Guest Column

It's about values, say conforming Mormons

2012-10-30 07:58

Richard Quest

In Provo, Utah, ringed by mountains and desert, sits Brigham Young University (BYU) – founded and funded by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Mitt Romney graduated from here. If Salt Lake City's Mormon Tabernacle is the faith's spiritual heart, this is its seat of learning – the hot house of its future elite.

The campus is as spectacular as it is pristine, with imposing mountains standing over its manicured lawns and autumnal trees. Like many of America's colleges, the facilities are superb: A 64 000 capacity football stadium, a basketball arena that fits another 22 000, a vast library sunk beneath the campus's central square, and an art gallery that would grace many small cities.

Thirty thousand students are here, 98% of which are Mormon. Aside from noticing how these days, rather like policemen, students are looking a lot younger, I was struck by a sort of wholesome uniformity.

A clue to this lay in a poster outside the campus bowling alley: "We follow the Honour Code" it said, asking its visitors to "uphold standards of grooming and dress". Surely they have the rest of their lives to worry about that?

Rebellion, non-conformity and experimentation – the staples of many university careers elsewhere, don't figure prominently on the BYU menu. The atmosphere was abundantly friendly, welcoming, and above all, very sensible. Everyone looked like they were trying hard to be a grown-up.

One of the reasons we had left our Amtrak train in Provo was to gauge opinions on the election. Would these young Mormons all favour Mitt? Would we even find any Democrats? The answers were not entirely what we'd expected.

Lukewarm response to politics


It's not about voting for a Mormon, most said. For the majority we chatted to here, it's about values. They were adamant that they're not automatically voting for Mitt – although the fact that he hasn't bothered to campaign in Utah tells you how secure this state is.

If the man in the Oval Office shares their values, they'll back him. You could argue that the fact Mitt Romney is an alumnus of their college and a member of their church amounts to the same thing of course. On the whole you would be right.

We did manage to find some exceptions though. The Democratic society at BYU has around 250 active members; its president claims he would be proud to see a Mormon elected, just not this one.

 He doesn't see how Romney's policies can deliver the kind of caring, inclusive society he wants. He doesn't want to see his religion's stance on issues such as same sex marriage and birth control imposed on all whether they like it or not. Interestingly, he doesn't see that as betraying his faith. Mormonism is not, he contended, about dictating to others, or assimilating them.

Aside from an almost complete absence of subculture, the abiding impression we took from BYU was the student body's lukewarm response to politics.

It was the night of the second presidential debate, and after Romney's rout of Obama in the first, followed by the acrimony of the Ryan versus Biden encounter, we thought this next bout would be hotly anticipated by all these first time voters.

Pleasant place to visit

A few Democrats were gathering in a dorm room to watch. The Republicans had no specific plans. Some didn't even know it was on. Where was the fire in their hearts? Who here wanted to change the world? Was there really nothing for these students to rage against?

From our hotel we wandered out looking for a place to watch the debate, but no restaurants appeared to be showing it. Being a predominantly Mormon town, bars were thin on the ground. We ended up gathering in my hotel room.

That night we boarded the train again, with the feeling that we were leaving something of a bubble behind us. Provo's well-funded, immaculately presented, friendly university had made us feel entirely welcome, and I'd genuinely enjoyed meeting the people here. It was certainly a pleasant place to visit; I'm just not sure all of America's electorate would want to live there.


- Richard Quest is presenter of CNN's Quest Means Business. In The American Quest, the seasoned journalist gauges the political mood by taking an eight-day train journey across the US ahead of the elections on 6 November. For more info click here.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


Read more on:    mitt romney  |  us  |  us elections 2012  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
11 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong focus on social interaction and connecting with your friends. You may have the need to expand and connect with a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.