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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. Willis Nahleh

    I don't vote for Religion I vote vote for leadership.
    I am Mormon too and I am voting for president Obama.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • LDS Guy

      That's funny because Mitt has had more leadership experience than Obama.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Maybe Mitt had more leadership experience than Obama but he does not have the experience of being president for four years...

      October 18, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • kris in detroit

      Obumma doesn't have 4 years experience as president....he has been campaigning through most of that time instead of being a leader.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • WachetAuf

      That is a cop-out. I am not referring to your vote for Obama, but your view that religion plays no role in your choice of leaders. Your beliefs, whether they be founded in religion or secular philosophy or experience, informs all of your choices. You cannot make me believe that if you are a Mormon that you do not consciously or unconsciously rely on your core values and beliefs in making such decisions which have a moral impact on all of our lives. I, myself, like to believe that I integrate, as much as I am able (given human frailty) to the values and teachings of the Bible. Let me remind you that I do not say that you do not integrate those same values. I just think you need to acknowledge it.

      October 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  2. Michelle

    Thank you for posting the views of a white Mormon woman who opposes the candidacy of Mitt Romney and supports Barack Obama. For fairness, please post the views of a black Christian woman who opposes the candidacy of Barack Obama and supports Mitt Romney. These women do exist!!

    October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • NoMoreOwebama

      I'd like to see that too but CNN doesn't present anything fair, it's all biased. Look at Candy Crowley's inappropriate intervention (and lying) at the last debate. Wake up people; there's video footage of Obama, press secretary Carney & Ambassador Rice *all* calling the Benghazi attack due to a YouTube video for days & days after the September 11th attack! He's lying to the American people because admitting Al Queda is alive & well might cost him the election. As if his 4 years of wasteful spending & increasing the number of Americans on food stamps aren't enough to do that already.

      As for this Mormon woman who is touched by Obama's comments on those coffins, he's responsible for those Americans being in them.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  3. Chris

    I wonder how long it will take us to hear about all of the skeletons in this woman's closet.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  4. Hammy

    Typical CNN... another biased article for the left...

    October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • ott

      You sir are a mental giant. You can look at a religious blog entry and try to falsely equate it to a news article.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  5. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Does it really matter, that the author is a Mormom and she's voting for Obama?

    What the current SPATE OF ARTICLES on CNN kicking up dust (where there is none), or blowing up minor incorrect choice of words (e.g. Romney's reference to Binder full of Women!) make it LOUD & CLEAR is that CNN is working day & night to SOW THE SEEDS OF DOUBT IN VOTERS MINDS and derail the progress of Romney.

    To that end CNN is using all means MUSLIM REPORTERS such as Halimah Abdul (NOT to talk of Mr.Fareed Zakaria!!!), and hispanics like Maria Cardona knowing fully well that AMERICAN MUSLIMS & HISPANICS (along with Blacks) overwhelmingly support Obama.

    I fear CNN's COVERT EFFORTS will not suceed!

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

      Yeah. If all reports and commentaries aren't written by white Anglo Saxons.....God Help Us!

      October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Dear Friend YOU need to GetReal!!!

      BTW, I am NOT white.

      I am a Brown man, a recent immigrant to this greatest country America, from India (another truly great nation).

      Also, I had voted for Obama in 2008, and had been an UNDECIDED VOTER until recently.

      Hope that explains Mr.GetReal !!!

      October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  6. Willis Nahleh

    I am Mormon too and I am voting for president Obama.
    I wish I can trust Romney.He does not represent my faith money on his mind and wars in his heart.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • LDS Guy

      But Harry Reid does? Maybe not. Just asking.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  7. 1Mormon2Another

    I will agree with you that hard truths matter. However, I find it interesting that you point out about what you "heard' Mitt Romney say and then compare it to the hard truths that President Obama was "inferring." There are plenty of hard truths that you can infer from Mitt as well, but it seems to me that you didn't hear any of the ones he really did say. Here are some examples:
    There are more people in poverty, one out of six people in poverty.
    When he took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. Today, 47 million people are on food stamps.
    The economy is growing more slowly this year than last year, and more slowly last year than the year before.
    Hard truth about the current unemployment numbers.
    Median income is down $4,300 a family and 23 million Americans out of work.

