The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Great Men Pray: Is The LDS Church Advocating POTUS Candidates?

Imagine as a Mormon going to church this week and finding the image on the right, poster-sized on the framed, ward display case bulletin board.  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama--all US Presidents--are seen with their heads bowed, eyes closed, hovering angel-esque above a LDS ward congregation also intent on prayer.  To the immediate right of the presidential portraits proclaims the caption:  "Great Men Pray."  In the youth classes, each youth is given a wallet-sized "Pass-along Card" with the same depiction as well.

Would such a poster cause you pause to think about the neutrality of the political position of the church?  Would you wonder why a poster of a sitting President who was actively campaigning for re-election decorated the same hallways as Jesus kneeling in Gethsemane or healing a leaper?  Would you ponder the singularity of such an event when no such other depictions of US Presidents adorned the hallowed passageways?

Although the LDS church created no such poster and the image is a photoshop of my own hand, it is however based on a similar 1956 poster depicted then with President Eisenhower instead of President Obama.  As in the case today with Obama, Eisenhower was running for re-election in 1956.

Elder Ezra T. Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve who was concurrently serving as Secretary of the Agriculture under President Eisenhower had this to say about the actual "Great Men Pray" poster (below) in the Sunday Morning (largest audience) Session of the October 1956 General Conference:


I was pleased, my brethren and sisters, as I read the report of the April conference and the remarks by Elder Mark E. Petersen, speaking as directed by the First Presidency, in announcing the series of new Church posters and cards for the benefit particularly of our young people, to note that one of them was going to be devoted to prayer. I wish there were time this morning to read the account of this particular card and poster on prayer. One will show the picture of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and President Eisenhower in the background, and then in the foreground a family group. At the top we will read: "Great Men Pray," and again at the bottom: "Be Honest with Yourself." (scriptures.byu.edu)
Mormon-themed Blogger Keepapitchinin puts into perspective the distribution and church emphasis on distribution of the original posters and wallet sized cards from the series of BHWY advertising directed at the youth: "Be Honest With Yourself: The Background."  In fairness, at least the wallet cards attempted on the reverse side to explain the Presidential depiction of then current President Eisenhower by alluding to his time as a General in WWII:
Washington at Valley Forge — Lincoln before Gettysburg — Eisenhower on D Day — Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove — Jesus at Gethsemane and at Golgotha — all these have prayed (full text available h/t tinypineapple.com)
By announcing the poster before the body of the church just a month before elections, could the poster have served as an over-zealous attempt by the church to influence its membership while staying technically neutral?  Furthermore, the governorship for the state of Utah was in chaos in a tight three-way race with incumbent Gov. Lee running as a Republican-turned-independent against strong Democrat and Republican contenders.  Both Lee and Republican Clyde both sought Eisenhower's endorsement, with Clyde (who would win) receiving a more current endorsement than Lee.  The issue of Eisenhower appearing in the LDS "Great Men Pray" distributions was addressed in Chapter 17 of Gov. Lee's biography "Let Em Holler" (Digital version avail at Utah State History) where the author was apparently unawares of the October announcement, instead crediting a post-election December date.  This raises the further question of did the "Great Men Pray" poster influence the outcome of a Utah gubernatorial election?

Bringing us to 2011, the issue of the involvement of the LDS into the political arena remains a poignant one for dedicated members such as myself.  We are currently dealing with a church who wants to influence immigration bills and to even formally lobby and praise the state legislature when it passes bills it likes.

Now the question before us is how much will the church want to promote or influence its two Mormon Presidential candidates:  Romney and Huntsman.  Although I don't worry about the church overtly supporting either candidate, as it has recently and repeatedly reiterated its neutrality stance (The Blaze, June 29, 2011), I do worry about the more subtle--yet potentially equally as powerful "Great Men Pray" types of support or advocacy the church may want to exert both pre- and post-election.

Mormons as a group are in the tank for Romney and to a lesser extent Huntsman.  Just today the Daily Herald revealed that Romney had secured support from 57 out of 80 Utah legislators, including 13 from Utah County.  Mormons will support the Mormon POTUS candidates just like blacks supported Obama in 2010, if for no other reason than their perceived political advancement of their minority.  For me I have a hard time supporting Romney who backed now ex-Sen. Bob Bennett in our grassroots push to replace him; and Huntsman is hard to swallow because he lied to his Democrat contender three years ago about his commitment to serve as Governor for his full 4-year term (Nacilbupera, May 2009).  While I'd take either Mormon over Obama in a wink and am glad they are both in the race, I am more appreciative of the multiple better-principled contenders for the Republican nomination I have to choose from.

P.S.:  For the die-hard Obama haters that can't imagine President Obama being a man of prayer, I derived the photoshop of Obama praying from this actual photo (White House Blog, Feb 2011) of Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.  I don't hate Obama; I just hate his policies, lies, and lack of leadership.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I worry less about the church influencing the presidential race than I do about what influence the church will have on the president (and thus the U.S. as a whole) if one of the LDS candidates succeeds in winning the White House. From what I've seen behind the scenes lately in Utah politics, we are living in a literal theocracy where the church has extreme power over legislation, and the church's interests come before the principles of the U.S. Constitution. I would be frightened for the future of our country if we had a Mormon president.

Nacilbupera said...

Anon:

Good points. In balance, all pols are beholden to various extents. For example, Obama is no less beholden to SEIU than Romney would be to the LDS church. We must stay vigilant on them all.

The church does exert its power moreso than the general membership realizes because the church rarely talks openly about its efforts. In a historical context, this Great Men Pray example is hardly unique and I am amassing various examples as I study.

I love the church which for me is the church established by Jesus Christ. I think members of the church could better enhance its political role.

Lee Irons said...

I'm LDS, and I don't support Romney. I might consider Hunstman, but not because he is LDS.

By the way, there are too many LDS people who cast default votes for Republicans. And now we are moving into the very same trap that Roosevelt fell into, which is cutting budgets and increasing taxes before the economy is fully recovered, which put post-depression USA right back into a large recession from whcih we did not recover until after all the spending we did during world war II. The only people who benefit from recession are the extremely wealthy, and they are the only ones who will benefit if we follow through with either the current Republican or current Democrat plan. It is a historical and economic probability, and yet many people, including LDS people to my dismay, are runnning right off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings.

Nacilbupera said...

Lee:

Interesting points. I guess I differ in that I apply the church's admonition to "get out of debt and stay out of debt" to cutting spending at our own federal house as a means towards economic prosperity and security of the dollar.