Gordon Smith on Iraq – Did the Elders Make Him Do It?

Jeannie Berg

It's no surprise that Smith is opposing the troop surge - now that he's got the go ahead from the Mormon leadership. A troop surge would be hard to support given Mormon Prophet Gordon Hinckley's comments about war, "what a fruitless thing it so often is, and what a terrible price it exacts."

So did Gordon Smith’s recent announcement of his new-found opposition to the Iraq war happen because his feelings changed, because he came terms with the political realities in Oregon or because he was following the lead of the man he really answers to, Mormon Prophet Gordon Hinckley? There’s been much discussion about the motives behind Senator Smith’s about-face on the Iraq war, but all of it has missed one important factor in the Senator’s decision making – his serious commitment to the Mormon Church.

Smith’s Mormon commitment is real and deep. This commitment may be a part of what makes Smith the super straight-laced guy many admire, but it also means he has great loyalty to the Mormon leadership. 

Damon Linker , writing about another Mormon political leader, Mitt Romney, in this week’s New Republic, asserts, “the man who holds the office of the president of the LDS Church is also considered to be a prophet -- ‘the mouthpiece of God on Earth,’ in the words of Mormon theologian and Apostle Bruce McConkie -- whose statements override both scripture and tradition.”

In my recent research, I found that President Hinckley, as he’s referred to in the church, had strongly supported the war in Iraq before the invasion and during the first phase of the occupation. President Bush showed his gratitude to  Hinckley by awarding him the presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor, and granting him several private audiences, the last of which was August 2006.

But by the time of their last meeting, Hinckley’s views had already started to change. Mike Wallace reported Hinckley’s growing discomfort  with the war as early as the summer of 2005. And Gordon Smith recently told the New York Times that he began to move to opposition to the war soon after. Then on October 31, 2006, Hinckley delivered an address to over 20,000 students at BYU that was reported as a denunciation  of the war in the Mormon-owned press. Just a month later, Smith, one of the nation’s most devoutly Mormon politicians, followed suit and denounced the war as well.

So was it change of heart, political expediency or allegiance to the man he regards as the “voice of God for our time” that motivated Smith’s reversal on the war?

In politics, timing is everything. Now we have another reason to wonder about the timing and motivation of Smith’s new found opposition to the war.

 

Comments

  • pamela (unverified)
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    I don't believe that President Hinckley is against the war. I think his comments were not interpreted correctly, and taken out of context. EVERYONE hates the violence in Iraq. The mormon church believes very strongly in defending freedom ~ which is what the war in Iraq is about.

    Come on, Gordon Smith cares only about his re-election. If you think he is just blindly following the "Elders" you sadly misunderstand the church and the man. He only does what is politically expedient.

  • Jeannie (unverified)
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    Pamela, I agree that Hinkley's comments could be taken many ways but, combined with the Wallace report, they are a marked departure from his earlier remarks.

    I don't think Smith is "blindly" following the elders, I think he regards Hinckley as the conduit of the "word of God".That's consistant with LDS theology. I also think that we should not ignore the influence of the Mormon church on Smiths politics. He is reportedly a bishop in the church and his family history is deeply intertwined with Mormon history.

    It's true that some Mormon politicians have departed from Hinckley's stated positions on this and other issues. Has Gordon?

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    This post appears to be a thinly veiled attack upon Gordon Smith's religious affiliation. As a Catholic who lived through the John Kennedy campaign hysteria (the Pope will rule the USA!!!) , I take great offense at anyone - Dem, Repub, Green or Commie - who uses religious beliefs as the basis to criticize a candidate.

  • pamela (unverified)
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    No, because there are no stated positions that the church expects politicians to follow. It just isn't that way in the church. If I knew that Hinckley was against this war, I would still be for it. The only guidance the church gives members concerning politics is to follow their conscience and vote for moral people to fill public offices, whatever their party, for the good of the country.

    I really believe that President Hinckley is not against the war. I think it's a stretch to say that his few comments about war in general show that he is against this war. The church (especially in the Book of Mormon)strongly teaches that liberty should be defended. The comments he has made about this war have been supportive. I think if his feelings had changed over the past few years, he would have made it more evident. After all, he denounces many things that he feels are wrong, whether or not it is popular for him to do so. Mike Wallace just simply seems to have it wrong.

    As for Gordon, he was a bishop at one time. He is a moral person, and I do believe that religious principles are a guiding influence in his life, (just as they are to many people in politics) but do I think that he trys to match what he does to fit whatever he thinks the leaders of the church want him to do? Definetely not.

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    While a little of the original post's language reminded me of the anti-Catholic comments about JFK, the question can certainly be asked without being an "attack" on Smith's religion. It's a question that can easily be asked in regard to other politicians, and has been raised repeatedly over the last decade or more in regard to politicians heavily influenced by evangelical leaders. And it is certainly a question to be asked, even if the answer turns out to be "no". No one would bat an eye if the politician happened to be a Scientologist, and the question was raised; why is it any different when the politician is a Mormon?

  • Kent Larsen (unverified)
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    HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, ...

    Let me join with virtually all Mormons in laughing heartily at your ridiculous assertions. Even your use of the term "Elders" demonstrates that you are clearly in over your head. You might want to actually learn something about Mormons or perhaps talk to some before you come to conclusions like this.

    Yes, Mormons regard Pres. Hinckley as a prophet. And when he speaks, Mormons try to follow what he asks. But I think most Mormons would NOT interpret the words you quote the way you are.

    Had Pres. Hinckley been more specific (actually saying "I think the US should get out of the conflict in Iraq", for example), then you might have a case. But I know many Mormons interpret the quote you listed as simply another anti-war statement by the prophet, similar to statements made by EVERY prophet since Joseph Smith (and by many of those in the scriptures as well). War has often been easily justified in the face of such statements.

    In fact, prophets frequently make statements of principle like this. But while such statements are always taken seriously, and members do try to integrate them in their lives, Mormons also believe in personal revelation from God, which allows members to decide how the prophet's statements work in their lives.

    This is the reason that Linker is dead wrong about Mormon politicians. Only rarely does the prophet give direction that is so specific that a politician has to make a yes or no decision about following the counsel. More often, a good member of the Church will look at his actions and beliefs carefully to make sure he feels like they are compatible with the prophet's statements.

    And even when the prophet's statements are clear on political matters, Mormons don't always follow lock step. Remember which state put the repeal of prohibition over the top? That's right, Utah, in spite of the strenuous objections of the prophet at that time, Heber J. Grant.

    While I won't go so far as to say that a Mormon politician would never change his mind because of the statements of the prophet against the views of most Americans, I do think that it is about as likely to become an issue as it was for John Kennedy to blindly follow the Pope's orders.

    Thanks for the laugh.

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    BlueNote... As my friends know, I don't look kindly upon religious discrimination. I've got friends and relatives of nearly every religion, and believe in the role of faith in our politics.

    That said, to ignore Senator Gordon Smith's timing - as reported by Jeannie - seems to ignore the obvious.

    • Summer '05: Hinckley expresses concern.
    • Summer '05: Smith gets (secretly) concerned.
    • October '05: Hinckly denounces the war.
    • November '05: Smith denounces the war.

    It's only a "thinly veiled attack upon Gordon Smith's religious affiliation" if it's based on his religion and brought up without factual basis.

    But the facts are sitting there, and it's the religious aspect that seems to explain them.

