Michael Otterson, the head of the Public Affairs Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a regular contributor to the Washington Post's On Faith blog. And in his latest post, entitled "Mormon voices in the public square and what to make of them", Otterson exploits the opportunity created by Glenn Beck's leadership role in the August 28th Restoring Honor Rally in Washington, D.C. to further explain the impact of Mormons getting involved in public discourse and advocacy. The Restoring Honor Rally turned out to be less about politics and more about a return to God. Otterson's column is a good companion to a Washington Post story entitled "Mormons have mixed views of Beck's rise", also published September 3rd.
Otterson reminds readers about the LDS Church's policy of strict neutrality on partisan political issues and candidates. Part of the neutrality policy also includes encouragement to Church members to be active and responsible citizens in the political process. The Church encourages its members to study issues and use their vote for whichever party or candidate most closely aligns with their ideas of good government. No LDS political candidate is ever entitled to presume that he or she speaks for the entire LDS Church.
So in regard to Glenn Beck's involvement in the rally, Otterson writes:
...Glenn Beck was doing what every Church member is encouraged by the Church to do - make their voice heard. The fact that Beck has a huge megaphone doesn't change the principle. Mormons obviously are free to express whatever views of good government that they care to espouse, and many of them do. Their views may of course be influenced by their faith and values, but they speak as individuals, not as Church spokesmen. They may also disagree with each other. Since the same church embraces Senator Harry Reid, Governor Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck - all active members - that shouldn't even need saying.
This, of course, flies in the face of critics who allege that Mormons are a monolithic group who don't so much as take a dump in the morning without clearing it with their bishop first. There is a spiritual unity within the LDS community -- a unity based upon common Gospel principles. But spiritual unity does not prohibit or preclude political diversity. In this previous post, I explained why I believe a preponderance of American Mormons vote Republican, but it has more to do with values than politics. Those who criticize Mormons for being monolithic are themselves generally incapable of making simple political decisions without the aid of gurus like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, so they project their personal limitations upon everyone else.
Those who want to know more about what Michael Otterson does as the LDS Public Affairs chief may find this June 9th, 2009 interview with By Common Consent of interest.