A Letter to Evangelicals who Don’t Support Mitt because of His Mormonism

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’ll never forget the day when my husband David came home from work in 2004 and told me about an exciting possible Presidential candidate named Mitt.  He told me of all of his many attributes, and then added, “He’s a Mormon.”

“Oh,” I said.  “Too bad we can’t vote for him.”

“Why?” David asked innocently, though I was incredulous.   Wasn’t the answer obvious?

“I’ll never vote for a Mormon,” I said, flabbergasted he’d even consider it.  After all, I was raised in the Church of Christ, had attended the charismatic Times Square Church in New York City, and – at the time – went to the conservative Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  I tithed, had been baptized in a summer camp swimming pool when I was twelve, knew all the verses of How Great Thou Art, and had Pyrex dishes with my name written on the bottom in Sharpie specifically for benevolence casseroles.

Though I didn’t know many Mormons well, I was sure I wouldn’t like them.  After all, their commercials on television were ridiculously earnest.  Who runs in the back yard with their family while blowing bubbles in slow motion?  Please.

However, in a matter of days, I went from objecting to his candidacy to unabashedly supporting it, so I thought I would share how I went from being completely opposed to unabashedly supportive of this particular Presidential candidate.  Here’s what helped me:

1. In spite of our theological differences, evangelicals and Mormons are already political allies. In fact, if Mormons weren’t consistently more conservative than their evangelical neighbors, Al Gore would be America’s president now and California Proposition 8, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling that permitted gay marriage, would’ve failed. In fact, we owe them a great deal for their steadfast consistency on moral issues The sometimes squishy evangelical church, tossed by every trend, is responsible for electing Barack Obama.

2. Romney’s faith doesn’t indicate that he’s gullible. Let’s face it.  All religions require a leap of faith that appears silly to outsiders. If a reporter questioned me about my religion, he’d raise an eyebrow over my belief that Noah was a floating zookeeper, that Jesus was the best sommelier in Galilee, and that he paid taxes with coins from a fish’s mouth.  No one belongs to the Church of the Scientific Method, so religion falls outside normal reasoning. Gov. Romney’s beliefs certainly require faith – including his quite miraculous notion that Jesus is his personal Savior. In my experience, evangelicals loathe religious litmus tests.  That’s what Democrats do, when they try to disqualify Christian and Catholic judges because of their beliefs.  The same people who would disqualify a Mormon would disqualify me, citing the same list of “this person can’t be a serious thinker if she believes this miraculous stuff.”  And as far as gullible goes, don’t forget that Mitt Romney has two Harvard degrees.

3. Baptists don’t have the best track record, either.  John Mark Reynolds once wrote that “my faith in the holiness standards of Baptists survived Clinton and my belief in their sanity survived Carter, though that was a closer call.” In fact, should we taint all Baptist Presidential candidates with the legacy of recent Baptist leaders – i.e. Clinton’s moral failure, Carter’s weak foreign policy, Johnson’s social programs, and Gore’s use of the word “lock box.” Of course not.  Evangelicals should evaluate candidates on their own political merits.

4.  Evangelicals do not historically vote for the “most Christian” person on the ballot. When Jimmy Carter (a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher) ran against Ronald Reagan, evangelicals correctly voted for the divorced Hollywood actor.  After all, he was the one who would best represent their values.  Similarly, in 2012, we should look for the candidate who will most effectively represent our values by beating Obama and being a good advocate for our social positions.  Gov. Romney is that candidate.

5. Electing a Mormon will not create a surge of support for that religion.  My husband David put it best when he wrote:

I think it’s fair to say that Barack Obama hasn’t done much for Jeremiah Wright’s now-famous “black liberation theology,” and George Bush’s well-known evangelical beliefs likely repelled as many people as they attracted. In fact, I can’t think of a single president that had a discernible impact on the theological beliefs of our citizens. And that makes sense. Presidents aren’t pastors. We don’t look to presidents for pastoral guidance but instead for national leadership. We don’t think, “I like those Bush tax cuts. I think I’ll check out the Methodist church.

Applying these same lessons to Mormons, does watching Harry Reid make you want to talk to a Mormon missionary? How about when you fly JetBlue? During a smooth, comfortable flight do you use the in-flight Wi-Fi to surf LDS.org? Does a particularly elegant turndown service at a high-end Marriott put you in the mood to download the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s greatest hits? If you’re a sports fan, did watching Steve Young connect with Jerry Rice make you complete an application to BYU?

