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.