Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
ďSo youíre a Mormon. I guess youíre voting for Mitt Romney, then.Ē Well, actually, I havenít chosen a candidate yet, but I never choose any candidate based on his religion, whether itís mine or someone elseís. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the correct name for the Church, is officially neutral. Mitt Romney doesnít get mentioned over the pulpit. He isnít invited to preach on Sundays as Governor Huckabee is. Our leaders donít hold meetings to teach us how to campaign for him, as do the churches of some other candidates. Do we talk about him? Sure, but not on Sunday. On our own time heís a hot topic and emotions run high, both for and against him.
There are Mormons who feel he will share their values, regardless of his stand in the past, and those who resent that he hasnít always shared our values. There are Mormons who feel his stand on immigration is law-abiding, and there are those who feel it isnít humanitarian. There are Mormons who want Romney to do well to counter the belief that we canít (or shouldnít) be an important part of public life, and others who donít want the church to get the blame if he isnít a good president. And so, despite what happened in Nevada, nation-wide and world-wide, the Mormons are a diverse group, with strong regional and personal differences. Is there anything the analysts can count on when they try to figure out how Mormons vote?
Yes. First, they can presume we never vote for someone just because heís a Mormon. Mormons who would vote for Governor Romney would never vote for Senator Reid, even though heís also LDS. In July of 2007, the Deseret News explained that four of the sixteen Mormons serving in Congress were Democrats. Of the remaining members, only four had endorsed Mitt Romney. Two endorsed Senator McCain and the others had not yet committed.
They can also count on how Mormons make a decision. Weíre taught to make all decisions essentially the same way. The first step is to identify the problem, in this case who to vote for. The second step is to pray that the decision making process will be guided by God and that weíll recognize the answer. The third step is to study the problem, which would mean to study each candidate and evaluate worthiness to serve as president, measuring them against what we personally believe (which may not be what every other Mormon believes, since most political issues arenít covered by the church.) Then we make a choice and ask God if our choice was correct. Finally, we act on the decisionówe vote.
Now, some may ask if that means all Mormons who pray for a decision should come to the same conclusion. To believe this would be to suggest God has already decided who should run the country. It isnít that simple. God doesnít represent, weíre taught, any single party, (which is why Senator Reid is a Democratic senator and a Mormon at the same time) nor does He endorse candidates. Instead, itís likely several of the people running for office would be acceptable leaders of our country. Weíre only asking God to be sure our choice is one of them. Itís our personal study that really matters. The prayer just keeps us from inadvertently voting for someone evil.
How does my faith define my voting on a personal level? There are certain political positions I consider to be religious truths. When I evaluate a candidate, I examine his or her beliefs about those subjects. Those include family, moral, and humanitarian issues. I do pay attention to the religions of the candidates, but Iím interested in knowing if they live the religion they claim. To me, that demonstrates honor. I donít expect them to be perfect, but I do want to see a connection. The morality of a candidateís life does matter to me. If his family, who should have first claim on his trust, canít trust him, I canít either. Those faith-based views arenít, however, the only ones I examine. Iím interested in a variety of political issues.
Does their opinion of my religion matter? Well, I certainly would feel threatened to have a president who was comfortable attacking me and my beliefs, as would anyone. However, I donít have a list of religions I exclude from my voting choices. After all, while Governor Huckabee has been overheard making subtle anti-Mormon comments, Jimmy Carter, also a Baptist, accused some Southern Baptists of acting like Pharisees in their treatment of Mormons. So, members of any faith must be evaluated as individuals, not as groups.
My faith defines my voting, but in a personal between-God-and-me sort of way, not in a ďThe-Church-says-vote-for-himĒ sort of way. My vote is personal and private, and itís based on who I am, which happens to include my faith as part of the complete and individual package.
Terrie Lynn Bittner maintains an LDS website at LDS Treasure.