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    Sorry, those second two dates are '06.

  • Doc (unverified)
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    So let me get this straight, your criticisizing a candidate for deciding the war in Iraq is a bad thing. If this is due to religious leaders, we certainly need more of such religious leaders.
    As a practicing Mormon I find it very odd that one puts that much stock into the President's stand on foreign affairs affecting Mormon senator's views. I have to believe his constituency, public opinion, continued bad news, lack of direction in running the war all seem infinitely more plausible reasons. But while were spreading conspiracy theories, Did you here how Gordon B. Hinkley is behind the Sept. 11th.?

  • Jeannie (unverified)
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    Bluenote - I believe a discussion of the impact of a candidate’s faith on his politics is not an attack on that faith. Linker anticipated your criticism in his piece on Romney - I hope you'll read at least these paragraphs from it.

    "The religious right has been enormously successful at convincing journalists not to raise questions about the political implications of a candidate's religious beliefs. Analyzing the dangers of generic "religion" to the nation's political life is considered perfectly acceptable--indeed, it has become a cottage industry in recent years--but exploring the complicated interactions between politics and the theological outlooks of specific religious traditions supposedly smacks of bigotry. The focus on Kennedy's Catholicism in 1960, for example, is today widely derided as a shameful expression of anti-Catholic prejudice that ought never to be repeated.

    This is unfortunate. However useful and necessary it may be to engage in theoretical reflection on politics and "religion," the fact is that there is no such thing as religion in the abstract. There are, rather, particular religious traditions, each of which has its own distinctive history of political engagement (or disengagement, as the case may be). And, certainly, the political history of pre-Vatican II Catholicism--with its overt hostility to modernity, democracy, liberalism, and religious "error," as well as its emphasis on the absolute authority of the Pope in matters of faith and morals--raised perfectly legitimate questions and concerns about what it would mean for the United States to elect a Catholic to the nation's highest office.

    A very different, though arguably more troubling, set of questions and concerns are posed by the prospect of the nation electing a president who is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). In some ways, Catholicism and Mormonism present diametrically opposed political challenges to liberal democracy. With Kennedy's faith, the concern was over the extent of his deference to a foreign ecclesiastical authority. The genuine and profound loyalty of Mormons to the United States and its political system is, by contrast, undeniable. Indeed, LDS patriotism flows directly from Mormon theology. And that is precisely the problem."

    Our religious beliefs influence our politics, no matter who we are. We should hold politicians accountable for any beliefs that impact their political decisions religious or not. It's fine that my vote would be impacted by the religious beliefs of a politician if he believed that we could ignore caring for the environment because Christ was coming soon just as it would if he believed in raising the minimum wage because the Gospels direct us to care for the poor.

  • Jeannie the Bigot (unverified)
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    Unbelievable! I thought you Democrats were the "party of tolerance" and yet here Jeannie is openly criticising Senator Smith's Mormon faith.

    Read her post, and where she says "Senator Smith" put in "Senator Wyden" and where she puts in "Mormon" put in "Jewish". If a republican had written something like this, every one of you would be outraged and call the author a bigot.

    Without question, the purpose of this trashy post was to question the ties Senator Smith has to his religion. That is completely unacceptable.

    I hope you guys go after Senator Smith for his religious beliefs. Keep it up Jeannie, you will only be guaranteeing Gordon's re-election.

    Kari, it is posts like this that bring down the reputation of this Blog. I think you ought to ban Jeannie from ever posting an original article ever again.

  • Sean (unverified)
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    Jeannie,

    There's a little rule of thumb in stretching before you exercise--don't overdo it! Both you and Linker stretch so far to make your conclusions that I'm afraid you're both going to hurt yourselves. Please don't tell me you really believe that Gordon Smith is opposed to a 20,000 soldier troop surge because he heard President Hinckley express his personal sorrow about the war. You're obviously not aware that Sen. Harry Reid has been challenging Bush on the war for years, or that Rep. Tom Udall voted against the war. Both of these are (shock) Mormon Democrats! Although I don't think Reid or Udall are particularly concerned about their membership being revoked. If you really think that Mormons follow in lock-step the personal feelings of the Prophet on political issues, you are clearly wrong, my friend.

    You are also obviously not aware that the LDS Church does not comment on political issues unless they are also moral issues. Members of the Church are encouraged to think for themselves on political issues, and the Church does not encourage members to vote for any particular political party or issue, unless it is a profoundly moral one. Such issues on which the Church has recently made official statements are gay marriage and abortion. The Church has made no statements concerning the legality/morality of the war. If you want to know the official position of the Church on matters, I suggest you visit the Newsroom at www.lds.org. For your information, that is how the Church makes official statements on political issues.

    And it is simply ludicrous for you to imply that President Hinckley received the Presidential Medal of Freedom because he supported the Iraq War! Where do you get your information, sister? You get the Medal of Freedom for outstanding service to the country. If you are interested, President Hinckley's bio is also available at the website I referred to above. Plus, you obviously didn't listen to President Bush's remarks at the ceremony, because he directed them mostly toward the humanitarian service conducted by the Church itself.

    Sen. Smith may have some serious concerns about sending more troops into Iraq at this particular time. He is free to make his own conclusions. Frankly, we live in a different political time than we did in 2002-2003. Attitudes are certainly shifting away from the war. A vote for the war and a vote against the current buildup are not necessarily at odds with one another.

    Please, stop making unfounded, uninformed assertions about Senator Smith's politics as they relate to his church membership. You might as well just tell us you have absolutely no idea why Sen. Smith opposes the troop buildup.

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    Smith can believe whatever the fuck he wants. If someone is here saying that Smith's beliefs on Iraq disqualify his credibility to serve (or even his right to serve), then they have stoled Virgil Goode's IP address. But that wasn't what was said. What was said was that Smiths' religious beliefs may be influencing his views on the war, more definitively than other inputs. And while he's also entitled to use whatever source he likes to influence his beliefs, we have the right to examine his choices and attempt to divine (pun intended) on what basis he chose them.

  • Jeannie (unverified)
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    Sean, You'll notice two of my links are the LDS site you mention. They are to Hinckley's statements supporting the war. Apparently it's a moral issue.

    Another "moral issue" was the Equal Rights Amendment which the Mormon Church actively organized against. You can find that chapter in Utah history at the link below.

    Most political issues have moral components.

    Sure the Mormon Church allows dissent but that doesn’t mean their members don’t take the “word of God,” coming from Hinckley or the Bible, very seriously. If Hinckley has an impact on the politicians we elect we should be aware of that.

    If you don’t think support for the war plays a role in Bush’s decisions regarding the Medal of Freedom you should read the Washington Post article below. It’s pretty clear to me.

