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. Jay

    Joanna –
    What is a 'progressive Mormon'? As a Mormon who has lived in the East, South, and West I've never heard the term. The trouble with it is, it could be construed as a faction (for lack of a better word) – either formal or informal – and could mislead your readers.
    I disagree with some aspects of your opinion. However, I think it's great that you had the courage to share your opinion. And any LDS (or any American, for that matter) who suggest you should support who you see fit are out of line.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Ed


      A progressive Mormon (or any religion for that matter), is someone who thinks for themselves and does not blindly vote for someone merely because their church leaders tell them.
      Our founding fathers were smart enough to realize Church and State must remain separate for our Democracy to function correctly.
      Unfortunately, radical religious groups have taken over the Republican Party.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Jeff


      One problem with your definition of a progressive Mormon is that you seem to think that the LDS church tells the members for which candidate they should vote or which political party they should support. The church does not. The official statement is, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform. Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church." As a result of this, you find a Mormon running for president on the Republican ticket as well as another Mormon (Sen. Harry Reid) that is a Democrat and the Senate Majority Leader. Mormons can vote whichever way they individually see fit.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  2. CNN moderate reader

    Who cares if you are Mormon and voting for Obama? Is it supposed to mean the same as black and not voting for Obama? I'm so tired of the racist comparisons and yes, I'm throwing religion into the mix. It is always interesting to read how someone's perspective differs so greatly from mine. I saw the same debates. I didn't hear anything out of Obama's remarks that made me feel I should vote for him. The fact is, I felt like he dodged answers. My vote is for Romney, even though I am white.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • GetReal

      1st. Mormon is not a race....2nd. religion was already the subject and in the mix...You sound like you argue in the mirror to prove a point!

      October 18, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  3. Devin

    Why would you take "hard truths" as those that are just being presented by the candidates. Try looking at their actual records. Obama has not balanced the budget and added 6 trillions to our debt. Romney balanced the budget every year in Mass and left it with a surplus. Not to mention doing the same at the Olympics. Those are hard truths.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Boytjie

      He got $340 million from the government to "bail out" the Olympics. and the $100 million profit was turned over to maintain facilities, it did not go back to the government.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  4. Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

    OK lady.....good enough....I'm Catholic and I'm voting for Romney! Now, we are even!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  5. Believer

    Jesus was not concerned with politics and form of govt as in socialist or capitalist. He wanted each individual to help their neighbors and the poor who needed help. Jesus was talking about personal character and example – not about politics and govt. He did not want you to be lazy and leave it on the govt or others to do it for you. Each person needs to individually present an example – and help the neighbors and poor – establish charities etc for the purpose ...

    October 18, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  6. kevin bauer

    I have always enjoyed your very liberal commentaries about Mormon customs and theology. But pretending you came to this thoughtful conclusion while watching the debate? Conservatives make up such heartfelt prevarications not compassionate liberals. The most compassionate and caring people are the ones who have a strong moral core and stick to VALUES. You are very clever. Some of your patients are very humble Ms. Brooks, Have you called this to their attention?

    October 18, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Believer

      True compassion is not make people lazy and dependent on the state for handouts - Jesus wanted each person to honestly make his living and help his neighbors and poor to the best of his capacity - he was talking about personal character for individuals - not that they wait for the state to help their neighbors and poor. Bible's teachings are meant for each individual person to follow in his personal life.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Critical Thinker

      Republicans adhere to the wrong values...like worshipping money and power.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  7. Chuckie

    There are gay, black and Latino Republicans so it is not surprising that there are Mormon Democrats, Harry Ried being possibly the best known.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Boytjie

      One of my gay Republican friends has said he is scared to think of a Romney presidency. ")

      October 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  8. Dr.Diamond

    -Thanks Ms.Joanna Brooks for speaking up for what is true and right. America no longer see's what is right it only see's what is white. Blinded by hate and bigotry. It does not matter what God u worship if any one day u will met Him, because u can only stay here on earth for a short time 100 years @ the most and the u will have to met your maker. Does no matter how rich or white your are does not matter how poor or black you are. U will one day died and step out of time into eternity. I just hope u have prayed to the right God while u were here in time. I am my brothers keeper. Dr. Diamond 2012 A.D.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  9. Darryl

    Ya know, finding a Mormon to make a statement that they are going to vote for Obama is about as silly as finding an African American that is going to vote for Romney. They both exist ...... so what!!!!!!

    Is this just a political advertisement by CNN to vote Obama????

    October 18, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Chuckie

      Well, we know who you support. Likely you woudn't have been so sardonic if the article was about a black explaining why they support Romney. Yes, political party partisans are biased. Do you have any other trite points of view?

