My Take: Hard truths matter; I’m Mormon, and I’m voting for Obama
October 18th, 2012
07:37 AM ET

My Take: Hard truths matter; I’m Mormon, and I’m voting for Obama

Editor's Note: Joanna Brooks is a senior correspondent for ReligionDispatches.org and author of "The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith."

By Joanna Brooks, Special to CNN

(CNN)–There are two moments and two moments only that made my soul sit upright during Tuesday night’s presidential debate:

President Obama, speaking about the loss of manufacturing jobs to low-wage economies like China: “There are some jobs that are not coming back.”

Obama, speaking about four lives lost in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya: “I am the one who has to meet those coffins when they come home.”

Morbid? Not at all. I’m just a believer in the gospel of hard truths.

And as I am the mother of two school-age children, a teacher at an underfunded public university and a progressive Mormon, hard truths about the challenges our nation faces are all that makes sense to me.

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As a mother, I am acutely aware that right now, our nation invests a smaller and smaller share of its resources in our children, the generation that will assume the debts my generation and our parents’ generation have incurred.

As an educator, I have witnessed firsthand how failure to generate responsible levels of public revenue has significantly compromised generations’ worth of investment in our public schools and universities.

And as a Mormon, I grew up with a healthy sense of respect for worst-case scenarios. I was raised, after all, with a religious aversion to debt and a year’s supply of canned wheat, beans and powdered milk in the garage, as instructed by LDS Church leaders. The Mormon food storage tradition isn’t about end-times-paranoia: It’s a lesson passed down from our pioneer ancestors, who knew the importance of being prepared for difficult seasons so you can do right by your family and community.

Profile of Brooks: Crossing the plains and kicking up dirt, a new Mormon pioneer

This nation is in a difficult season, and I listened carefully Tuesday night for a proper sense of respect for worst-case scenarios. What I heard instead were the usual rhetorical swerves.

Mitt Romney offered personal anecdotes about “binders full of women” that have nothing to do with economic security for American families. He promised allegedly revenue-neutral $5 trillion tax cuts but refused to provide solid details on how he’d balance the books. And he made throwaway references to all people being the “children of the same God” without substantial reflection on how that should translate in terms of budget and policy.

What I really wanted from the debate was more of the hard truths that Obama seemed to be on the verge of saying:

“This recession is fundamentally different than other recessions, and there are no short-term fixes.”

“Our old strategies for managing Middle Eastern conflict through military intervention or propped-up dictators don’t work. And there is no easy way forward.”

“The only thing the $3 trillion Iraq war produced for the United States was a mountain of debt and a legion of disabled Americans.”

“We need to have a serious discussion about Social Security.”

“Debts don’t get paid down without adjustments in revenues.”

These are the kind of hard truths that speak to the same part of me that took notice when Obama at his inauguration quoted the Scripture: “It is time to put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13: 11).

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And given the challenges we face in bringing down deficits while investing sensibly in the nation’s future, here are some other Scriptures I’d like to hear:

“Turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come to smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4: 6).

“Set your house in order, for you shall die” (2 Kings 20: 1)

Morbid? Not at all. But I do feel a sense of responsibility for keeping an eye on the worst-case scenarios. And a few months’ worth of rice and beans in the garage, like Mormon leaders teach me. And an ear out for the gospel of hard truths.

I have seen Obama work steadily, patiently through a difficult season. I have seen him face some hard truths and accept that there are no easy fixes. And I will vote to give him a second term.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joanna Brooks.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Mitt Romney • Politics

soundoff (2,087 Responses)
  1. Candace

    I share your beliefs and I am an atheist. Decency, caring, honor and goodness are what we should be looking for. The only candidate that I could possibly vote for would be President Obama.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  2. Chutzpah

    Congratulations... this is one of the few online opinion pieces I've read and wholeheartedly agreed with in a long time.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  3. Taylor

    Progressive Mormon? What in the world does that mean?