    I don’t seem to be creating the links correctly, so you may have to cut and paste these into your browser.

    http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/utah_today/equalrightsamendment.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63623-2004Dec14.html

  • BobTucker (unverified)
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    Well…this is VERY uncomfortable. I have general disdain for the way so many liberals will defend diversity, or even talk about faith - then quickly turnaround to bash LDS as a "cult". A week or two ago a Slate article called is "Scientology plus 100 years: or something to that effect. That said, I don't quite read that into the author's effort here. While the line of attack feels a little uncomfortable and swerves close to the line, here's why it's relevant for some level of exploration: We've already got a president who thinks God is speaking directly to him and affirmatively guiding his presidency like an 8 year old boy guides a GI Joe action figure. Elected officials are supposed to protect and defend the constitution and enact the will of the people, not just do so when they've been given authorization by their religious leader and/or their delusions of direct God-to-their-ear direction. Consider Bush’s approach – God tells me what to do; I’m the decider; therefore I can do what I want over and above the constitution because God is higher than the constitution; George Bush believes he is infallible because God is infallible and God is telling him what to do.
    Gordon Smith is in the Senate to represent the people of Oregon, and no other organization - religious or otherwise - should have veto power. I'm not completely sold on the author's assertion - though up to a point it's reasonable to question who Smith is representing and how he's making life and death decisions. This is even more important given the president’s belief in his being divinely chosen, and the fact that guys like Falwell and Pat Robertson have Bush and half the R's on speed-dial AND that Bush and the R's take them seriously as representatives of the Lord. Yikes. As to the anti-Catholicism Kennedy (and Al Smith before him) faced, it was unfair and sickening…but let let’s not pretend that churches HAVEN’T exerted extreme influence on leaders and heads of state. Look at Saudi Arabia and the entire Muslum middle east now, or Europe not too many centuries ago when the Catholic church was overtly involved in trying to control governments. The western examples are old, but the possibilities always remain, as GW has reminded us.
    With that, I still say - liberals, tread lightly on this ground. Mormons are good people - question Smith's decision making hierarchy, but please don't swerve much further into attacking this particular (or any other) denomination.

  • BobTucker (unverified)
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    Well…this is VERY uncomfortable. I have general disdain for the way so many liberals will defend diversity, or even talk about faith - then quickly turnaround to bash LDS as a "cult". A week or two ago a Slate article called is "Scientology plus 100 years: or something to that effect. That said, I don't quite read that into the author's effort here. While the line of attack feels a little uncomfortable and swerves close to the line, here's why it's relevant for some level of exploration: We've already got a president who thinks God is speaking directly to him and affirmatively guiding his presidency like an 8 year old boy guides a GI Joe action figure. Elected officials are supposed to protect and defend the constitution and enact the will of the people, not just do so when they've been given authorization by their religious leader and/or their delusions of direct God-to-their-ear direction. Consider Bush’s approach – God tells me what to do; I’m the decider; therefore I can do what I want over and above the constitution because God is higher than the constitution; George Bush believes he is infallible because God is infallible and God is telling him what to do.
    Gordon Smith is in the Senate to represent the people of Oregon, and no other organization - religious or otherwise - should have veto power. I'm not completely sold on the author's assertion - though up to a point it's reasonable to question who Smith is representing and how he's making life and death decisions. This is even more important given the president’s belief in his being divinely chosen, and the fact that guys like Falwell and Pat Robertson have Bush and half the R's on speed-dial AND that Bush and the R's take them seriously as representatives of the Lord. Yikes. As to the anti-Catholicism Kennedy (and Al Smith before him) faced, it was unfair and sickening…but let let’s not pretend that churches HAVEN’T exerted extreme influence on leaders and heads of state. Look at Saudi Arabia and the entire Muslum middle east now, or Europe not too many centuries ago when the Catholic church was overtly involved in trying to control governments. The western examples are old, but the possibilities always remain, as GW has reminded us.
    With that, I still say - liberals, tread lightly on this ground. Mormons are good people - question Smith's decision making hierarchy, but please don't swerve much further into attacking this particular (or any other) denomination.

  • Sean (unverified)
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    OK, Jeannie, I'm not as perceptive on the websites you've used. Way to go.

    But you need to read a little bit more in the Wallace article. There you'll find this: "LDS spokesman Dale Bills was quick to say the church 'has no position on the war in Iraq' and that Wallace's comments were 'his own characterization of a private conversation.'"

    And contrary to the image you give of President Hinckley's message to BYU, it was not a lambasting of the Iraq War. The Deseret News article shows he merely made a basic, "war is terrible" statement that you, or I, or anyone in their right mind would make: "He referred to visits to military cemeteries and said, 'As I have visited these various cemeteries I have reflected first on the terrible cost of war. What a fruitless thing it so often is, and what a terrible price it exacts.'"

    I have a hard time understanding how Gordon Smith would take these statements the way you claim. I think that most of the people who read your story feel the same way.

    Meanwhile, President Hinckley's statement in the Newsroom article was not an official Church statement on a moral issue. It was President Hinckley's talk at General Conference. And he was not speaking about the Iraq War. Better read it again! The talk was given on October 7, 2001, soon after the World Trade Center attack, and before there was any mention of attacking Iraq. I remember the talk vividly. President Hinckley cried when he heard that war had started in Afghanistan. He made a general statement of support for President Bush in fighting terrorists. I can't think of many people who would have disagreed at that time.

    On the Medal of Freedom, you have educated me that the Medal was established in "1954" as a way to honor those who supported the war effort... in 1954. Let's see, on the day President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to President Hinckley, he also gave it to Doris Day, Pope John Paul II, Este Lauder and Arnold Palmer, among others. All war supporters, I'm sure. Oh, wait... one noticeable exception glares out here--wasn't the Pope one of the most recognizable anti-war activists? See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2654109.stm if you disagree. It looks like the purpose of the Medal of Freedom has evolved quite a bit over the years. And if you really want to know why President Hinckley received the Medal of Freedom, you should look for yourself: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/06/20040618-13.html.

    But overall, I have been impressed with your professionalism in responding to comments. Many kudos.

  • Sean (unverified)
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    In anticipation of your response, yes, the Church does put more than just official statements of policy on its Newsroom cite.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    You know...I went to high school in SLC. I know plenty of very nice Mormons and I know plenty of really bad Mormons. I'm going to try to tread really lightly on this one. I know its going to piss a lot of people off after reading some of these posts.

    After my experience with a culture that was predominantly run by Mormons I wonder how anyone wouldn't question whether one should be elected. I don't think if we elected a Mormon President that they would be beholden to their prophet but I do think they would force their beliefs down your throat. They would do it with a smile on their face which is different than the evangelicals out there who want to MAKE you a believer. I mean...we are talking about a church that didn't treat African Americans as equals until 1978 and even after they allowed them to hold the Melchizidek Priesthood they still openly discriminated against interracial marriage. Personally, if Gordo was a member of a church that was supportive of that when it was going on then he was supportive of that as well. Mormons may not be a cult...I would definitely question whether I would elect one the SAME exact way that I would question electing an evangelical who wants to bring about the rapture or a psycho zealot like Sam Brownback (he's switched religions so many times I'm not sure what he is nowadays). I have nothing wrong with religions but I sure don't like it when they shove it down my throat. If you lived in Utah as a non-Mormon and didn't get that feeling then I'd be surprised.

    I know that I'm going to get jumped on for saying that all but that was my experience. The religion is so secretive that outsiders just don't know exactly what their officials would tell a Mormon politician.

  • HiveRadical (unverified)
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    Haven't really read many of the comments, but touching on the article I'd point out that simply emphasizing the horribleness of war and the great distress at it's occurance is not an inherent opposition to it, any more than decrying the terrible effects of extreme chemo-therapy treatments. In areas in which medical science still has much to learn many of their actions and efforts cause pain and suffering, and often with little result, that doesn't mean that a person pointing such out is against the implimentation of modern medicine or that they are inherently against all atempts by doctors in fields they have yet to master.