6.  You don’t have to agree with the LDS faith to support Gov. Romney.  If the Romneys agreed with my religion, they would be conservative Presbyterians.  If we believed theirs, we’d be Mormons.  There’s nothing wrong with definitively saying that there are religious differences between the two.  There obviously are, and you don’t have to defend Mormonism to pull the lever for Gov. Romney.

So, to all of my evangelical friends out there, I know where you’re coming from. I understand that your hesitation comes from a well-meaning desire to protect the gospel and to honor God in all aspects of your life.  However, God has something to do with salvation, can safeguard the integrity of the gospel without our feeble, frequently self-righteous help, and wouldn’t hang the validity of Christianity on whether or not we voted for Mitt Romney for President.

If you still have questions, or are concerned about his track record on abortion, gay marriage, or Romneycare, please visit www.EvangelicalsforMitt.org, where we have sorted through the issues so you can make an informed decision in 2012.

The stakes are big this election cycle, so let’s get it right.

—–

UPDATE: Thanks for all of the shares!  Please also subscribe to the French Revolution, by  entering your e-mail address to the right under the headline “Subscribe!”  This will mean you get all of the pearls of wisdom from the Frenches, delivered free to your inbox!

About Nancy French

Nancy French is a New York Times Best Selling Author. She's written Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War, Red State of Mind: How a Catfish Queen Reject Became a Liberty Belle, and has co-written Bristol Palin's memoir, Not Afraid of Life.

  • Mike

    Nancy, this is terrific! It is well-written and funny, but most importantly, it speaks truth!

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Mike! Thought it was time to come clean, to help people process the issues…

    • Lance in TX

      Nancy! That was very well written!!
      Thank you. I hope others read your letter and really think about it.
      This country was founded with religious differences and that is one of the strengths of this country! I hope we can all put those aside and elect the one person that can help put this wonderful country back in the right direction!

  • Matt Walker

    Nancy,

    You “hit it out of the park”. As always, I appreciate your intelligent and honest input. This was a great piece and the timing couldn’t have been any better. Keep up the good work.

    Matt in Idaho

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Matt!

  • tiafala

    I am forever grateful to people like you and your husband who stand up for what is right and good for the whole. I stand by you and your letter to the Evangelical Christians and all others who have or about to change their hearts because of a few of the supposed Sherpherds who have caused pain and discomforts to the hearts of the sheep. No one is perfect and No one should be going around looking for motes in his brothers and sisters eyes, forgetting about the big ones in his very own eyes. We are counseled not to judge, for ye shall also be judged. When it comes to pointing fingers to who is the sinner or who will go to hell, that is the Lord Jesus Christ’s lane. Our duty is to love one another. We must be ambassadors of peace whereever we are, not voices of Contentions and Devisiveness. We are all ministers of Christ, unfortunately, we are not ONE. We are not one because everyone has his own interpretation of the so called “BIBLE”. The Bible is another big issue. However, our differences in principles, ordinances, doctrines and interpretations must not and shall not be a cause to push anyone aside from achieving what he/she is worthy of or qualified for as a citizen of this nation. Please, don’t make another mistake in 2012. The 2008 Experiment is not working!

  • http://www.tylerjandersen.com/ Tyler Andersen

    Very well said. Lets hope people like Robert Jeffress, Tricia Erickson, Latayne Scott, and other polemicists can wake up as a result. I’m all for holding Romney’s feet to the fire with regard to policies, but to exclude him and Huntsman on the basis of their faith in a country rooted in religious freedom is, to put it bluntly, a gross misunderstanding of the Constitution.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Tyler!

  • Mert

    Great article – you are spot on.

  • Liz

    I enjoyed this.

    I was taken aback by the folks they musta pulled out of the stone age at the values conference, there. Mormons should be denied freedom of religion? Romney is not a Christian? I mean, I know they exist, but to be given a podium and free reign at an assembly of that magnitude? Huh. Our country has all kinds of troubles.

