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.

  • beryl.knipe - 2012-10-30 10:11

    Another cult!

  • phalo.mjikwa - 2012-10-30 10:39

    I love Quest! Quest means business, American Quest! This guy is resourceful

  • kagiso.k.seleka - 2012-10-30 10:52

    @ Richard - Interesting experience you had there, I've seen a few heated debates from Mormon students about the Obama-Romney race on social websites you seem to have only met the passive ones on your visit there :). Not all Mormons will be voting for Romney, quite a few are openly campaigning against him as you noted. Oh and by the way the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints.

  • parys.fotograaf - 2012-10-30 12:52

    Morons, Mormons...perhaps the same, but answer the question after you know what these people actually believe

      kagiso.k.seleka - 2012-10-30 13:47 Is there something confusing about what we believe?

      kagiso.k.seleka - 2012-11-01 10:28

      @MemeMan your questions are valid but at the same time riddled with inaccuracies about Mormon beliefs. 1. "There was war in heaven" I think you need to do more research about this war in heaven as explain in the book of revelations. Then come back to me as most Christians believe we are all children of God and were even before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5), and are therefore brothers and sisters... including Lucifer now known as Satan. 2. Can you prove otherwise? 3. We believe in baptism FOR THE DEAD and not of the Dead! 1 Corinthians 15:29. How are you doing with that scripture? 4. Common knowledge recently proven too, there was even an article on News 24 about it. My question is would it make him any less perfect if he were married? 5. Can you prove otherwise. 6. Not true, I'm black my friend and I've done my research. You obviously have not, or it was very shallow. Elijah Abel. 7. refer to 4 please 8. Psalms 82:6 "I have said, Ye are gods ; and all of you are achildren of the most High" 9. Wow! reference please. 10. All matter is eternal and so is God our Father and yes "As man is God once was, and as God is Man may become" 11. "Magical underwear," lol! what is magic? Illusions? We wear garments once we have entered the Holy Temple which we believe to be an outward symbol of the covenants we have made there. We believe the covenants we make there serve as a shield and protection to us if we honor them. Nothing magical there.

      kagiso.k.seleka - 2012-11-01 11:17

      12. Do some better research, the church not more than 2 months ago made a public announcement on the matter due to misconceptions held by the public about our standing on the matter. You are wholly wrong. 13. :) is it bad to smile? I thought this gospel brought joy. Anyway, I was a missionary from age 19-21, was sent to Tampa Florida. Nice experience, was not forced or compelled to go. Took a break after 1st year at varsity and it was the best experience of my life. Many I know who have done the same feel the same way. Don't see what's wrong with that. you're welcome to send me a message on FB if you have anymore q's. cheers

  • nom.deplume.969 - 2012-10-30 16:00

    One very confusing aspect is this: "His subsequent resurrection prepared the way for every person to overcome physical death as well." How does this work in the light and context of Hebrews 9:27 "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" Or does the Book of Mormon exclude this so that you can believe in the eternality of your physical body? If it is true that our physical bodies can overcome death, then why do Mormons die...physically?

      nom.deplume.969 - 2012-10-30 16:04

      Hmmm...should have scrolled further down to see that you are probably referring to the book of Moses (1:39)...if that is so, is it not still just spiritual immortality?

  • nico.leroux1 - 2012-10-31 14:08

    Zumas friends!! You can a wife for everyday of the week!!

  • thulani.pfende - 2012-11-02 07:24

    Nico, there is not even a single member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Mormons) who has more than one wife, it is adultery. Those that practice plural marriage are a break away sect. Research.

  • pages:
  • 1