  • Daniel Peterson (unverified)
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    I think it's extraordinarily unlikely that Senator Smith is, or sees himself as, taking any orders from Gordon B. Hinckley. There are faithful and committed Mormons on all sides of the issue of the war in Iraq.

    As for Damon Linker's remarks about Mormonism and politics in the New Republic, they should be considered in light of the response to them (also in TNR) from Professor Richard Bushman, of Columbia University.

  • ERosolie (unverified)
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    Please show me where Smith is against this war in principle. Only now is he against how Bush has conducted the war but not against the war. Please don't fall for Smith's double-speak. I still can't find one place that clearly states Smith is against the Bush escalation, he maybe skeptical, he may have questions, but has he said "I oppose the deployment of more troops to Iraq." No he has not. He has misrepresented the position of those that want to stop the funding of this insanity: "It would be a dishonorable thing for the congress to budget away the bullets at a time when their commander-in-chief had ordered them to hold their place in the battlefront." (page 3, Oregonian, Jan 9, 2007) Well Mr. Smith it was dishonorable to send them there based on lies and it's dishonorable to keep them there based on ego. You can cite all the religion you want the fact remains Smith still likes the war in Iraq.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Gordon Smith...flip flopper

  • Erik Sorensen (unverified)
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    I seriously doubt that Senator Smith is "taking orders" from the Mormon Church leadership. With the tons of lobbying going on by many religious groups and non-religious groups both in Oregon and in D.C. for withdrawal, I would be inclined to think he is succumbing to pressures all around.

    Senator Smith is not an imbecile--he knows which way the political winds are blowing and he is just re-tacking his sail to get the best speed to win re-election in 2008. He has less than two years to convince Oregonians that he is listening. My question is: will his recent change of heart on Iraq help him in 2008?

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    I know a lot of people are claiming Smith is being bashed for his religion, but the point I'm taking from the article is that Smith's change of heart is due more to religious, then political reasons. Again, that's just my take based on what I'm reading.

    That being said, I don't think I buy it. I think Smith paniced for purly political reasons and it had nothing (or very little) to do with religion. Yes, maybe the dates (which Kari posted) are suspicous, but I still think it's a stretch.

  • Violence Worker (unverified)
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    Ms. Berg, Harry Reid is a Mormon. No one has kicked him out for being a liberal.

    You are ignorant of the Church. You are also a bigot. You are disgusting.

    VW

  • Justijn (unverified)
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    Speaking of Romney:

    Hey... did you know that you can get your own Fundraiser ID for Mitt and get credit for bringing in donations? Mind you there's no "cut" or "percentage" but you do get recognition... AND your help elect Mitt... which IMHO is a good thing.

    http://www.mymanmitt.com/mittid.asp

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Violence Worker...Have you ever talked to a Mormon about their opinion about Harry Reid? I have before and there are a good portion of them that think he should be excommunicated for his actions. Questioning religious motives does not make someone a bigot.

  • JHL (unverified)
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    Ah, I remember now why I left the Democratic Party. When I vote against Smith, it's going to be for a lot of things... not one of those reasons is going to be his religious preference.

    If this wasn't an attack on his religious affiliation, shouldn't it have a positive tone -- considering that the basic assertion is that the man's faith led him away from war? But the obvious (and obviously intended) undertone is that Smith is made to do things by mysterious LDS Elders! Woooo! (Ghosty sounds)

    All this does is try to create suspicion about a person based on their religious beliefs -- creating unnecessary divisions between people where there are none.

    It's certainly a topic that you're allowed to bring up in a free society, but it's sowing the seeds of intolerance and I think it's sick that it would be posted here on BlueOregon.

  • B (unverified)
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    Senator Smith's statements reflect political maneuvering in light of a 2008 election in a liberal state. To say his recent statements are a result of Hinkley's comments is far-fetched and smacks of a weak conspiracy theory.

    Although Berg doesn't sound like religious bigot, she does sound misinformed by her own research directed by a predetermined conclusion or bias.

    Garrett, I've talked to several Mormons of their opinion of Senator Reid. Some may disagree with his politics or may tire of hearing him pine for Searchlight, NV, but I've never heard any say he should be excommunicated.

    Questioning religious motives does not make someone a bigot, but veiling bias against differing beliefs by giving it the thin veil of substantive and credible journalism/research should be discouraged, especially by self-proclaimed progressives.

  • Violence Worker (unverified)
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    Garrett, I am Mormon. I'm sure there are some who think that. I personally don't know of any, but I'm sure you can find some. Berg is still a bigot and you are one as well if you agree with her.

    VW

  • Ted Blaszak (unverified)
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    Ms. Berg is not a bigot. She is a kind sweet person. I have known Jeannie for a decade now. She was my supervisor on my first signature gathering campaign and I have worked with her off an on through these years. Her thoughts are those of love and justice. She does bode ill for anyone on the basis of race, creed, or faith. You may disagree with her analysis but do not label her falsley. She has spent her life work to better our world with equality, tolerance, and respect for all. She is a good person and does not deserve your hateful comments.

  • B (unverified)
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    Ted, I assume you meant Jeannie "does NOT bode ill for anyone on the basis of race, creed, or faith." I agree, Jeannie doesn't sound like a bigot, but her analysis is weak. It's so obviously weak that it appears she performed very selective research to support a predetermined opinion.

  • Da Fuhrer (unverified)
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    Garrett and Jeannie-

    I totally agree with you. And Garrett when you say "After my experience with a culture that was predominantly run by Mormons I wonder how anyone wouldn't question whether one should be elected."

    I would add:

    After my experience with a culture that was predominantly run by Jews I wonder how anyone wouldn't question whether one should be elected.

    and

    After my experience with a culture that was predominantly run by African Americans I wonder how anyone wouldn't question whether one should be elected.

    and so on. It is good to know that people like Jeannie and Garrett still live on this planet and enjoy persecuting people for their religious beliefs!

    Go Team!

  • Nathan (unverified)
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    Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS (Mormon) church once said, and I'm paraphrasing, "When I speak the will of the Lord I'm a prophet, but when I speak as a man I'm a man. I have faults as well. Only one man was perfect, Jesus Christ."

    We all have opinions, Gordon B. Hinckley included. Just because he expresses his personal opinion it doesn't mean he is being the mouthpiece of God at that moment. If it was an official statement, the stance of the church would change officially as well, which it hasn't.

    Also, Smith's/Hinkley's opinions on the war seem to be mirroring much of the rest of the country, gradually coming to oppose the war. Is it that we're all Mormons? Or that we're all tiring of the war?

    As for the statment by one poster that Reid, D of Nevada, should be excommunicated: He hasn't been because the church doesn't direct or dictate to politicians who are members. Like anyone they can express an opinion, but the politician is free to do as he/she feels is best for his/her consituancy.

  • Jeannie (unverified)
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    Wow - Thanks Ted!

    I do find it strange that alleging Smith's religious beliefs have an impact on his political decisions would ignite such a firestorm. Smith himself is often very upfront about the impact of his Mormon beliefs and heritage. His Mormonism is a huge part of who he his.

    I don’t think Smith’s religion is the only explanation for his change of heart but, given the timing, it certainly seems to have played a role. Smith’s own inconsistencies in describing his change of heart also leave one thinking that it’s not all exactly as he would have us believe.

    Anyone who thinks the Mormon Church doesn’t get directly involved in politics should read the story of the Church's fight to purchase Martin's Cove in Wyoming.

