Which Mormon are You Voting For?

Huntsman & Romney

One of the gloriously enriching experiences in marriage – at least in my marriage – is all of the truly wonderful people that my wife has brought into my life. One of these persons is Sarah Bringhurst Familia – a brilliant, homeschooling mother, who also happens to be a pillar of global citizenship. Since marrying, she and her husband have lived in a number of exotic locations, including Utah, California, The Philippines, Ireland, Italy, and most recently Tunisia. With both a degree and lots of life experience centering around the Middle East, she’s a trenchant observer of current affairs in the region. Her interests take her all over the place, however, and she recently posted this piece which I thought the Times & Seasons crowd would enjoy (you can follow her own blog here):

Which Mormon are You Voting For?

by Sarah Bringhurst Familia

It’s the question of the hour. And if you forced me to choose between Huntsman and Romney, I’d have to say that a president who speaks Chinese would probably be more useful than one who speaks French. But eight long years of Bush and then a Mad Tea Party have almost completely sapped my patience with the G.O.P.

Fortunately, there’s another Mormon running for President. His name is Yeah Samake. Like the original Mormon presidential duo, he is clean-cut, wholesome, and charismatic. And his French makes Romney sound like an episode of Prairie Home Companion’s Guy Noir. Throughout his political career, Mr. Samake has focused on “transparency, public participation and strict financial accountability.” Sound good? Well, don’t get too excited. He’s running for President of Mali.


Until my college roommate spent the Christmas holidays one year in Timbuktu, I didn’t know it actually existed. I thought it was more like Shangri-la, or Atlantis, or the Lost City of Z. But the city that for us is synonymous with “the ends of the earth” is a real place in a real African country called Mali. Mali has a rich history and culture, but economically is one of the very poorest countries in the world. A look at Samake’s stand on crucial campaign issues gave me pause for thought:

Stand Against the Old Ways

  • Provide principle-centered leadership
  • Insure efficient use of scarce resources
  • Stamp out corruption

Political Platform

  • Food Sufficiency – irrigation, clean water supply
  • Education – caring for teachers, active learning curriculum, distant education
  • Health – infrastructure building, training, telemedicine
  • Economic Development – security guarantee, promote foreign investment

Does it make our First World problems seem a bit less consequential to think that in some countries clean water and sufficient food are key campaign issues?

Samake water project

Samake was born to a poor family that believed in education. He and his family worked and sacrificed so that he could receive an education, and then go on to college. After moving to New York City, he found and joined the Mormon Church, and subsequently did graduate work at B.Y.U.

For many people from developing countries, achieving economic prosperity in the United States marks the pinnacle of a long journey. But for Samake, it was only the beginning. He chose to take his education and expanded world view back to his home country. When he was elected mayor of Ouelessebougou in 2009, the city was one of the worst-developed in Mali. Two years later, Samake’s principled leadership has brought it into the top ten in the entire country. His strategy is to work on the grassroots level by holding local leaders accountable and helping them to gain the trust of their constituents.

Samake’s approach combines firm integrity with practical solutions and boundless optimism. He has spent significant time campaigning among expat Malians in the U.S., as well as soliciting donations from his B.Y.U. and Utah networks. Here’s a great speech he gave at a fundraising dinner in Salt Lake City in May:

Since there’s nothing mandatory in the L.D.S. Church about voting for Mormon candidates, I won’t be breaking any rules by giving the cold shoulder to Romney and Huntsman. But I think I could happily vote for someone like Samake. If you could too, you can pop on over to his English-language campaign page. Best of luck to him, and may the best man win!

14 comments for “Which Mormon are You Voting For?

  1. “All of them are in dire need of sound local leadership, but also a central government that is willing to transfer power to these local governments.”

    If only our politics-driven leadership in Washington felt this way…

  2. well i would be interested in him if I lived in Mali, and if his policies align with my ideals for government. Personality and likability mean little to me in politics. I care for the policies. That’s what actually affects us.

  3. I want to vote for someone with integrity, meaning they live what they profess. That goes for members and non-members of the church.

    Like Dan said, though, the policies are important. W had integrity (IMO), just botched some policies big-time, whereas Clinton didn’t, but had good policies (wasn’t there an evil leader like this in the BoM somewhere?)

  4. I like Samake, but he’s another rooster who thinks he can clear the foxes out of the henhouse. Anybody that crazy has my vote. The media will treat him like he’s invisible, like the classic cliche but driven more by politics than skin color.

  5. I’m glad you reposted, James. Yeah is good friends with our good friends, so whenever he is in DC, he stays at their house and comes to our ward. Best wishes to him and his family!

  6. Dan & Cameron: I think it would be hard to find anyone who disagreed with you (imagine: “I really don’t think policy matters – it’s not so much what a leader actually does, but what she [insert phrase]”). If you’re actually interested in say, how Samake concretely plans to improve access to clean water, I recommend his website, linked at the bottom.

    Dan: Voting for the dead is an essential part of early Christianity and all true, revealed democracies.

  7. When I need a doctor, I want the best. When I want a lawyer, I want the best. To want anyone simply because he or she is Mormon is dangerous and foolish. I have seen far too many friends and acquaintances hurt — some seriously — because they chose membership in the church over competence.

  8. Best wishes to Brother Samake. I believe an earlier post on T&S featured LDS politicians in a number of countries, including Mexico, Brazil, and the UK. One can hope that the habits of being a “servant leader” learned in Church service can influence Latter-day Saints in positions of government leadership.

    If the conservative Republican state of Utah could reelect Jon Huntsman, we could do a lot worse than have him in the White House. Mitt Romney seems to be doing well in persuading people that he can be a reliable decision maker, who will apply intelligence and good judgment to the task of the presidency.

    A number of Evangelical opinion leaders have expressed a fear that a Mormon being elected president would make Mormonism “legitimate”. It would be like a daily “I’m a Mormon” ad originating from the White House. Given the negative as well as positive emotions that any president evokes, it would not, it seems to me, have a net positive effect on the number of people becoming LDS, but it would pull the rug out from under the people who want to paint Mormonism as a cult that a Christian should not touch with a ten foot pole.

    One can hope that it would also have one direct positive impact on the Church internationally, in getting additional recognition and respect from foreign governments for the Church, and deter some of the more extreme government actions that have taken place in the past.

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