Did Mormon Fasting Create a Romney Debate Victory?

By: hawkgrrrl
October 9, 2012

"I know that fasting and praying brings about miracles," says Mona Williams  a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  >Rumors of a widescale Mormon fast prior to the presidential debate were rampant on Facebook and even in some news articles.  I particularly enjoyed Pat Bagley’s cartoon on the topic.  In light of the much touted debate bounce that has resulted in a game-changer according to recent polling, I wonder if some of those faithful fasting Mormons will see a causal relationship between their actions and the debate outcomes.

God in Politics?

My first thought when I heard of Mormons fasting for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was repugnance at the idea of trying to manipulate political outcomes through prayer.  The current polarization of politics in the US and the uncharitable and intolerant views thrown around by both parties make me cringe on a good day.  Of course, while I envision a politically independent God (hmmm, wonder why . . .) Jesus was certainly free with the political jibes and chatter when he was in his earthly ministry.  So maybe I’m just too diplomatic for my own good.  Jesus was all for saying what people don’t like to hear and riling up the masses.

Intercession

When fasting or prayer is done on behalf of another person, most Mormons (and Christians) believe that their prayer of faith (the faith coming from them), magnified by their personal sacrifice (such as foregoing food), results in God interceding to assist in the outcome they desire.  I’m not totally clear what the exact request was that was made by those Mormons who fasted.  Were they fasting for Romney to win the election?  For him to just do well generally?  For the outcome to be positive for the church?  For God’s will (whatever it is) to be done?  A mix of all of the above and a few other things thrown in?  If I were engaging in such a fast (which I didn’t mostly because I was just flummoxed other people did – it would never have occurred to me), I would have asked for him to not make any painful gaffes and for him to emerge as the centrist he really is rather than the tea party kowtower he has had to pretend to be to win the nomination.  In short, I would pray that he not suck. 

And if that was the prayer, mission accomplished!  He didn’t suck!  But was it because God intervened and made it happen?  I am never really clear on how this supposedly works.  What I always imagined was that the collective energy of the fasting population, their combined positive energy or faithfulness, would get God’s attention.  If they were lukewarm, he might not do anything.  If there weren’t enough of them, he might just figure it wasn’t a big deal.  But with a lot of them all focused on one thing, the collective unconscious could really make stuff happen, like levitating the Pentagon or Romney knocking it out of the park in a debate.

Placebo effect

An article in Time from 2009 talked about the proven benefits of prayer.  However, unlike what most Christians imagine, prayer only shows an incremental benefit if the beneficiary knows he or she is being prayed for.  In other words, the knowledge that others are rooting for us, that even God may be willing to intervene if we are faithful (if we believe it can happen), can be enough to improve one’s outcomes.  Usually this is in terms of healing, although Romney’s campaign wasn’t exactly running and not becoming weary if you know what I mean.  Now, his campaign’s health seems restored and revitalized.  Just in time, too.  Did Romney’s knowledge of the faithful praying and fasting on his behalf give him the boost he needed in confidence and mental clarity to best his opponent in this first debate?

Does the knowledge the others are praying and fasting for us create a placebo effect that is entirely in the mind of the beneficiary, or is it more like it lowers our shields and allows the positive energy to come in?

Preparation

Most news outlets who acknowledge a Romney victory chalk it up to his preparation and generally strong debate skills.  They chalk it up equally to Obama’s arrogant lack of preparation and having been sniffing his own fragrance enough that he believed his own fan base and dismissed his critics.  Was Romney’s success a byproduct of provident living – having on hand a 90 minute supply of zingers and quotables?

Perhaps this was a case of the tortoise and the hare, as many incumbent vs. challenger races are, with the incumbent overconfident and the challenger ambitious and disciplined, plodding forward despite the taunts from the sidelines.  As I recall Aesop’s fable, the hare takes a nap under a tree while the tortoise steadily passes him and crosses the finish line.  That about sums up the debate from what pundits are saying:  Obama was asleep.

