The official Jon Huntsman website quotes Politico columnist Daniel Allott reporting that Huntsman "has an unwavering commitment to Israel." What constitutes such an unwavering commitment is not explained.
Mitt Romney's website reports his position to "bolster our support for Israel, which has always been and will continue to be our strongest ally in the Middle East."
Yet reportedly 23 percent of conservative Republicans express reticence to vote for a Mormon - both Romney and Huntsman being Latter-day Saint third cousins, twice removed from one of its most well-known founders, Parley Pratt. Is there anything about their faith which generates unwavering support for the state of Israel?
In the late 1970s and under the leadership of Spencer Kimble, a native Arizonan, who at that time occupied the preeminent leadership position in this faith, several notable changes occurred. Perhaps the most widely known was a change in policy which had kept black males from "holding the priesthood" - a form of affiliation with and exercise of leadership running from the top down to the individual family group. Another less well-known change had the second tier of leadership, the Council of the Twelve, step away from their daily responsibility to oversee administrative duties to focus exclusively on proselytizing, traveling more frequently and widely than ever before. And with that change, Howard W. Hunter, a member of this group, addressed a matter which his group had perceived as being problematic among church membership, calling the problem "exclusiveness," the favoring of one group or nationality over another. The example he picked to illustrate this inappropriate favoritism was "the present problem in the Middle East - the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews." (Ensign, June 1979 - official church magazine available at LDS.ord)
Commenting on another widely understood article of belief, the literal gathering of Israel in the latter days, Hunter reaffirmed that belief, observing: "But this does not give us justification to dogmatically pronounce that others of our Father's children are not children of promise. Mormons view all peoples who inhabit the earth as God's children."
Continuing, Hunter said: "Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides." Hunter reported an observation made to him by "a cabinet minister of Egypt ... that if a bridge is ever built between Christianity and Islam, it must be built by the Mormon Church. In making inquiry as to the reason for his statement I was impressed by his recitation of the similarities (in beliefs between these two faiths) and the common bonds of brotherhood."
Perhaps if conservatives are looking for leadership to help quell unrest between Palestinians and Israelis, they ought to look closer at Huntsman and Romney. And perhaps if Huntsman and Romney would adhere to the principles of their faith, they ought to recall Hunter's observation that "As members of the Lord's church, we (Mormons) need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons. Sometimes we unduly offend brothers and sisters of other nations by assigning exclusiveness (or favoritism) to one nationality of people over another."
Perhaps these two candidates need to match their unwavering commitment and bolstered support for Israel with an equal and unwavering measure of commitment and bolstered support for Palestine, too!
• Dale Whiting is a Chandler resident and member of the Mormon church