Thursday, June 16, 2011

When two Mormons seek the highest Political Office in the United States?

Keywords or Terms: Mormons; Mitt Romney; John Huntsman; GOP Nomination; Religious bigotry; Polygamy; Theological Commitments; Unemployed; Mockery; Ambition and Dreams

In an expose on the nation’s religion, Newsweek wrote the following words in an excerpt on Mormons Taking the Stage:

Taken to the extreme, the peculiarities of Mormon history and belief can lead to the anti-government conspiracy theorizing of Glen Beck and the John Birch Society, which enjoyed support in Mormon circles during the 1950s and ‘60s. But the same constellation of views can lead toward consensus-building moderation. Think of Mitt Romney’s stint as governor of liberal Massachusetts, when he championed health-care reform. John Huntsman showed similar instincts when he accepted President Obama’s nomination to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China. In the words of Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and a practicing Mormon, Romney and Huntsman are typical of what happens when prominent members of the church spend time “in environments where Mormonism is simply not part of the everyday equation.” They blend in. (Newsweek June 13 & 20, 2011, Pp.44).

As you read the above except, consider the following questions:

1) According to the article, what are critics within the Mormon Church saying of the candidacy of Mitt Romney or John Huntsman for GOP nomination for the highest political office in the nation?

2) What is the reflection of Mitt Romney or John Huntsman to Kirk Jower’s assessment of what typically happens to a Mormon when he or she spends time in environment where Mormonism is simply not part of everyday equation?

It is encouraging, at least for the first time, to have probably two Mormons seeking the highest political office in the country. At the heart of the candidacy of these two prominent Mormons is probably the need to profess solution to one of the nagging problems in the nation: Unemployment. If we are to take the doctrine espoused by the Mormon Church that your whole eternal identity as a person is defined by external progression to become like our heavenly father; then, an overwhelming number of Mormons are probably apprehensive of these two politicians seeking GOP nomination for the highest office. The issue of professing solution to the nation’s unemployment problem becomes secondary, since the religious dogma of Mormons is to be like their heavenly father. You will have to oblige me here, for I do not know what being like heavenly father of Mormons connotes.

Compelling questions have been raised in recent time, about the suitability of a Mormon for the Office of the US President. How many protestant Americans would consider a person of an outsider faith as a winner of the 2012 Presidential election? Would the apprehension of the main stream religious groups, including the forth mainstream religion in America, derail the dream of either Mitt Romney or John Huntsman? In fact, can the experience of these two Mormons running for the GOP nomination transform the Church or its true believers?

It may be fine for Mormons, like any member of other religious groups or denominations to seek the highest political office in the land. However, could the unifying framework of what it means to be a true Mormon, call to question the choice of Mitt Romney or John Huntsman to seek the office? There obviously are some theological commitments of these two Mormons to their church; however, could such commitments derail their choice to enter into mainstream national politics? Would outsiders to the Mormon Church have their prejudices borne out if either of these men win the 2012 Presidential election? These are very important questions to ponder over this time, considering that the announcements for running for the oval office in the White-house, is now in vogue among Republicans.

One expects President Obama to face somewhat of an intransigent opposition from the Republican Party; however, could he be facing similar opposition from the Mormon Church and its membership, once either Huntsman or Romney is the GOP nomination for the 2012 Presidential election? If Romney and Huntsman have their way, they would probably want to play down their Mormonism; however, there are some Mormons, based on their theological doctrinal identification, who would prefer they play it up. There are others, within the fold of the Mormon Church, who probably question the authenticity of these two Mormons, or others coming in the future to show interest in the office of the presidency. The issue is not that of qualification; rather, it is on the call by their religion's purist, what is expected of a Mormon?

Forget the GOP nomination for the 2012 presidential election for a moment. Faced with hostile fire on the campaign trail, how would either of these men respond to the issue of their religion doctrine? Ask yourself: what would men and women in America's Bible belt say about having a Mormon in the Oval office? Can we have a president that subscribes or condescends to the practice of polygamy? These are relevant questions, which both Mormons and mainstream religious affiliated Americans have to contend with in this cycle or future cycle of elections, when and where a person of Mormon faith presents him or herself for a national political office.

In the last run for the office of the Presidency, Mitt Romney was faced with hostility on the question of his religion; and, while he tried to play it down, there were obvious differences with some voters, who believe that the theological doctrinaire or affiliation of Mitt Romney or John Huntsman, disqualifies them to seek their votes, not to talk of electing either to the highest political office in the land. There are political strategists who recommend that both men should embrace their religion and stand up for what they believe, even if it costs them the White-house. To this group, one’s faith is more important than an ephemeral in-habitation of the White-house.These and other issues must be burning on the mind of Romney or Huntsman at this time. We can only hope that these contestable issues will not subsume their ambition for the highest political office in the land.