      October 18, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  10. GetReal

    I like this chick!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • rick

      I like her too. I'm converted Mormon. I have a Mormon friend that is die hard Romney mostly because Romney is Mormon, which in my opinion is the worst reason to vote for him. This lady, even though she's Mormon, speaks plain and simple, and I like it.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  11. John The Electrician

    The right wing hard liners have been trying to eliminate public educatiion for decades. It appears they are making headway as education in this country has been cut in half. What do they plan to do with all these uneducated people? Send them to the military?

    October 18, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • richard miller

      They will put them all in a work camp or prison. Simple solution. Hitler did it and then got rid of them. Not much difference between him and the Repuglician Party!

      October 18, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  12. bananaspy

    Not interested in the Mormon case for anything. You can't even make sense of your own religion... hell, you can't even lend credibility to the founder of Mormonism. Your opinion is as valued as that of a Scientologist.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • SE

      Closed minded much?

      October 18, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  13. WachetAuf

    I am impressed. Here I see an author who is trying to not only understand Jesus' teaching but is also trying to integrate those teachings into her political thinking and decision making. Does anyone wonder why other "Christians" do not write about the same things? I have wondered about it for years. I have found the answer. "Christianity" has been bought and sold by politicians for 2000 years, starting with Paul, through Constantine and up to Bush II and Romney. Billy Graham showed this week, as he has done for most of his life, that the power is in the persons of the politicians, not in the law of God.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  14. Eddy

    Romney must be doing well, CNN has come out with many articles against Romney today... After the screw up by Candy Crowley during her incorrect "fact-checking" that's the best CNN can do... blame the guy who got it right. I heard a comment from some guy named Avlon who criticized Romney for being a bit forceful in his rebuttal of Obama's comments, he called Romney disrespectful, but he called Biden "energetic" ... talk about bias, blatant bias... what happened to true reporting? Please get rid of these clowns and hire people who can give you the "news" not an opinion... People criticize Fox News, and just to see how it is, I got cable, and guess what, their news is pretty unbiased. Their opinion shows are that, opinion, but the news is that THE NEWS !!!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Primewonk

      You do know, don't you, that Fox News is the only news organization that has gone to federal court, and the FCC stating that they have a constîtutional right to LIE to the public during their newscasts.

      You also know, don't you, that numerous actual studies show that folks who get their news from Fox News are the most miss informed of all groups.

      How's that "fair and balanced" working for you now.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Dann DFW

      "incorrect fact checking" = the video of the statement doesn't equate with the Romney camp spin. Words mean things and a statement to the public about the attacks in Libya is about the attacks in Libya despite what revisionist journalists from Faux News claim.

      The problem with spinning everything is you have to remember what is spin and what is fact. All politicians face this issue. At that moment in the debate Romney lost that distinction. When you're ready to pounce and your oppenent says "please proceed" there should be warning bells going off inside your head telling you something's not right.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Roger

      disrespectful is a character of Romney. I noticed it when he was having debates with his fellow republicans last time. He thought he can threat anyone as he wanted because he is a wealthy man. I wish Ron Paul is a GOP nominee, then this election will be much more better.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • PatNJ

      I'm with you, Eddy, sick to death of hearing "opinion" reported as "news." When I hear biased reporting and opinion reported as news, it destroys the speaker's credibility with me. When I want an opinion, I look in the op/ed section. Candy Crowley's inept, unprofessonal "moderating" of the 2nd Presidential Debate was shameful and an embarrassment–too bad she didn't have the sensitivity to be ashamed and embarrassed! She did us all a dis-service, and she owes everyone an apology. And why are the debating parties not held to their time limit? Part of the "test" of debating is to form and present one's response in the time given, debaters fail when they exceed their time limit. Overall, the media need to recognize that Americans are smart enough to sort the opinion from the facts, and see manipulation for what it is. Americans do not tolerate tyrants or worship kings–THAT was the lesson of 1776!

      October 18, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  15. Reload

    Not all Mormons vote for Romney. Not all blacks vote for Obama. That's big news? It seems that CNN has gone to great lenghts to find all six of the Mormons voting for Obama.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • jean

      Make that 7 voting for Obama..I am not wealthy enough to vote for Romney.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  16. Norm

    You're a Mormon mom and you only have two kids?
    You better get busy there missy.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • dad

      I'm a Mormon dad and I only have two kids. That's all we want. So what?