    These seem like cold hard truths to me. I also think that Romney was pretty clear about his plan to help balance the budget and stimulate economic growth. His idea is to lower taxes which theorietically benefits small businesses which in turn creates jobs. The argument is because more jobs are created there are MORE people paying taxes which implies we get the same amount of revenue as before. His plan states that the rich will pay no less in the dollar amount in taxes because loopholes will be removed. Other tax deductions for all will be capped. "Which ones?," you ask. Any. This is a brilliant remark that all deductions will be capped at say $25k. This helps everyone. If a couple who doesn't have kids can't claim the child deduction they can use it on charitible deductions for example. You get to choose. He has also addressed previously plans to address Social Security, etc. but there is no point in continuing down this path.

    I get that his ideas are theoretical, but don't pretend that Mitt hasn't addressed cold hard truths and that he is any more ambiguous in his plans than President Obama. All I've heard from Pres Obama is that he inherited a tough situation (which I don't deny) and playing the blame game. I have not heard what he plans to do in the future. I'd be happy for anybody to clarify his plans as well as I did for Mitt's above. In fact, that would be really helpful for me.

    Lastly, I don't mind if you think Romney's ideas would fail and that's why you wouldn't vote for him. That should be your reason. I think your premise of not voting for Mitt because he doesn't address the hard truths and thinks that there are easy fixes is seriously flawed.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ;p;

      Romney has no idea what a cold hard truth is. Stop pretending otherwise.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • SusieKJ

      There were people arrested for protesting at a plant, just yesterday, that they used to work at but is closing down and moving those jobs to China. This company is being run by Bain. I found it so disingenuous on Romney's part of talking about being tough on China and bringing jobs back from China, while at the very same time he's saying this, his company that he keeps at arms length is unemploying Americans and giving the jobs to China. The hard truth is that reality is not the same as what Romney keeps telling the American people.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • TrickleDownIsDead

      There's a gigantic flaw in your "argument", my friend. You are entirely ignoring the fact that President Obama took office exactly at the peak of the deepest recession since the 1930s. Like wars, massive recessions don't end overnight.

      That recession, let me remind you, followed 8 years of Republican control of the White House and 12 years of mostly Republican control of Congress.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • James PDX

      A few of the problems with your version of Mitt's plan are;

      1. It assumes there will be enough job growth to make up for a 20% decrease in tax revenue.

      2. Romney has promised us 12 million in job growth. However, economists have already predicted job growth of 12 million over the next 4 years even if no changes are made. So one can infer from this that Romney is telling us that he will have zero impact on job growth if we elect him.

      3. It's nice that Mitt has now suggested a cap so we can understand his plan better, although it is sad that it took him this long to figure out even this much of his own plan. However, he still can't tell us what that cap will be, so we can't properly ascertain if it will work.

      4. The loopholes he plans on closing include eliminating the inheritance and capitol gains taxes. This would be of great benefit to the rich and of little to everyone else. In fact, Romney's previous tax return shows about 21 million in earnings, mostly capitol gains, and a measly 14% tax rate. Under his new tax laws, he would pay a tiny fraction of 1% in taxes on his 21 million. How convenient...ummmm...I mean, self serving.

      Having said that, I won't vote for either of them. Neither has shown me that they can be trusted with the well being of this country and its people, and both come from one of the two parties who have put us into this mess through a joint effort spanning several decades.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • EdwardTr

      The 25,000 might work for very low cost of living areas and the very poor but it will drastically raise taxes for middle class particularly for families making between 100 and 200 thousand dollars. The NET deduction limit will only be 15,000 and NOT 25,000 because Romney's and Obama's proposal to tax health insurance premium benefit raises people's TAXABLE income by about 10,000. Most families making over 100,000 will use up this 15,000 limit fast. Your real-estate deduction; state sales tax deduction; mortgage deduction; personal exemption deduction for you, your spouse and your kids. We payed 10,000 in state income tax and another 10,000 in real-estate tax on our house and several thousand more in sales tax. Thats 25,000 right there, no chance to claim mortgage health insurance or personal exemptions and the 20% tax rate cut does not even come close. The 25,000 limit will bring in a lot of new tax revenue stolen from the middle class.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • 1Mormon2Another

      @TrickleDownIsDead – I don't get the flaw in my argument. In fact, I credited the point that Obama inherited a tough situation.

      @James PDX – I don't disagree that I didn't mention all of the assumptions and I agree with what you are posting. The point of my post is that you CAN disagree with Mitt's theory/plan and therefore vote for Obama. However, what I don't think you can do as the author is doing, is say you are voting for Obama because of the hard facts he is inferring ("What I really wanted from the debate was more of the hard truths that Obama seemed to be on the verge of saying:") and not for Romney because of the anecdotes he really was saying. My point was to show that Romney did indeed state some hard truths that the author cared to ignore.

