Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has raised new questions about the role of religion in American politics, especially when that religion falls outside the Catholic-Protestant-Jewish mainstream of the late twentieth century. Romney's December 2007 speech on religious freedom was widely praised, but he offered a very different position than John F. Kennedy did in his 1960 speech to Houston religious leaders.
In his presentation at the Boisi Center, Clayton M. Christensen Harvard Business School professor and active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will discuss Romney and other Mormons in American politics. Christensen argues that religious institutions provide the foundation for the enjoyment of American civil liberties, and that the principles practiced by Mormons (and religious people everywhere) do in fact belong at the center of public discourse.
On February 14, just a week after Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney ended his campaign, the Boisi Center hosted a lively discussion on Mormons in American politics. Our guest was Clayton Christensen, a distinguished professor at Harvard Business School and prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Christensen described the growth of the LDS Church from Joseph Smith’s divine encounter to the present day, and placed the Mormon experience in the context of American religious history. He spoke eloquently about his experience as a Mormon, and his understanding of the LDS Church’s position on the intersection of religion and politics.
Christensen argued that all Christians, and particularly Mormons, should act on their obligations to “love thy enemy” and care for the poor, widowed and orphaned; and furthermore that they should encourage elected officials to do the same as they make public policy. Mormons have unique political and moral insights to offer as a result of their missionary work, which puts them in direct contact with a wide array of peoples and cultures around the world. Restricting these insights by setting limits on the role of religion in the public square is a mistake, he said, both because it improperly limits the most basic civil liberty we have (i.e. religious freedom), and because religious communities are often the best sources of civic virtue in society.
A lively discussion followed, ranging from Mormon theology to business ethics to presidential primaries. To hear Christensen’ opening remarks or read his interview with Erik Owens, please visit our web site.
Mormon American: The Power and the Promise by Richard Ostling and Joan K. Ostling
Center for the Study of Religion - Princeton University - 'Mormonism and American Politics' Conference
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - The official homepage of the LDS Church