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Aug 16 2012

Voting for Mormons: another perspective

Blair Kelly claims to “strongly disagree” with my position on voting for “a Mormon,” and has written a full post explaining all the why’s and how’s. It’s a pretty good read, and I’d recommend it. My only quibble is that I’m not so sure we really disagree.

I would want to ask any candidate, Mormon or otherwise, some of the questions I posed above. What I’m arguing is that a person who claims to be Mormon is likely to answer them in an unsatisfying way… Therefore if you say you’re Mormon, chances are I won’t vote for you. I argue this is a perfectly legitimate position to take. But if you say you’re a Mormon and that the story about the origins of the Lamanites is clearly bunk, homosexuals deserve equal rights, Joseph Smith’s tales were very tall indeed, creationism is a load of garbage, women should have all the entitlements of men, and that you support stem cell research, then you will have purchased more of my attention…

That’s pretty much the distinction I was trying to make. If you’re judging somebody solely on the basis of the fact that they’re affiliated with the Mormon church, you’re really making a decision without adequate information. You can assume that any Mormon swears allegiance to all the things Mormonism is notorious for (and odds are you’d be right), but that’s an unfortunate handicap, not a reliable basis for decision-making. Still, it happens a lot, especially in politics, where necessity often forces us to make decisions based on inadequate information.

The point I want to make, though, is that we should never allow ourselves to become so complacent about the facts that we no longer care whether there is any more to the story than the fact that the candidate is a Mormon. If no other information is available, then we may not have a better basis for our decision-making, but we must always bear in mind that under these circumstances, we’re making a poorly-informed choice. Determining the candidate’s actual qualifications means asking for more than just his or her denominational affiliation. Asking the right questions may turn out to prove that initial prejudices were correct after all. But we still have to ask, as a matter of principle.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    busterggi

    “You can assume that any Mormon swears allegiance to all the things Mormonism is notorious for (and odds are you’d be right), but that’s an unfortunate handicap, not a reliable basis for decision-making. ”

    I disagree.

    I do not affiliate myself with the Aryan Nations because I do not believe what they profess.

    I do not affiliate myself with the RCC because I do not believe what they profess.

    I do not affiliate myself with the Republican party because I do not believe what they profess.

    If I did affiliate with whatever group/religion/whatever that I do not believe in then I would be a fraud and a liar.

    So self labeling is either accurate to what the label says or it is deliberate disinformation and that person is automatically untrustworthy at the least.

    1. 1.1
      Leo Buzalsky

      If only religious belief worked the same way. I’ve encountered a number of religious people (typically Catholics) who will say they disagree with most of what their church says, but still consider themselves a member. It’s likely that whole problem of people thinking belonging to a religion makes them a better person…or something. Do I even need to mention how many atheists call themselves “agnostic” to make themselves feel more open minded?
      The point is that there is a lot of inaccurate labeling when it comes to religious belief in culture. Is it surprising that the same problem would be found in politics?

      1. D4M10N

        Religious groups (and for that matter atheist and humanist groups) vary greatly in the degree to which they expect behavioural conformity and ideological homogeneity from its membership. Mormons are strictly than most American faith groups on both counts, so it is less unreasonable to expect that they will behave and believe according to type. I’d bet good money that Mitt wears the magic underpants.

      2. MV

        I think your objections (and Naked Bunny’s below) fall under the “disinformation” label and a case could certainly be made for being deliberate.

        At the very least, they are using the label as a signal to others. This might be that your are one of them or a good person or some combination. It’s rather dishonest to reject the negative connotations of that signal and only accept the positive. It does say something about a person. I realize that many people don’t think about this deeply and/or have to make allowances for their personal situations but I don’t see any reason to cut public officials slack when they have made it one of their core attributes.

    2. 1.2
      Naked Bunny with a Whip

      So self labeling is either accurate to what the label says or it is deliberate disinformation and that person is automatically untrustworthy at the least.

