Church Public Affairs chief responds to critics

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By Hunter Schwarz

The head of Public Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has responded to an article in which the associate publisher of the nation’s largest Christian news magazine said Latter-day Saints are unfit to serve in public office because of their beliefs.

Mike Otterson, head of Public Affairs for the Church, responded in a post on the Washington Post website to Warren Cole Smith’s article entitled “A vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church.”  Two Latter-day Saints are expected to run in the Republican primaries. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney officially announced his candidacy last week, and former U.S. ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is expected to do so soon. Otterson argued against Smith’s claims that belief in LDS theology makes one unfit for office because it is “demonstrably false” and the election of a Latter-day Saint president would “give the religion a boost.”

“Whoever might be elected, I expect the judgment that this nation and history will eventually render about him, or her, will have little to do with where they worshiped on the Sabbath,” Otterson said.

Otterson listed Latter-day Saints currently serving in public office, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has been in office for 34 years, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and noted that “Mormons have been serving most capably in national government for over a century.”

Otterson also pointed out comments made about Latter-day Saints would be considered inappropriate if they were said about other minorities.

“Substitute the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Mormon’ and see how comfortable that feels,” he said.

Otterson closed his response by inviting Smith to Salt Lake City and saying although Latter-day Saints and evangelicals have theological differences, they share similarities.

“Mormons across the country live side by side with evangelicals as neighbors, work associates and friends,” he said. “There is much that they share.”

He added despite disagreements with evangelical theology, he had no problem voting for a candidate with those beliefs if they were qualified for office.

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