      To Everyon Else
      It seems to me that people are misunderstanding the idea of who I am voting for with the point I'm making about the article's premise. I never said I was voting for Romney. I just don't think the author's argument makes sense and I was trying to point to specific examples of why it didn't make sense. Vote for who you want. I firmly believe in your right to do so. Just do it based on logic, not emotion.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • 1Mormon2Another

      @EdwardTr – Interesting discussion about the tax deduction. That's worth looking into. I think you get me though. My point was to argue with the author that Mitt is being more specific than what he is being credited for and addressing hard truths. Whether you or anybody else agree with his ideas is up for debate and should be the reason to vote or not vote for a candidate.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  8. Believer

    A state that is making people lazy and dependent on it for handouts is NOT practicing true COMPASSION. Rather the opposite - honest hard work and personal responsibility - are the principles Jesus stood for. And each individual needs to help his neighbor and the needy to the best of his capacity - everything is ruined when we bring the state into this - that is never the solution.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • James PDX

      So your suggestion is that we eliminate all government programs for the needy and leave them to rely on the kindness of strangers in a capitalistic, greed driven society? I wish my world had a pink sky, too.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Lazy, lying, hypocritical christians

      @Believer: “And each individual needs to help his neighbor and the needy to the best of his capacity “
      The reason the government has to step in and help is because Christians are obviously not doing their part. When you consider that America is the richest country in the world and 80% of the American population is Christian, it’s obvious that if Christians actually “help his neighbor and the needy to the best of his capacity “. There wouldn’t be any poor, hungry, homeless or raged people left in America

      October 18, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Steph

      Joanna Brooks is right,. Finally, I see someone of a diffeerent hue who is a Christian and shares my thoughts and belief and I am not even Mormon. Believer, you are not a believer. You have essentially closed your heart and mind to the hard truths and have given yourself over to hate. You need to search your heart. Every "white conservative" sat by and watched President Bush lie and run the country into the ground with a baseless war and no way to pay for it. No one said anything because it served the purpose of those that involved in the greed of partaking into the huge defense budget that was essentially "free money" but in retrospect was money we did not have. This President is cleaning up a mess that no one could have imagined was so deep and wide. This is not an overnight thing nor can it be done properly in a hurry.
      The narrative that minorities are the ones given free averything is just beyond crazy seeing that there are more "whites" on food stamp and social services than blacks and hispanics combined. At some point the party of "no" will have to face some hard truths of their own. 1. are we using our "conservative" posture as a cover for our blatant bias" because no matter how they try to hide it, it just continues to bubble to the surface and we really see what is in their core. 2.Who is most benefiting from all the defense contracting work....just take a look. Tell me who you see. 3.Just as you cannot buy your way to heaven, you cannot buy the presidency of the United States nor can you suppress the rights of those you feel are beneath you in terms of what they look like. 4. Until all are included and embraced into this melting pot of this wonderful nation, we will continue to struggle and fight a losing battle of true progress in this nation, If you examine history and the progress we have made with regards to civil rights, wormen's rights, etc. you will see that you are truly a part of a minority and on the wrong side of history. Think on these things......if you so choose.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  9. EB

    Critical tyhinker: Jesus couldn't get elected to office by the far right nowadays, he's waaaaaaaaaaaay too liberal and too much of a hippie with that scraggly beard and lower-class lifestyle...especially when he throws in that durned "care for the downtrodden" and "love thy brother" touchy-feely stuff.

    Now place him as the CEO of "Jesus Corp.", toss out the sandals for a limo and have him ditch the shroud for a tailored dark Armani; now he's cookin' with Wesson!

    October 18, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  10. GetReal

    Don't get your panties in a bunch.....she is only one vote!

    October 18, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  11. Bhawk

    Jehovah's Witnesses do not salute the flag is because they believe in being in the world, but not of the world. Since countries are a worldly thing, they do not salute the flag. So how can a Mitt, dedicated to the ideas of Mormonism want to be in the most powerful position in that world.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • LDS Guy

      Because he's not a Jehovah's Witness. Easy question. Next!

      October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • dragonfire77

      Because mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses are two completely different groups? I lived in a community in MN once where half the town was one, and half the town was the other....it was like the Hatfields n the McCoys....

      October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • jay

      Jehovah's Witnesses don't salute the flag, therefore it makes no sense for a Mormon to be President? That makes no flippin sense.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  12. Matt

    If people are worried about the hard truths that will face our future, consider that National Debt under Obama has grown more than any other president in history and he doesn't show any signs of slowing the spending. The small increase in revenue by increased taxes on the wealthy is small change in relation to the budget deficit each year.

