Mormon missions of Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney may shape their foreign policy

Published: Wednesday, June 15 2011 1:07 p.m. MDT

The national stories about LDS missionaries just keep coming.

Last week, Newseek and Bloomberg Businessweek focused on Mormon missionaries. This week, Foreign Policy magazine published a piece by Molly Worthen, who argued that the missionary experience of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in France and Jon Huntsman Jr. in Taiwan might shape their foreign policy.

"Over the past century and a half, the LDS church has become one of the most international organizations in the world," Worthen wrote. "That global missionary ethos has implications for how a Mormon president — especially ex-missionaries like Romney (France) and Huntsman (Taiwan) — would view foreign affairs."

The article goes on to chronicle how LDS missionaries in foreign lands must balance commitment to an ideology with "pragmatic flexibility" — attributes that could come in handy when pushing American interests against foreign powers.

Also, rumor has it that American intelligence agencies rely heavily on Mormons.

Finally, she handicapped the chances of Romney and Huntsman in the context of current political debate.

"In the end, however, the main problem facing 2012's Mormon candidates is not mainstream America's suspicion of their faith, but the fact that ideology has increasingly polarized voters — and voters seem to enjoy the rancor. Detailed PowerPoint presentations rarely win primaries. And in these dark days of economic woe, when Americans are feeling impatient and desperate, voters are especially liable to be attracted to heated, rather than sober, arguments. Americans may simply be too committed to the religions of red and blue to heed the gospel of pragmatism."

The recent spate of articles included Businessweek's feature, titled "God's MBA: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders," by Caroline Winters, who made the case that Mormon missions are the breeding grounds for corporate CEOs and business elites.

Aside from listing 40 of Mormonism's most prominent businessmen, the feature gives reasons why some Mormon missionaries go on to become mid-life moguls.

"Many of the men who prepared for their missions here (at the MTC)," wrote Winters, "have gone on to become among the most distinguished and recognizable faces in American business and civic life."

Newsweek's cover portrayed Romney as a missionary. The story mentioned that "Mitt Romney learned French on his mission to France, while Jon Huntsman picked up Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan."

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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