Dear Steve: Is it OK to vote for McCain?

Many people write and ask me as a Mormon Scientist: Is it OK to vote for Republican John McCain?

First let me make it clear that the First Presidency has said that as Mormons we can legitimately support either party for president. They said:

    [As a Church we] Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.

But how do you address the problem that McCain so blatantly goes against so many of our most cherished beliefs and indeed much of what the scriptures teach? Isn’t it going up against the prophets to vote for such a man? How can someone vote for McCain when the first presidency has said so clearly that we should weigh so carefully the moral attributes of our selected leaders? That’s a legitimate question so let’s look carefully at some reasons people have given that we should not vote for McCain:

A) scriptures are very clear that an offensive war is always wrong. Haven’t the Current administration clearly violated this? and isn’t John McCain’s continuing support of the current administration’s action dismissing the Book of Mormon and its teachings?

For example, in 3 Nephi 3:20-21 of the Book of Mormon we read:

    20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

    21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.

Wasn’t the war in Iraq an equivalent situation? How can we in good conscious vote for someone who goes against our most fundamental teachings on offensive war?

First, I think it is important that we do not become single-issue voters. There are deep complexities that need to be examined and dealt with. The idea that we can boil down the complex issues that face society into a single-issue litmus-test of course would mean the dissolution of what it means to be a democracy. Therefore those who have become single issue voters really need to take a hard look at the deeper complexities in our society. I know it seems crystal clear that war is wrong and a vote against McCain seems obvious scripturally, but I hope you will not judge your other Mormons (as small in number as they may be) who are going to vote for the war and this man who has been so supportive of it. There are some complexities and although I can’t really think of any arguments myself I’m sure these people have reasons and in light of the statements of the First Presidency I think we can welcome them as brothers and sisters and not accuse them of going against our fundamental beliefs.

B) The scriptures teach that the Glory of God is Intelligence. Won’t John McCain cut public programs that support education?

Yes, it is hard to support such actions. Most of us are very worried because we know that the best way to reduce the total number of abortions is through education and social programs rather than legislation. Also, educating our children is of primary importance and cuts in these areas will be harmful as well. All I can say to those who think that McCain supporters are denying our fundamental values is that they may see it differently somehow and maybe they don’t even have children so we can’t expect them to vote for our children’s future and education.

Some of you may be worried that the current administration misused science, denied its findings, tried to politically pressure scientists to alter their findings, and create more misuse or non-use of science than any administration in the history of our country. John McCain has started down that road again picking an anti-science running mate. Can we support him if we really believe that the Glory of God is Intelligence?

Again, there are complexities here. For example, picking Sarah Palin was an astute move that shows that McCain’s a real thinker. But the point is look at the First Presidency Statement. People can vote for who they want. So despite the danger of someone so obviously anti-science becoming president (Nature: One of the most respected science journals today had an editorial on this very subject–those scientists are such worry warts) I am certain the people who are voting for McCain will also be praying very hard that he does not die. I know I will be if he is elected. So while the ‘glory of God is intelligence’ which would seem to be associated with support for education and science, I think there is wiggle room here. Somewhere.

C) Christ emphasized taking care of the Poor. How can someone vote for a man that clearly wants to make life easier for the rich and much more difficult for the poor? How can they vote for someone who forgets this fundamental Christian principle?

Again, please do not become a single issue voter. That is the most harmful thing that could happen to our republic. I’m sure there are reasons to support the rich over the poor in our nation. The poor are with us always and they probably deserve to be there anyway and who are we to have to take care of them?

D) The prophet says stay out of debt. Haven’t the Republicans borrowed on our children’s future and gone into the largest debt our country has ever seen?

First, the prophet says that people should not go into debt. He said nothing about countries. Therefore I think this is a false argument.