Bigger picture

Back to the notion that God would somehow intervene as a result of a fast, even if (as I suspect) many of those who were fasting did so with the erroneous belief that God is a Republican (or the potentially erroneous belief that Mitt Romney is one!).  Perhaps there is some greater benefit to the church or to God’s plan or to the world at large if Romney either 1) shows well in this process and ultimately loses, or 2) wins and becomes POTUS.  As a person who firmly believes the world will be a better place if people think well of Mormons (rather than spewing hatred which benefits no one), I don’t see how a humiliating Romney defeat or a poor performance on his part helps or reflects well on anyone, either his supporters or his detractors.  But it’s also one reason I’ve at times had mixed feelings about him winning.  A lot of crazy stuff can happen in four years.  The exposure that comes with the presidency is not always flattering.  The higher you go, the more people can look up your skirt, n’est-ce pas, Ann?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but in the wake of the announcement about mission ages changing, perhaps there is something grander happening after all.  The God I believe in is opportunistic like that.

Discuss.

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23 Responses to Did Mormon Fasting Create a Romney Debate Victory?

  1. Jared on October 9, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    I believe it is important to fast and pray for outcomes that we desire. However, I decided not to fast and pray for Mitt Romney because I don’t know him. If I knew him I would have fasted and prayed for him to do well in the debate.

    Therefore, I fasted and prayed that the Lord would bless America, asking that the debate would reveal to voters the best choice.

    Do I believe that fasting and prayer influenced the outcome? I don’t know for sure, but as one who has seen the Lord’s hand manifest many times in response to fast and prayer, I suspect it may have.

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  2. Jon on October 9, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    I was out with my Elder’s quorum president. He said BYU was winning because we were doing visits instead of him watching the game. I’m sure he was being facetious, I hope.

    Maybe he won because the powers that be wanted the show to go on and get people interested in the election. Let Romney win this one, maybe the next and then have Obama win. After all, tight games make for a good show!

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  3. Douglas on October 9, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    The fictional Archie Bunker would’ve said: “Aw Jeez, Edith, dose Mormons are at it again!”
    To fast for the political aspirations of a candidate, even if he’s a devout member of the Church, seems misguided. Gives those that have unreasonable fears of a Mormon President more reason to wallow in ignorance.
    All this talk about who “won” the recent debate is spurious anyway. So are the aggregate polling numbers. Since the country is, whether by design or happenstance, gerrymandered largely into safe “blue” and “red” enclaves, the Presidential election will be decided by a relative handful of voters in a few key swing states. Unless the last-minute polling numbers in California indicate Romney is within five percent, I’m writing in Penn Jillette.

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  4. Julia on October 9, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    I did a post on my blog, before the fast and debate, but got quite a few emails, and then a comment, that focused more of the climate that the debate happened in. Several of my readers who live in Utah felt that the fast was really just cover for pressuring other members to join Team Romney.

    I was busy fasting for a friend whose family is enduring an incredible amount of pain. I wish that all of the “good Mormons” who are making life difficult for their family, as they try to deal with sexual assault on all of their sons, could have joined me in fasting for the young men in their ward who are struggling to keep their testimonies, but who feel that their ward members care more about an election than their pain. (I know that fasts don’t have to be an either or thing, but a political fast does seem wualitatively different than fasting for those we know and serve. See Jared’s comment in #1.)

    One of the funniest things I heard about the fast came from a regular (although anonymous) commenter. Former Saint said:

    “People actually had yard signs in my neighborhood that said Fasting For Romney. Someone used a sharpie and added To Lose on all of them. I didn’t do it but I wish I had thought of it. If I ever find out who did I will get them a Costco size box of sharpies for future political protests.”

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  5. Jon on October 9, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    @Julia,

    I think part of it is, from a political standpoint, that people like to think that their duty is fulfilled in the abstract by voting for someone that won’t be able to make a difference in a faraway land. More political effect would happen at the local level, but hardly anyone votes at the local level, many more vote at the national level, even though at the national level they have less of an effect. The same problem with “who’s at fault” people blame the people at the national level but ignore the more important local level.