  • Nathan (unverified)
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    Hi Jeannie,

    I almost said that the church doesn't get involved, but caught myself. It does get involved in what it feels is in its best interest. Most organizations of its size will. But it doesn't tell members how to vote. On occasion it will support a measure (banning gay marriage for instance), but members are free to vote how they will. Members should never be asked or judged on how they swing politically by an official of the church.

    Nathan

  • Choose the Left (unverified)
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    This blog does not attack the church. But heck, if Gordon Smith is in fact being more influenced by some Mormon leader in Utah than his own constituents here in Oregon, then we have a right to know more about this religion. I want to know:

    • Why mormons wear special underwear -- and why I'm not supposed to know about these and 10,000 other Mormon traditions and rituals. It's wierd. Why the secrecy?
    • Why my mormon friends wear rings that tell them to "choose the right" instead of T-shirts that tell them to "choose the left." I know it's supposed to be a moral right, but why not "choose compassion" or "choose freedom"? It's the political right, too, is my guess.
    • Whether Senator Smith is related to joseph smith, the handsome devil who fathered the mormon church and reportedly married a couple dozen women. Let's face it, this church does not have a history of supporting women and minorities, and it makes me a little nervous when right-wing groups have their people in influential policy positions. It's only fair that we question the influence there.

    Look, I respect the right to practice one's own religion, or none at all. Given that the LDS Church is the wealthiest in the nation -- and increasingly powerful on the policy level -- then as far as I'm concerned, they're opening themselves up to this kind of scrutiny.

  • Former Salem Staffer (unverified)
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    I can understand attacking Smith's positions on the issues, but this may be going too far. Has anyone else noticed that every other thread on here for the last few weeks has been an attack against Smith? I would think that a better use of that energy would be recruting somebody to run against him, as all the big names are apparently reluctant to do so. You may disagree with Smith, but how about presenting an alternative?

  • B (unverified)
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    Nathan, no poster said Reid should be excommunicated. A poster claimed that several Mormons think he should be. Big difference.

    Jeannie, you seem to be backpedaling. Your original piece is ominously entitled "Did the Elders Make Him Do It?", and you provide a series of selective dates, articles, etc. that are arranged in a way to suggest that Sen. Smith's religion played a central role in his statements. Now you soften your tone by stressing that it only "played a role." Your last post greatly differs in tone from your original piece.

    Since you referenced the David Linker article, you've hopefully read the subsequent exchange between him and Richard Lyman Bushman of Columbia University (http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w070101&s=bushman010307 or go to Google News and enter "Linker Bushman"). In it, Bushman describes your style of unbalanced writing:

    "The art of writing in this mode is to mobilize all of the foreknown elements and arrange them to reach an expected conclusion."

    The Linker-Bushman dialogue is also addresses your point about the LDS Church's involvement in policy:

    "Mitt Romney's insistence that he will follow his own conscience rather than church dictates is not only a personal view; it is church policy. The church website makes this explicit: Elected officials who are Latter-Day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position. While the church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent."

  • MarkDaMan (unverified)
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    When a public figure makes a dramatic change in their public statements, usually you'd expect the media and bloggers to look at what is causing those changes. Is Senator Smith's change of heart because of the continued violence, the lack of a plan, the loss of faith in the mission, the statements from his church?

    Look, politicians have been marrying themselves to their religion for the past decade or so, especially the GOP. If they don't like people equating their decision making with their religious beliefs, than it is time to put those religious beliefs back where they belong, in the house of the Lord.

    Senator Smith is against 'gay' marriage as he feels the 'sanctity' of marriage needs to be preserved. Does he feel this way because gays are ruining America, because gays entering a union will weaken his marriage, or because his religious beliefs tell him to oppose equality because they believe all them homosexuals are sinners? The same question could be asked about Senator Smith's opposition to assisted suicide, abortion, and a number of other social issues. Just because this is a national security issue doesn't mean his religious beliefs aren't dictating his direction of thinking.

    I grew up LDS and have a very active family still in the church. As a dedicated Mormon, when the Profit speaks, you listen. To obey the Profit is pretty much equal to obeying the word of God itself. While we can discuss what the Profit's true stance is on the war in Iraq, and whether or not Gordon Smith has changed his opinion because of that, does it really matter since the Senator has already displayed that his religion does influence his decisions as a US Senator?

    And, too all those that are up in arms over how inappropriate it is to 'slam a person because of their religion' please make sure you hold your own leaders accountable when they publicly hold their religion, and possibly yours, up for scrutiny by introducing it into the political realm.

  • Choose the Left (unverified)
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    These ad hominem attacks on Ms. Berg are totally out of line.

    Attacking the author is a distraction from the real, and legitimate question:

    Does the LDS church has more influence on Gordon Smith than his own constituents do? It's a fair question. Asking such questions is part of the checks and balances process that protects your rights and mine.

  • B (unverified)
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    Choose the Left, by "these ad hominem attacks" I assume you're referring to only two posters who called her a bigot. Everyone else has addressed her arguments, which is hardly a "distraction."

    Your "legitimate question" may be fair (and I doubt that anyone opposes the question itself), but in developing the answer, shouldn't all arguments be explored, not just those that lend to a foregone conclusion? Also, Berg's question was not as broad as yours, but focused on Sen. Smtih's position on the Iraq War. Let's keep things straight.

    Finally, thanks for this latest posting. From your first one, it was hard to tell if you wanted to be taken seriously.

  • Choose the Left (unverified)
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    shouldn't all arguments be explored

    Sure. I'm interested in knowing more about where Gordon Smith's votes are in alignment with the LDS church and where they are different. It's widely believed that his brief swerve into the pro-gay rights lane was more for political gain than anything else. But campaigning aside, is his Senate seat a vehicle for Mormon teachings?

    If his votes align with the Mormon church, then the answer is essentially yes. In that case, we should all know where the Church stands on things and decide whether we want to live under the restrictions and paternal guidance of the Mormon church. I know I don't.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Da Fuhrer,

    I just wanted to clarify something. You said I am intolerant of religion. I am not. I had an experience with Mormon culture and govt. that was less than fun and semi-theocratic (Not officially theocratic mind you). I'm sure there are plenty of people that lived down south in an evangelical community where you knew who was really in charge and it wasn't the guy you elected to city council. I don't think you're intolerant of religion if you question whether a person is an independant thinker or not. I haven't seen Gordo do anything that makes me think he does think for himself. I don't think Sam Brownback thinks for himself either.

  • Ashcroft (unverified)
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    Smith has readily admitted in the past that his personal religious beliefs are what drives his opposition to our Death With Dignity Act.

    And while he's realized his original attempts to get the Act overturned at the federal level are no longer politically tenable, his early statements on the matter leave no doubt his religious beliefs influence (or single-handedly determine, in this case) his positions/votes on the issues before him.

    That said, this was a pure political maneuver because he knows his career is on the line...all for public consumption. (Even though he really hasn't said anything of substance besides "the status quo doesn't work.")

  • Dan (unverified)
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    You are truly ignorant if you think that Gordon Smith is changing his stance because of a quote made by President Hinckley. The LDS church does not operate that way and your ignorant statements only perpetuate the false stereotypes of the LDS church.

  • pamela (unverified)
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    Please, those of you living in fear that the LDS church is controlling Smith, get a better hold on reality. It is simply absurd ~ there's no evidence whatsoever. You can't even begin to establish that Hinckley is against the war in the first place. Let's deal with the facts and not let our imaginations run wild.

