Senator Robert Bennett – Mormonism in the 21st Century

Senator Bennett, Mormons in US Politics

A Jewish/gay friend said, “Mormons are the next topic. In the 60s and 70s, blacks were the topics. Then women were the topic. Now gays are the topic, but Mormons are the next topic.” Mormon corridor, Romney will do well.

There are 5% Senators who are Mormon, while we are 3% of the population. Becoming prominent outside of the Mormon corridor.  Some leaders acknowledge they are Mormon, while others do not (such as the Udalls). There are now 7 with Mormon roots in the Senate. There are more Mormons than Presbyterians or Episcopalians.  Utah used to have the rule of 1 Mormon Senator and the other not. That rule didn’t last long. My father experienced anti-Mormons in the Senate when he was there.  Harry Truman did not like Mormons. His Secretary of Agriculture was RLDS, and everything he knew came from Independence MO. I did not run into Mormon prejudice, quite the contrary. I presided over the National Prayer Breakfast. We only would run across the issue of Mormons not being Christians.  Chief of Chaplains of Navy said Mormon chaplains were the best (he is 7th Day Adventists).  I did not experience the prejudice my father seen.

I love Kathleen Flake’s book on the seating of Reed Smoot.  When he was finally seated, the committee recommended against it, but the full Senate admitted him. Senator Smoot never was a polygamist. One Senator said, “I’d rather sit in this room with a polygamist who doesn’t polyg, than with a monogamist that doesn’t monog.”

Due to some media views of Book of Mormon during Olympics, Elder Packer said we do not tell our own story well, so we shouldn’t be upset at others. One book I read had a terrible chapter on the BoM. It said no one could believe such an outlandish story as the BoM. The Church had an albatross around its neck, and would do better without the Book of Mormon. I wrote a response to the book over 7 years.  I called it, “Leap of Faith.” Summary of the book: any decision you make regarding the BoM, is a leap of faith. If you decide it is a forgery, you have to make a huge leap of faith against the evidence that shows it is genuine. OTOH, if you decide it is true, you also make a huge leap of faith. I end the book leaving it up to the reader to choose which leap of faith they would take.

I gave a copy to my friends in the Senate. The evangelicals congratulated me for having the courage to defend your faith. Subliminal, you are still an idiot, but we applaud you for trying.

Others came up and said it was a fascinating narrative. On Senator came up and asked for a copy. I went back to the office to get one, and the staff said he received one and had sent a letter of appreciation. He did find it. He read it, and commented, “I really like that Alma guy!”

It really may be true that Mormons are the next topic.

Elder Maxwell said that the Church said it would come out of obscurity and darkness. Now that it is happening, many would prefer going back to the obscurity and darkness.

I was surprised in Iowa, campaigning for Romney, on how deep the anti-Mormon feelings are. Talk show hosts in Iowa bashing Mormons every day. Romney’s non-LDS campaign manager asked them what it would take to stop the attacks. They said he would have to go on their show and say that his connection to Mormonism is entirely cultural, and he doesn’t believe the doctrine. They believed it to be a Satanic cult, seeking to destroy the government.

The new conversation is coming, and in a variety of ways. I think for the benefit of the Church.

Book of Mormon musical. Muslims are upset over a movie that is yet to be made, only a trailer on YouTube, using the movie as an excuse to be violent. Musical is obscene and ridiculing Mormons in everyway. Mormon response is one of indifference: read the book, have a nice day.

Interview with BBC journalist.  I only stipulate that I am not a spokesman for the Church, but I can give you my views. Talk on Olympics and other things. Near the end, he asked a question required by his editor. Do you wear the magic underwear?  Of course!  They happen to be a t-shirt and boxers like you, but they are not magic. It was given to me in the temple, where I made covenants. One of those covenants was to be faithful in my marriage. If I am going to violate my marriage vows, I’m going to have to take off my underwear. This is a reminder of my vows.

He said, “that isn’t very weird.”  No, it isn’t weird. It is practical and normal.

The Mormon Moment. We are the new topic. It won’t be a single moment, but going forward throughout the world. Author Karen Armstrong told me, if you tell people in Europe you are tied to religion, you are treated with disdain.  This is their post-Christian era. Catholicism in Poland is cultural. We have to teach them that there actually is a God, then missionaries can teach them about the Church.

Mormonism is one of the few religions that still holds its people by things other than culture. The doctrine is real and powerful. Mormonism’s growth is slow, because it is done one person at a time. We do not convert whole nations, such as Lutheranism or Catholicism. Yes we have people fall away, but its growth continues slowly but steadily, because of the doctrine.  This topic is going to go on for a long time.

Q/A

Will Republican/Democrat division affect Church?   Church is emphatically neutral. Reid sends his sons on missions, his wife is a great Relief Society president. Church does not encourage being of one party or other. Mormon Democrats are a growing demographic that we must pay attention to.

Mormons are showing up in important places unconnected to Utah, means a lot. Mitt Romney – Massachusetts, and others making big difference everywhere.

Is Harry Reid the new face of Mormonism?  Does he contribute to a different face of Mormonism?