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  6. Jon on October 9, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I think it is interesting all the people saying Obama is the devil incarnate when Obama’s and Romney’s plans for the country differ only slightly:

    Romney Obama the Same?

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  7. Julia on October 9, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    @Jon #5

    No arguments from me there. I am much more active in my state politics than national ones, although I do keep pretty close tabs on our state senators and representatives to Washington. Most of the change I have been able to influence is within my sphere of life.

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  8. Mike S on October 9, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    So did these same people fast for Harry Reid?

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  9. salt h2o on October 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    A few points:

    1- Public fasting for a purpose is lame and stupid. They have their reward.

    2- I HATE 40 day fasts, for missionary work, whatever. Having the ward fast for a sick member is one thing, having a sign up sheet go around to know who is fasting when for a particular purpose is cultural and stupid.

    3- Fasting and praying for and about your government leadership on every level makes sense. It will and does dramatically impact our freedom of religion and economic development.

    3- It’s one thing to fast and pray that you’ll get a good grade on a test. It’s another to study hard, and pray that all the hours you’ve put into studying will pay off in a good score on the test. Did the member’s prayers help Mitt? He put in the work, he knew his stuff- he had an opponent that did not know his own policies well enough to defend them or even a basic knowledge of the Dodd-Frank bill. Fasting and prayer won’t win the election, just like it won’t get you a great score on a test or win a football game. However, I can’t help but think that just as I studied hard at for a college exam and prayed that I’d remember the information, these prayers for Mitt Romney were similar.

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  10. Geoff - A on October 9, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    What if you all fast and prey and Obama wins anyway? How does that affect people’s faith.

    If there is more fasting and praying for an election result, that could be a concern. Believing as we do in agency, can we really expect God to persuade individuals to vote how (we) want. Can he influence that wicked lot anyway? (if they weren’t wicked they would be voting for Mitt already)

    We had a p’hood lesson recently in which George Smith was quoted as saying “that we should pray for the leaders of our country”. It was not mentioned by the teacher, and when I raised it, the HP group leader said he would do that after the election when the one he approved of was in. We seem to be able to ignore the councel of prophets when it does not suit our political beliefs.

    I wonder how many of those, fasting for Mitt will “pray for the new leader” if it is not Mitt, as the Prophet suggested?

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  11. Geoff - A on October 9, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    I meant to add that, experts appearing on TV here are pointing out that the person who wins the first debate rarely wins the election.

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  12. Will on October 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    I have never liked the idea of praying for a candidate to win. It is like praying for BYU to win. God does not and and neither candidate is going to change things. What people should be praying for and what will make a difference is praying for people to repent and live the commandments. Only then will we see our country return to greatness.

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  13. Will on October 10, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Should say “God does not care”

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  14. Will on October 10, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    BTW, whatever happened Romney dominated the debate and looked like the real President.

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  15. GBSmith on October 10, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    To me the whole idea of fasting and prayer is based on the idea of deity as a feudal lord or king. When a subject wants something he/she try to get the ruler’s attention, curry favor, show worthiness, flatter, ingratiate, etc. all in hopes that the ruler will look favorably on their petition. It comes down to what the person wants and not necessarily needs. It can open a whole discussion on blessings and why they’re dispensed, i.e. are they earned (“there’s a law irrevocably decreed…”) or all random (rain on the just and unjust).

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  16. KT on October 10, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    IMO, true faith is fasting for the best person for our country to win and putting it in the hands of God. Of course, that’s not what actually happened. As my FIL so kindly reminded us, “Brother” Romney did well in the debate, and hey, he’s “Brother” Romney, and I think that has a lot to do with it. Additionally, attitudes like that don’t exactly ingradiate LDS with the rest of the country.

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  17. Common One on October 10, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    How does fasting for God to make someone, in this case the debate observers, act as the “faster” wishes, (in other words select the candidate that the “faster” is supporting) comport with the idea of agency of the debate observers to choose without coercion of God. Coercion to act against one’s will was someone else’s plan I believe.