How about the issue of underpants garments or spectacle? These concerns may make some people; even in Romney or Huntsman's inner circle assume that both men's campaign is headed for calamity. Americans, who think we are somehow in the middle of a renascence, considering that the first African-Americans was elected into that office four years ago, may be surprised that the issue of a man’s or woman’s religion could still play a huge role in a voter’s decision to vote or not to vote for him or her. Just like Barack Obama was not voted for by some voters because of his race, Mitt Romney or John Huntsman should not be surprised, if some Americans keep their votes to themselves or give it to another candidate because of the candidate’s Mormon faith.

Despite the thinking of many well-meaning Americans, the optimistic Plato is not yet here. America for all its beauty and glory, is still fighting the war of its 'isms' that continues to hunt not only its education, economy and politics, but the whole fabric of the society, even when we try to deny them. This is the reality that the two Mormons on the 2012 presidential campaign trail have to contend with. I understand, like many well-meaning middle of the road Americans do, that a man's or woman’s religion should not stand in his or her way of seeking the highest political office in the land; however, I have lived long enough to appreciate the reality of American life. That day has not come, much as some of us would like, where extraneous sociological variables seize to be part of the determinant of success in any sphere of American life.

Before I am labeled a pessimist, could anyone answer this question: what is the justification for the assessment of the Director of University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, that qualification: [Romney or Huntsman's aspiration] are typical of what happens when prominent members of the church spend time “in environments where Mormonism is simply not part of the everyday equation? Mr. Kirk Jowers has not made that assessment lightly; neither has he concluded that either Romney or Huntsman does not merit running for that esteemed office; rather, he is probably making an observation based on the teachings of the Mormon Church. Frankly, many Mormons would probably contend that their members have no business seeking mainstream political office or being part of any association that is not purely doctrinal Mormon. For this group, Romney's and Huntsman's ambitions are aberration to the doctrine of the Mormon Church.

If the goal is to be a true Mormon, or to be like our heavenly father, hardly would any Mormon be aspiring to the office of the Presidency of the United States, for it will be tantamount to associating with those hardly vast in the ways of the Mormons. Probably, this is why many Mormons in Congress and mainstream society, attempt to play down their Mormonism. Any member of the fourth largest religion in America must be cautious that every of its six million American members may not be voting them because of their choice to seek the highest office in the land; and, why such a choice is probably at variance with the teaching of the Mormon faith. The unusual beliefs and practices of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, somehow put some people on pins and needles and probably alienate them from truly understanding, what the religion is all about. To consider giving their votes to the unknown is like asking for too much.

But as painful as religious bigotry among voters may be for Romney or Huntsman, it is not a death knell for their ambition to the highest political office in the land. Stranger things in life have happened; and, neither should throw up his hands and say, I give up. If either men gives up their aspirations because of the fear of religious bigotry, they probably will miss the opportunity to dispel some known prejudices or misconception about the Mormon faith. Religious affiliation or association is not the end of life, and must never be a persuasive argument not to run or seek the highest political office in the land. Pluralistic religious acceptance by voters is never going to be possible for a lot of reason, including prejudice; however, one must never shy away from insisting that a man’s or woman’s ambition must never be determined by his or her religion, race, age or sexual orientation.

The brilliance of President Obama's candidacy now and four years ago is that it was built on hope; and, this erudite strategy or campaign stance helped herald him into the highest political office in the land. Romney or Huntsman may want to borrow a leaf from that conviction. Imagine if Senator Barack Obama had held back and said, because he is African-American, he will never stand a chance to win. Participating and winning the national election are his audacity of hope! This time around for both Mormons in the race, it is their audacity of being who they are, religious-wise. Maybe that is why it makes sense for Romney and Huntsman to embrace their religion, just as Barack Obama has embarrassed his race on the road to the White-house.

Finally, not withstanding the front-runner status of Mitt Romney among Republicans today, if he continues to make the type of gaffes attributed to him regarding the unemployed, that type of audacity will augur huge failures for him at the polling boot. No American wants to be made fun of; and not even now, with over sixteen million Americans out of work. The gaffe of Mitt Romney saying he is unemployed makes him look disingenuous and dishonest. The kind of comment from a known millionaire would undermine his candidacy faster than his religious affiliation. Just because you are striving to identify with the unemployed voters or want them to perceive that you understand their plight, hardly calls for insensitive comments. Mitt Romney is a millionaire Mormon, running for the GOP nomination for the office of the Presidency of the United States. That’s enough challenge to deny him votes in some quarters; adding gaffes that make him seem disingenuous and insensitive, would send his effort definitely moribund.

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