Nov 14 2012
On Monday night, we had a new person attending our monthly empty-nesters’ dinner. Carlos and his wife have been on the invitation list as long as we have had our meetings, but he hasn’t come because his wife isn’t crazy about big groups. Finally he decided to bag it and come by himself, and we were glad to see him — with or without his wife.
Carlos has been in our ward for many years, but our paths do not cross. I would imagine I’ve talked with him for less than five minutes in all those years. So I was more than a little surprised when he immediately asked me for the name of my website so he could go there. Most people in our ward, even some fairly close friends, do not even know I am a writer.
I told him where he could find Planet Kathy, and he said. “Good. I want to see how you treated the great divide between the Red State and the Blue State Mormons in last week’s election.”
My eyes opened wide at that. I said, “I haven’t even thought about opening that can of worms!”
Later I asked myself, “Why haven’t I?”
People who don’t have much experience with Mormons think of us as a cult of sheep who do exactly what we’re told to do. Anyone who thinks of us as sheep, however, is way, way off base. If anything, Mormons are anti-sheep. The quickest way you can get a Mormon running in the other direction is to try to tell him what to think.
Mormons are so big on freedom of choice (also known as “agency” or “free agency”) that anything contrary to having that freedom is described as “Satan’s plan.” No matter how much authority you have or how noble your intentions, if you even think of telling a Mormon how to think or (horrors!) how to vote, you’re asking for a world of trouble.
Outsiders do not understand this. After the election, political journalists were shocked that more Mormons voted for George W. Bush (both times!) than voted for their own candidate, Mitt Romney.
I was disgusted that Latter-day Saints voted for Obama, but I was not surprised. It wasn’t that half our members in the United States are Democrats; that is far from being the case. But I heard a whole lot of people (even friends in our ward) get irate because the outside world just assumed they would vote for Romney. I suspect many of these Latter-day Saints voted for Obama just because they could.
I think that’s a pathetic reason for choosing a president, but nobody asked me before they voted.
We long-time Latter-day Saints have seen this phenomenon again and again. We’ll listen to the prophets and apostles all day long when it comes to spiritual things, but if those same prophets and apostles tell us where to stand on a political issue, a whole lot of Mormons rise up in rebellion.
Long ago, when we lived in Utah, the issue of “liquor by the drink” came up to a vote in Utah. Church leaders counseled their members to vote against the proposition, and the world (at least the world as defined by Utah’s borders) came to a crashing halt. I don’t even remember how the vote went. All I remember was that the moment church leaders suggested how church members should vote, there was a lot of anger and rebellion among the Saints in Utah.
The same thing came up when church leaders counseled Mormons to vote for traditional marriage in California. Immediately a large number of Mormons rebelled, some of them in very public forums, to protest what they considered a violation of their freedom.
I’m an old person. My days of rebellion are long behind me. I’m pretty sure I voted against liquor by the drink. I know that if I had lived in California I would have voted for traditional marriage. It’s not that I’m a sheep; I do think before I vote. But I’ve read The Book of Mormon often enough to know that when a prophet speaks as a prophet, it’s smart to listen.
Apparently, I am in the minority on this one — or at least I’m not in as solid a majority as I’d like to be. In fact, I suspect that if President Monson could have found a way to tell the compliant Mormons to vote for Romney and the rebellious ones to vote for Obama, all of us would have voted for Romney and we might be anticipating a new President-elect today. What a bummer! I only wish there had been a way to do it.