Friday, May 13, 2011

Defining Milqtoast Mormonism: Fidelity in Faith

There is a great ongoing debate about the role that religion should have in our public arena.  Over the last 40 years we have seen a trend toward purging religiousness from the public square.  That trend has manifested itself in our country through the occasional banning of Christmas Nativity scenes during traditional Christian holidays to the rejection of expressions of faith such as prayer in public places.

This procedure of sterilizing society of the pathogens of pious expression has produced some interesting side effects.  One of those effects has been the conflict created between elected officials personal spirituality versus the job that the official must perform while in office.  In order to justify the poor behavior of some politicians while also qualifying those of conspicuous religious standing there has been a doctrine promoted that a man’s public life is separate and somehow inoculated from his personal life.  The creed would say that what a man does in his spare time does not in any way affect his day job. 

I reject this thinking.  Although each of us wears many hats (father, husband, legislator, employee, brother, friend, ect.) those roles are influenced by our world view and our value system.  That may or may not include a religious way of life.  But, if it does, that faith, whatever it is, becomes part of who we are.  Regardless of how politically incorrect it is to believe, it is part of what defines us.

This leads to some of the interesting remarks expressed by our former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.   In a recent TIMES magazine article we read the following:

I don't even come close to getting him to spill such puny secrets as whether he thinks we should be in Afghanistan or Libya ("There will be more to say about that"), in what ways he disagrees with Obama ("I don't want to get into specifics") or, for that matter, where he parts company with his fellow Republicans, including his distant cousin, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("It wouldn't be fair to offer an opinion without doing due diligence"). And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.")

Let’s put these remarks in proper context.  First, TIME has never been a bastion of Christian ethos.  That is proven by their annual Easter edition celebrating scholarly doubts about the divinity of Christ.  Second, the general public has very little accurate information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In this interview, Mr. Huntsman is basically entering an arena that is foreign to religious values and where the opinions of the public are unpredictable and possibly hostile based on how the interview is reported.

If the reporting is indeed accurate, which Mr. Huntsman’s spoke people have not refuted, then what we have is an interesting, if not surprising, expose into who Jon Huntsman Jr. really is at his core.
It appears that these comments can be interpreted in two ways.  First, that he is cynical enough to play coy about his personal convictions so as to maximize the greatest political benefit from the interview. Or second, that he is a man that lacks confidence or conviction in a religion the citizens of Utah have assumed he belongs to.  Unfortunately, neither of these interpretations is satisfying.     
It is best when we own who we are.  If we are unbelievers, then we should own it.  As much as people wished that they didn’t have to express any faith or theology they espouse, these things are part of who we are.  Or as we often see, once they become an inconvenience to personal ambition, they can be easily tossed aside like shoes that are no longer in fashion.  

Whatever world view or faith each of us espouse, may we have fidelity to it, and stand for what we each believe.


  1. Well said.

    I think he is putting his politics out there, and will say anything that will appease the maximum number of voters.

    Remember our previous discussions, where I threw my support behind you, but I said if you became a politician, I'd not only quit supporting you, I'd campaign against you.

    He is as plastic as they come.

  2. this is an interesting situation. I think it is possible that he really doesnt believe in the church and is trying not to flat out lie about it. would it be better that he lie and pretend he is his hardcore? Or if he doesnt buy it all, should he have to remove his name from the church? There are a lot of people like him in the church but not a lot that will openly say it.

  3. The problem resides in the fact that, up till now, the general public in Utah has been led to believe that he is a "hardcore" member. His campaign materials he distributed show photographs of him side by side with Apostles in the church. So, it seems that any answer he gives that is not in harmony with this message will be troubling to the Utah public.

    I have been trying to think of some candid answers he could have given that would be true to being a disaffected member of the church. I am sure we can all think of many responses that are better than the one that was given.

  4. Good point. Do you think the politician or the public are to blame for reading into everything or forcing polarized answers to hot button questions? You cant possibly please everyone. His extended family tree has at least two or maybe several apostles.

  5. When I met him in 1982, he had just returned from an LDS mission, so I have to assume he wasn't always lukewarm about the LDS Church.


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