    October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Perhaps Progressive means "in recovery". If it's used in the sense of progressive disease, I fear for Ms Brooks.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • The Truth

      "Progressive Mormon" would be all mormons who gave up polygamy in 1890... and continue to get a better understanding of their faith and sideline the ritual in favor of the spiritual.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  4. STOP MURDER OF CHILDREN , Human be aware of hindu filthy dog's of hindu Atheism, self center ism , DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD.

    hard truth, is truth absolute, GOD, foundation of American way, the consti tution, hindu ignorant candidates deny in their hindu Pharisee ism, criminal secular, ism, referring to book of hinduism, corruption of truth absolute as their guide. To be follower of truth absolute GOD and good American, follow truth absolute GOD, nothing else but truth absolute GOD, not hinduism, corruption of truth absolute, religion's, such as hindu Mormon ism, filthy self center ism, other wise known a hindu filthy secularism.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Candace

      Why is this post allowed?

      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • 196th

      Your either a troll or a very twisted and uninformed person. I hope you seek help.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  5. bigfoot

    I will vote for him, too. Thank you for an uplifting essay.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  6. Lori

    I think Mitt Romney is a relic from a past where the rights of all people were not equal. It was a time where the rich thought they were better than the average person because they had money.
    Any woman who votes for Romney must have a weakness or an inability to understand the value of equality. Any middle class family or minority who votes for Romney must not understand how Romney will destroy them economically.
    Mitt Romney is a relic of time long gone and long gone for a reason. Repubicans need to find new candidates who are in tune with reality.
    Is Obama perfect? No- no one is. But Romney is bad for the country.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • golds

      Cnn missed the report released in washinyon this morning: welfare cases have burgeoned to the tune of one trillion dollars under obama. This– added to the additional 3.6 million women in poverty under obama, does not seem to help the cause of women. The problem is that obama has lovely rhetoric, but also a record.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • The Truth

      @golds – Hmmm, I wonder if the increasing numbers of wellfare recipients has anything to do with the economy going into the shltter under former President Bush....I guess you just don't have the time to look at the record back any further than 3 and a half years ago. It's like blaming a fireman who opens a hot door which causes a backdraft explosion for the building catching fire in the first place.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. CO_Mama

    You know that Mormons don't believe in Christ the way Christians do, right? Mormons believe they can become gods to spirit children in other worlds. They believe in a different God. Please check it out, as it doesn't sound like you know the difference.

    October 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • mormoncandidate dot com

      Yeah, Mormon beliefs are so important in this election. And that whole "becoming like God" thing. Man, that's crazy. Could you imagine Jesus Christ telling us to become like Him? Wait...

      October 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Parley

      Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and Redeemer. He was born to Mary, walked, and preached among men as recorded in the Holy Bible. He suffered in Gethsemane for our sins, died on the cross and was resurrected on the 3rd day. I love him. With these things, HE is center of all I believe. Jesus Christ alone is the 'author and finisher of my faith,' and yes I AM A MORMON.

      From the Book of Mormon:
      "And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."

      Mormons are Christians and we reverence Jesus Christ as the savior of the world and hold none else equal or above him. Respectfully, please see for yourself what Mormons believe at Mormon.org.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Boulderdash Gentile

      The God of Christian theosophy is known by many names as is written of. With so many different names regarding the Christian God, I am troubled by such. Is name-changing a right of passage or?

      October 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One


      It's best not to believe in such nonsense at all. Conflicts between people over things that are entirely imaginary are pretty senseless.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  8. Parley

    "Time is always on the side of truth" Ezra Taft Benson (Great american patriot. look for him on youtube)

    October 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  9. lexi98248

    Good for you! I'm a Mormon also and I'm voting for Romney.....isn't this a great country!

    October 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • The Truth

      It's just sad that someone who has changed position so often could be expected to run this country with anything resembling a backbone.

      October 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  10. mr. reality

    the world has gone crazy!
    Approximately 50% of Americans are about to vote for a man who believes the following:

    ... the world is 6,000 years old.

    ...the Garden of Eden written about in the bible was actually in MIssouri.

    ...Jesus was born and raised in North America 2000 years ago.

    ...Dinosaurs and man lived on earth at the same time.

    ...Scientific Carbon dating is false and "unproven".

    "GOD" is actually a human being who lives on a planet called Kolob.

