Black Mormons Face an Unusual Presidential Decision

Black Mormons are wrestling with a choice between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Obama calls Romney to say he thinks it is time the country had a Mormon president. But just as Romney is thanking the president for the apparent concession, Obama interrupts him to say, ‘My baptism is on Saturday.’”

The joke is just a bit of Black Mormon humor that, The New York Times reports, is circulating among the rarified group in Utah. But in reality the punch line would make a lot of their dreams come true.

As Marguerite Driessen, an African-American who converted to Mormonism while a student at Brigham Young University in the 1980s told the Times, 30 years ago, having a choice between an African-American and a Mormon for the nation’s highest office was unimaginable.

“Who would have thunk it?” she said.

Mormonism is a strict religion that prohibits the consumption of caffeine and alcohol, and until 1978, it also prohibited Black men from serving as priests or bishops. Mormons viewed dark skin as a Biblical curse. The church has opened its mind and doors to African-Americans and other minorities since then, leaving Black Mormons facing a choice between race and shared values.

Don and Jerri Harwell will likely cancel out each other’s vote in November, the Times reported. Don, who is president of Genesis Group, a support group for Black Mormons, is backing Romney because he admires his “integrity and business sense.” His wife, however, prefers Obama and expressed concern about how Romney would handle the economy given his inability to “relate to the common man.”

But for Paul Sleet, who joined the church in 1989, race trumps religion.

“I’m 100 percent Mormon and committed to my religion, but I’ve never really thought about whether I’d have the same pride in a Mormon being elected president,” he told the Times. “I don’t know if I’d have the same tears in my eyes.”

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