  • KelleyGurl

    Thank you so much Nancy for your thoughts, they were insightful and honest. Most importantly they were compassionate. Being a member of the LDS faith and hearing so much negativity is so painful. You are a very caring person and I appreciate you.
    Looking forward to standing with you and all our other Brothers and Sisters in voting for Romney in 2012. May God bless you each and every day. :)

  • Lynette

    Nancy, what you said makes a lot of sense. When Congress votes on legislation, the Supreme Court decides a case, or a President proposes a bill on economic reform; the outcomes are often influenced by values and moral standards, and not so much by one’s interpretation of the Nicene Creed. In the public square when it comes to political debate, it tends to matter much more that we all agree on the sanctity of life, the importance of traditional marriage and standards of decency than it does if we agree on exactly the same religious construct. If we want the traditional definition of marriage to stand, patriotism to be renewed, sanctity of life upheld, family friendly policies to remain in tact (or return), we must be unified in standing strong for wholesome values and not be undone by our inability to see past doctrinal differences. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  • Robin

    Thank you! You and your husband are awesome. We all do live on faith, and we all have faith in Jesus Christ. I would say that makes us all Christians extraordinaire, especially when we are kind and civil to one another as Jesus would have us be. He loves us all and we are commanded to love one another. Where does that put Jeffress? I do believe he is the non-christian. He is the Zadok among Pharisees and Rick Perry is right there with him.

  • Terry

    Wonderful post, Nancy! As a Mormon who has been accused many times of not being a Christian, I ceased long ago worrying about what other self-professed Christians thought of me. Reverend Jeffress believes that Mormonism is a cult. So what else is new? He has still stated that he would vote for Romney over Obama-ha-ha, and that’s good enough for me to cut him some slack on the cult thing. If Romney wins the GOP nomination, perhaps the good Reverend will even publicly endorse Romney when the time comes, and encourage others of his faith to do the same. Politically, I don’t need people who agree with my religious beliefs, I just need people who are willing to support my candidate.

  • Robert

    Nancy,

    Since 2006 (or was it 2006?), I’ve mostly been a background observer of your blog, though we’ve corresponded on rare occasion. I am Mormon, and admittedly had sometimes knee-jerk reactions in the past about Evangelicals. Not necessarily overt, but, sort of unconfessed, as you’ve admitted here. I worked on Romney’s 2007/2008 campaign, and I’m an avid supporter. I confess it’s fun to see someone I identify with in the spotlight, though, as blogs such as this and Article VI point out, politics is not the same as salvation. In any case, the main thing I wish to express is just how refreshing all your Evangelical voices have been. Perhaps it’s harder to identify with people who seem so similar culturally, but are theologically different. In any case, I just wish to express appreciation for you and the brave journey. :) Not always easy to reach out across some divides, but it’s been very valuable to this observer, and not merely on political grounds, even though that’s our common interest.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Robert! For reading and for the note. I think that just bringing this out of the darkness will help to shed light on the issue.

  • Jolie King

    Thanks Nancy for your informative and honest article. I will certainly followup to get more information from the website you listed.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Jolie, I miss you!

  • Stan

    Nancy,

    Thanks for your letter. It is excellent, and I appreciate the support that you give to Governor Romney. Your website is first class, and your articles are always timely and well written.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Stan! I appreciate you readers too!

  • PAULEE

    Thank you for you heartfelt message..I have never met a more moral, sincere, humble man than Mitt Romney..As President, his discipline and character…his walk through his life is less flawed than so many before him. I am not a Mormon..but since joining the Mitt for President in ’07…I have much respect for the dedication of Mormon folks.. they believe in preparedness, Bible readings nightly, living and respecting the law of the land. I say…We are electing a president in chief…Not a pastor in chief…and I will say…in my years of devoting time, energy, and funds to this man …he never has disappointed me..His seriousness for love of country and our future is remarkable. He is ready day one..and I trust his ability to the utmost…I pray in my home privately that it is God’s will that He is our next president…and leave it there…not for public square scrutiny….thank you…

  • Eric Nichols

    Nancy,
    This seems more like a Letter to the Baptists than the entire evangelical crowd. Curious?!

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Eric, I LOVE BAPTISTS! Sorry if it came across this way. You guys just happened to have some humdinger Democrat Presidents. :) The only Presbyterians we got (that I know of) are Polk and Jackson… not current enough to use as examples. :)

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Eric, plus this pastor is Baptist, which is why it’s pertinent!

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      I mean, the pastor Robert Jeffress — who started all the chaos this weekend at the Values Voters conference — is baptist.

  • http://evelio-perez.blogspot.com/ Evelio Perez

    Nancy, thank you for such a great insight of your transition from intolerance to the acceptance of Mormons as equal citizens, this is what I believe Christ wants. this is so good……..