E) What of the personal morality of the candidates? Doesn’t that matter? This one is much harder because personal morality maters to many of us. Many of us as Mormons feel like marriage is a sacred institution worth protecting. In School for Scandal: The truth and consequences of public figures’ libidinal lapses Susan Bordo, published this essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

She writes in comparing John Edwards’ moral lapses with McCain’s”

    “The other, on his return from military service, finds that the wife he left behind, a former swimsuit model, has been in a horrendous auto accident, requiring 23 operations and leaving her limping and disfigured, a full five inches shorter than she had been when he left. After five years of casual affairs, he meets a beautiful young heiress, whom he secretly pursues for six months and eventually obtains a license to marry while still legally married to and living with his first wife. He remarries five weeks after his divorce is granted. Thirty years later, he becomes his party’s candidate for president. During his campaign, few articles or media reports mention the first wife or the circumstances of his remarriage. It’s as though she never existed.”

While this seems to go against everything we believe about marriage, I can only point to the way we as a people handled President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. I remember how we all wore yellow ribbons of forgiveness. I remember there was not a house in Utah Valley that did not have a “We still love you Bill” sign in its front yard. And then remember the gathering at Cougar Stadium at BYU, where, as a standing-room-only crowd, we joined hands and sang, “He’s still our president” to the tune that the Whos down in Whoville sang on the How the Grinch Stole Christmas? This spirit of forgiveness and our ability to overlook this obvious failing was one of the things I think that Mormons are best at, and have become known for. In that same spirit I think we can forgive McCain is personal morality and hope that it does not translate into his public ethics. It probably won’t. When has personal morality ever translated into public morality? I say we forgive him these failings. What do we mean by ‘better person’ anyway? Surely, personal morality is not one of them.

So once gain. Although on face value it seems like a vote for McCain would trash our most fundamental teachings. Please do not focus on a single issue or believe that those who choose a different political path than you are inherently denying the faith. The most important thing is a deeply reasoned response that engages with all the issues. Therefore I say that despite the obvious, one can still be a faithful member of our church and vote for McCain.

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42 Responses to Dear Steve: Is it OK to vote for McCain?

  1. Mark says:

    Avid reader here. I usually catch your posts remotely from Google Reader, but this one deserved a comment.

    It took me a while to figure out that the delivery of this post is deeply rooted in sarcasm. Er, at least that’s the only conclusion I can come to that makes sense.

    Please say it’s so.

  2. CK Rock says:

    Thank you for posting this. I think I’ll share this with my family and friends. Great perspective from which to examine the election.

  3. Timj says:

    Very cool idea for a post, and very well done.

  4. Bro. Jones says:

    The next-to-last paragraph is glorious. Thanks for writing this. 🙂

  5. Mark says:

    Um, I have to admit I’m slightly embarrassed that it wasn’t 100% clear to me that this was completely sarcastic until I read it again.

    I guess that’s an interesting insight into how much I consider what someone is saying, no matter how ridiculous it is…

    Not sure if that’s a good thing.

  6. Cap says:

    Great post, once again.

    I have found that for the majority of people I talk to about the election only can focus on one issue, and it is, to me, a default issue. The War. Education, Morality, Health plans, science never come up… (Until I say something about them). Knowing the issues is important.

  7. Rink says:

    If McCain does get into office and can’t live out his presidency we all may have to make a major exodus to Cananda.

  8. Chad Too says:


    No, not to Canada. The Mexican Colonies seem more appropriate.

  9. smwaters says:

    The Economist magazine says that America should take a chance on Obama. I liked the reasoning in the article. It identified risks associated with both McCain and Obama. You might like it, too:

  10. Awesome 🙂

    Here’s another Mormon vote for Obama.

  11. Cap says:

    Personally, I am most worried about the insurance plan of McCain. (I am pretty sick and have to have prescriptions, and regular hospital visits). McCain wants to have a $5,000 insurance bonus for everyone. However a lot of companies won’t provide insurance. And insurance without going through an employer is around $700-800. That wont cover a full year.

  12. Geoff J says:

    Hehe. Amusing stuff Steve.

  13. Jack says:

    Jack’s comments have been removed. If you can’t be civil you can’t play.

