“Mormons Who Love Obama”

July 5, 2012


Post by Joseph M –

As I mentioned previously, I think that this website got a mention on Salon.com – but I can’t be certain, because the writer used the term, “Mormons Who Love Obama” when linking to our site. So this might have been in reference to us, or it may be the third book in the soon-to-be famous Swedish crime series… (the other two being called, Mormons Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and Mormons Who Played with Fire.)

Regardless, Troy Williams does make some interesting points in his article, Romney Boosts Liberal Mormons.  Indeed, the presidential campaign season and Romney’s position as the Republican nominee (and a Mormon) has brought the Church into the spotlight like never before.  And indeed, progressive, liberal, feminist, LGBT, and intellectual Mormons are seizing the opportunity to be heard.  They have been voicing their opinions all along… and now (in this Mormon Moment) people are finally willing to listen… people like Williams and the (seemingly) hundreds of people who commented on his article.  Take the “progressive” blog By Common Consent for instance; they began in 2004 – back when most people (myself) still didn’t have internet in their homes. And now Mormons all across the spectrum of belief and practice are taking to the internet to make that one last comment that their Relief Society instructor didn’t have time for last Sunday because she ran out of time with too much material left to cover.

Mormons march during a gay pride parade in Salt Lake City on June 3. (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

But I disagree with Williams on a point or two.  I believe he is lumping too many people together.  I realize that we like easy categorization (ie., there is wheat and there are tares), but I’m not sure that voting for Obama puts you in one group or the other.  For instance, I can’t imagine that this website would give President Packer much pause.  Having served as an apostle for so many years, he’s fully aware that Democrats are within the rank and file of the Church as well as its leadership, and we don’t necessarily fit into his supposed axis of evil.   And that said, I think that Williams (and many many others) have quoted Packer out of context, missing the whole point of his talk – (which was not directed at the general membership of the church; see this blog for a review.) So while I am very happy to have our website linked in the article, I am not sure we fit the bill.  If Williams was really looking for examples of Mormons gone amok, he might have linked to John Larsen over at Mormon Expression; Larsen’s site is even much more off the handcart than Mormon Stories, John Dehlin’s collection of podcast interviews with everyone from Dr. William Bradshaw (I loved your Biology class at BYU) to Benji (the guy who thought he could dance.) Larsen’s website has a brisk air of the provocative and self-importance; for example, the Larsens are the ones who hosted the write-a-letter-to-remove-your-name-from-the-records-party in SLC last weekend.

So ultimately, I don’t believe that MormonsForObama.org sets about to “(expose) the internal stresses and fractures that have long existed within the (Mormon) faith.” Mostly, we decided to put this website together because we didn’t want others (or Romney’s campaign) to define who we are as Mormons.  But apparently in doing so I have now been defined.  I’ve become a progressive Mormon (or an intellectual or a feminist?)  However, I don’t think that I neatly represent any of those terms.  I am just a Latter-day Saint who is voting to reelect President Obama in November because I believe that he will be the best leader for our nation.

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5 Comments on ““Mormons Who Love Obama””

  1. Scott Says:


    • Frank Stark Says:

      Meet Mitt the Mormon
      By Erin Ann McBride
      Editor’s Note: It was 1994 the first time I heard my uncle talk about his friend in Massachusetts who was running for Senate. I remember my first thought at the time was, “My uncle knows a Democrat?” Who else would run for Senate in Massachusetts? I was corrected quickly. A few years later I began to hear about my uncle’s old friend and mission associate again when that friend was picked to run the Salt Lake Olympics Committee, and then, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. To hear my uncle speak of him, his friend was impeccable, courageous, and a dynamic leader. We were southern Virginians who watched the political events of Massachusetts closely. I was intrigued. In 2007, I sat quietly by and watched as my uncle and my father tirelessly worked for Mitt Romney’s fledgling campaign. And on April 10, 2012, minutes after we received the word that Former Senator Rick Santorum had dropped out of the race, my father called me. “My little brother was right. Mitt Romney is going to be the President of the United States. He’s been saying it for years, and he was right.”
      Dane C. McBride, a physician who is the senior partner of the Asthma and Allergy Center of Roanoke and Lynchburg, is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Virginia Medical School and Vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees of Southern Virginia University, in Buena Vista, Virginia. He and Michael Bush, also a former French Missionary friend and now a faculty member of Brigham Young University, co-founded the blog, http://www.MittTheMan.com, to highlight the personal, human side of Mitt Romney with warm, personal anecdotes that run counter to in the “stiff, impersonal” narrative often promoted in the general media. McBride’s story below is modified for Meridian from an Op-ed that first appeared in the Lynchburg News and Advance, May 6, 2012.