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Evelio!

  • Philip Mazzei

    NO MORE STRANGERS, BUT FELLOW-CITIZENS

    Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
    (Ephesians 2:19)

  • Rev. Ton P. Alcantara

    This is a very well written article. As evangelicals we don’t vote for a person by virtue of his religous affiliattion but on his qualifications and competence for the job. Moreover, many in the Bible (Joseph, Daniel etc.) served pagan kings and helped shaped their policies. Finally, we live in a fallen world we can not expect a perfect candidate to our complete satisfaction as God’s people. We can settle for a righteous and proven leader in terms of governance of the nation and pray for them so we can enjoy peace in the land!

    • Lance in TX

      Rev. Alcantara,
      Thank you for your feelings on this. I think many evangelicals feel as you do (I am LDS so I cannot speak for them, but that is what I have seen). Unfortunately, there is a very large group of evangelicals that do not feel the way you do and will only vote based on religious affiliation. BTW: I am not going to vote for Mitt because he is LDS but instead because of his abilities. I would NEVER vote for Harry Reid even though he is LDS. I would not vote for Hunstman even though he is LDS. I have voted for evangelicals and would again if I felt they would do a good job.
      Thank you again!

  • Tom

    Too bad Mitt is a republican. He’s not progressive enough for me.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Tom, ha! I hear “he’s too liberal for me” more than your complaint.

      :)

  • http://danb_oyc@yahoo.com Dan Barker

    Great article, Nancy!
    I think through this and a few other works from both you and your husband, I have been *finally* able to convert my parents into voting for a Mormon. Or more exactly, voting for the best and most qualified candidate who happens to be a Mormon. Thanks again, Nancy!

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Dan, awesome! What denomination are they? I know it is a LONG road for some and a short path for others. Thanks for letting us know!

  • Kevin

    Thank you, Nancy. What a great personal story. I hope others are able to dismiss the religious rhetoric behind the opposition to Mitt and judge him based on what he can do for the country.

  • Dennis

    Great comments, enjoyed what you wrote. I think we need a leader like Mitt regardless of his core faith.

  • Audrey

    You had me at “I tithed, had been baptized in a summer camp swimming pool when I was twelve, knew all the verses of How Great Thou Art, and had Pyrex dishes with my name written on the bottom in Sharpie specifically for benevolence casseroles.” Most of your Mormon neighbors could say the same of themselves, just substitute “summer camp swimming pool” for “baptismal font” and make it age 8 instead of 12. Perhaps Mormons and evangelicals have more in common than any of us realized! ;)

    This is one of the most level-headed and intelligent arguments I’ve seen as to the relevancy of a candidate’s personal religious beliefs. Excellent balance between personal vignettes, clear facts, and a touch of humor. Thank you for posting this. And this is coming from a Mormon Democrat, by the way! (Who knew such a thing even existed?!)

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Audrey,

      Thanks for the note, but cross on over to the GOP side, baby! :)

  • Chris Stratford

    “They attend Zion Presbyterian Church, though they are always about ten minutes late.”
    this could be a sign of incipient mormonism, since everyone knows that all mormons run on mormon standard time (15 minutes late)
    :)

    • Chris Stratford

      But seriously – a nice well written article – thank you

      • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

        Thanks, Chris — I’ve been accused this week of being a closet Mormon anyway!

  • James McDonald

    Nancy – for the record, here is the list of the Presidents who claimed to be Presbyterians – not that I would have voted for them all…

    Andrew Jackson
    James Knox Polk (also listed as a Methodist)
    Ulysses S Grant (also listed as a Methodist)
    Rutherford B. Hayes (also listed as a Methodist)
    James Buchanan
    Grover Cleveland
    Benjamin Harrison
    Woodrow Wilson
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Ronald Reagan

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Right, I forgot Reagan was PCUSA — too bad PCA couldn’t claim him. :) But I heard the church he attended is a good one.

  • Concerned Citizen

    After all, the really important thing is that you all get together and fuck up the gay people!

    • Eichendorff

      Hmmm. Do you want to be known as the resident potty mouth?

  • keithivy

    yes we must not quibble over the electric bill while the house is engulfed in flames….ROMNEY 2012

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Amen!

  • LJ

    “In fact, we owe them a great deal for their steadfast consistency on moral issues The sometimes squishy evangelical church, tossed by every trend, is responsible for electing Barack Obama.”