    God is 6'1" with white skin and grey hair, he can appear and speak (in English) directly to the leaders of the Mormon church in human form.

    ...Joesph Smith was neither a con man or a child molestor, but a prophet from God equal to Jesus Christ.


    Lets just get the demise of our country over with... write in "TOOTH FAIRY" for President.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Parley

      Respectfully I ask: Please do not speak about things you clearly know nothing about. I am a Mormon and what you have listed does not represent the teachings of our church. Find real information about what Mormons believe at Mormon.org.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • golds

      As a mormon, I have to wonder where you got that information. At least six points on your list are patently false; the rest are out of context.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Susn

      Sorry, but you lose as far as facts go. I was a Mormon for many, many years but have left the church. Nevertheless, even I have to call you on your list. You're just plain wrong.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • What?

      If you are suggesting that these are the beliefs of the LDS, you are way off the mark on many of these and present some distortions on others. Don't post inaccurate information that you simply hear from second or third hand sources (especially from those who intend to deceive). I'll assume in your case you simply passed on what you have heard and weren't intending to present inaccuracies.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Surfer George

      One could well argue that ANY Religious person is unfit to lead our (ANY) Nation. We have seen CENTURIES of results from that kind of leadership, it almost always leads to disaster.

      I'm not voting for Romney, but it has nothing to do with his Religious beliefs – I don't think they would be be of consequence any more than anyone else's Beliefs.
      I'm more concerned about his ZEALOUS run for the Presidency that has caused him to utterly reject anything moral or ethical to achieve that goal... He surrendered any connection to his Faith long ago.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • R Burns

      Yeah, I'm a former Mormon and som of this list has more to do with some strange beliefs touted by "fundamental" Christians than Mormon doctrine. Even the points that resemble Mormon doctrine are off target. There are, however, some strictly Mormon teachings that veer from what Christ taught – and that is why I couldn't be a Mormon again.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • 196th

      They are not wanting to be your Sunday school teachers, I have nothing againts Romney as a Morman. I do believe he is not the answer to move us forward and out of this mess. Our problems did not start in 2008, and there are no quick fixs.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  11. dimpledimes

    Let me understand this:
    The government is not investing adequately in our children and is getting worse. Mitt Romney just gives rhetorical answers, but Pres. Obama is on the verge of solutions that she, herself, provides. Does she realize that she is planning to vote back in four more years of the same? No leadership, no budget, lots of flowery, "feel your pain" speeches with the same amount of non-specifics that Romney puts out. Plus, she includes the "binders of women" comment with the perfect liberal spin. Sorry, can't drink that Kool-Aid. We have a choice between "can't do" and "don't know." Guess we need to decide which we feel most comfortable with.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Blue Grass


      Wake Up America!

      2008's "Hope and Change" is 50% successful. We're still HOPING we get real leadership in the White house but we did CHANGE for the WORSE!

      October 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • 196th

      Do you honestly believe our problems started in 2008?

      October 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  12. alice

    " our nation invests a smaller and smaller share of its resources in our children, "

    Actually that isn't true. Education spending per child continues to rise dramatically.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Tex71

      Not as fast as our combined wealth is growing – and that is the point you seem to be missing. The pie is growing, but the wealthiest are keeping increasingly overwhelming shares of the pie, with less and less left over for the rest of us.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It took a couple of sources to find this but education spending as a percentage of Gross National Product was 5.5% between 1996-2000, dipping to 5.4% from 2000-2004 and is currently at 5.7%

      October 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • 196th

      When I was in school 12 grade education was the ticket. But we have advanced way beyond, my 6 year grandson nows more about computers than me. A class book is not the only teaching tool needed, and this tech cost money.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  13. Captain Moroni

    Ms. Brooks is using the church to sway voters and sell her book/website.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • alice


      October 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • 196th

      Hmm you are easy to be swayed.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  14. Da Observer Fenstergucker

    I agree with a lot of what Ms. Brooks' article highlights. Hard truths. Yes, we have to face them. All of us, not just 47%, or 60% or even the 1% alone. We all have to do something about the long term outlook. In this I even agree with the GOP and romney.
    But how we make those cuts, how we save or redirect money is the question. No, corporations and particularly the very rich do Not need anymore breaks. The insurance and petroleum industries are making record profits. They pass on the cost inflation to You, and Me and our neighbors. The corporate and personal wealth has not trickled down to us in the middle classes. And I have worked and paid taxes for over 30 years. Not a day of unemployment.

