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In the Whirled: Can Mormons cheer for Mitt Romney without voting for him?

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 24 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns at the Florence Civic Center in Florence, S.C., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Charles Dharapak, AP

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This year has brought some lively discussions around the dinner table. A lot of them revolve around, “Hey, Mom, is that Mormon guy still winning?”

Of course, they’re talking about Mitt Romney, and our answer is usually, "Well, sort of.” Which always leads to a discussion about politics in general. We are a politically divided family. My 9-year-old is firmly aligned with the Democrats. (“The Republicans remind me of old Mr. Potter from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” he announced the other day.) My 8-year-old is a Republican. The 6-year-old is undecided and the 2-year-old isn’t potty trained, so he isn’t allowed to vote in the Lewis family election.

My husband and I are… Well, I’m not telling, but I will say this: I’m not a Romney supporter. I am a Romney fan, in the way we Mormons like to see those of our faith win. We are Team Mormon. Go Jimmer Fredette! Go David Archuleta! Go Dawn Meehan on “Survivor!” Go Mitt Romney!

Of course, you see the problem here. I can cheer for Jimmer and Archuleta and Meehan because they are good at what they do, but I don’t have to align with them on beliefs about how to run the county.

Do I think Romney’s a moral guy? Sure! Do I think he’ll be honest as a president? Sure! Would it be fun to have a Mormon in the White House? You bet! I want to text in for Mitt Romney like a fan on a reality show because of the excitement and drama. Unfortunately there’s more at stake than a singing career. When I take a look at Romney’s platform, there are fundamental things I disagree with.

“If Mitt Romney is president, will he make everyone go to church?” my boys want to know. “Will Book of Mormon reading be required in school? “

“No,” I tell them. And I don’t believe those naysayers who think that a Mormon president will hurt the image of the LDS Church, especially if he turned out to be an unpopular president. But neither do I think that having a Mormon president will bring flocks of converts. We are not a fad religion. There is so much required of our members, and so much of our lives must be committed to the faith, that I don’t foresee a swelling of our numbers.

A Mormon in the White House would bring, like every piece of media that has the church’s name attached to it (whether the news is positive or negative), an increased awareness of what we stand for. This is a great thing. So why am I still hesitant?

If I vote for Romney, I want my motives to be pure. This isn’t about getting a Mormon in the White House, or watching this astounding “Mormon Moment” stretch another four years. It’s about getting the right person to lead the country during a pretty rotten time on both the homefront and abroad. Who we check off on Election Day is an intensely personal decision. As a nation, we come to the ballot box with the same fervor we carry to church on Sundays.

This past summer my husband and I took an anniversary trip to England. On a walking tour through the streets of York, we somehow connected with a complete stranger and made the Mormon connection. “You’re Mormon? We’re Mormon!” And off we went. When you come in contact with another member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even halfway around the world, you fall in step because you connect on so many levels. Your beliefs tie you together.

I think that’s why, in the recent Pew research on Mormons, a shocking 86 percent of Mormons support Mitt Romney, even though only 74 align with him politically. (And I think that second number skews high.) He’s the stranger halfway around the world, but we have so much in common. Why not vote for him?

“Mom, are you going to vote for Mitt Romney?” my kids asked me the other day. I glanced at my husband. I honestly don’t know. My parents taught me to vote for the person and not the party, and that is still how I go to the polls.

Am I obligated to vote for one of my own kind? Is the argument “But he’s the best candidate there is” ever the reason to vote for a person? I have a cousin who is so disenchanted with politics, he’s written in his dad as presidential candidate for the past decade.

Come to think of it, my dad would make a great president. He’s a great speaker, a good businessman and has a full head of hair.

And he’s Mormon too, you know.

Tiffany Gee Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minn., and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com. Her email is tiffanyelewis@gmail.com

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