Two interesting and loosely-connected items today:
First, many media outlets published portions of an AP story yesterday which quoted Mitt Romney saying that he is considering making a speech specifically dealing with issues surrounding his religion. Many have chimed in with opinions on whether this speech is a good idea, and what points it ought to make. I think the idea has its pros and cons, but the publicity it would generate for Mitt by itself must make it hard to pass up. I would be interested to know what Romney hopes to accomplish with the speech, because my sense is that no such speech could do very much good without causing more problems. But if anyone can do it, it’s Romney, the gifted communicator with the ability to sound brilliant and perfectly down-to-earth at the same time.
On another note, the LDS Church released a statement yesterday re-emphasizing its neutrality and asserting its own interests in the media coverage of the Romney campaign. Some highlights follow:
While the institutional church has worked consistently to keep out of the political debate, individual Latter-day Saints are encouraged to take an interest, to be involved in their communities and to vote as part of the democratic process. When some members do that and achieve high office — as in the case of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or former governor Mitt Romney — the Church does not distance itself from them or their active Church membership. It simply recognizes that they do not speak for the Church any more than the Church speaks for government. As individuals responsible to their constituencies, they are free to support or oppose whatever political platform or policy they choose.
Journalists and researchers are also being encouraged to deepen their understanding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by getting to know its members, by visiting a regular Sunday service and by witnessing firsthand the effects of faith in individual lives. Whatever their social or economic background, and wherever they are from — from Harlem to Helsinki, or Peru to Papua New Guinea — members are taught to live the principles taught by Jesus Christ, including personal trustworthiness and integrity, a commitment to strong marriages and families, service and compassion for the needy.
There are a lot of interesting points made in this statement, so it’s worth reading in full. But the above ideas- that LDS politicians are church members, nothing more and nothing less, and that those seeking to understand Mormonism should spend some time with actual members of the faith, are good ones.
I think it’s interesting that the LDS Church, a strong organization with great resources and a crack team of spokespeople is finding the need to assert its own voice in this campaign, while Mitt Romney is finding the need to take on the role as unofficial spokesperson for the Church. Neither of these facts is a positive development. As I’ve stated before, it’s a good thing that people are interested in Romney’s religion, but if “interest” is all it is, they ought to be satisfied by the information being disseminated by the many different official voices of the Church. But the interest doesn’t appear to be in gaining a better understanding of LDS beliefs, practice, or history. Rather, it appears to be a tabloid hunger to see Mitt Romney talk about these things, which is another thing entirely. Too bad the Church and Mitt Romney can’t just speak for themselves, but it’s good they’ve attempted to do so so far.