      October 18, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Reload


      October 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  17. John

    Has Romney ever heard of Jesus and how he loved and was on the side of the downtrodden and poor. Romney only cares about the 1%.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Believer

      Jesus was not concerned with politics and form of govt as in socialist or capitalist. He wanted each individual to help their neighbors and the poor who needed help. Jesus was talking about personal character and example - not about politics and govt. He did not want you to be lazy and leave it on the govt or others to do it for you. Each person needs to individually present an example - and help the neighbors and poor - establish charities etc for the purpose.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Dave

      I asked my 6 year old daughter (yes 6 years old) if she understood the difference between a conservative (Romney) and a liberal (Obama) and she entergetically said the following, "Dad, its easy, I will decide when and who I will give my money to, I dont need someone to make that decision for me". Even from the mouth of babes, they understand. Giving is a personal choice and if we are not giving and providing to the less fortunate as a nation, there is a much bigger problem to address. Jesus was A-Political yes and was more concerned with matters of the heart and that is the real issue. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver". It does no good to elect a person that is going to force, through taxation and regulations, the redistribution of someones earned income to the less fortunate if if it is not givin willingly and cheefully. What really needs to happen is our great nation needs to bow in humility before almight God and beg for His forgiveness and restore a right heart within us and then you will see the poor attended to.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • MadGOPer

      I would love to believe what you say could be true, but we have to face reality... Even if the government only provided the most essential of services and taxed accordingly, all the charitable organizations in this country could never provide the greatly needed assistance many of our fellow citizens need. Whether it be the elderly, veterans, the permanently disabled and/or sick, the poor and unemployed, etc, there has never been enough to address the problems constructively. Whether you or I like it, the government has more resources and infrastructure available to reach the greater majority of those who need the help.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  18. John

    clubschadenfreude, the 'salad' argument only serves to highlight the weakness of religion in general. There are many dozens of versions of christianity alone, but, apparently, you are supposed to choose one (as if, perhaps, from a buffet line) and then adhere to every word of its established leaders. If those leaders have it all so right, why so many different versions?

    And worrying that Ms. Brooks has "made up" a religion? All religions are made-up – though in the case of Mormonism it was invented recently enough that we know who made it up, and when.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  19. ohtis

    Um........what's a progressive Mormon?

    October 18, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  20. Critical Thinker

    Jesus is a progressive.

    October 18, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • iEatYellowPickles

      Um... Actually, Jesus is a Mormon. 🙂

      October 18, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Believer

      Except when he is against abortion and gay marriage.

      October 18, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Huebert

      To quote Jesus on ho.mose.xuality and abortion ".................................................................................................."

      October 18, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • WachetAuf

      Jesus was more than a progressive or liberal. He was a revolutionary who dared to ride his ass back into Jerusalem one more time. I was like a slap in the face of the authorties. And, those in authority for the last two thousand years do not want you to understand it that way. Jesus is a threat to them. They want you to focus on the "baby Jesus" who would be no threat to anyone. They want you to learn to "follow" rather than ask questions. They want you to focus on Jesus' resurrection and your life in "eternity" rather than Jesus' messages of tolerance here on thsi Earth. Their strategic objective is power here on Earth. They arm their sheep with weapons of oppression. They cannot allow Jesus to have any authority here on Earth. My guess is that Jesus has come back to this Earth many times, each time being murdered by the herd in which he lived.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • MadGOPer

      Jesus was actually more like a pink-eyed, frothing at the mouth, peace-loving communist who stuck it to the "Man"... Who kicked out the money lenders (bankers) out of the Temple, challenged the authority of the Pharisees (religious leaders), and the Sadducees (the 1%). He taught that there will always be poor folks and that you should help them not persecute them. That said, He instructed us to assist others with learning the necessary skills to take care of themselves. Our modern society seems to have forgotten this. Worse yet, there are those who claim "Christian" values yet they persecute who are not like them, preach hate and intolerance and use Old Testament verses to back up the hate.....

      October 18, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • WachetAuf

      Some of these replies to Critical Thinker are too obtuse to make much sense. If I may interpret, Jesus may or may not have expressed disapproval of any number of "sins". However, let's be very, very clear. Jesus embraced all sinners and he refused to indulge in Old Testament punishments. The evangelicals who would put young women as their doctors in jail for undergoing an abortion and simply not following Jesus' word. Punishment is an Old Testament remedy. Tolerance is Jesus message for all sins. That, in fact, is the only thing which works. For example, in today's world, does anyone believe that the GOP's remedy for putting people in prison for using an ounce of marijuana or nay number of other drug offenses has worked. NO. NO. NO. It is a total abject failure. So it is with abortion or any other number of moral issues which we must deal with. The GOP of the recent decades is not following Jesus' teaching. It never has and never will. They are weak minded people with very fragile egos who over compensate for their low self-esteem.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am |
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