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

      Why all of you that are so worried about the national debt–don't you know its a myth, it can be paid at anytime, but people who buy the bonds and notes are counting on that growth of investment in the furture. We accepted tremendous debt under RRR due to the Savings and Loan failures. Government issued 30 year notes coming due now–WOW. Inflation and growth will eat up all of debt due to increase in the value of the money. The only thing that can increase the value of the money people have now is a depression and a depression would make the rich a 1000 times more rich. Hence the financial termites want a depression. And, they are working to bring it about.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • SusieKJ

      I recommend you read some of the economists that aren't from a partisan think tank on this issue. They say that this deficit will continue to increase under Romney as well. Just as it will under Obama. The Congress really needs to stop their partisanship and fix this. But the one thing they all agree on is that Romney's tax cuts will add to the deficit by trillions.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  13. edmundburkeson

    I guess that makes Obama a white Lamanite. Hard truths and Mormonism? That's an oxymoron! But black liberation theology is a complete contradiction in terms.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  14. Believer

    'Help thy neighbor' is a commandment for each individual to follow in his personal life - not to depend on a 'welfare state' to do it for him - Jesus was about transforming hearts and personal characters.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  15. Liz

    Excellent commentary and it seems your vote is based upon common sense. You have grave and valid concerns in electing someone who refuses to be candid with the public, honest about his role at Bain Capital and forthcoming with 12 years of tax returns, a tradition that was started by George Romney. I am sure you are not the only Mormon who fells this way and I hope your commentary reminds Americans to not stereotype and become less prejudiced against Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Wiccans, Toltecs, etc.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Steve

      This is the hard truth and Repulitards can't seem to grasp

      October 18, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Tom

      Barak Obama is the candidate who refuses to deal with hard truths. When Obama was questioned about the national debt during an interview on Univision, he dismissed it saying that we only owe it to ourselves. This president has racked up deficits of over a trillion dollars every year in office. He doesn't care. Harry Reid, his partner, has refused to even attempt to pass a budget. So much for dealing with hard truth from this president and his like minded Mormon partner. As for Mormon values, this president is extreme in his support of abortion, which anathema to the Mormon faith. Harry (who impugned Romney's Mormon faith) simply says he doesn't want to impose his values on others.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  16. JD

    @Saul Berg what you are saying is sterotyping. That is racist! This is a smart woman who has made her choice. I respect that no matter what candidate I'm for. I carried a rifle for 22 years with the US Army to ensure people had a right to choice. That's what America is about, freedom of speech, freedom to choose! The people that get on here and bash others for their beliefs probably never served their communities, let alone their country. But they can sit back and mouth off about someone elses ideas, dreams and beliefs! If you don't want to live in this country, move! Plain and simple. I'm sure there are a number of countries that would love to get their hands on you. Iran being one of them! Go! Heck we'll even help you get the one way ticket if you need it!

    October 18, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  17. gotime4

    Saul Berg, you are an idiot. Your small intellectual understanding makes a blanket statement that ALL mormons will vote for Romney, how short sighted are you? In every religion there are people that are different from the mainstream of thought. You are probably some slow liberal that follows the crowd without an original thought. Do some critical thinking and stop making absurd blanket statements.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  18. jamesr1976

    You might change your mind when the administration and the biased media start going after Mormonisn as a last act of desperation to win the election. Be on the lookout for a big Middle East conflict too. By the way, the Bush hating woman from the debates has decided to go with Obama after all, who would have guessed it? And the man with the Bengazhi question, total plant. Just watch his post debate interview. Give it up CNN.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  19. Tom

    America is finished and democracy is a failed system.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  20. Blue Grass

    "What I really wanted from the debate was more of the hard truths that Obama seemed to be on the verge of saying:"
    Ms Brooks, you are willing to give him four more years because he is on the VERGE of saying something?!
    Really??? I hope they are just YOUR years and NOT mine!
    CNN just this morning said that Jobless Claims are up 46,000 and that only 53% of Americans are working.
    You have a job teaching (a noble profession) and writing fiction, maybe that's why you want another four years for this administration.

    (http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/18/news/economy/other-unemployment-rate/index.html?hpt=hp_t1)

    October 18, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • One Truth

      As she said, there are big problems that take time to fix. Hearing a plan to fix the problems is what she asked for. Only Obama has such a plan. And giving him 4 more years to fix 20 years of disrepair makes perfect sense. If you expect to get intelligence from a fence post, then you are one of the low information voters who coddle the GOP at your own expense.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Blue Grass

      ...still waiting on what that plan is... oh wait a minute, another neighbor is out of a job. Hold on, let me ask her what she thinks of Mr Obama's plan.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
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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.