I remember in 2008 being momentarily thrilled with the Obama election only to be dashed seconds later by the passage Prop 8. I was disappointed but I wasn’t surprised. You don’t grow up gay in Mormondom with any pie-in-the-sky delusions of how the rest of the world feels about you. About half is how I would have predicted the disapproval rating over gayness and that’s exactly how it went down… just a tad bit on the wrong side. In my personal coming out experience I’ve seen about the same split. Roughly half of the people accept me unconditionally while the others have responded with either apathy, evasion, disapproval or even occasionally disgust.
I’m trying to assess why the losing camp this election is so surprised and shell-shocked. Just completely blown away. When gays lost Prop 8 there was lots of hyperbole, crying, and a fair share of protesting, but I didn’t know anyone who was completely surprised.
I don’t like to get into politics here but in this case I believe it relates directly to Mormonism. I’m not saying folks consciously declined to vote for Romney because he was Mormon, but I do believe his pure Mormon-like character has everything to do with why he lost and why Mormons especially in his camp were so blindsided. These will be the same reasons Mormonism may lose what little relevance it has gained in America due to the “Mormon Moment.”
Lack of Transparency: In an authoritarian organization like the Mormon church, not revealing tax returns and financial details while still enjoying the trust of followers may work for a time. But it doesn’t work in public service. As a Mormon I never questioned church finances because I “knew” the leaders were trustworthy and I’d promised to faithfully follow and not criticize them regardless. There is no such system of trust and honor in public service due to this nice concept called checks and balances. These are assurances that no matter how much you believe your leader is a good guy, they are still human. There are no such checks or balances in Mormonism: No public financial statements, no voting on leadership doctrine or policy, no sharing of power. And in spite of several scriptural and historical examples of prophets leading the church astray, modern Mormonism expects to be exempt from the consequences of a human leadership. I truly believe Romney and many other Mormons sincerely don’t get that this is a deal breaker for most educated people.
Misunderstanding the Word ‘Equal’: In silly places like the dictionary and the United States Supreme Court the word ‘equal’ means ‘same’. Yet, if you talk to a Mormon woman defending the LDS position on women as I have, she’ll reach down into the 3rd or 4th definition where the actual word ‘same’ isn’t used. She’ll then proceed to explain how ‘different’ can be ‘equal’. It’s the same argument racists made before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Perhaps in religion it works for separate responsibilities and opportunities for women, gays and other for demographics, but in the public sector it doesn’t fly. Interracial nuptials changed the definition of marriage and yet it survived as an institution. As we’ve seen internationally and state by state homosexual unions will be no worse for society …and no, it’s not ‘equal’ if you call it something ‘different.’
Internal Inconsistency: I don’t think anyone wants to hear again the numerous ways Romney had contradicted himself during the course of his time in public office. I am actually all in favor of a person changing his mind, but a real course change is a transparent shift. Romney obfuscated his contradictions just as the Mormon church does without apology and without explanation. It all comes across as smarmy… saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done to achieve an objective. This is how Mormons can dismiss issues that remain doctrinal or scriptural without ever actually denouncing them. For example, polygamy remains an eternal doctrine on the books and in temples but Mormons claim it’s in their past only; Mormon scriptures still describe the racist idea that darkened skin color results from sin, but they will denounce racism verbally; concepts such as the potential godhood of man are minimized publicly in order to appear more in line with contemporary Christian thinking, but the idea remains part of temple ordinances. It’s a way of communicating that Mormons get intuitively, but that causes distrust in the real world. So, Brother Romney can say whatever he wants publicly about abortion, for example, fellow Mormons feel like they can read between the lines and know what he REALLY believes. The public who aren’t trained in that sort of double-speak just see a flip-flopper with no guiding principles. The Mormon religion similarly relies on its own leaders’ arms of flesh while warning to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Secrecy: Secrecy breeds suspicion and I don’t believe much of that has dissipated regarding Mormons. Mormon underwear conversations are all the rage. I’ve been bombarded with “magic undie” questions from non-Mormons since I left the church in 2006 so that’s nothing new. But whether or not details are available on the Internet, the mere fact that you won’t talk about them creates distrust. Romney was tight-lipped not only about his own finances, but also about details of his economic plan. So what if you could go somewhere else to read it. The fact that he wouldn’t discuss details made the whole thing easier to dismiss. I had a young lady e-mail me a few days ago regarding her experience with the sister missionaries. She expressed the same distrust and “creepiness” factor merely that there were things the sisters wouldn’t talk about. That sort of things isn’t easily dismissed in the real world.
Lack of repentance: I knew Romney was true blue Mormon the day I heard that story about his bullying the gay kid in school and his present day reaction to it. Just like the Mormon organization there was an entire lack of accountability, remorse and zero example of the process of repentance. Same goes for the story about the dog on the roof of the car. I liken it to how the Mormon church deals with darkness in its past. If Romney didn’t remember it like he said, he was a heartless prick. By showing no remorse for something or laughing it off when almost every other student involved described it as regretful and shocking he failed to live up to his own religion’s declaration of a fundamental principal…Repentance. The Mormon organization fails the same test with skeletons in its closet that, if exposed and repented of, could actually render it more approachable and identifiable. Failing to live up to its own teachings makes it appear stiff , stodgy and cartoonish like Romney.
Cluelessness: Romney’s short list of cluelessness – an off-hand personal bet of $10,000, a tax rate less than his secretary, his wife’s Olympic showhorse, a garage elevator in his La Jolla home, his hob-nobbing with Nascar owners, Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts, women (binders) and international diplomacy, Polls, youth, etc… Mormonism’s comparable but incomplete list of cluelessness includes – The Book of Abraham, missionaries, women, gays, Book of Mormon historicity and palleteability, evolution, science in general, D&C 132, its own history, Mormon ads, human behavior, etc… You can only expect the public to ignore so much of that. A person has to be indoctrinated into that sort of lack of awareness to take it seriously.
I’m only saying to take a hard look at these issues and maybe you won’t be so shocked in the days ahead when about 50% of the world still thinks you’re nuts. My biggest surprise when I left the LDS faith was how many people admitted to me how insane they thought the religion was. They only expressed their true sentiments after they felt safe in telling me. You see, people are polite by nature and won’t come out and say stuff like that to our faces. It’s that weakness that allows Mormonism and individuals like Romney to go on ignoring facts unchecked all the while patting themselves on the back over how well-liked and entitled to adoration and authority they are. Until they’re not.
And their followers? Fascinating how the less someone drinks the more likely they are to be gorging themselves on post-electoral sour grapes… pace yourselves!