  14. Very nice – enjoyed it immensely.

  15. Cap says:


    Are you serious? Wow… Uh, yeah, I know that. For any health insurance worth getting and wont screw you over it cost $700 for a family of two. Not a companies average. So each family would get $5000, and would spend $700 of it each month. Now do the math.

    According to COBRA the average cost for an unemployed insurance (which is McCain’s plan) is $7,000 a year. That is $2,000 less.

    Wow, you’re a little angry. Take a breather before you respond. I am sorry, but I would gladly discuss this to someone who can have a mature discussion, but apparently your vocabulary isn’t quite up to par to use words other than ‘stupid’ and ‘moron’. That’s Ok. I am not offended, just shocked at how ignorant, and inconsiderate you are. Next time you see someone with cancer, call him an idiot because he wants to be covered.

  16. mommy bee says:

    I take this post at face value–that McCain is quite strongly at odds with scriptural teaching. I agree.
    On the other hand, the democratic option is not exactly a shining star either (better, I think, but not excellent). Thus I will throw my hat to a third party this time.

  17. Mark says:

    And here in Jack’s comment we see one of the things that makes the internet… the internet – zero accountability for words spoken. Cap, I’m sorry there are people like Jack in the world. Just have faith that there are more people unlike him.

  18. Mike says:

    Yes, there is a reason you want to preach that we should not focus on one single issue. There is one, single issue that, in the minds of many Mormons, defines the Democratic party, one which is clearly at odds with scriptural teachings. So, for heaven’s sake, let’s make sure we don’t focus on single issues.

    I am no apologist of McCain’s, but honestly, putting his fidelity issues on par with Bill Clinton? You can’t be serious.

  19. Clark says:

    Yeah, McCain is worse. (And I say that as a person with a strong dislike of Clinton) Have you heard how he treated his wife who waited for him while he was in Viet Nam?

  20. Timj says:

    Clinton didn’t dump his wife for a younger, richer woman.
    McCain did.
    In my book, McCain’s crime is worse. And I’m not sure he could have gotten to where he is today without his current wife’s beer money.
    Yes, it happened almost 30 years ago. But McCain was 42–hardly a dumb teenager or young adult. We have a right to expect more.

  21. SteveP says:

    Yeah, Mike #19, I’d have to say it looks like McCain out slicked, Slick-Willy himself.

  22. Velska says:

    In a world of pundits (and pundit wannabes) who take themselves way too seriously, it is refreshing to read something like this.

  23. Cap says:

    SteveP and Mark,

    Thanks. I was quite shocked at the comments left by Jack. Lucky for him, I don’t take offense easily. I just wish people would be willing to hold themselves more accountable regarding their actions, or what the choose to say.

  24. Arlin Fehr says:

    To the person who suggested that if things don’t go well you all flee to canada:

    As a Canadian If your looking to escape Obama like people, Canada is the last place you want to be running to.

  25. Mellie says:

    But can we vote for Obama either when he blatantly disregards the value of life with his extremes on supporting abortion (including partial birth) and the homosexual agenda? Those are two major fundamentals of the LDS faith. Two things Obama would legalize if given the chance which cover sins in the top 5 worst offensives. I’m not trying to say that McCain is good by any means, or to be a single issue voter, but seriously searching for people’s reasoning in being able to support Obama in light of those to things.

  26. Mellie says:

    two things…sorry for the typo

  27. Neuromit says:


    Are you serious? How is going to war and displacing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s acceptable while the killing of un-born babies is not?

    I am firmly opposed to abortion but saying that the democratic party is pro-abortion therefore I will always vote republican is a naive and closed minded way to vote. Politics are too complex to decide your vote on one issue.

    Let me ask you, “hypothetically” if the republican candidate was a individual who supported slavery, burning of books, and nuclear war and the democratic candidate was 100% against those things but pro abortion who would you vote for? Is it so easy to justify atrocities to prevent abortions?

    Yes my example was far-fetched but it is easy to forget that the republican party has and still does push issues that cannot be ratified from the standpoint of “Church Doctrine”.

