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Are Mormons Conservative?
by Justin Hart
31 March 2004Book of Mormon

Everything you wanted to know about Mormons but were afraid to ask.

As Peter Jennings was tallying up the electoral votes for George Bush (41) during the 1988 presidential election, I can recall feeling a bit slighted as a Mormon.  Said Jennings: “Utah, with its three electoral votes, has voted Republican for as long as anyone can remember.”  I was only 16 years old at that time, but I recall a certain grit and assumption in Jennings’ tone that led me to think… is it really a given that Mormons vote Republican? 

History has borne out Jennings’ remark and for good reason.  Republicans, or more broadly, conservatives, share many of the same values as Mormons.  Both groups tout solid traditional values, limited government intervention, and entrepreneurial thinking.  Mormons will likely lean Republican for the foreseeable future.  I’d like to think this fact keeps the Left up at night, but I doubt it. 

Mormon Politics

On the other hand, maybe it should?  Mormon representation in American politics has grown beyond demographic equilibrium.  With over five million members living in the United States (11 million world wide), Mormons account for 1.6% of the U.S. population, but more than 5% of elected representatives in congress.  Please don’t tell Jesse Jackson.

Just a few examples: in the House of Representatives there is Jeff Flake (AZ), John Doolittle (CA), Wally Herger (CA), Howard McKeon (CA), Ernest Istook (OK), Mike Simpson (ID), Thomas Udall (NM), Rob Bishop (UT), and Chris Cannon (UT).  All except Udall are Republican. (Udall notes his faith as unspecified, but he comes from a long historical line of Mormon politicians)  There are 21 Mormon members in the House of Representatives all together.

In the Senate there are 5 Mormons.  Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both from Utah, Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho and Gordon Smith from Oregon (the latter is considered a moderate Republican).  The fifth member of the Senate is the ultimate exception to the rule: Senator Harry Reid, senior member of the Democrat leadership and, by all accounts, left-leaning.

Outside Washington you have the successful gubernatorial candidacy of Olympic organizer Mitt Romney, Bay Buchanan, radio talk show host Glenn Beck, and most recently, former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt was confirmed as Secretary of the EPA.

Mormons, Inc.

Beyond politics, Mormons also share the Conservative “mark of the beast.”  Indeed, most of the prominent Mormon names people recognize are not in politics but in “Big Business.”

Most notably there is the Marriott Corporation: J. W. Marriott, the late founder of the hotel chain who started his empire selling R&W Root Beer on the Mall in the early 1940s.  Next on the list: Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and CEO of Franklin Covey, Inc. Top executives at Dell, AOL, Novell, Black & Decker, the list goes on.  During the heyday of the 90’s investment watch there was even a Mormon Stock Index.  You could also include the sports and entertainment careers of Steve Young, Danny Ainge, and the Osmonds.

The Mormon Church is frequently branded as a business in its own right.  In 1997, Time Magazine ran a cover story entitled: "MORMONS, INC. The Secrets of America's Most Prosperous Religion."  Trumpeted Time: “The church's material triumphs rival even its evangelical advances.” They estimated the Church’s worth at about $30 Billion.  This is a bit overboard as I see it, but the church does require a tithe from its members, which sustains the church’s coffers very well. 

To top it off, the Mormon Church has a lay clergy (there’s a cost savings right there!).  My Bishop, for example, is an analyst for the CIA, his counselor was a field agent (now that’s a Batman scenario!).  Our local Stake President (something like an Arch-Bishop) just retired as a top controller for the CBO.  (I’m not sure if this last point is strictly conservative)

Mormon Welfare

However, there are well-established conservative programs that any welfare-loathing neo-con would appreciate.  Local tithes go to support needy families in the ward (parish).  Such welfare support is limited to one year and every ward has an “employment specialist.”  The Mormon Church also has canning facilities throughout the world, where members of the church volunteer time and money, and whose stockpiles are sent to foreign countries as aid. 

Recently, the church implemented a “perpetual education fund;” low-interest school loans to non-U.S. Mormons who have “served missions” (you know, white shirts, black name tags).  They attend schools within their own communities and pay back the money into the fund for other aspiring students.  As a side note, while American Mormons are decidedly pro-Bush, they turned down the administration’s “faith-based” funds without blinking.

The church is wholly self-sustaining, paying for every building in cash and accepting all forms of collateral for tithes.  (My father usually pays with in-kind stock donations).  The church owns farms, schools, banks, and broadcasting services (check for the BYU channel on Dish network).

Liberals against Mormons

Of late, the church has gotten into all sorts of trouble with liberals.  Whether it’s feminist complaints about BYU staffing, urging members to support California’s DMI campaign, or rantings about “free-speech” suppression; leftist-groups on the whole, pretty much loath the Mormon Church.  Did I mention that the Mormon Church accounts for almost fifteen percent of Boy Scout troops across the nation?

To be sure there are exceptions to the conservative norm.  The church is surely anti-tobacco and my friends tell me I’m not truly a conservative until I can “drink with the best of them.”  Issues like polygamy still follow us around (my wife is also my third-cousin once removed, but not by blood – go figure) and one always has to wonder about Orrin Hatch.

But, in truth, if you see a guy sporting a Book of Mormon, odds are seven to one he leans right!  But I’m not betting man, I’m a Mormon after all.

Justin Hart is a free-lance writer and marketing director for a Virginia tech firm. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Heather and his three children. Follow Justin’s blog: Right Side Redux.

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