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May 19, 2009

Perspective On Ambassador Huntsman's Religion

John Aravosis has managed to write a post that is factually accurate, yet completely ill-informed and just plain wrong in its conclusions.

His point is that John Huntsman, newly appointed ambassador to China, is going to proselytize for his Mormon faith during his tenure.  He cites a post, now removed but still in Google's cache, from a Utah state representative declaring,

Huntsman served his LDS mission as a 19 year old young man in the Taiwan Taipei Mission in the early 1980’s. He has since been back to the Far East on a number of occasions. Huntsman not only takes to China his political acumen but also a lifetime of membership in the LDS church. This should bode well for the LDS church’s mission to spread the gospel throughout the world, since all members of the LDS faith are under divine mandate to…”Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt 28:19)

Huntsman’s ambassadorship not only puts him in an excellent position to address US-China relations, it puts him in an even better position to teach the gospel…in Mandarin.

John goes on to declare,

If Jon Hunstman is required by God to secretly help the Mormons infiltrate China - and he is - then that is what Jon Huntsman will do as our next Ambassador to China. You can bet on it. Pity the poor Chinese. They have no idea what's about to happen to them.

This is wrong on so many levels.  The first is that if the LDS church really doesn't have a missionary presence in China, they just aren't trying very hard.  I've got several friends who do missionary work* in China.  Some of them work completely out in the open; others have to be a little more discreet.  One friend in particular works with the state-sanctioned Three Self Church right in Beijing.  I've also got friends who are missionaries in North Korea.  You can do this type of work anywhere.

Secondly, it's like John doesn't understand what being the US Ambassador to China means.  Amb. Huntsman is going to be a public figure.  He will be watched everywhere he goes.  Nothing he says or does will be private.  That's why the world's various intelligence agencies don't try to get their spies installed as ambassadors.

Finally, it's guaranteed that Huntsman will not be held to the LDS church's obligations for missionary work.  John is correct that the Mormons don't have a "live and let live" faith.  But he forgets that they're also very cognizant of good and bad PR, which is why they've tried to downplay their involvement in California's Proposition 8 campaign.  They're not going to ask Huntsman to embarrass himself, and therefore the entire Mormon organization, by trying to convert Hu Jintao to Mormonism.

Frankly, though John treats the appointment as a disaster-in-waiting, we should be so lucky that his predictions come true.  Imagine what it would do for the GOP's deteriorating image if their most moderate politician turned out to be just another clueless religious zealot.

*Rest assured that this missionary work has more to do with what is generally known as "compassionate ministry" than just standing on street corners and telling everyone how sinful they are, or they wouldn't still be my friends.


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John Aravosis has managed to write a post that is factually accurate, yet completely ill-informed and just plain wrong in its conclusions.

That is, John Aravosis woke up and had another day of being John Aravosis.

I think the more accurate speculation on Huntsman was something else I read today (forget where). The blogger opined to the effect that Huntsman probably figures the next few years are going to be very lean ones for the GOP as it slowly comes to the conclusion that its neocons and its base are the reason it's losing elections so badly. Furthermore Huntsman probably also realizes that his brand of Republicanism (with its easier take on cultural issues) is likely to go absolutely nowhere in Utah, and so his remaining as governor there is not a road to political advancement, but rather to roadblocks (first as he loses to the legislature, and then after nationally since he will have been ineffectual in Utah).

Thus, by becoming an ambassador Huntsman sidesteps the likely failures awaiting him in Salt Lake City, he also sits out the next few years of GOP internecine warfare.

He also gets the same sort of international resume building that George H. W. Bush brought to his '88 campaign.

When he returns to the USA he's likely to be returning to a party sick enough of losing to listen to another voice, and his own credibility will have been enhanced because he now has international experience with one of the most important countries we deal with, a country that will only become more important during the next several presidential terms.

I don't know, he'll have been carrying water for a Democratic president. Even for those Republicans who don't think Obama is a fascist-socialist, sekrit mooslim, baby-eating and terrorist-sympathizing Kenyan/Indonesian native - however many of those manage to stick around - being a member of a Democrat's team isn't such a good idea.

Here's my crazy prediction: Huntsman switches parties in 2 years or so and replaces Biden as VP. Then he runs in 2016 for the Democratic nomination.

Still makes more sense than Aravosis.

Aravosis has a paranoid notion of what it is to be Mormon. They're human beings in a social institution, not brainwashed members of a cult. They proselytize a) when required, like on a mission, when they keep statistics about knocking on doors and converts; and b) and when it's easy, like when your boyfriend/girlfriend/grieving neighbors are emotionally susceptible to influence.

This is all the more stupid because Huntsman has already been an ambassador. I don't recall him trying to convert Singapore.

This is all the more stupid because Huntsman has already been an ambassador. I don't recall him trying to convert Singapore.

Ah, but don't you dare mention that in the comments at the Americablog post! He'll just delete the comment and then ban you for disagreeing with him.

Why aren't the italics tags working??

I'm not sure what's going on with italics. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

And sometimes, Typepad gets on my nerves.

i've had very close contact with the LDS church my whole life. they have some very strange ideas about native americans. most of it revolves around the "revealation" that we are "the lost tribes of israel" and stuff.

(just an aside, how's come is it whenever white folks come up with these theories about us we're always the ones that are all losted and stuff? most of our first contact stories are about finding some strange looking fool out in the middle of the desert about to die and saving his life)

they mean well. they really do. in '58 there was a famine on my rez. mormons drove up from mesa with food, fuels and warm clothing all winter to save our lives.

the BIA wasn't doing anything, the state of arizona would have been happy to come up some spring and find us all dead, then they could just take the land like they always wanted to do and not have to go through the messy actions of killing us all. when nobody else was willing to help us out, the mormons were there.

when it came time for me to go to high school, it was through the mormon "indian placement" program. i was housed with a mormon family and went to an accredited (meaning white) high school that had luxuries like teachers that went to college, books, and honest to god classes.

one of the tradeoffs was that i went to the before school classes of mormon seminary. lucky for me, none of it took.

thing was, there wasn't any other way for me to get the high school diploma that later allowed me to attend college.

hightower's mormonism is no disqualification for office, or for public service. it sounds like he will be a fine asset to our foreign policy. the mere fact of having someone who is able to speak the language in the embassy of our most important foreign mission is vital.

i applaud his nomination.

Minstrel boy,

I read your post on the good bishop - and your daughter treating his son - and thought it not only fascinating, but inspiring. The Salvation Army kept my father and his family from starving to death in North Dakota in the late 30s.

Sometimes, people get it right.

yes, they do stephen. sometimes i wish the mormons didn't have so many issues of dogma between them and their better selves, but c'est la vie and stuff.

for aravosis to engage in this kind of sophistry is embarassing and not at the level of thinking we need for the problems we face.

while there have been some truly odious pols coming from the LDS church we must never forget that they also produced free and liberal thinkers like the udalls.

Aravosis is very much a creature of the Beltway and its neverending 24-hour "gotcha" news cycle. I can't recall that I've ever read anything of his that was deeply reflective. Even when he writes about matters requiring analysis and a strong understanding of history he doesn't write as if the long view interests him. I don't for a moment doubt the man is very bright, but I have never seen anything he has written that suggests his intelligence is applied to anything beyond tomorrow, or next week, or next month.

Five years from now? Ten years from now?

Doesn't interest him very much (except perhaps when it comes to his orchids).

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