Are Mormons Conservative?
by Justin Hart
31 March 2004
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
Email Justin Hart
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