      You’re forgetting that most religious people don’t self-label at all. They have a label imposed on them as children. As adults, it takes less mental effort and causes less social friction to keep the label, whether or not they really follow that religion or even know what its specific beliefs are.

    3. 1.3
      Deacon Duncan

      I think you might be overlooking the extent to which cognitive dissonance operates within a religious culture, especially of the more fundamentalist sort. One of the first things you learn as a believer is how to believe in “things that you know ain’t so.” Your point has merit as far as those who deliberately convert to the religion is concerned, but doesn’t necessarily apply to all believers. Many of them can and do maintain a paradoxical distinction between what they believe officially and what they believe practically. You still need to ask the specific questions, or else make a decision based on inadequate information.

  2. 2
    Hypatia

    I have a strict “No electing clergy” rule. This means that all adult Mormon males are technically unelectable in my book as they are members of a priesthood.

    1. 2.1
      steve84

      Yeah. Romney was both a ward leader and stake president. He ran all Mormons in Boston. That’s the equivalent of a bishop. Electing him should be a no-no on those grounds alone.

  3. 3
    dailydouq

    The only reason I wouldn’t vote against a person, just because they’re mormon, is my belief in the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights is not there to protect the popular, but instead the unpopular and the minority. Mormons may not accept that and would roast me in hell (or alive) if they could, but I won’t descend to that level. My only wish is that the religious right is as committed to upholding the Constitution as I am, but when people believe they are absolutely right and everyone is absolutely wrong what do rights and laws mean>

  4. 4
    sailor1031

    Don’t know what he’s been doing recently but Romney was president of the LDS ‘Boston Stake’ – a stake being a group of congregations in an area somewhat akin to a diocese. Apparently it kept him pretty busy. Seems like he was a pretty committed mormon. As such I think it’s legitimate to have reservations about somebody who takes Joseph Smith’s blatant frauds seriously – it shows a serious lack of good judgment (which we have seen from Mittens in other areas) and, to me at least, an absence of practical intelligence. This makes him unqualified in my opinion.

    Trouble is I have the same reservations about any other religious person – Mike Huckabee for instance. Persons claiming to be religious but not apparently actually so – Newt Gingrich for instance who is completely at odds with his church’s teachings on social and economic issues – I also find unqualified but there it’s a lack of integrity….

  5. 5
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Cheap shot, I know, but I read the headline as, “Voting for Morons…”.

    Seriously, though, how can members of the xtian right, mostly fundamentalist baptists, etc., stand voting for someone they consider to be a cult member opposed to much of what they hold dear?

    My guess is that they are doing what a lot of people are doing on the left – voting for what they consider the lesser of two evils.

  6. 6
    Blair Kelly

    Hey Deacon,

    I have to say I agree with you. Perhaps, for me, this was a matter of semantic clarification. I agree that, in actuality, we probably don’t disagree.

    The question itself seems inadequate. “Would you vote for a Mormon, yes or no?” Well, it depends! We can’t just ask that single question and be satisfied. There’s a small, nagging voice in my brain that says, “in practice it is very likely I would not vote for a Mormon” to the extent that I feel this is as good as saying, “I wouldn’t vote for a Mormon.”

    But, yes, there really is the chance – however painfully minute – that a Mormon would publicly take an incendiary stand against the teachings of her church, and that’s worth acknowledging.

    And there’s that voice again, that says, “it’s really unlikely.”

    I think it’s my wife (an ex-mormon) that gives me hope. There are some dissatisfied brains kicking around in that church.

    I am honored you took the time to read my post and respond. Thanks. It means a lot to me.

    Best,

    BK

  7. 7
    sds

    Mitt is a lifetime Mormon cult servant, Sunday teacher , priest.
    Mitt can never separate religion form politics. religions was business life for Mitt.

    President Mitt the priest is middle east age like…just many more crusades…
    Mitt doesn”t fitt

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