  • Erik Sorensen (unverified)
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    This is really becoming quite a wit of the foolish, isn't it.

    I too have worked and have been friends with Jeannie Berg for many years and know for a fact that she is not a "bigot" as a few of you are labeling her. Many of you that are writing this garbage--those too affraid to use your real names--are being assine.

    Questioning a persons motivations is not being a "bigot". If you disagree with her statements or wish to challenge the question she raised, like I did, at least have some dignity and respect in doing so. Jeannie simply raised a question and nothing more. Discussing coincidence in Senator Smith's decisions is not at all out of line or bigoted. For those of you that are continuing to defame her character, move on, cause those of us who actually know her aren't buying it.

  • Erik Sorensen (unverified)
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    The word was supposed to be "assinine" on the end of the second paragraph.

  • Jack Fuller (unverified)
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    Jeannie You know as much about Mormons as a duck does about a Buick. Are you just making this up as you go along? If President Hinckley had his hand on the throttle don't you think ALL Mormons would be in sync? What about the other members of congress? Why aren't they in lock step with Smith? Come on Jeannie, use your head and get off the "I hate Mormons" bandwagon. I am amazed at just how many well educated generally sophisticated Americans give up all logic when they talk about Mormons. An appology to your readers for wasting their time on this story would be appropriate about now. And BTW, don't you think war is just as President Hinckley said? As a member of the vast right wing conspiracy, I sure do. Too bad it is imposed on us by our enemies.

  • JHL (unverified)
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    People need to understand the difference between these two hypothetical statements:

    "Smith votes yes on Issue X because of his personal religious beleifs." and "Smith votes yes on Issue X because Elders in his church made him."

    One is an intrinsic element of Senator Smith's decisionmaking process (even he would admit to that) and fair game. The other is an unfounded invention -- a 'hit' based on nothing more than a Wikipedia-level understanding of Mormonism. Let's stick to the facts of why Gordon Smith deserves to go -- and leave the man's religious preference out of it.

  • mormons bad (unverified)
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    Mormons have absolutely no right to call anyone a bigot. They treat women as 2nd class citizens and the only reason they allow blacks in is because in 1978 the Supreme Court ruled that discriminatory organizations could not hold a tax-exempt status. Magically "God" changed "his" mind. Anyone who believes in the Mormon fairy tale should be committed to a mental institution. I know if people really knew what the "only true church on earth" is really all about they would vote everyone of them out of office. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb...

  • (Show?)

    Mormonism is a religion. so is Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism and all those different things people believe in the remote areas of the world like jungles and islands. religions share 2 things in common. 1, they explain the reality & truth of the universe. 2, they assert that their reality & truth are The Reality and Truth (otherwise, why the hell believe it?).

    <h1>2 leads to this corollary: my religion is right, your religion is bad. in mainstream Christian America, LDS is still in the process of moving from cult-level status (which led to persecution in its early days) to mainstream. a "normal" religion. it's almost there, and the presence of political leaders like Romney, Smith and Reid -- not to mention Donny & Marie -- is helping to "legitimize" LDS.</h1>

    anyone who is devout is influenced by many aspects of their beliefs. to think Smith does not pay attention to the words of Pres Hinckley is naive; how much attention, i don't know. much more, i think, than Kerry pays to the Pope (a stance he shares with millions of American Catholics). i hope that Smith pays attention to Hinckley, the Book of Mormon and other aspects of his faith; otherwise, he's a worse hypocrite than i believe him to be on merely political grounds. for him to pick which bits of LDS teaching and doctrine he'll follow is not something i want from an elected official -- unless, like Kerry, he is clear about his personal choices.

    we are better off when our political leaders are clear about their religious beliefs, affiliations and practices. i want to know how closely Smith follows Mormon teaching, including contemporary political guidance. i don't want that to be his little secret. Mrs Smith can hide her beliefs; no one is voting forh her. it's vital we know the basis for a candidate's potential actions in office. i think a lot of people wish they'd known Clinton was the tail-junkie he was or that Dubya was as mindlessly devoted to his own fantasies. Gordo is free to believe any religion he wants -- for me, LDS is no worse than many other belief systems that divide the world harshly into right and wrong. it's just one more reason i'll never support him.

    that said, Nixon was raised Quaker, the practice i currently follow, so go figure. religion can be just as tricksy as anything else.

  • Val (unverified)
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    Jeanne: I am truly disappointed in your article and subsequent comments. Millions of Americans, who also happen to be practicing Mormons, know instinctively that your article is simply wrong and a "slick" attempt to connect dots that simply do not exist.

    Your claim that the Martin's Cove issue was somehow the LDS church being involved in "politics" is rather absurd. Martin's Cove, in Wyoming, is a location considered as sacred ground by many LDS because of the many handcart migrants who froze to death there in the 1850's during a trek to Salt Lake. A legal dispute involving use of federal land at the site, between the federal government, groups opposed to the church, and the LDS church is hardly "politics." This was a case in which the church had a direct legal standing. It was not "politics" as you erroneously claim. You are so marginal in providing any kind of truth to your claims, that it is very difficult to take any of them seriously.

  • Rob (unverified)
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    I've got an idea.

    Rather than speculate about exactly what Mormonism means for Gordon Smith, how it influences his thoughts, and how closely he is following what he sees as the LDS Church's political position...lets just ask him? Press him until you think you've gotten a solid answer, then decide if you support Smith based on his answers.

    Based on what I've read here so far, most people already have their minds made up and are not open to questioning their own dogmatic political positions, only those of politicians that they perceive as opposed to theirs, or worse...those that just happen to belong to a different "team".

    But we're all on the same team. We're Americans. Support political leaders who are good and honorable men and women trying to do good. If Smith is trying to do good, and his religion helps him do it, then great. If his religion leads him from doing good, then its an issue.

    I see a lot of prejudice here...both political and religious. Lets all grow up, do the hard work that it really takes to figure out what where Smith and the LDS Church are at politically and how they are related, and get over our religious and political sniping.

    If we can't raise this discussion above the level of "mormons bad" then we're not really being serious.

  • B (unverified)
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    Still waiting for Berg to acknowledge her sub par research, analysis, and journalism. What irritates many posters are Jeannie's lackluster efforts in writing this piece, the poorly founded conclusions to which it alludes, and the misunderstanding it engenders and perpetuates about the LDS Church. As an example of the last point, just read the posts from "Choose the Wrong," who seems to be the personification of Berg's faulty reasoning. (To Berg's character witness, recognize this isn't insulting her as a person, just critiquing her work.)

    Undoubtedly, Berg will write again on the subject because apparently many deem it relevant to Oregon politics. She will also be encouraged by the prolific (if contrary) response it spurred. In further journalistic efforts, hopefully Berg will be more thorough in her research and analysis, more balanced in her presentation of the material, and able to acknowledge where she erred. She has yet to do so. Failure in this regard will sap any credibility from BlueOregon.com.

  • Jeannie (unverified)
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    It's exciting to see so many from the Mormon blogasphere come visit. I'm flattered to be met with almost the exact same comments as Linker and the folks at the Boston Globe who explored the influence of the church on Mitt Romney.

