If there were a “Mormon of the Week” award, this week while only half over would hands down go to Michael Otterson, head of the Church’s Public Affairs.
Recently, an evangelical Christian leader named, Warren Cole Smith, came out and basically stated that a vote for Mitt Romney or any other Mormon for president was a vote for Satan and was un-American.
In the past, the Church has normally not made any statements regarding such outrageous claims. For instance, in the last presidential election cycle, when Mitt Romney was attacked, the Church was quiet about it.
However, this time the head of the Church Public Affairs office, Michael Otterson, personally wrote a letter in the Washington Post to Warren Cole Smith.
In the letter, Otterson first notes Smith’s three major claims on why Americans shouldn’t vote for Mormons:
1. Any Mormon, regardless of qualifications for office, is unfit to serve because his or her religion is somehow “demonstrably false.” By false, I assume you mean different from yours, or from how you define “biblical Christianity.”
2. Because Mormons believe in continuing revelation, they could “believe one thing today and another thing tomorrow.”
3. The election of a Mormon president would give the religion a boost because it would seem like an endorsement. And that would be a bad thing.
He then calmly but pointedly shoots down these ideas one at a time. Noting Article 6 of the Constitution, Otterson explains that religious tests for office will not be done. Freedom of religion is, after all, an important concept in American Constitutional history.
That continuing revelation in the Church could mean we could suddenly change our beliefs was answered by the fact that the two key changes noted by Smith were changes done over 120 years. In other words, major changes in the Church happen slowly and infrequently, just like in other churches.
Perhaps his greatest point was this:
To your third point, there’s your assertion that the election of Mormons to high office would be a tacit endorsement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This argument, while not new, is frightening in its implications. Substitute the word “Jew” for “Mormon” and see how comfortable that feels. We may reasonably hope that most people vote on the basis of policy positions and not of denomination. I never thought of the election of John Kennedy as an endorsement for Catholicism, or that Richard Nixon’s election “legitimized” Quakers (as if these groups needed legitimation). I think most Americans saw their religious affiliations as incidental to their policies and platforms.
So, kudos to Michael Otterson to a well written and well played article. I hope it becomes a textbook case of how Mormons respond to their critics, whether in person or on the Internet.