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Record Number of Mormons Serving in US Congress

The year following the unsuccessful run of Mitt Romney for president of the United States will see the largest number of Mormons serving in Congress since the year 2000. There will be seventeen Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in Congress beginning in January 2013. Most, but not all, are Republicans. Although more United States Mormons are Republican than Democrat, that number is smaller than it once was, with the numbers smaller outside the Mormon west and among converts. Since Mormonism is a world-wide faith, there are, of course, Mormons in a wide variety of political parties around the world.

The increase in Mormons follows a general trend reported by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which noted that Congress is becoming more religiously diverse and less Protestant in general. Hawaii elected its first Buddhist and Hindi people to Congress and even Arizona elected someone who listed “none” as her religion. Catholics will hold 30 percent of the seats, in a nation that once feared electing a Catholic president. The diversity is most common among those being elected for the first time.

Fifty years ago, Congress was 75 percent Protestant. Today it is about 56 percent so. Mormons will make up about 2 percent of Congress, and are 3 percent of the US population. Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, however, have a larger representation in Congress than they do in the nation as a whole and many other religions are not represented at all.

The 2012 campaign by Mitt Romney represented to many, both inside and outside Mormonism, that the United States was more prepared to accept Mormonism as a true faith. Most resistance came from the small minority of Americans who devote themselves to attacking the growing religion. In general, studies showed that most voters simply didn’t care what religion the candidate belonged to.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is firmly non-partisan in its politics. It never endorses candidates, nor does it allow full-time religious leaders to do so. Part-time leaders may not suggest their endorsement is church-related, and they may not use church resources, facilities, or meetings to promote their views.

When the Church takes a stance on a political issue, it does so only on issues that impact morality, the natural territory of the faith, or on issues that directly impact large numbers of Mormons. They take non-partisan stances, and, in fact, their stances seldom, if ever, directly line up with prevailing party platforms, since they are based on eternal principles, not temporary party doctrines. For instance, Mormons have taken a stand to oppose abortion, but to allow it under certain serious and rare circumstances such as rape or danger to the mother’s life. This is not generally considered the exact position of either major US party. In immigration, they have come out for a balanced approach that allows for the protection of borders but encourages humane treatment of those already here and a policy that protects families from being separated. In the area of gay marriage, they have openly opposed laws that would allow discrimination of homosexuals in the areas of employment or housing. None of these views directly line up to party platforms. They do not consult current party platforms before announcing a stance, because their source of guidance is God, not man. Mormon politicians are not instructed by the church in their political stances. If the church approaches politicians, they do so regardless of faith and Mormon politicians are no more required to honor their requests than are any other candidates. The existence of both Harry Reid, a Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican, are evidence of the diversity permitted among Mormons in government.

Mormonism does, however, encourage its members to be good citizens and to be involved in their country’s well-being, whether through politics or other means. They are encouraged to vote and to support moral candidates chosen through personal study and prayer.

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