    It was especially nice to see Mr. Fuller from Idaho spend some time with us. He seems to know lots about Mormon doctrine. I hope he'll come back and enlighten us about what he meant, on a Mormon blog, by this comment concerning the current press fascination with Mormons, "the attention CAN'T be because of Harry Reid because he is an embarrassment. Father has mysterious ways but will always win out. The Adversary stuck Reid in because he needed representation too."

    Why is Reid an embarrassment? Who is this "Adversary" that he represents? I think we need to know.

    Now regarding Marin's Cove, it is a registered National Historic Place. It's located in Wyoming at the confluence of the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails, all major migratory routes. It is a historic sight for many Americans.

    The Mormon Church first sought to purchase it, using legislation introduced by one of their Congressmen, but that failed. They then sought to lease the property and Congress approved that. As a result of an ACLU lawsuit the church now must allow visitors to access the public land without a visit to the Mormon museum.

  • (Show?)

    Rob said: "Rather than speculate about exactly what Mormonism means for Gordon Smith, how it influences his thoughts, and how closely he is following what he sees as the LDS Church's political position...lets just ask him? Press him until you think you've gotten a solid answer,"

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    I hope you're the inventor of an anti-aging machine, because my kids will have liver spots before Gordon Smith will ever give you "a solid answer." Have you been following his flailing pattern of the last couple months?

    If Smith weren't such a cipher in the first place, Jeannie's speculation wouldn't have been necessary. That's rather the point!

  • Ross the Prof (unverified)
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    You know, I heard that Joe Lieberman voted for the war because the leaders of the Jewish faith told him to. Like Garrett says, why would anyone elect a Jew? And according to garrett and Jeannie Berg, I am not criticizing anyone's religion, just asking a justifiable question.

    Face it, everyone, the point of Fraudiline Berg's post is to call into question Senator Smith's religion. Any of you, ANY OF YOU, who are trying to defend her know this.

    If a Republican were to question the role of Wyden's Jewish faith in his performance as a Senator, Ms. Berg and the rest of you hypocrites would be calling that Republican a Bigot as attacking Senator Wyden on the basis of his religious beliefs.

    Don't come now with this holier-than-thou attitude.

    This is the double standard for liberals. How is attacking Senator Smith's religion progressive? You all feel it is fine to go after Senator Smith for his religious beliefs, but god forbid a conservative question one of your liberal bretheren's beliefs.

    Please.

  • (Show?)

    Who's attacking his religion? The concern is that relying on blind faith--in whichever code of faith you want to select--is not an acceptable way to do the people's business.

    You bet your ass I'd call Holy Joe onto the carpet for relying on his Judaism to shape policy in Iraq. Just like I call out Bush for claiming that he looks to a "higher Father" to advise him. Just like I call out the use of Islamic Sharia and reliance on the Qur'an to run a government.

    The question is not why anyone would elect a Mormon--it's why anyone would elect a Mormon who decides law for the rest of us on the basis of his interpretation of the Book of Mormon. Is that what Smith is doing here? That's the question under discussion. The repeated attempts to sidetrack the question by demagoguing the questioner are unhelpful.

    I've never ONCE heard Ron Wyden say "I support this bill because of my deep Jewish faith." That may be because he lets David run his life, but relies on the rule of law to run ours. That's all I ask of anyone of strong faith who governs--let it govern you, not us.

  • JHL (unverified)
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    Ross is right... If a Republican posted something along those lines about Lieberman ("The Jews made him do it"), people would go nuts. I, for one, am glad to see the Mormon church take a few progressive steps over the last few years... most churches have.

    Congressman Keith Ellison took his oath of office on a Qur'an instead of a Bible. Even if we have no evidence of the fact, should we assume the Ayatollah forced him to do so?

  • B (unverified)
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    Berg, how about stop changing the subject and getting caught up in tangential details, arguing specifics of an LDS-BLM land lease that will be renewed in perpetuity? Just admit your errors, be more accurate next time, and let's get on with it.

    Torridjoe, no elected Mormon bases their legislative acts on "their interpretation of the Book of Mormon." Do you really think Sens. Smith or Wyden make political decisions based on one input? You might enjoy reading "There Was a Child Went Forth" by Walt Whitman to better understand how we're shaped and influenced by many factors.

  • Stanley (unverified)
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    Six years of sitting on the political backbench has taken its toil on posters here. I see steady streams of words and determined infighting. Each of you, please answer my questions.

    Are you eagerly looking forward to nearly two more years of Bush? What would you give to have that combo out much sooner? Could you accept a vice-president Smith if the Democratic portion of the Oregon delegation thoroughly vetted him? I know for some that would require letting go of some very strong biases? Could you do it? How long do you think an isolated Bush would be in office after that? I need say no more.

  • (Show?)

    B--how on earth do YOU know how Smith or Romney base their legislative acts? I certainly don't see our President accepting "many factors" in his decision making. The reason I theorize religious motive to Smith is that HE has noted the influence of his faith.

  • Walpurgis (unverified)
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    Claiming that Smith allows his faith to be a factor in decisionmaking... even if it were the sole facor... is not the same claim as suggesting that he is subject to the whims of his corporeal religious leader. And that's what this post was about -- claiming (without basis in fact) that he is a puppet of his Mormon Elders.

    He is spineless. He should be voted out of office. His hairdo can double as a bike helmet. But that's no excuse to use his religion as a starting point to draw baseless divisions...

    There are a lot of urban myths and misconceptions about my religion, too. I think if anyone tried to attribute my actions to an unfounded misconception on a very public scale, I would feel quite offended.

  • B (unverified)
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    Torrid, I'll ask you your same question, complete with your capitalization for original dramatic flair: How on earth to YOU know how the President bases his pubic acts? Your mind is a far removed from his as mine is from Smith's.

    Certainly Smith's religion influences his actions, public or private. I didn't deny that, and no one here has, to my knowledge. My point was, and is, that many factors influence our decisions. Smith's religion is not the only input into his decisions. Like Walpurgis said, Jeannie Berg's claim that Smith lacks sovereignty of his own mind was made "without basis in fact." Evidently you didn't read the Whitman poem.

  • Chris (unverified)
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    The newspaper that you said reported Hinckley's anti-war comments at BYU is certainly not church-owned. The Salt Lake Tribune is NOT owned by the LDS Church. The Deseret News, also based in Salt Lake City, is. The Salt Lake Tribune, in fact, has been notoriously anti-Mormon since its founding in the mid-nineteenth century. Interpret Mormon beliefs as you will, but at least report facts.

  • (Show?)

    B--because he said so:

    In the programmeElusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, which starts on Monday, the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."

    And "now again", Mr Bush is quoted as telling the two, "I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God, I'm gonna do it."

    Mr Abbas remembers how the US President told him he had a "moral and religious obligation" to act. The White House has refused to comment on what it terms a private conversation. But the BBC account is anything but implausible, given how throughout his presidency Mr Bush, a born-again Christian, has never hidden the importance of his faith.

    I never said it was the only input. That doesn't mean it can't be a decisive one. No one said Smith lacks "sovereignity of the mind," either. What was speculated was that given his strong faith, curious timing and otherwise inexplicable shift in his position, that he is following what he perceives to be the LDS stance on the war.

  • B (unverified)
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    Torrid, Bush did not say so, and the quote you cited is quite clear in that regard. It says that Shaath and Abbas reported that Bush said it. There's a big difference.

