One of the criticisms of the LDS faith in general and the Romney campaign specifically is that we are slaves blindly following our masters in Salt Lake, the 15 Brethren who make up the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, with Thomas S. Monson as the prophet, seer, and revelator at the head.
As a member of the LDS church, I am pretty much confused by this claim. On the one hand, we do all but swear an oath to follow these brethren. Yet, on the other hand, they do not dictate to us anything but matters pertaining directly to church organization and policy, and spiritual matters such as what we believe in and what we practice as part of our religion. The role of the church is specific and clear: proclaim salvation to the world through Jesus Christ.
If President Monsen were to announce that the LDS church throws its support behind Mitt Romney, and everyone should donate all the time, talent, and whatever the Lord has blessed us with to his campaign, the very church itself would fall apart. This is because the church doesn’t have anything to do with the government, other than encouraging its members to research and vote according to their conscience for wise and good people.
The reason why the church would fall apart is because it would no longer be a church. It would be a political party. Its officials would no longer represent the saving work that needs to be done to prepare the world for the Second Coming, but operatives in a political plot to gain as much power as possible in the government.
The same would happen if the church tried to govern through its members in power. The church is not a political party and it most certainly is not a government.
What keeps the church together isn’t its politics. It is its religion and faith. It is its role in the world today to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Should that ever change, the church members would no longer have any reason to be together. The lay ministers from top to bottom would no longer have a reason to donate their time and talents. The tithing receipts would diminish, as well as the fast offering funds. Missionary work would stop.
While the church does and must take a stand on moral, religious, and spiritual issues, and while those issues do bleed over into politics, it does so to further its mission of proclaiming the gospel. What church can operate without religious freedom? What church can build families without society sanctioning the institution of marriage?
Look carefully at the rare occasions when the church does insert itself into the debate. Ask yourself whether it is doing so to see to it that it can continue to preach the gospel and fulfill its mission, or does it do so to increase its political power and influence?
If you need to, go read the bible. In ancient times, it wasn’t uncommon to see the prophet approach the king of Israel or other countries. What were they doing? Seeing to it that the government didn’t interfere or hinder their work in proclaiming salvation. They never asked, and never wanted, an iota of political power.
In the Book of Mormon, we have the story of Alma the Elder approaching King Mosiah. He wanted King Mosiah to continue in his original role as head of the church, but King Mosiah saw an opportunity to separate the government from the church, and helped Alma come to see the importance of such. We also see the story of Alma the Younger, elected as the chief judge over all the land, stepping down from office and all that political power because he saw a need to focus on his role as the high priest of the church and proclaim the gospel to the people. These examples should help anyone understand how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sees the proper role of church and government, and what kind of wall we have erected for ourselves between the two.
As an LDS member, I can’t imagine Salt Lake trying to dictate a President Mitt Romney in political and national matters. As an LDS member, I can’t imagine taking orders from Salt Lake in political matters, even though I’ve all but sworn an oath to receive the church leadership as prophets, seers and revelators. I can’t see how people can put our doctrine together to suggest that either scenario would ever occur.