or Mormon history. So please be clear, neither Romney nor his supporters (and yes I am leaning his way, though I haven't quite made the leap to saying I endorse him yet) have said that we don't want people investigating the LDS church and people. Our church sends out tens of thousands of missionaries every year to try to spread the sunshine around.
It's your second point that is problematic; you want ROMNEY to clear up your (and the nation's) ignorance of Mormon theology and history, again, something you don't require of any other candidate. Can you imagine a press conference where Romney tries to apoligize for the Mountain Meadows massacre or explains why we do baptism for the dead? Not only would that be wierd but totally inappropriate.
If that doesn't seem inappropriate to you than imagine Guilliani trying to explain the doctrine of transubstantiation or McCain explaining why the Church of England played an institutionalized role in American slavery?
I think such detailed explaination of not how someone's faith informs their values but expositions on church history and theology go above and beyond "some explaination" of one's values. I think at lease one problem with your argument is that you conflate values with theology, when in fact they are two totally different animals.
So in sum, if you want sunshine into LDS theology and history, go to the church's website ( or even e-mail me if you really want to know about the church. But requiring any canidate to be the spokesperson for their religion is a can of worms I really don't think you want to open.
P.S: I love McCain. I love all four of the front runners in fact; I really think the GOP has an embarrassment of riches in 2008. I just don't think it's necessary to make one candidate a spokesperson for their religion.

David G. Henry said...

I understand there are two arguments here. While I can agree that no candidate should be a spokesperson for his theology, Romney has been blessed/cursed with this role by the media. (Plus, has he not held positions of leadership in the church anyway...akin to a minister? But this is besides the point)

If the answer to this unwanted calling is to just brush it under the rug as "privacy", a unfair standard, or the like, I just cannot see that argument settling the issue for so many voters who have reservations about Romney.

Adam G Partridge said...

I don't think any on the Romney camp is arguing "privacy", but asking Romney to do things they are not asking any other candidate to do based on his religion. I think this latter argument WILL in fact win over many voters who have questions about Romney. I do not think it will necessarily win over voters who have questions about Mormonism. And that's the distinction I think people should make; Romney is not the personification of the Mormon church.

David G. Henry said...

No, it is not quote-unquote an argument for "privacy", but when the argument is that since no one else has been asked about their faith (save for Brownback and Huckabee on Creationism), then why should Romney? So, the answer to the intrigue is pretty much "don't require this of me". That sounds a lot like a plea for privacy.

While your point on the issue of this question's fairness and how it might sway voters is valid enough, claiming that Romney is not a personification of the church is shortsighted.

(Was he not a Bishop of a Ward and later a president of 14 Boston Wards...this seems to make him have some least compared to other denominations...but do not focus on this point...I only mention the fact of the matter)

Whether he wants that mantle or not, the media (not me) has given that title to him, and is unlikely to relent on that notion because it is a headline grabber (not for me, but consumers)

I agree wholeheartedly that religion is not a litmus test for the Presidency. But as I continue to stress, not all questions are bigoted attacks, and some issues are so foreign to the majority of Americans that some clarity might just bury this matter once and for all.

Like all good republicans, the GOP nominee will enjoy the support of the party whether Anglican, Catholic, Baptist or Mormon. But primaries are always a place in politics where we cannibalize each other. I do not condone the bigotry of some staffers, but I have to keep pressing the fact that trying to dismiss anything that is so important to the character of a candidate will just raise more questions.

byu1980 said...

From your initial comments:
"However, a "non-Mormon" cannot enter the Temple in Salt Lake. Should your non-Mormon child marry a Mormon, you will not be able to witness the wedding ceremony in the temple."

Let's be factual--a non-Mormon family whose childe marries a Mormon in an LDS temple is NOT a non-Mormon. He/she must have joined the Church, and satisfied stringent worthiness requirements to be able to be married in the temple. No non-Mormon child of ANY family would be able to be married there.

The Church leadership has stressed many times, and not beginning with Mitt Romney's candidacy, that temple ordinances are sacred, not secret. I join Adam in his offer to have you investigate the Church. If you refuse, such is your right according to the principle of free agency.

Palaytia Dreams said...

This is way out of my comfort zone to post, but I have to because all I see is many many people giving you, David, all the material you could ever need to find out these "secret things" that Mr. Romney is doing.

ASK...that's all you have to do. There are no "secrets" in the Church.

You want to know what goes on in the Temples, get a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon or the Bible. All of which are free and available to you online.

Nothing in the Church is secret, but Sacred. Any member who really wants to go to the Temple can as long as they are worthy.

What's so wrong with having Standards?

It's the media that twists and taints things of this sort and it makes me sad.

I'm sure many more people will direct you to or where you can find just about anything, save what you really want and I'm sorry you aren't entitled to at this point in your life.

That's not to say you can't have it, just, well until you become a member in good standing it's not available.

Jesus taught in parables so only those ready to learn and understand would be held accountable for the knowledge He was giving.

Same for the Temples sir. Only they are for those that are ready.

It's liken to college. Not everyone can get in just because they have a highschool diploma (if we're talking about a GOOD college with a high standard) they have to have met a certain criteria to even apply and I'm sure you can appreciate that.

Oh and no, most colleges are not "secretive" about what they teach...but some things Sir, are just Sacred.

I wish the world could understand, but alas, they won't because everyone now thinks they are privy to any and all information.

Everyone has the same opportunity to learn, not everyone is going to take it. It's those who do not aspire to a "higher education" that make it hard for the rest.


David G. Henry said...

The last thing I wanted this blog to become is a forum for airing out Mormonism, Anti-Mormonism, etc. The only real question presented is why some voters, almost 1 of 3 voters, might have reservations about voting for someone who seems to be hiding parts of his faith.

From what I can tell, all the respondants have been LDS members. I cannot compete with your evangelism. I cannot recommend going to one source for all the answers on this topic..esp. when that source is the church itself. All of you are well aware of the criticisms of your faith as well as the criticisms of protestants, Catholics, etc.

This post is about the politics of faith, not the faith itself. And we do not live in a world (unfortunately) where they are separate. Neither does the LDS. For you know your church history..and from Joseph Smith candidacy for President to the Utah War, you know this is not the first time LDS has been in the political crossfire. Is it fair?


However, it is an issue worth discussing.

This BLOG is a blog of support for one candidate for president. And that candidate is John McCain. He does not support what I am saying here, but I am posting this article because I really think that we cannot ignore articles of faith just because we do not want the media to discuss them. We have to get to a place where we can satisfy the voters' intrigue. By closing those doors and pointing to the evangelical wing of LDS as a source of knowledge is probably not the best course.

Academic inquiry might be a better approach.