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. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Obama may have won the recent debate (as far as STYLE & DELIVERY was concerned).


    He has lost BIG TIME in SUBSTANCE!!!!!


    Even if Obama is sincere in his efforts to help the poor and the disadvantaged, HE SIMPLY CANNOT DO IT BY PUNISHING BUSINESSES!!!!

    If Businesses grow, it will naturally take everyone along.....and that's what AMERICA IS ALL ABOUT!

    So, Obama's policies have NOT worked in the last 4 years, and will NOT work in the future also.

    I say this being someone who voted for Obama the last time around and had been an UNDECIDED VOTER until recently.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  2. Tony

    Remember the 10 commandments: Thou shalt not steal [unless the majority votes otherwise].

    October 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  3. Lori Steadman

    I think we all know there are no easy fixes. Can American survive four more years of escalating, crushing deficit? We all will have to make sacrifices in order to have financial stability in the country. Mitt Romney understands you have to balance your checkbook. Barack Obama does not. How can American continue to help its poor along with the world's poor if America is not financially secure? We can't. We can't lead from behind as presented by Condoleeza Rice. I believe both men care about the country. Both men are wonderful family men. But, I'm voting for Mitt Romney.

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

      The deficit was $1.4 trillion when President Obama took over (at the peak of the deepest recession in 80 years). It's $1.1 trillion now. Is that what you call "escalating"?

      October 18, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  4. TrickleDownIsDead

    The Republican general strategy for recapturing the White House is as transparent as it could be. It has four components:

    1. Figure out how to blame the Bush recession and its after-effects on Obama (keep this one in mind whenever you hear a Republican throwing out economic statistics).

    2. Pray that Americans have amnesia. (President Bush? Who's that? Never heard of him.)

    3. Do everything in their power to stop Obama from acting to repair the damage and then criticize him for not getting anything done (imagine a football team where half of the players tried to throw every game and then blamed the coach for their losing record!).

    4. Lie about the president and do it A LOT: the Affordable Care Act includes "death panels", Obama's birth certificate is fake, Obama is a Socialist, Democrats caused the financial crisis (even though they took over Congress AFTER the housing bubble peaked), Obama's policies caused the spike in debt (the multrillion dollar Bush tax cuts, the Great Recession, the hobby war in Iraq, and Medicare Part D had nothing to do with it), Obama is "anti-business" (as is obvious from the fact that corporate profits are back to pre-recession levels and the markets are up over 100% over their recessionary lows, right?), etc.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  5. izoega

    She might be a mormon, but she's a liberal first. Liberalism is her religion. Mormonism is how she gets attention for herself.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  6. Peggy Munro

    I like this article as it is written by a thinking and analytical person with a sound moral core.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  7. john

    Yes CNN pick one Mormon lady that represents maybe 10% of how Mormons sway politically, and post her article. Genius. People that say keep your religion out of politics...No president is asking you to become a Mormon, or a Muslim in Barack's case. The fact of the matter is religion has played a HUGE role in the development and freedom of this country. Whoever is president, stick to basic christian religious truths that have made this country free. If you do not appreciate christian truths that make this country great, please move to another country. I'll even help you pack.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • midwest rail

      Spoken like a true, contemporary "loving" Christian. ( eye roll )

      October 18, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  8. GD

    To summarize the article: I'm a liberal, and will be voting for Obama (shocker), and I've written this article to pretend I was enlightened by what Obama said in the debate.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • john

      well said

      October 18, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  9. Willis Nahleh

    Joanna Brooks Thank you for speaking from your heart.we do follow our instinct and value.
    It didn't matter if Romney was mormon or not I will still not vote for him.his pride is killing him.
    I am a republic and I am voting for president Obama

    October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • izoega

      There are no republicans named Willis. I just checked the our database.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  10. Seth Hill

    Ex-Gov. Romney will cut all taxes, but at the same time, lower the federal deficit. How? By cutting out exemptions. Which exemptions? He won't say. But trust him; it's magic!

    October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  11. Snake-Eyes

    Good article, I agree with it. When GW Bush got on television not long after 9/11/01 & told us all to "spend our $, go on our vacations" etc. I looked at my wife & told her we were in trouble. Instead of asking me to sacrifice & join in the fight to get America out of it's hole, I was told to forget it & go about my "business as usual". At that point I was no longer a citizen; I was now a consumer. America must face some tough answers to tough questions, & we need a leader that will help us with that. I have always said that the true mark of a good (or bad) leader is simply the way he/she handles bad news. It doesn't matter if it is the president, a platoon leader or your boss; their character & effectivness is summed up by how they handle bad news. Anyone can handle the good news; the bad is what defines us.

    I would like to add one more tough decision: health care. I read once where over 80% of all health care $ is spent on the last 6 months of life. Tough one, huh?

    October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • izoega

      What sacrifices has Obama asked you to make?

      October 18, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Snake-Eyes

      None izogea, no sacrifices. that is my point. It is not a democrat or repbulican thing, it is a political thing.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • izoega


      October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Snake-Eyes

      In order to ask us to sacrifice the politicians would have to acknowledge us as CITIZENS. But, they instead have the mind set that we are CONSUMERS; spend our $. all the while whining & moaning about how bad off the country is & whose fault it is..............sickening.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  12. ipmutt

    No mention of polls here. Do you think mainstream media only tells you good news about Obama or twists the facts to make the news look good? It's hard to twist numbers when they show Romney with a 6 point lead.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  13. stranger*pop

    The issue with Obama, and most liberal thinking (like this article), is that that they put "tolerance" above principle or truth. Tolerance is an unstable virtue. When we as a nation allow for bad policy, just to be tolerant, we open ourselves up for consequences that are not sustainable. For example. Yes, we want to help the poor and downtrodden, however, if we do so without requiring work or effort, we put people in a position where their integrity is lost and we as a nation become the safety net. We don't teach this to our children, why should we teach it as a nation? Another example, if we, in the name of tolerance, allow a women to abort her pregnancy, we allow an innocent child to be murdered. True Christian principles of compassion, charity, love, caring for the poor and needy, life and liberty, are always tempered by truth, not tolerance.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  14. DDW 1946

    Very well put

    October 18, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  15. Saul Berg

    "Mormons just many other groups have a mind of their own" - I am sill ROFLMFAO. All of the ones I have talked to are so brainwashed it is impossible to open their minds up to anything. Ok, so lets just call it 99.999999% voting for Willard - For the record, I am voting for Ron Paul. Both of these guys are not the man for the job.

