Politics

Inside The Mormon Debate Over Romney

A leaked e-mail exchange on a Mormon listserv shows some of Mitt’s coreligionists cringe at the mingling of religion and politics.

Mitt Romney supporters attend a campaign rally at El Aero Services Inc. at Elko International Airport in Elko, Nevada, February 3, 2012. EMMANUEL DUNAND / Getty Images

Here’s an e-mail exchange—first passed on by John Haddock in the BuzzFeed comments—that shows a heated debate on a Mormon listserv about whether it’s appropriate to use LDS community resources to campaign for Mitt Romney.

BuzzFeed first reported on this phenomenon in its Friday report, “Mitt Mormon Army,” which examined how grassroots Romney fans have taken advantage of the existing communications infrastructure laid by the church and its members to assist their candidate.

The Colonial First Wars listserv—where the below exchange took place—contains about 3,500 D.C.-area Mormons, and has been used frequently throughout the campaign season to coordinate volunteer efforts for Romney. But, as these e-mails show, some Mormons cringe at the mingling of religion and politics.

From John Haddock:

I promised the person I received this e-mail chain from that I would not make it public, but it’s too good not to share… I’ve deleted the names.

THE LISTSERV E-MAIL THAT STARTED IT ALL:

We are taking a day trip to gather signatures to put Mitt Romney on the ballot on Saturday, October 15th. We will all be meeting in the Foggy Bottom area at 8:30 am this Saturday.

2400 Virginia Ave, NW.
Washington, DC 20037.

Some of us will be headed to a big apple festival in Delaware and others will be headed to the University of Delaware football game. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in attending this trip please let us know.

Both drivers and volunteers to get signatures are needed.

Please contact **** ******* at ********@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks!

THE RESPONSE:

To whoever manages this list serve,

I know I’m probably going to make enemies here, but I’m getting really tired of the ads for Romney campaign trips coming from this listserve. The disclaimer on the bottom of every listserve email states very clearly: “Items that will not be posted/that will be removed include: promoting your business, promoting political ideologies, and inflammatory comments and rhetoric.” Regardless of whether these campaign announcements violate that rule, I signed up for these list serves to get needed and useful information on church activities, job openings, housing, etc—not to have my inbox cluttered up by campaign ads.

I don’t know if you’ve already heard complaints from others, but I thought I would make my voice be heard.

**** ******

THE RESPONSE TO THE RESPONSE:

As an FYI, the Romney ads that have been posted over the last few days are non-ideological; they’re simply announcements regarding upcoming political activities. An invitation to visit Delware is hardly inflammatory. Additionally, you are at full liberty to ignore the post, as (clearly) not all posts apply to all people. The ‘nanny’ ads don’t apply to me one bit, but somehow I’ve learned to live with it.

Best of luck reconciling this difficult crossroads.

***

THE RESPONSE FROM ANOTHER RESPONDING TO THE RESPONSE:

The tone of your email was extremely rude and completely uncalled for. While you are not technically wrong (at least in my opinion) you need to take a second and think about other people’s feelings. I am guessing that you are conservative, and have never had to experience how uncomfortable and down right painful it can be to be a liberal member of the Church. Personally, I have been told that I am going to hell for being a democrat, called a baby-killer, and told that I can not be a good Mormon and a liberal, among other things, all by “righteous” members of the Church. And while I know perfectly well that the Church does not espouse any official political ideology, and I feel that my political beliefs are in fact supported by my religious beliefs, many members seem to miss this message that is delivered over the pulpit every election season. So yes, every time I see something that is even close to members of the Church claiming one political ideology is Church sponsored, which campaign emails going out over a ward listserv comes very uncomfortably close to, at least for me, I cringe. I know that I am not unique in these feelings or experiences. In fact I have a number of friends who have left the Church in large part because of how awful members of their ward/BYU community were to them because of their political beliefs. I have sat through BYU devotionals where people have been downright rude to distinguished gusts such as Sandra Day O’Connor and boo-ed democratic political figuers. It is a MAJOR problem in the culture of the Church. So next time, think about why someone would be uncomfortable with certain emails, and how much courage it would take someone who has experienced derision from fellow members of the Church to come out and say something like this person did in a public forum, inviting yet more derision, like he got from you, and try treating your fellow man with love and respect.

*****

THE RESPONSE TO THE RESPONDER FROM THE ONE WHO WRITE THE FIRST RESPONSE:

Hello *****,

A pleasure to hear from you! If you re-read both ****’s comment and my reply (assuming you read it in the first place), I think you’ll find that the original was more inflammatory and uncalled for than the response. My response clearly indicated its purpose: that there was no sense in complaining about something that didn’t warrant complaining. I am indeed a conservative - but you probably guessed that from my reasonable tone. I’m sure you can agree with me that liberals are quick to be offended over the inconsequential, no?

I’m going to make a cognitive leap here and assume that you have other things going on in your life right now that required some venting. As such, I was just the unfortunate straw that broke the camel’s patient back, and I received the lashing. As a self-professed liberal, you will certainly be interested in being fair and hearing out my view, right? Of course you will.

1) In the 75 words that I wrote, I never once mentioned the words “church,” “conservative,” or “Republican.” Why would you assume that my belief in the freedom of innocuous speech labels me as supporting one ideology over another?

2) I’m a conservative from [a liberal state]- do you really think I’ve never been persecuted for my beliefs? Why did you think it permissible to rail on me for an offense that wasn’t even directed towards you? Do you really think that little of ****? That he can’t stand up for himself if he’s bothered? Or do you think that much of yourself?

3) Do you think being called out for unnecessary whining counts as persecution? Or was it just training in proper social etiquette?

4) I’m not a Utah-bred Mormon - do you think I’ve never disagreed with that culture? Do you think I’ve never been offended by that culture?

5) The listserve emails say at the bottom: “Appropriate and intended uses for this list include: housing, jobs,… and other relevant items of interest to the LDS singles in DC.” Do you think that, as Mr Romney is a Mormon candidate - the first Mormon Presidential candidate since Joseph Smith - maybe some LDS singles in DC might be interested in campaign activities? Even if it disagrees with your line of thinking, can this activity still count as “relevant?” Should I complain about all the women’s housing posts I get?

6) Do you really think it took courage to write something out of annoyance? How do you know he’s ever received derision about a political stance or belief? How do you know he’s not an ardent supporter of Huntsman?

7) Do you think your cringing is due to oversensitivity? Is this defense of Mr. ****** just a projection?

8) Do you think that maybe focusing on similarities in the church membership is more helpful than focusing on differences?

I could ask more questions, but maybe at this point they’re superfluous. I hope these penetrating questions help you to think of me with a little more love and respect, and not the blanket derision expressed so decisively in your missive. Rest assured, I’ll happily go to my ward on Sunday, as my testimony is based in God and not in the lay member’s imperfect opinions. I’m confident you’ll do the same - if you’ve lasted this long in the church as a “liberal,” then your testimony obviously comes from the same Source as mine.

Cheers,

****

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