Why Romney’s Mormonism Matters
It came as no surprise that Mitt Romney secured the GOP nomination for the 2012 elections. The current Republican Party is dominated by right-wing extremists hell-bent on galvanizing the United States into a militant Christian hegemony. Because of this fanatical atmosphere, it is completely natural that a Mormon would not only be running for president, but would also win the GOP nomination.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormons), with its history of religious severity, appears to be a perfect fit for the über-orthodoxy of the Tea Party-controlled GOP. Despite misgivings that many non-Mormon Republicans may have (most Christian groups don’t consider the Mormons to be Christians), the history and doctrine of the Mormon faith seem to go hand in hand with the kind of derelict bigotry and racism that the current GOP espouses.
Mitt Romney is a lifetime member of the Mormon Church, with deep roots that stretch back to the earliest days of Mormonism. Romney’s great grandfather practiced polygamy in Mexico in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, where many Mormon polygamists fled to evade the Edmunds Act of 1882. Romney has served in leadership positions in the church throughout his life, including being a bishop (the pastor of a church) as well as spending 30 months proselytizing in France as missionary from 1966-1969. These are all well-known facts that can be found through a variety sources, as well as from statements made by Romney himself. However, many facets of his involvement with the notoriously enigmatic sect remain completely unknown not only to most Americans but to many Mormons as well.
Mormonism has an extensive history of secretiveness, deception, and malfeasance. The clandestine nature of this religion is as prevalent as ever, as much with its extra-religious business affairs, as with its secretive religious practices. The Mormons have two distinctly different buildings that they use in the observance of their religious practices, namely, chapels and temples. Chapels are open to all members of the congregation plus visitors, and are the location of normal Sunday services such as “sacrament meeting” (Sunday mass) as well as Sunday school. Temples are only open to those members who adhere completely to the strict standards of Mormonism, including unwavering loyalty to the president of the church, regular church attendance, and, of course, paying full tithes (10 per cent of gross income, as well as monthly donations known as “fast offerings”).
Within the temples, various liturgies known as “temple ordinances” are carried out. These rites derive from Masonic rituals (Mormon founder Joseph Smith was a Mason) and include “baptism for the dead,” the so-called endowment (for living and dead), and “temple sealings” (temple marriages for living and dead). The level of secretiveness surrounding the temples is extraordinary, so much so that members of the Mormon Church who have not been to the temple have virtually no idea as to what they entail. Several details regarding these ordinances not only make Mitt Romney incapable of upholding the First Amendment, but also call into question where his true allegiances really are.
Before Mormons are allowed to enter a temple (there are well over 130 temples in operation today, and more being built), they must be interviewed by two separate tiers of ecclesiastical leadership to determine their worthiness to enter these edifices. These temple recommend interviews are the first issue of concern regarding Mitt Romney. Among the various questions asked of a member, one particular question goes as follows: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The very nature of this question, coupled with several others regarding complete obedience to the president of the church (or “prophet”), put into question the overall allegiance of Mitt Romney (and, indeed, all Mormons).
If members are found to be in violation of this question (or any other from the list of questions), they will not be allowed to enter the temple. Being blocked from entering the temple is tantamount to being blocked from Heaven, albeit temporarily (they can always repent). The divisive nature of that particular question, coupled with its inherent ambiguity, provides the ecclesiastical leaders with carte blanche to blackmail members into complete obedience. The church leadership has proven to be quite draconian in the enforcement of member fealty (just put this question to Mormons in California relative to Prop 8).
Among the various ordinances performed in the temples, none are more divisive than the Law of Consecration. This rite requires members to pledge all their time, money, and abilities to the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth (the Mormon kingdom). Couple this with the demand to sustain the president of the church as the only prophet seer and revelator on earth and a particularly troubling form of absolute obedience emerges. Mormons are devoted to their faith on an extraordinary level. Shackled with the spiritual tyranny espoused by the Mormon faith, members literally must do what they are told by the prophet, and dissent only results in excommunication.
Another interesting facet of Mormonism that has seen some light recently is the White Horse Prophecy. The basis of this prophecy comes from a diary entry made by John Roberts who related that Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1840 regarding the uncertain future of the United States and that, at a certain point, the Constitution would “hang by a thread” and the leaders of the LDS Church would come forth to protect and restore the Constitution. Despite the continued controversy regarding the authenticity of this account, the White Horse Prophecy has been embraced by Mormon culture. Mitt Romney has denied that it is part of his own beliefs, despite his father’s own stance on the subject (he felt that Mormons would, in fact, save the Constitution). Glenn Beck has referred to this in his own crazed rants over and over. The White Horse prophecy is embedded into the very fabric of Mormonism.
Mitt Romney has said that he feels that voters do not need be concerned as to where he goes to church on Sunday. This is an incredible statement, given the secretive nature of Mormonism. With this secretiveness, it is impossible for voters to recognize the deception inherent in Romney’s statement. Voters may not be concerned if the church in question doesn’t demand absolute fealty, or employ various coercive means to control its members, or even place loyalty to the leaders of that church above allegiance to the United States. Unfortunately for Romney and for the U.S. Constitution, if he becomes the president, the Mormon faith is all those things and more.
Renato Wardle was raised in Happy Valley, Utah, in a Mormon family and served his mission in Portugal. He’s no longer a Mormon, though he still lives in Happy Valley.