Running as the Mormon

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published a press release concerning Rex Rammell that clears up how the church associates itself with political candidates. (link)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform. Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church.

The point is that there can never be an official “Mormon” candidate. Not only does the LDS church not endorse candidates, but asks that candidates don’t even connect themselves to the church.

If you see a guy running for office who claims to be a faithful LDS member, he should also explain to you that he isn’t running as a Mormon and that the church is not even connected to his campaign for office.

Hat tip: Article VI Blog

A note about the White Horse prophecy mentioned in the article. Although it isn’t completely false, it isn’t accepted as a revelation in the church. In fact, President Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Smith’s nephew, denounced it as “trash.”

Members of the LDS church whole-heartedly endorse the Constitution of the United States as divine. This is an article of our faith. We especially like the bits about freedom and liberty, and we believe that as long as a government protects people’s rights, they have a duty to support it. Compare our government with what Iran is doing by slaughtering innocent and harmless protestors, and anyone who enjoys the freedoms of the constitution will find a strong ally among the Church.

What members of the Church do not ever want to see is the church becoming the government of any land. We’ve seen that, both in scriptural and written history, and have determined that it’s never a good idea to have a king, unless that king is wise and just and righteous in ever way. And even then, you’ll only be good for one or two generations.

We believe that even when Christ comes to earth, he won’t establish our church or any other church as the government of the land, but will instead implement some kind of government system the is based on the consent of the governed. Christ operates principally by persuasion, after all. The theocratic monarchy that Christ will establish will be curiously similar to the constitutional republic we live under today. In fact, who knows but our constitution may survive without any modifications at all under Christ’s reign.

When prophets talk about the law going out of Zion (interpreted as Salt Lake City, Utah, or wherever the headquarters of the church is), we understand that as the church teaching men the foundation of their liberty, the unalienable and eternal rights that God has bestowed on them, and the principles of good government, such as individual liberty, limited government, and representational republics. This kind of law is hardly the kind of law that dictates what you can eat or drink, and wear or say. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We teach that it is up to governments and the people to determine what community standards and laws they will abide by, while the church’s duty is to teach the individual to govern themselves as divine children of God.

Understanding the above, it’s quite clear why the church wouldn’t even want to be connected to individual candidates.

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6 Responses to “Running as the Mormon”

  1. Reality Speaks Says:

    Or is it because of their 501(c)3 tax status? The government was no fool in doling out 501(c)3’s in exchange for forbidding the endorsement of political candidates. Money talks. They feared the power of connected faith to influence the political balance of power and they knew that churches (all denominations) had one thing in common: Morals, ethics and principles. They knew that if they allowed these groups to influence public policy it would be in favor of morally and ethically sound principles, something that would not necessarily suit the shadow of power behind our status quo government.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      You bring up a very good point that I had forgotten about temporarily.

      However, I wonder what would happen to a church if it endorsed a candidate, and that candidate either broke his trust or was fooling the church? Whereas principles don’t change, people do, and putting your weight behind anybody is always a risky business.

  2. Reality Speaks Says:

    It seems everyone is missing the facts here. Nearly every blog on the Internet is reeling off their own spin on this story based solely on a mainstream media news article that had already put a biased spin on an otherwise newsless story.

    This story peaked my interest because as a citizen very worried about the future of our country, I couldn’t understand why all the firestorm simply because Rammell invited some members of his own faith to listen to him speak on issues of grave concern to them as American citizens.

    I made a point to research the details in this story, researach Rammell’s website and watch the videotaped footage of Rammell’s press conference. Rammell states emphatically that he does not represent the Mormon Church. He is not seeking endorsement from the Church. He is speaking to members of his own faith about civic duties as American citizens.

    I hate to break it to the Mormon Church, but Rammell has been taking this message to the general public for a long time. He has been speaking to concerned groups all over Idaho and his message is sinking in. Why do you think it is sinking in? Because everyone across the state has the same concerns and fears for our country. And, you don’t have to look far to figure out why they are so concerned. So why is it he can talk to anyone else about these issues but not a Mormon? Is the Mormon philosophy to sit on the couch and pretent there are no problems Or are they suppose to go incognito to these events and hide their faith? Is it any wonder Rammell felt a need to wake these people up?

    I live in a heavy LDS community and although I am not LDS, many of my friends and some in-laws are. When I ask them how they view this issue they are as dismayed as I am. They too are scared for the country and they tell me that what Rammell is saying is resonating with them. They say it makes them feel better knowing they aren’t the only one thinking the same thing and are happy that someone has the courage to stand up and try to do something.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      I don’t disagree that it’s his right to assemble elders of the church and organize them as he sees fit. It’s a free country, after all.

      The issue isn’t that he’s speaking about LDS beliefs or speaking to LDS members. Our beliefs on government are not to be kept within the church, anymore than any of our other beliefs. There is nothing secret, or for that matter, so sacred, that he must have a private gathering of elders to say it.

      The danger was he was being exclusionary. When it comes to politics, I never, ever want to be part of any campaign that is aimed solely at the LDS members, or even appears that way. If there was a meeting where only LDS members were invited, or where that was the presumption, then that is the kind of meeting I would never support. Our belief on government is that we shouldn’t have government, or candidates for government office, draw lines between religions, treating a mormon any different from baptist, atheist, or a catholic.

      To help you see the problem, imagine he held a meeting intended for white voters. Or a meeting where only men were invited.

      His message should transcend religion, just as it should transcend race and gender.

      It was the duty of the church to raise a red flag and tell everyone, everywhere, “He does not represent the church!” There was a grave potential for misunderstanding that the church must resolve.

      Once that flag is raised, he still has the right to hold his meeting and conduct his campaign as he sees fit. But he will never have the right to say he is endorsed by the church, or even to insinuate that.

  3. Raymond Takashi Swenson Says:

    In practice, the IRS doesn’t seem to be too intent on threatening the tax exempt status of churches that endorse candidates with large constituencies. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were frequent speakers to church congregations meeting inside church buildings. Mike Huckabee has done the same thing. The Southern Baptist ministers whom John F. Kennedy spoke to about his Catholicism not controlling his actions as president were quite blatant about their political opposition to him before that. The Bush campaign in 2004 was very up front about obtaining mailing lists of church members from Evangelical churches.

    The LDS stance is much more constrained than any of the practices that the IRS has tolerated in the last several decades.

    If there is a political motive behind the LDS policy, I would suggest it has to do with two realities, one historical, one contemporary. First, historically, political parties that felt the Mormons were lined up against them felt no need to protect the Mormons against mobocracy and abusive legislation, such as the Federal laws enacted by the Radical Republicans that disincorporated the Church over polygamy. Second, contemporaneously, the Church is very much an international institution, with a majority of members outside the US, and identification with the US government could hamper efforts to enter and operate in many countries.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Your point about the LDS church being an international church is well-taken. Such a church cannot, as a church, endorse any candidate, and can only encourage members to participate in their local governments. While the church may take broad stands on broad issues, and may, from time to time, as necessary, take a solid stand on a particular issue in a particular area (such as Prop 5 in CA), it must not become closely affiliated as solely an American church.

      I do think you are right about the LDS being much more constrained than other churches in terms of obeying the IRS regulations.

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