I think it could. I know him well enough to say he occasionally speaks without thinking. Four years ago he said outrageous things about Barack Obama.  Obama knows Harry and was not offended.  If Mitt Romney gets elected, Harry and Mitt will sit down and work it out.  Democrats are not wanting people to know that Harry is a Mormon, but he’s forcing them to deal with it. People on the left who do not want to vote for anyone of great faith.  Many on the left are like those in Europe. They wouldn’t vote for people of faith, and Mormons are fanatics.  Statistics show that more feeling against Mormons is more on the left than the right.

Do you believe Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton are good Christians?  Politics always trump everything else. During he said/she said in Anita Hill case, we were told you always believe the woman. With Clinton’s case, the media said you can’t believe the woman.  Politics trump other issues.

If there is going to be a continued media interest, how do we deal with truth, rather than misinformation and getting things wrong? What do we need to do to have good dialogue?

You never will have a perfect media. You just do the best you can. Some media outlets will be fair, and others will pander to their base. For example, Glenn Beck is told to calm it down, and he answers that if he does, he’ll lose listeners. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, as is Rachel Maddow.

Best thing we can do is live our religion, get to know your neighbors, and be a Christian.

One person afraid of voting for a Catholic president was Martin Luther King Senior. He was afraid the Catholics would take over the country.

I do not foresee a time when Mormonism becomes cultural as with many in Catholicism, etc. One tenet is community service, which keeps us involved in ways that neighbors do not find offensive. There was a time in Catholic history when they acted exclusively, according to my former colleague, Joe Biden.  They’ve discussed issues of Catholicism and how it has changed. Book, Papal Sin followed by Why I am Still Catholic. As flawed as the Church is, the author Gary Wells says, that is where the Spirit is.  However, the Spirit is not limited to the Catholic Church.

The Spirit is what really matters at the core.

When the Church becomes cultural like the Rotary Club, the Church will collapse.

Study asking investigators: Three things had to happen to baptize. Give meaning or strike a chord with investigator on some theme. Confirming the spiritual feeling that what they heard was true. Finally, to feel like they belonged.

On this basis, the Church will continue to grow.

11 thoughts on “Senator Robert Bennett – Mormonism in the 21st Century

  1. Rame,

    Please use the “More tag” when making posts. We don’t want the front page to fill up with a single post. (Especially when it’s one of my posts vanshing out of sight LOL.)

    I’ve been fixing it for you. But please put a MORE tag in yourself. If you don’t know what I’m taking about, say so and I’ll show you how.

  2. The formatting of this post is very confusing. Is this written by Bennett or by rameumpton? Is it a transcript of an interview from somewhere else, or did Bennett write and submit it to M*?

  3. Sen Bennett spoke of the Secretary under Truman, not Eisenhower. Bennett spoke, and I live blogged, which given the speed one has to type, there may be grammatical or other errors. I’ve invited all the speakers or other attendees to peruse this, and make any corrections/clarifications in the comments.

  4. This is written in a way that is very hard to read. There are fragment sentences and serious grammatical errors. Is this some kind of interview?

  5. As noted before, this is live blogged. Senator Bennett spoke at the Mormonism in the 21st Century conference. I sat in the back typing as he spoke. It immediately went to the Millennial Star site, as I did not have time to do any editing. You can also see the other speakers’ comments at M*: Jan Shipps, Philip Barlow, Jana Riess, and Kathleen Flake’s panel discussion.

  6. Thank you for transcribing Sen Bennett’s address. I appreciate it! I feel grateful tat we have strong leadership blazing the trail into politics with faithful LDS. There is a Mormon Messages video about Elder Hugh B. Brown’s experience being denied a high officer military position just because he was a Mormon. He was grateful to the Lord some 60 years later when he saw that the Lord had cut him down to become better than he would have had he been given the position. I see that this may happen to Mitt Romney if he doesn’t become our next President. But, how wonderful that he is so instrumental in a magnificent way to bring the message of the restored gospel and the Latter-Day Saints faith to the world. This is the Lord’s work. I do hope and pray that if it is the Lord’s will that Romney/Ryan be our next United States Presidency it will happen. We Latter-Day Saints have a great opportunity to share our message by living our lives as the Saviour would have us and be a light unto this people..

  7. During the Truman Administration there were three Secretaries of Agriculture. Claude R. Wickard was Secretary during the end of the Roosevelt Administration and resigned shortly after Truman became President. There were two Truman appointees:

    Clinton P. Anderson, born and raised in South Dakota before moving to New Mexico where he became active in politics. Wikipedia lists his religion as Presbyterian.

    Charles F. Brannon, Colorado native who is listed in Wikipedia as a Quaker.

    Not sure if Wikipedia is just wrong or if one of the two may have converted to or from the RLDS Church. There is no mention of either Anderson or Brannon in the RLDS Who’s Who. Was Bennett thinking of someone else?

  8. It is possible in my rapid typing that it could have been another Secretary, etc. I tried to be as accurate as possible, but live blogging unfortunately allows errors to creep in.

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