Have you been listening? There is a lot more than just elephants and donkeys in the sounds you are hearing in the media regarding the current election. I am not at all a political person. You won’t find me at a political rally. I won’t be knocking on doors to discuss the merits of any candidate. I will quietly do my research and vote for the person I think is best for the country. But something interesting has been happening with the television news reporters. While talking about foreign affairs, the economy, taxes, and the housing market, the media has developed an interest in learning more about a particular religion.
For some voters, the decision will be based entirely on the religion of a candidate. This isn’t a new trend. From Thomas Jefferson in 1800 to Grover Cleveland in 1884 and Herbert Hoover in 1928 to John F. Kennedy in 1960, religion has played a role in the decision-making process of presidential elections. Some candidates have lost the race solely on the basis of their religion. Others have certainly lost votes they otherwise deserved. The name of God has even been in the forefront of party platforms—much to the dismay of convention attendees. But what I find interesting this time is that the religion of a candidate has generated media curiosity in how that faith functions in today’s society.
In August, NBC devoted an hour of prime time to helping viewers understand more about the Mormon religion. I doubt this would have happened without the current interest in a certain candidate. Even though I have relatives who are Mormon, I learned more than I expected and very little of it applied to politics. For example, the “magic undergarments” worn by practicing Mormons helps them to feel set apart from others and to remind them of Christ. It is a concealed reminder of their faith and the fact that they have chosen to “put on Christ”. Romans 13:14 tells us to do the same, but it refers to a state of mind and action rather than a physical garment. I am reminded that even without a garment that represents my faith, my demeanor and actions should show others that I am committed to a life of following Christ.
Mormons are also prepared to serve in whatever capacity their bishop instructs. They never say no. They always serve in the way they are asked to serve. That service might be within the local group or it may be a service in the community. Young adults are called to serve far from home. They grow up with the knowledge that they will be giving at least two years of their life to spread the Mormon faith. They put aside college, career, marriage, and family to serve their church. And they pay for it themselves. The church does not help with expenses. Mormon children save their money and prepare to pay their own way during those two years. This experience helps to shape their perspective and teaches them compassion. One executive stated, “Just because you knocked on 200 doors in one day and were told they were not interested doesn’t mean the next day you don’t do it anymore. You just go back and do it again.” When they return from their two-year mission, Mormon young adults are prepared to “put their shoulder to the wheel”. It creates an attitude of hard work, thrift, and perseverance that prepares them for business and family. I was not surprised to learn that as a result of their “mission” work, top executives from many well-known companies have been from the Mormon faith. Paul reminds the Corinthians to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain.” Are modern-day Christians as willing as we should be to do our part in the Lord’s service?
Devout Mormons fast once a month. They do not fast because it makes them feel closer to God. Instead they do it as a way of helping others. The money they would have used to pay for meals is donated to the church to help pay for services and meals for needy people in their community. No other denomination has set aside as much time and funds for the needs of the community. Huge warehouses store food and household items for anyone who shows a need and asks for it. What services are today’s Christians providing to those in need and what are we willing to sacrifice in order to help others around us? The Apostle Paul rejoiced when Christ’s name was preached in pretense or in truth. I do not have to agree with the Mormon church in order to be grateful that our national media is spending more time looking at any religion. And if the media causes me to look closer at what I am doing to spread the name of Christ, then I count that as a reason to rejoice too.