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

      Kind of like blacks voting for Obama.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  16. Paul

    I just can't vote for Romney because I don't know which "Romney" would be president. He changes on a daily basis, depending on what he thinks people want to say. Can you imagine him as president, with all these "special interest" groups whispering in his ear? He would be changing his position like the weather, and that is not a good quality for a president.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      You mean special interest groups like Solyndra and A123?

      October 18, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Snake-Eyes

      I'm not a big Romney fan, but I must say that Romney has had to walk a very crooked line to get where he is today in regards to the nomination. He had to go & "please" the right wing extreme to get his party's nomination. Now, he has to come back to the center. I do believe Romney is much more moderate than percieved (yes, I could be wrong)' but he has been forced to portray himself as an ultra conservative to please his 'base". hard to say what Romney stands for/against because he does flip flop. but, not all of that is his direct fault.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  17. The heart of it all

    I'm sure you were giving both candidates a chance on Tuesday seeing as all the Obama quotes you made, save one, were from previous Obama speeches (which were written out) while all the Romney ones were in the debate. You really shouldn't portray yourself as an independent when that's obviously not the case. If you're worried about the debt for your children maybe you should take a look at your inlfated salary and benefits which continually outperform the private sector. Oh, and your lofty pension is invested in private equity firms like Bain Capital, hedge funds, and overseas. Hope that doesn't come as a surprise.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:16 am |

      I have no idea how you came to the conclusion the writter supported Obama before the debate. Your statement is foolish at best.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Knucklehead

      So now that Republican policies have gutted pensions for most people, anyone who has one has too much? Where does this end? Now that your heroes have crippled the economy, you want the working stiffs of this country to pay for it.

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

      You seemed to have missed the point of the entire article. It's not about speeches and what is new or not. It is accepting our responsibility for the future. Don't get caught up in the rhetoric here, the specifics must be examined before we make a decision. The same points in speeches means he has not changed and the course is hard. Don't tell me what I want to hear, tell me the TRUTH! and when you tell me don't change anything because my neighbor wants to hear something different. If we studied other recessions and the depression and compared now to it, you would know where we are at and what it takes to get out and its not what you want to hear. Joanna Brooks thank you! I am African American and LDS too and I love the truth!

      October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  18. Anne

    what is the point of this article? it's like 'I'm Black and I'm voting for Romney'. Nobody expected you lady to vote for Romney just because you are Mormon. Vote for Mr. Obama if you want to settle for less. Not sure what kind of American you are but it's your choice.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Dr. Joey


      October 18, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  19. Sandra May

    At least Barack Obama surrounds himself with the best experts on every problem and listens to what they say. then ultimately makes an informed decision. He acknowledges that 4 years is not long enough to crawl out of the hole that is the greatest depression in 80 years. Mitt Romney is a hard nosed business man. He will find out that running a country in a recession is not like running a company in the red. He is not the diplomat Obama is in dealing with the rest of the world. He has proven that he opens his mouth too soon on many occasions, and often when he does not know the facts.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      “if I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

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

      Sure, but when does it become the current manager's problem? I am very much an independent voter and frankly am not enamored with either party or candidate. But, I am getting weary of hearing the current administration and its followers continue to blame "the last group". There can be no question that this blame was well founded in January 2009, but, now.......still? How much longer does that apply?

      I wonder if the current administration is elected, and the economy continues to plod along for the next several years, would the blame the other group still be used?

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

      Hey Tex, how 'bout you take a look at the big picture, expand your horizons beyond the last four years? The separation of wealth has been going on about 30 years now and we are reaping the benefits. It doesn't get fixed in a few years. Taxes on the rich are the lowest they have ever been. Ever. In our history.

      If anything, Obama didn't go far enough with the stimulus, should have given it directly to the people that needed it, not a bunch of 1 percenters that are sitting on it. He should have broken up the "too big to fail" banks and pushed for a single-payer healthcare system. But, silly Barack, he was under the illusion he could work with the Republicans and come to some kind of compromise.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • newt

      "The best experts on every problem," blamed the attacks in Libya on a video for at least two weeks, before finally admitting it was an act of terror. Obama himself blamed the video 6 times in his speech to the UN. In his speech at the Rose Garden, Obama never called the attacks in Libya an act of terror. But hey, why bother with things like FACTS and TRUTH?

      October 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  20. Patrick

    There are more Mormons outside of Salt Lake City than in it, and we are all not voting for Romney. Neither are we all voting for Obama. Individuals vote – not groups.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Rob Dobrenski

      I'm glad you aren't tied into voting simply based on religion but, unfortunately, a colossal majority of people knew they were voting for Romney long before he was even the candidate (i.e., they were voting out Obama). That's group voting, not individual voting.

      October 18, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • izoega

      Not all black people are voting for Obama. Individuals vote – not groups. Oh wait....

      October 18, 2012 at 11:28 am |
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