    We need more education funding, education about reproductive choices, preventative health care instead of vouchers that only enrich the already rich industries.
    We need to make changes, some things we let go like jobs to china will not come back.
    Let's get something new going, not the same old same old "free markets", "capital produces capital", "trickle down (Not) economy for the rich", if only CEOs make more money they will invest their corporations more in job creation.. bla blah.
    We have seen it all. And it Did NOT work. The rich got only richer. God bless them, let them enjoy their wealth, but I am damned if I should vote (romney ryan) to get them even more ways to skin the system. Obama 2012.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • beezers

      So, that whole talk from Romney about how his party has focused too long on big business and that he's looking at policies to help small business... that doesn't address the changes you're talking about?

      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  15. Boulderdash Gentile

    Don't you just love legalitarianism, the artistry of two cons conning the people?

    October 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  16. Pete

    All the talk in the main stream media since Romney won the primary is about Mormanism. It is still alive in every news cycle this Mormanism thing. Harry Reid is a Morman. And the biggest discrace of CNN and the other left wing media outlets is that Obama for 20 years went to Rev Wrights church that taught Black Liberation Theology. Which of the two is more radical? Where is even one story about Black Liberation Theology? Move on people nothing to see here.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Matt

      Pete, I agree 100% with your comment but since the media leans left, they will never push on that area unless forced into it.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Indy

      If you are going to criticize please get the nickname correct....it is Mormon, not Morman.....and that is a nick name for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!

      October 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  17. BC2009

    The Clinton News Network is hard at work again. First they try to sway the debate via a biased moderator and now they try to make it sound like conservative Mormons are or should be supporting Obama.

    Saying "these things are hard and I don't have a good answer" is NOT better than saying "these things are hard, i have a plan, and I am willing to sit down with Democrats and Republicans on day one to determine how to implement that plan".

    Obama has already given up. He has thrown in the towel because being President is just too hard for him. He's more than hinted at it. Let's thank him for his service and his effort and give him the vacation he deserves starting on inauguration day.

    I love the reference here to Obama's inauguration because that was the most anti-climatic thing ever compared to his campaign. Obama campaigned on changing America for the good and all of that fizzled after he was inaugurated. Here we are four years later and things are worse - not better. The only great thing that happened under Obama's watch was we got Osama Bin Laden - that's it.

    Thank you Mr. President for your hard work. I will gladly give you the vacation you deserve on election day.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • alice

      well said

      October 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • danno

      Fortunately for the Nation and our children, your vote for Romney will be wasted. These are serious times, requiring a leader not born of a waffle iron.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Independant

      Many Republican supporters forgot to mention when Bush left office, the economy was in free fall with no bottom in sight, thanks to the Repugnican policies for 8 years, serving only Big Business, the Wealthy, and the 1%.
      Is America better off today then when Republicans/Bush left office?
      Your damn right we are, even if its not great yet, its now way better then it was when it was handed to Obama.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  18. bob

    How do you all feel about Romney asking company presidents sending messages to their employees telling them to vote Romney or else risk losing their jobs. True no law against it. However, it is borderline blackmail/threat language to influence voting? It just seems so wrong in so many ways.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Tex71

      It IS wrong in so many ways. And it is a perfect example of what we would all rather not have to believe: that the GOP agenda as things stand today is to return to the bad old days of feudalism, where 1% owned everything and everybody, and if you as a barefoot illiterate peasant dared to say no, you would be quickly and brutally disposed of.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Matt

      Bob, could you please provide some proof of what you are saying Romney has done? First I've heard of something like that going on. Thanks.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      How do you feel about Obama offering to pay the legal fees of defense contract companies who are sued due to layoffs at those firms?

