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Mormons in politics, it's not just Mitt Romney

Salt Lake LDS Conference Center
Salt Lake LDS Conference Center
Seth Hollist

It's amazing that even in today’s society of "political correctness" and tolerance, that people would make such a big deal about Mitt Romney (see for more information about him) over his religious beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Certainly when you’re running for president, everything about you becomes a big deal, but the last time a presidential candidates religion became such a big deal was with JFK, one of the more beloved presidents in recent history.

Why do some feel so threatened by the "Mormons", especially southern evangelicals? Is it the over 6 million of them living within the United states, or about 2% of the population? Obviously Mitt will need a much larger portion of the population on his side then that to become president (I even know a number of politically active Mormons that aren't supporting him; myself included). Is it the fact that our commonly help church has grown significantly is less than 200 years? Probably not, since many evangelical churches in America today got started around relatively the same time, and have grown to become much larger.

I have another theory. People are afraid of the unknown and things that are very different from what they are used to. One of the biggest differences often referenced by detractors of Mormons as Christians is our differing view of the Godhead then that most other Christians. Mainly that God is not some incomprehensible, three-in-one being, but rather our Heavenly Father as the literal father of our spirits and literal father of Jesus Christ.

This belief comes from Joseph Smith's own testimony about God and Jesus Christ. To contrast this most evangelicals get their view of the Godhead from the traditional Catholic beliefs developed threw debates had during the First Council of Nicaea, and First Council of Constantinople. It has also since been updated from time to time.

My purpose here really isn't to depute religious theology, but rather to understand why a nation founded on freedom, and especially religious freedom, would disqualify someone because of their faith. Mitt Romney himself said in 2008 that his religious convictions and beliefs will not interfere with the role of government. He understands the importance of keeping them separated, and stated that when his oath to the office, performed with his hand on the bible, will become his number one top commitment to God. He also rightly stressed the importance of religious tolerance and promised that he would not focus on particular beliefs, but rather the moral convictions that America has traditionally upheld.

So the real question is, would you vote for a candidate who best represents you, and just happens to be a Mormon, or will that one fact discourage you? Many people have voted for Mormons, as they have been involved in government for a long time, and not just in Utah. Mormons have been involved in politics and public service in almost every state in the Union to varying degrees, within Congress, and even within the White House in a number of different capacities. Not to mention in other countries; especially since there are now more Mormons outside the US then in it.

The first woman state senator elected in the United States was Dr. Mattie Hughes Paul Cannon (UT) in 1896, and the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who was neither the wife nor the daughter of a politician was Paula Hawkins (FL) in 1980. Both where "Mormons"!

Mormons have served as governors of California (Goodwin Knight) and Michigan (George W. Romney), as well as a large number from Utah. In 1952 two Mormons were serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate. In 1991 there were nine Mormon representatives and one nonvoting territorial delegate in the House and three in the Senate.

Prior to 1952, no Mormons had served as a federal judge. Since then, eleven have been appointed to federal district courts and four to appeals courts.

Ronald Reagan's administration also included over a dozen Mormons.

In 2011 nearly 3%, or 15 congressmen, 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats in the House, and 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats in the Sennate, are Mormons, including the Democratic leader Harry Reid. They include representatives from Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and of course Utah.


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