    Abortion and Gay-Marriage are easy issues that can be used to draw lines in the sand. However, there are so many other issues that are just as important but are frequently ignored because once you have drawn your line its easier to turn of your mind then to consider all the issues.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Nice……..Philosophy of men mingled with scripture

  29. ZSorenson says:

    I think President Hinckley gave a speech on war in 2002. Although it didn’t justify the actions taken a year later, he did specifically mention that leaders have access to information the public does not and their decisions to go fight wars to protect us ought to be respected.

    In other words, it’s not an endorsement, but it goes against the argument that I think some are making here.

    While the Iraq war may have been a criminally wrong decision, that doesn’t make it inherently immoral. Poor judgment is not the equivalent of immorality by principle. Israel under Joshua were commanded to destroy all their enemies. They didn’t. I know it was a different situation, but taking the fight to the wicked isn’t inherently wrong. It was wrong in the cited passage because for that instance the Lord said it was wrong.

    If war was so wrong generally, I think President Hinckley would have said so more clearly if not explicitly in his talk,
    here’s the ref:

    I don’t in which direction this post is sarcastic, but Ezra Taft Benson spoke plainly against public intervention in private economic matters. It’s not enough incentive to vote against Barack Obama, but it’s enough to see the other side of the debate.

  30. Russ says:

    This is another in a long string of elections with no good candidate. I think the Obama concept of care for the poor misses the gospel concept of me being my brother’s keeper. I should care for my neighbor.

    I believe that going into Iraq was wrong. Having said that, we have to face the consequences of our actions and in this case that means not abandoning a new government and people. This “illegitemate” child still needs to be nurtured.

    In the end, it is our responsibility to seek and promote for office better candidates. I’m really tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.

  31. Timj says:

    Very good satire here. So good, in fact, that many people who read it didn’t catch it (including some I know who haven’t posted comments on this blog).
    Maybe an official notice of “my last post was satire, and I don’t really think good Mormons can’t vote for McCain” would be helpful?
    Although it’s sad we don’t appreciate and recognize satire like we should…

  32. Wendy says:

    What about abortion?

  33. SteveP says:


    You said it perfectly. Except I really do believe that good Mormons can vote either way.

  34. kristine N says:

    Oh, and I really appreciated this. So much so, in fact, that I shared it with a colleague of mine who isn’t LDS.

  35. Cap says:

    Survey says: Obama wins.

  36. Becky says:

    Love it!

    Reminds me a bit of Jonathan Swift.

  37. Rameumptom says:

    I personally believe that either candidate had strengths and flaws. While you argued that ALL aggressive wars were evil, you neglected to note Pres Hinckley’s views in Conference that the Iraq war was an extension of the war on terrorism. You also ignore the point that the converted Lamanites went into the mountains to root out the Gadianton Robbers in a very aggressive, preemptive manner. While I dislike this war, I do see it beginning in those terms. How it is now handled is a different story.
    As for anti-education: do you really think that Obama will encourage educators to discourage abortion, when it is a democratic tenet? How about discourage SSM? Will global warming be taught in schools?
    On anti-science: Will Robert F Kennedy jr as head of the EPA still insist that vaccinations are a bad thing that causes autism? How about Gore’s global warming that has holes in the science? How about energy renewal, wherein Obama admits the Cap and Trade levels he seeks could decimate the coal industry?

    I’m not a fan of McCain’s, but I am a fan of fair play. If you are going to say McCain is anti-something, shouldn’t you be fair enough to admit that your biases flavor your argument?

  38. Sophia says:

    I know I’m about a month too late, but – awesome post! Great use of subtlety.

    to the obama critics: I’m not pro-abortion by any means, but after listening to what Obama said himself about abortion, I feel that he has his heart in the right place, even if he has to toe the party line. Many of the rumors going around (such as promoting partial-birth abortions) are not based in fact but taken out of context.

    Thank goodness I don’t have to pray for McCain’s long life 🙂

  39. Cinda says:

    Ahhh. I remember being a Democrat at BYU almost 30 years ago. Exhilarating!

    Actually, the professors were far more open-minded than the young students.

    Great piece of satire Steve, or should I say B. Young?

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