Mormons Speak Out

Welcome back!  Hope everyone’s Christmas was very merry.

Just wanted to put up a few interesting links that may show the beginning of a trend: Mormons getting sick of being everyone’s favorite punching bag.

First, Mormon quiz show phenom Ken Jennings op-eds in the NY Daily News.  Headline: “Politicians and Pundits, Please Stop Slandering My Mormon Faith.”  He follows up with a punchy and persuasive case supporting his request.

Second, Mormon journalist Joel Campbell writes in the Publisher and Editor, taking note of the imbalance of reporting about Mormonism in the media.  One nice example he highlights is Maureen Dowd’s sole reliance for information about Mormonism on noted Mormon-basher Jon Krakauer.  Campbell appears to be starting a blog on the subject.  Developing . . .

Third, Mormon law professor (and religious blogger) Kaimi Wenger enters the fray with a thoughtful response to Lawrence O’Donnell.  You may remember O’Donnell for his off-the-handle rant  about Mormons on the McLaughlin Group.  What you may not know is that O’Donnell not only stands by those remarks, but followed them up with what appears to be a sincere attempt to substantiate them, a very lengthy column on the Huffington Post.  Professor Wenger shows that O’Donnell’s reliance on hundred year old isolated quotations from Mormon leaders says nothing at all about Mormons in 2007, leastwise Mitt Romney.  Wenger also has a nice write up on his Mormon-focused blog regarding some of the questions coming up about Mormons and Racial issues.

All in all, I do think this constitutes a trend, and I think it’s only the beginning.  As Mormons continue to feel spat upon by evangelicals, leftist secularists, and journalists-with-an-agenda, they’re speaking up and defending themselves.  This is not exactly a sleeping giant, but there is a huge number of intelligent, articulate, even influential Mormons out there, and once provoked, they could have a real impact on the current public debate about the place of Mormonism in America.  Welcome to the fray, everyone.

Clarifying “LDS” Criticisms of Romney

A story popped up at WorldNetDaily on Friday reporting that the “Mormon Church-owned Deseret Morning News” published an editorial critical of Mitt Romney. It was followed by the Brody Files, under the headline “Romney Gets Slapped by Mormon Newspaper.” While these pieces use their language carefully, they leave the strong impression that Mitt Romney is being directly castigated by his own church– something akin to the recent remarks of the Pope threatening ex-communication for Catholic politicians (such as Rudy Giuliani) that support abortion rights. It would certainly make for a big story for the LDS church to speak out in condemnation of Mitt Romney, but no such thing has actually happened. Indeed, the Morning News editorial did not speak for the LDS Church, and was actually not very critical of Mitt Romney. (more…)

Good Morning America: Romney Walking Fine Line on Religion

Good Morning America ran a feature on the religion issues surrounding Romney’s candidacy yesterday.  Video is here.  While this story does not add a great deal of new material, it does make much of the tightrope Romney is walking in attempting to hold off searching questions from the press and also keep his Mormon flank placated.

For example, GMA cites Romney’s statement (also highlighted in a recent New York Times piece) that he cannot imagine anything more awful than polygamy.  It appears that “some” (again, note the looseness of that word) Mormons felt betrayed by that admission- despite the fact that the Mormon church has not condoned or allowed the practice for over a century. 

What do Mormons really think?  Well, if there are any Mormons within the mainstream of the church that long for a return of the days of plural marriage, I’ve never met them, and they would not fit within the norm of Mormon culture.  What you will find in the church is the idea that polygamy was divinely instituted, for a brief moment in the nineteenth century, combined with great relief that it ended a long time ago.  From what I can tell of those critical of Romney’s statement on polygamy, they feel betrayed because he appeared to disapprove of the practice (which they feel was implemented for a reason at the time), not because he doesn’t think it sounds great.  Commentator John Dehlin alludes to this point on the video clip– it’s about honoring heritage, rather than keeping fingers crossed that this might come round the bend once more.  To repeat: To the extent the Good Morning America piece leaves the impression that Mormons view polygamy as a fondly-remembered, desirable practice, it is completely incorrect.

But there’s a larger point implicit in the Good Morning America coverage.  That is that Mitt Romney is beholden to Mormons in all that he says.  On the contrary, Mitt Romney is allowed to think polygamy sounds awful, and it’s not going to be fatal to the Mormon church (and neither is it an incorrect portrayal of the position of a significant number of Mormons).  What’s really at stake is that members of the LDS church want Mitt to speak about the faith exactly as they would, because they feel not only that he’s on stage, but they are. 

While this sentiment resonates with me in the sense that I hope the LDS church does not take too much of a beating over this campaign, I would remind other Mormons that this is Mitt Romney’s race, not theirs.  And if they want a more perfect representation of their faith on the national stage, they’ll just have to run for president too.