      L-R Dr. Dane McBride, Ann Romney, Former Governor Mitt Romney, JamilSrouse
      I first met Mitt Romney in October 1966, in Rouen, France, at a Zone training meeting for missionaries who served in Normandy and Brittany.
      Romney was gregarious, obviously bright and seemed more on top of things than normally expected of someone who had arrived less than 14 weeks earlier. The first indication I had was that he spoke better French than others who had arrived that summer. Our common experience of growing up in the East was a source of connection that brought us together. Most of the others were from the western United States or Canada, places where the concentration of Mormons was often higher, but we had been the only Mormons in our respective high schools. We also had fathers who had stood out in their respective professions and in service to their communities.
      It was not until the early spring of 1968 that Mitt and I had the opportunity to develop a deep and lasting friendship that grew from living and working together as missionaries in Southwestern France. “Mai ’68,” as it was known in France, brought historic strikes and rioting that nearly toppled the French government, while the U.S. experienced the tragedies that were the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. With little time to reflect on those world events, we went about the Bordeaux Zone reassuring, teaching, training, motivating and uplifting our young fellow missionaries as well as the local members of the Church in Southwestern France.

      McBride, Romney, and other Elders entertain the missionIt was through those challenges that my admiration for Mitt grew, as I witnessed the great compassion he had for those around him. These were young men and women who were justifiably somewhat frightened, and certainly insecure in the face of rioting in the streets, and multiple strikes that crippled electric service, postal service and most other municipal services. He urged, convincingly, the exercise of faith, hope and determination to see things through. Receiving no letters from home meant that money ran out quickly, so he also worked with our leaders in Paris to find the means to get through that time of national upheaval.
      Later, while working together, we read the book “Think and Grow Rich!” by Napoleon Hill. Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, recommended that we use those concepts of positive thinking to overcome doubt and discouragement so we could perform at a higher level. We applied the concepts to our missionary work, but of course it could be applied to business as well. I’ve often said that Mitt and I read that book at the same time, but he read it better than I did!
      I also saw him help complete the change of harsh feelings our landlord and his wife had towards Americans in general, and Mormons in particular. In the end, they became almost surrogate parents, insisting that we call them “Mama and Papa” Castagnone, instead of “monsieur” and “madame.” I saw them weep when he was transferred to the mission headquarters in Paris, where he was elevated to the position of Assistant to the Mission President.

      Tragedy struck only weeks later. Mitt was driving Mission President H. Duane Anderson and his wife, Leola, back to Paris, accompanied by three other passengers, when another vehicle rounded the bend ahead at full speed and swerved into their lane, hitting them head on. Everyone was injured, but Sister Anderson was killed. Mitt was bloody and unconscious when the police arrived. The gendarme prematurely pronounced him dead at the scene. The mission president returned home for his wife’s funeral and several weeks of specialized medical care.
      From that point forward, I watched Mitt’s stature grow and his leadership abilities develop. Despite falling morale and stagnating efforts, Mitt analyzed the situation and worked with his fellow leaders, including companion Assistants Joel McKinnon and then Bill Ryan, to develop a plan for success. With great energy, they worked to raise the confidence, faith and performance of the missionaries. Instead of 1968 becoming the worst record in many years, the missionaries achieved greater success than had been seen in a long time. Looking back, I can see that this was just the first of what would be many remarkable “turnarounds” for which Mitt is now well known.
      Mitt returned home from his 2½ years in France on Christmas Eve that same year and proposed to his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, (keeping a “Day 1 Promise!”) during the drive from the airport. Ann had been converted to the Church, independent of Mitt, while he was on his mission. After participating in each other’s weddings, we pursued (with another mission buddy, Bill Ryan) a classic “commission only” summer sales endeavor in Detroit. Mitt’s fairness, honesty and business integrity became evident in ways never seen during unpaid missionary service.
      While at BYU, my new bride and I lived for a time in the same small apartment building as Mitt and Ann. The frugal life of typical student couples often required that dinner result in a pooling of refrigerator resources: “We’ve got hamburger and tomatoes…” “We’ve got spaghetti and lettuce…” Having lived with Mitt in very humble circumstances in France, and then as student couples in the modest apartment setting at BYU, I find it preposterous for anyone to say that Mitt can’t fathom “how the rest of us live”!
      After graduation, the Romneys went to Boston for his studies in business and law at Harvard, and my wife and I went to medical school in Detroit. While there we got to know Mitt and Ann’s parents, the Romney and Davies families. Generosity, humility, resoluteness, hard-working and integrity are words that I associate with all the members of their families.
      Our friendship would be renewed during their visits with family in Detroit and later during my trips to medical conferences in Boston. I recall Ann’s embarrassment during my stays in their home when her little boys would be naughty. I also remember the fun and laughter they enjoyed, the pictures of Jesus and the slogans of faith around the house, each illustrating the life of a wholesome family that the country is now getting to know.

