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Are Mormons “Weird?”
The LDS Church is politically neutral, as is Mormon Voices. Mormons hold elected office and positions of responsibility in both US political parties and various parties worldwide. When we respond to any issue regarding politics, we do so only to correct misinformation and misperceptions about the Church, not in an effort to promote a particular candidate or party.
Recently, Politico reported that part of President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign strategy will be to portray Mitt Romney, a Mormon and possible Republican presidential nominee, as “weird.” The Politico report did not specifically tie the “weird” charge to Romney’s Mormon faith, but many commentators have speculated that is the logical application of such a strategy.
Commentators from various political perspectives have also condemned any such strategy. Blogger Jane Hamsher wrote: “To preach religious tolerance as Obama does, and then engage in this kind of appeal to religious bigotry, is both hypocritical and pernicious, not to mention self-defeating…As the economy gets worse, people better be really careful about stoking tribalist rage against any minority.” Researcher and author Glenn Stanton agreed: “Yes, you can be pretty sure that it will be his Mormon faith where most of the ‘weirdness’ innuendos will land. And this from a president who had to finally and reluctantly distance himself from his own faith heritage.” Former presidential speechwriter David Frum noted: “The attacks will tiptoe up to the line of outright anti-Mormon bigotry.” In Time, political reporter Michael Crowley summed it up: “You’d like to think that the people who work for a man who has been slurred countless times because of his race would take a higher road.”
Television’s Steven Colbert also disapproved of the strategy, in a humorous segment on his show. Colbert referenced the Church’s “I’m A Mormon” ad campaign, which showcases individual Mormons and their livelihoods and hobbies like surfing, motorcycling, beekeeping, and painting. The ads may show that Mormons are weird, perhaps—just like everyone else. The ads successfully make the point that Mormons are not a monolithic block of the common stereotypes, but a very diverse group. To call Mormons “weird” is to assume a level of conformity that simply doesn’t exist in reality.
Most Mormons are, on the other hand, happy to stand out for their philanthropy, active community service, marital fidelity, and clean living (Mormons avoid alcohol, drugs, and tobacco). If those using the word “weird” actually intended to convey a compliment, we suggest it be more clearly phrased.
Mormon Voices fears that calling an LDS candidate “weird” attempts to undermine his or her credibility by indirectly invoking both deliberate and inadvertent misconceptions about the Church that Mormon Voices has addressed elsewhere: “magic underwear,” discontinued practice of polygamy, and theological issues such as Satan’s origin. When fully understood, these and other issues do nothing to change the average Mormon from what he or she is—a normal human being, neighbor, and friend doing his or her best to live a religion that teaches the classic values of kindness, service, and devotion to family.
Throughout history, majorities have been unfair to minorities and have misrepresented their beliefs and motives. We sincerely hope that any plan to do so now was inadvertent, and that such a strategy will not be used. Millions of individual Mormons deserve better than to have their religion caricatured for political gain.