      October 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The Obama administration has doubled down on its plea to defense contractors not to warn employees about possible layoffs due to looming budget cuts - going so far as to offer to cover legal fees in compensation challenges.

      The move drew a stern rebuke Friday from South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, since federal law requires employers to give notice if mass layoffs are likely.

      "For the second time, the Obama administration has now encouraged government contractors to ignore the WARN Act and hold off on warning employees about possible layoffs due to the looming sequestration cuts,” Thune, lead author of the Sequestration Transparency Act, said Friday

      Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/29/admin-to-pay-legal-fees-for-contractors-that-dont-issue-sequestration-warnings/#ixzz29fipwYSw

      October 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Ken

      Please direct me to the source of your comment.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  19. Israel

    I also listened to the debate as a single (widow), minority, working mother who is taking care of a two year old toddler. It is interesting that, as a professional, I did not take offense at any reference to "binders" full of women; but rather, understood the context in which Mr. Romney was making his point. In other words, I chose not to politicize what he was saying. I also took to heart the fact that he talked about flex work schedules and how important it is to be home with one's family, whether that is to cook or not (once again, a reference to cooking does not threaten my sense of security in being a strong woman).

    As far as a plan, I see more of a future for my daughter and myself with Romney than with President Obama. As a one of three daughters raised by a single mom (who worked as a secretary for a school administration), we had to pay for college on our own through scholarships, pell grants and student loans. Respectfully, we can agree to disagree as to what hard "truths" need to be reflected upon, and which man can lead our country in the direction it needs to go.

    Also, on a side note, I would (also) love to see an opinion article by a mormon who WOULD vote for Romney. The perception this article gives is that because you are a mormon, you would automatically vote for a mormon president. We are brighter than that CNN.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Nancy

      You and your sisters benefited from scholarships, Pell Grants, and student loans. The Republicans want to cut or eliminate the latter two. No more Pell Grants, no more guaranteed student loans. Students will have to qualify for a full scholarship (good luck with that - less than 5% of students get full rides). Or they will have to borrow from a bank without payment deferrment until after graduation and low interest rates. Students don't have any credit history – so huge interest rates or parents will have to co-sign. Romney in 2008 during a town hall meeting at a college, said kids who don't get scholarships should save up to pay for college if their parents can't afford it. And called that self-responsibility. Let's see what that does to colleges – many would shut down resulting in more unemployment and less education. We would also start seeing major shortages of professionals - health care providers, teachers, business managers, etc. What would that do to the economy? So you still want to vote Romney? Better start putting away half your paycheck now for your daughter's education. Good luck!

      October 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. James Thompson

    There should be more Progressive Mormons. Christ was a progressive. The church encourages people to get as much education as possible. They teach that we should respect people of all religions and cultures. They teach that we should take care of the poor. They teach that we should respect our environment and take care of it. Luckily I see more and more Mormons who are progressive and this gives me hope.

    October 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • beezers

      There should be more Mormons who are humble enough to avoid claims that their politics are more in line with the church's teachings, and that goes for both conservatives and liberals. Christ was a progressive? Really. So, every statement he gave regarding what "we should" do was prefaced or followed with "the government". Hmm...

      October 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Thompson NJ

      Not one of those things you mentioned about the church teaching is a progressive idea. I am a conservative Mormon, donate my time an money to help those who are poor, respect other peoples religion, and I am a physician on top of that. Does that make me progressive? You clearly don't know what a "progressive" is. The progressive idea would be to force someone to do these things without a choice. Giving someone the choice do do A., B., or C. is the Christ like way. Not what "progressives" are pushing.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • James Thompson

      So you would begrudge the government helping people, building infrastructure, educating people, protecting people, setting the groundwork for productivity because you think that is taking away your free agency? You are free to begrudge what you give to the government. I do not begrudge the government my tax dollars to help make our country more fair and to help build it up. I understand some people take advantage; I understand more could be done to reform programs and save money; but don't call evil good and good evil. If we were taking care of all the poor in our country and creating enough jobs for everyone then the government would not need to. Do you live in a large house? Until there are no poor among us, I will continue to support our governments efforts. You are free to move to a country that does not help its poor.

      October 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.