Would A Mormon President Subvert American Democracy?

Duly Noted

Those that practice the politics of prejudice are serving their own phantom but not the common good.

Some nations can only be defeated if its people lend a hand. Recent US cases come to mind. Russia and China, regardless of their system, are also members of the same club. In the coming election, the GOP can only be rescued from victory if it decides to commit hara-kiri. The debates suggest that such a self-disembowelment is an ongoing process.

A disturbing impression arises during the apparently pleasing auto-amputation of limbs. Minor issues regarding the candidates are raised. They are to grade the would-be occupants of the White House before it is repossessed to cover the national debt. It is a good thing that dietary habits and BMI have not yet become issues.

Among the distractions is the Mormonism of Mr. Romney. Two personal experiences prompt to express the doubts that follow. My first local involvement in American politics was the Nixon-Kennedy campaign. One quality for selection appeared to be foolish. That was JFK’s religion. It took some explaining to make me understand why a “mackerel snapper” as President would endanger the USA. Protestations that, we are electing a President and not a Prophet, were ineffective. Even Mrs. Christensen, who gave us room and board, and since her immigration a Democrat, was worried about Pope Power. 

Kennedy-mania contained irrational elements. One was that he spoke French. Thereby he and I shared something and that made us men of the world. He also had youth, exhibited “vigor” and had a sexy wife. We knew nothing about the state of the marriage, the corset and other matters. In fact, one did not want to know what one could know. My aunt, who in Europe moved in the circles of the Kennedy types, has warned me. Those boys are known to be involved in “orgies”. She thought that, therefore, my views and reality do not mesh. At the time, I refused to believe what was not to be.


What follows below is not a Romney-fan’s propaganda. Actually, my favorite used to be another aspirant. The LDS affiliation of Mitt Romney exposes us again to the temptation to make religion into a criterion for picking a candidate. Now then, the theological validity of Mormonism’s version of Christianity is beyond my competence and my interest. To many, the implications of a President embracing that creed are of concern. However, American public life and her high-level politics have created indicators that Mormons will not kidnap America and replace its system with their theocracy. The record of Utah State, when it was ardently LDS, is also an argument. In practice, LDS keep the worldly realm separated from the private pursuit of heaven. Yes, Mormonism involves a way of life. Furthermore, the Church is interested in conversions. Nevertheless, the instinct to “rescue souls” stops short of imposing the “right way” upon non-believers. Unlike the Sharia, it refrains from making outsiders to adhere to enforced norms that limit every aspect of life. Since Mormons know a personal realm, the faith can place politics outside of religion’s sphere. Accepting or rejecting Mormon theology does not have political consequences. The faith does not command unquestioned obedience in the public realm. At any rate, it does not do so to a larger extent than does the now discarded scarecrow of “Popism”.

The second point issues from an old moral obligation. To those that had no contact with Mormons such testimonials could be revealing. Nevertheless, at the outset a cautionary note is needed. We tend to judge exotic groups by the first “samples” we encounter. The resulting generalization can be quite misguided. I recall my college roommate and now best friend “I have never met a Hungarian before. So this is what you guys are like.” Since I am rather unlike other Magyars, I thought that this “discovery” was ironic.

Now to my story. In the seventies, we were moving back to the US. We knew that we had abandoned a secure existence to face uncertainty. On the plane, we sat near to a large group. Soon a gentleman came over and congratulated us because of the behavior of the children. Given our trepidation, this felt reassuring. I told Mr. Hugh Smith that much and explained our probable predicament. He then identified himself as a Mormon returning from Israel. Thereupon he went back to the group to see if anyone could be of help. Finally, we agreed to meet in Los Angeles as both of us lived around Northridge. After our arrival, we needed more succor than anticipated. That had to do with the Carter era’s Affirmative Action and factors such as my background and politics, which made me hard to employ in my field. As a result, I worked as a hard-hat on construction. Throughout a very depressing time, the man helped us tirelessly in every way one can imagine. 

Indeed, Mr. Smith lived his faith through actions and not by the phrases of his creed. During all the months of support, we have never been pressured to convert. Understandably, the Mormon attitudes and ways made me curious. To know more about the ideas that shaped this community and that enabled its members to perform so well in “civilian” life, I investigated their teachings. When I told Mr. Smith that I am unconvinced by the theology but impressed by the values of its adherents, he did not drop me.

Since my exposure to the LDS, I have great appreciation for that community. What matters to me now that a Mormon has become a candidate for the Presidency is that, the faith not only teaches values, its adherents live by them. Good Mormons work hard, try to measure up to constructive norms, and are reliable. That amounts to a strategy that results in worldly achievement. Even so, being a Mormon is a bad rationale to elect someone. However, LDS membership does not amount to a reasonable or a fair reason to deny such person one's vote. Oh, yes! One more thing. Belatedly, thank your Mr. Smith!

More on/for Los 'Angeles'

Everybody gets born in a particular religious or spiritual tradition and it is quite bigoted to blame anyone for that. What matters is what any particular church teaches today in terms of values and attitudes and how any particular individual comports himself/herself.

It is amazing how a professor can start with glorifying a Mormon (Huntsman) and continue in the same breath with attacking someone else for being a...Mormon.

Los Angeles, you said?

For a professor, you are mightily sure of your (misguided) opinions.  You should join the New York Times (or the LA Times, for that matter) with your skill in mischaracterizing any subject, really.  The essence of 'teaching' lies in helping your students in making contextual and proportional judgments, not in parroting a set of fixed 'truths'.     

Comment from Los Angeles

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Huntsman was the only legitimate Republican candidate. The fact that he was eliminated immediately from candidacy is an indication that the Republican Party, of which I used to consider myself a member, has completely abandoned me. (I still consider myself an Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford, etc. Republican, but this current party is not it.) Since they began taking money from the right-wing evangelicals...I have no idea what happened. These people are not Christian, nor are they moral. While I do not consider myself a member of the Democratic Party, I cannot consort with these individuals.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. The Mormon Church dictates that single women cannot achieve heaven. Joseph Smith essentially made up the religion to allow him to sleep with a variety of women. I do think that Mitt Romney would be able to divide church and state. He has effectively shown his skill at compartmentalization from his incredible skill at lying, claiming one thing despite being caught at stating the exact opposite on video tape. Even one of his staff members has analogized this skill as being “like an Etcha-Sketch.”

If this man is elected president, it is what we deserve. It is also part of the amoral contemporary life that I experience daily as a professor teaching at a state college. It is really an unfortunate sign of the times.