    Alrighty. I have a couple questions:

    1) How exactly is the “sometimes squishy evangelical church… responsible for electing Barack Obama”? Obama beat McCain by nearly 10 million votes. Somehow I doubt all 10,000,000 of those voters attend evangelical churches. Furthermore, I’m a Christian who’s attended evangelical churches my whole life and I voted for Obama. See, my “squishy” moral compass doesn’t allow me to vote for a person who supported an unjust and unneeded war.

    2) Are you joking with the line: “we owe them (Mormons) a great deal for their steadfast consistency on moral issues ” or are you ignorant? The Mormon church has flip-flopped on moral issues left and right… two biggies- racial equality and polygamy. The second is why thinking people found the Mormons’ support of Prop 8 based on “traditional” marriage being between “one man and ONE woman” so funny.

    I wouldn’t be likely to vote for Romney even if he weren’t Mormon. But I can’t bring myself to vote for someone who thinks God the Father has a physical body and is currently residing on a planet called Kolob. That’s just my two cents. I’d vote for Bo Obama before I could do that.

    • Eichendorff

      “See, my “squishy” moral compass doesn’t allow me to vote for a person who supported an unjust and unneeded war.”

      Since Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, and has started another war in Libya without consulting Congress, I assume you won’t be voting for Obama this time around.

      Latter-day Saints have always believed in and practiced racial equality. Blacks were baptized into the Church from its earliest days. When Joseph Smith declared himself a candidate for President in 1844, part of his platform was freedom for slaves. Mormons were abolitionists a quarter-century before the beginning of the Civil War. The restriction from the Priesthood that applied to African blacks (it applied to no other race or ethnicity) was a matter of policy and not doctrine. If you say that was racist, then you have to say that the restriction from the Priesthood that applied to all the tribes of Israel except the Levites was also racist. I don’t think so. Besides, LDS Church leaders always predicted that the restriction would eventually be lifted, and so it was.

      What the question of whether God has a body (see Luke 24:36-43) or not and where he resides has to do with the Presidency I fail to comprehend.

  • Karen Trifiletti

    Nancy,

    Thank you. Well-stated, terrific!

  • http://www.yorkshiretales.com Ronnie Bray

    I must say that I enjoyed your reasoning, especially since you are theologically and politically kitty-corner from my own position. Due to the fact that I come from a place where a man’s politics are less important than his manners and civility I find it doubly refreshing that you make the point that electing a president is not the equivalent of electing a Pope, a Chief Rabbi, or an Imam, but is a purely political function. Whatever God POTUS addresses when on his knees in his bed chamber is a matter for him or herself alone. Thank you for making that plain in words that are difficult to misunderstand.

    Would I vote for Brother Romney? No. Not because of his Christian faith, for I also am LDS. I would withhold my vote from him because I am a socialist [small 's' after the British fashion], and because my politics is informed by my faith and not the other way round.

    In my case, it is a matter of the socialist principles of Matthew 24 in the sheep and goats story, and also those enfolded in the Good Samaritan story. I know a good many Mormons that disagree with me, and I know a lot that agree, but I am blessed not to be cursed with hatred for the views of those that are not entirely consonant with mine. I shall keep an eye on your postings from now on, and hope to see more glimmers of light coming from out of the political darkness, giving hope to the US of A, and leading the way as Christians ought to join people to one another rather than divide them with persnickety point scoring jibes.

    May God bless you both.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      Thanks, Ronnie!

  • §amantha

    I laughed and giggled while reading this. I loved it. So much truth. The thought that I have is… If all the voting Believers pulled together and focused on what we DO have incomon, there is no limit to what we can acomplish.

    • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

      THanks, Samantha — I know, right? Plus, how can we be the majority party in America if we only want to hang out with “our own kind?”

  • Colleen

    Another thank you from a new LDS fan.

  • Rawhide

    Very well written, and at some point I might have to re-read this article to get comfortable especially on the gullibility point, but my hesitations concerning Romney are on the issues. Romney’s conversions on issues are suspect because of when they happened; a man is running for U.S. Senate (and then governor) and hasn’t completely thought through the issue of the sanctity of life? the homosexual agenda (the importance of traditional family)? socialization of healthcare? etc. etc.

    Sorry, but it is difficult to get excited about Romney, and I won’t muster the effort until I am forced to do so.