    Regarding your regurgitation of Berg's slipshop analysis, please read the host of comments from the bulk of respondents above. As many others have outlined, there are more plausible reasons for Sen. Smith's recent statements on Iraq. It's hardly an "inexplicabe shift." As more explicable reasons for a shift, posters above have noted political expediency given a pending re-election campaign in 2008, reading the proverbial tea leaves of the November 7, 2006 elections, the fact that Oregon is a liberal state, and the general growing discontent towards the war.

  • (Show?)

    How on earth do you get that Bush didn't say it? He's the one quoted. Good try, though.

    I don't know what slipshop means, do you mean slipshod?

    Smith's inability to come up with an actual position on the war suggests that logical reasons may beinsufficient to explain his behavior. If he really believed what he was saying, and had felt so for months, what was he doing publicly criticizing Democrats for the same position immediately before his miraculous conversion?

    Regardless, whether there are other viable rationales isn't the point--you claimed that elected officials don't rely on one input to make decisions. I pointed out that our commander in chief does it, which makes the possibility that Smith did it as well not the least bit farfetched.

  • rose (unverified)
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    Religious bigotry has no place on this site. I found the post to be shallow, ill-informed about the LDS faith and offensive to me (I am a member of the LDS church, a woman and a Democrat). Perpetuating the view that all Mormans blindly follow church leaders is akin to assuming all Christians follow the lead of Jerry Falwell or some such nonsense. This post is ridiculous. People on this board seem obsessed with Sen. Smith.

  • B (unverified)
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    Torrid, you and I are interpreting the same quoted text differently. You view it as a direct quote from Bush, whereas I view it as others recounting what he said. I hold my position for several reasons. When it says the following in the first instance:

    "the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr. Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas"

    I take that to mean that it is not a direct quote from Bush, but what Shaath reported to have been said. In the second instance:

    "Mr. Bush is quoted as telling the two"

    It can be assumed that we are again hearing what others reported he said, given the established voice earlier in the text. This is a safe assumption as the third instance reaffirms this interpretation:

    "Mr. Abbas remembers how the US President told him"

    Also, in the last paragraph you cited, it says:

    "The White House has refused to comment on what it terms a private conversation."

    If Bush was quoted directly, then this wouldn't be a private conversation, because others were there to directly record what was said, as you believe. Finally, the last paragraph includes the following:

    "But the BBC account is anything but implausible"

    There would be no need to speculate about or defend plausibility if it was a direct quote. It would be recorded and public knowledge. All five of these instances show that this conversation is second hand, not direct.

    With that now established, your insistence that Bush relies on one input is wrong. It also makes your equating Bush and Smith’s reasoning moot and even more speculative. Nonetheless, there in fact do exist direct quotes from Bush saying that he consulted with many about his decision to go to war, including generals, diplomats, members of his Cabinet, etc. Clearly, these several and varying resources do not constitute one input, as you assert. I’m not arguing his case for War, just examining inputs.

    Yes, I meant slipshod. I'm impressed you were able to interpret that typo, given your demonstrated inability at reading comprehension. Forgive any typos that may exist herein.

  • Jeffrey Elliott (unverified)
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    What does it matter? Government leaders have a duty to consult with religious leaders for guidance, direction and advise. This is an ancient and most excellent tradition of Monarchs, Magistrates, Presidents, Emperors and Proconsuls.

    I would hope that every American President take counsel from the Pope, Ministers, Bishops, Evangelists and Presidents of Church's. This is a deep and time honored obligation and right of government officials and leaders. Did not King Saul and David, take counsel from Samuel and Nathan, the prophets?

    Political leadership should inquire and take counsel from various religious leaders. This is a time honored moral imperative of office and can have the affect of fine tuning our polictical leaders moral compasses and provide them with fresh insight, inspiration and direction.

    Why would anyone criticize a Senator's desire and motivation to seek out and listen to their religious leaders? As Oracles of Diety, the Pope, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Al Sharpton, Rev. Jessie Jackson, President Gordan B. Hinckley etc should be sought out by our political leaders. Their advise should be seriously considered and thought about. And, at times, political leaders should adjust their thinking and direction, upon advise from our religious leaders. This is altogether fitting and appropriate.

    Why are you so critical, skeptical and cynical? Is it because you lack the basic fundamentals of faith? Is it because you believe your opinion is greater than President Gordan B. Hinckley's advise?

    For the good Senator not to seek out religious advise is foolish and wreckless. The people of your State should be proud.

    In fact, perhaps, what we really need is that our Western Religious leaders call for a great conference with the Clerics of the Muslim world and seek to lead people towards peaceful solutions. This would also include Jewish religious leaders.

    Cordially

    Jeffrey E. Elliott

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    Sen. Smith is free to choose his own religious practices, and everyone else is free to discuss those practices, approve of them or disapprove of them.

    I am really tired of the ridiculous way that people tiptoe around the topic of religion in this country. Religion is a hugely important aspect of American culture. Why is it OK to critically discuss everything else but not religion?

    Critically discussing religion is just that: a critical discussion. It's no different than a critical discussion of, say, the science behind claims about global warming. I refuse to be bullied by people who scream "bigot" whenever anyone tries to discussion religion from a critical, rather than reverential, perspective.

    As Jon Krakauer pointed out in his book Under the Banner of Heaven, a unique aspect of Mormonism relative to other religions is that its history is entirely within the modern era, with good historical records to compare to official pronouncements of the LDS church. Mormonism also has a holy text, The Book of Mormon, which unlike the Bible or the Qu'ran can to a certain extent actually be assessed for factual accuracy. And the fact is that quite of bit of the "history" presented in The Book of Mormon is falsified by evidence, especially anthropological evidence. Perhaps The Book of Mormon can still be an inspiration to people; presumably that is the case.

    Whether or not Sen. Smith's public views about the Iraq war have been influenced by the LDS church seems like a perfectly legitimate topic of conversation.

    Someone in this thread meantioned Ron Wyden. Sen. Wyden never hid the fact that his personal opposition to assisted suicide was tied up with his own brand of Jewish practice, but he has chosen to set this aside to advocate for We The People of this state. Is Sen. Smith willing to "set aside" his brand of Mormon practice to advocate for We The People? I don't know the answer. But I do know that it's a perfectly reasonable, legitimate question.

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    B, you bet we interpret it differently. I interpret multiple witnesses to be correct in what they heard. I also interpret the lack of a denial by the White House to bolster their claim.

    You appear to believe that everybody made it up.

  • Jason (unverified)
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    It's funny when ever people try to tie LDS politicians to the LDS leaders they always tell some story about a politiican lining up with the officials. Yet they always leave out the ones who did things differently.

    What about Reid who always opposed Iraq and the fedeal Marriage ammendment? What about Romney who is for the surge?

    You loose credibility when you only present the part of the story that suites your hypothesis.

    www.mymanmitt.com

  • Alessandro Di' Costanzo (unverified)
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    I know that Gordon Smith has made recent comments in 2007 opposing the war in Iraq, labeling it "corrupt and immoral". But most people don't know that even though he went on national television, and said these words as if he meant it, he still stated that he will stand by the president war decisions (right or wrong). So which one is it Gordon?

    I just think the "new world order" mormons are become scared, and just want to cover their asses before it is too late. Gordon Smith is definitely one of those people. He is one of Bush's favorite senators. WAKE UP OREGON!

    The truth will soon be revealed, and all of these assholes will pay for playing with our lives.

    Peace to all.

    Sincerely,

    Alessandro Di' Costanzo

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