      Because of our similar backgrounds serving as bishops and stake presidents, our common experience serving others who face life’s problems has kept us close, despite the passing years and distance. I was pleased to get to be at his inauguration as Governor of Massachusetts, and then delighted when he announced in 2007 his bid for the Republican nomination.
      Over the years, Mitt has given untold hours of service, in circumstances that are numerous but under-reported, due, no doubt, to his modesty. One of those spontaneous acts of service to people in need occurred in Boston when Mitt donned homemade beekeeper’s garb to help one of this home teaching families in his ward remove a hornet’s nest that had been built in their second-story air conditioning system. When Mitt heard about the plight, the father of the family had already broken his arm in a fall from the roof in his own attempt to handle the problem himself. Another example occurred in the middle of the Presidential campaign in 2007. In that particular episode Mitt helped his son’s neighbor clean up following significant damage from the San Diego fires. Mitt came to their service, accompanied only by his Secret Service detail with reporters nowhere to be seen.
      As a young man in my 20s, I remarked to friends (never to him!) that “If one day Mitt doesn’t become President of the United States, this country will be cheated!” As he now stands as the presumptive presidential nominee of his party, that feeling is stronger than ever.
      Dane McBride
      Dane McBride knew something of Mitt Romney even before the two met in 1966.McBride grew up revering Mitt’s father as a personal hero. George Romney was a multi-term governor of Michigan, chairman and CEO of American Motors Corp., and would eventually run for President.
      When McBride met Mitt in France, he approached George Romney’s son with a degree of apprehension.
      “I was thinking, ‘Gee, I’m going to be seeing the son of one of the heroes of my youth. I hope he doesn’t disappoint, that he’s not a spoiled brat or thinking he’s better than everyone else,'” McBride said. “He was absolutely anything but that. He was gregarious, just open and friendly with all. He wasn’t thinking he was the big cheese. He was like everyone else. But you could tell he had studied harder than anyone else there. He was better at the language for his time in country, and he knew his discussions better than others.”
      The two both worked in the country over the ensuing months, but in different regions. That changed in 1968, when McBride joined Romney and another companion, when McBride’s companion had to return home for a family tragedy. Romney was the new Zone Leader, where McBride had previously been Zone Leader. Like all missionaries, they experienced both good and bad days in the mission field as they attempted to share the Gospel with a French populace that was enamored more with existentialism than with Mormonism.
      “Rejection was a major part of it,” McBride said. “You become reasonably good at rejection. You laugh about it together, and at the same time you share deep spiritual feelings from time to time, so that friendship developed and became strong in that setting.
      “Romney raised the conversion benchmark from 160 baptisms that difficult year of 1968 to 200. By Jan. 1, the mission had exceeded that goal.

      Personal Insights
      McBride tells another story about his friend in France, involving Romney’s then-girlfriend, Ann Davies. Ann and Mitt had dated before Romney left for his mission. Mitt was deeply in love with her. While Mitt was gone, Ann was accepted into Brigham Young University. After she went out with the student body president, he received a letter from her which he feared was a “pre-Dear John”, so well known to many missionaries.
      “The only time I’ve ever seen Mitt clueless and lost was when it looked to him like he was going to lose Ann, and he was helpless to do anything about it” McBride said. “He was in tears at the time and could not focus. For two weeks, he was going through the motions, but he didn’t have any zeal or heart.
      “After another letter, Ann reaffirmed her love for only him, and Romney’s “whole countenance changed” back to the positive, McBride said.
      BYU Cougar Club
      Romney and McBride stayed friends after their missions. In their time together at BYU, they joined the “Cougar Club” where Mitt ascended to leadership. Romney proposed the club skip its usual goal of raising $10,000 a year for the athletics program, and aim for $100,000- something that just wasn’t done back then. His idea was that instead of sponsoring dances and selling mums for homecoming, the club set up a phone bank to call alumni and parents to ask for donations — a new concept at the time.
      “The club members raised $100,000,” McBride said, “and in an atmosphere that allowed them to say, ‘We did that.’”
      It is enablement and ideas like these, seen also by those who worked with him as volunteers in the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, that McBride believes make Romney a great leader today.
      McBride offered his own opinion that “people of other faiths will hear Mitt and they will say, ‘this guy has our values,’ because in terms of family values, personal values, the importance of family, the importance of service and faith, there’s not a dime’s difference in their values.”

      McBride continues to campaign for his old friend. In late 2007, he traveled to Des Moines to campaign ahead of the 2008 Iowa caucuses. When Romney appeared at the Roanoke Regional Airport to stump for then-gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, McBride was there. He has spent numerous hours volunteering for the current campaign as a promoter and fundraiser for the campaign in Virginia.He was particularly pleased with Romney’s successful visits to Liberty University in nearby Lynchburg in May, and more recently to Roanoke, VA.

      Which candidate best exemplifies how the Gospel teaches that we should live? Which one has a demonstrated history of being acceptable to Heavenly Father? Do we choose Nauvoo or Chicago?

      • Joseph Says:

        Hi Frank, we are approving this comment, but please try to be more succinct in the future. This is longer than the original post! Thank you for your interest in Mormons for Obama!

  2. Sharon Garrick Says:

    Well said Joseph and I am in total agreement with your comments.
    I do not want to be put into any catagory but left to think for myself and do my own research on candidates regardless of party. I too believe President Obama should be returned to office in November.

  3. Jackson Westenskow Says:

    Well said. I think it’s human nature to want to put things into categories. Male or female. Black or white. Religious or not. We even ask people what they do, so we can categorize their wealth or intellect. It makes us more comfortable. But it generally makes us very uncomfortable when others define us. I really think anything that gives others pause before they make assumptions is a great thing. The church’s “and I’m a Mormon” campaign seeks to do just that.

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