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  18. Vinnie on October 10, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Then we could take the approach of seeking what God looks for in our fasting

    Yet they seek Me daily,
    And delight to know My ways,
    As a nation that did righteousness,
    And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
    They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
    They take delight in approaching God.
    ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
    Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

    “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
    And exploit all your laborers.
    Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
    And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
    You will not fast as you do this day,
    To make your voice heard on high.
    Is it a fast that I have chosen,
    A day for a man to afflict his soul?
    Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
    And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
    Would you call this a fast,
    And an acceptable day to the Lord?

    “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
    To loose the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the heavy burdens,
    To let the oppressed go free,
    And that you break every yoke?
    Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
    When you see the naked, that you cover him,
    And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
    Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
    Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
    And your righteousness shall go before you;
    The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
    Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

    “If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    If you extend your soul to the hungry
    And satisfy the afflicted soul,
    Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
    And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
    The Lord will guide you continually,
    And satisfy your soul in drought,
    And strengthen your bones;
    You shall be like a watered garden,
    And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

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  19. Mark N. on October 10, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    I wonder if Bro. Romney fasted beforehand… would his personal fast on his own behalf have “counted” more?

    And from here, I suppose we could jump to the topic of the prayer rolls in the temples.

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  20. Julia on October 10, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Here is the post on my blog that has some more complete thoughts, including from some who don’t believe in fasting. http://poetrysansonions.blogspot.com/2012/10/mormon-moment-series-part-five.html

    I think that in the end the most important things we fast for are acceptance of the Lord’s will in our lives, and comfort to those who stand in need of comfort. I also see fasting as a part of faith, and I see faith as an action word.

    I am fasting right now for a friend who is in the ICU, and may not wake up from the coma she is in. I can’t physically fast because of medical issues, but the continual prayering for her, and her husband color every moment of my day. There are prayers I say with my arms folded and my eyes closed, and others that continue as I move around the house. All of them are part of what I can do, 3,000 miles away from her hospital room.

    I can’t say that I would ever do that kind of fasting for a political figure. I do pray that, as a country, we find a way to make food, housing and medical care available for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I work for that in my own community, but I recognize that I can not serve the needs of everyone, and so I pray for wisdom and love to overcome greed and pride. And, if greed and pride ends up ruling the country, then I will still work towards making my part of the world a better place. And each time I wake up, I live my life continually praying for those around me.

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  21. SilverRain on October 11, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Anyone who believes that the purpose of fasting and prayer is to influence the outcome of something has only a rudimentary understanding of both.

    Prayer is how we align our will with God’s, how we seek to humble ourselves, and how we commune with a loving parent. Fasting is a more focused way to pray.

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  22. FireTag on October 11, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    I’d have to say that I think Jared in #1 and Silver Rain in #21 have it right. Prayer and fasting are about aligning our wills to that of God, and only after having a sufficient manifestation that OUR wills have been altered by prayer can we begin to know more specifically what to pray for.

    I don’t think this means we expect God to be neutral politically. Conservatives and progressives both have insights the other NEEDS. However, until we submit ourselves to the Spirit’s subtle corrections to our thoughts, our intended gifts become curses for each other. There’s a bible folk song I love based on an OT scripture whose basic idea is that “If My people humbly seek Me and give up their wicked ways, I will heal their land.” We need healing big-time and very soon.

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  23. nate on October 13, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    I disagree with SilverRain on this. Alignment is only part of the purpose of prayer. We can pray and fast for anything, anything we desire. If a bunch of Mormons want to get together and fast for Romney, that’s great. God will listen to our prayers, and He will answer them according to His wisdom. The prayers and faith of the righteous are powerful, and they do affect changes.

    But here is the rub, said so eloquently by Truman Capote:

    “More tears were shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” Prayers may help our favorite candidate win, because faith works. But four years from now, we might wish our prayer hadn’t been answered, with America defaulting on it’s debt, and in a war with Iran, and the wrath of the world against Romney and his Mormon faith.

    God will sometimes answer the unwise and rash prayer. We will pay for our folly and prejudice, our hatred of Obama, a brilliant and inspired leader who God gave to us to rule over us, and who we have rejected with such undeserved disdain. We may have our Romney, but Romney is no Obama, and history will bear that out.

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