A Liberal Wimp Against Mormon Mitt by Harry Beresford

My friend Harry Beresford, a retired American businessman, published this piece in Tribune magazine, London, England, May 18-31 2012. Passages in square parentheses were cut from his original draft: we like them so we have restored them. He is indebted to the work of a leading ex-Mormon, Richard Packham, whose own list of essential questions for Mitt Romney can be found at home.teleport.com/~packham  along with a first-rate recipe for granola.

Although his Mormon beliefs have played a major role in his life, Mitt Romney does not mention them in the biography on his official campaign website. Perhaps he knows that they are a political liability.

Too many wimpy liberals are letting him get away with this. I understand this: I am a lifelong liberal wimp, who normally regards other people’s religious beliefs as a private matter. Normally, I would not dream of suggesting that they should be grounds for voting against a political candidate. I am making an exception for Mitt Romney. I will work and vote against him because I do not want a Mormon as President of the United States. I will vote against him before I even think about his economic policies (bleed the poor to give more to the rich), or his pandering to the Tea Party, or which of his many foreign policies he finally adopts on election day.

Mitt Romney has chosen to evangelize for the Mormon Church, to take office within it and to give it a great deal of money every year. Voters are entitled to examine that Church and what it says about the mind and character of a potential President.

Its doctrines are either preposterous or pernicious or both. [I believe that their primary rationale is to isolate its members from normal society and increase the Church’s power over their lives.] It wheedles or extorts money from its members [including poor people] with promises or threats about salvation in their afterlife. [It regularly demands free labour from them.] It uses only a tiny part of the faithful’s money to relieve poverty or suffering: all the rest goes to maintain its buildings or propagate its doctrines or to accumulate a vast and secret corporate empire.

Mitt Romney’s chosen Church lies about its record, especially on polygamy, racism and sexism. It covers up the Mountain Meadows Massacre of settlers by Mormons. [It “corrects” its canonical texts and the utterances of its prophets as thoroughly as Stalin or Mao-tse Tung used to correct theirs]. The one enduring premise of Mitt Romney’s Church, which is beyond correction, is its rejection of everyone who is not a Mormon. People who belong to any other faith group, Christian or otherwise, or espouse any other values or lifestyles, are at best fools and at worst sinners and agents of Satan.

[I believe that Mitt Romney’s chosen Church poisons minds all over the world, including those of children. It forces its followers to read a cataract of drivel, to accept wholly unnecessary restrictions in their lives and to obey people who have no right to judge them. Of course, these are personal views but they are based on evidence and are shared by many others, including ex-Mormons, one of the fastest-growing communities in America. I would like to hear Romney’s rebuttal, and I believe that all American voters deserve to know why, as a mature man, he has chosen to accept and propagate the highly distinctive doctrines and practices of his Church. Some of these seem especially inappropriate, even frightening, in a President of the United States.]

According to Mormon scripture, the Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, did more than any other man except Jesus Christ “for the salvation of this world.” Does Romney believe this and does he rate Joseph Smith above St Peter, St Paul, Martin Luther, or Samuel Wesley? Does he think Joseph Smith a greater figure than say, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln? Does he believe Joseph Smith’s claim that he was commanded by God to have many secret wives simultaneously, some as young as 15? [Does he accept the Mormon scriptures which continue to endorse polygamy?]

Romney believes that Joseph Smith was chosen by God as His prophet and he therefore believes in Joseph Smith’s astonishing story. Jesus Christ appeared on the American continent shortly after His resurrection and ministered to two ancient peoples, the Nephites and the Lamanites. These were tribes of Israel, who centuries earlier had managed to migrate to America by crossing the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in giant barges, [with livestock including elephants.] These peoples disappeared around 400 AD, and with them disappeared all records of Jesus’s American ministry, apart from those recorded by the prophet Mormon on tablets of gold. Some 1400 years later they were revealed to Joseph Smith, a young American farmer, by an angel named Moroni. Although Mormon’s long book was written in a hitherto unknown ancient language, with divine help Smith was enabled to make a full translation within a matter of months [although since that time it has received nearly 4000 corrections.]

Does Romney truly and seriously accept that narrative as historic fact? Does he believe that this narrative should be taught to children (and how does he answer their questions on what happened to the elephants)? Can Americans trust Romney with their education system? Can they trust him to distinguish fact from fantasy?

[For many years Mormons have tried to back up the historic narrative in the Book of Mormon with independent evidence. All of these attempts have been discredited. I do not know why they bothered, since the Book of Mormon was delivered by divine revelation, which has a higher authority than any human knowledge or reasoning.] Divine revelation is given not only to Mormon prophets and elders but also to individual Mormons by a variety of means ranging from full-on angelic visitation to quiet personal promptings. Suppose that God revealed to him that Iran had nuclear weapons, against all the advice of human experts. How would Romney react? Whom would he believe?

[Back to Joseph Smith. Does Romney share his view that all the other churches of his time were “an abomination”? What does Romney think now of all the Christians who have rejected Mormonism, or members of other faiths or people without religious faith at all? I would like to see Romney explain to Catholic voters why his Church baptized the late Pope John Paul II, where he thinks the late Pope is now. (Posthumous baptism is so far the only Mormon issue to have troubled Romney on the campaign. It is integral to his faith and his own father-in-law, a lifelong atheist, had to undergo it. How would Romney feel if some alien faith or cult tried to claim him after his death?) Anyway, according to Mormon doctrine, like other dead people who were Catholics in this life, the late Pope is currently languishing in spirit prison: “in darkness and a state of awful fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them”, says the Mormon Book of Alma 40 12-14.

However, the Pope will get a second chance to embrace Mormonism in the spirit world and accept his proxy baptism. If he does, he may earn release into spirit paradise (free from all care and sorrow) and at Judgement Day he would be eligible for heaven second class. But if he stays loyal to his Catholic faith, the late Pope will remain in spirit prison. The best he can hope for on Judgement Day will be heaven third class, and he would be at risk of being cast into outer darkness.

Romney believes this is true for every single non-Mormon voter. Two strikes and you’re out.] We get two chances to become a Mormon – in this life and the next part of our existence. If as spirits we hold to our current beliefs we stay inferior or damned for all eternity.

Heaven first class is reserved for Mormons who obey all the commandments of the Church in both earthly and spirit life (including of course paying tithes in full). Men who reach this state may ultimately turn into gods, each able to create and rule a personal universe. Does Romney aspire to this condition, and would he treat the Presidency as training for it?

[A sacred ritual for adult Mormons is the secret temple ceremony known as the “endowment.” If Romney has undergone this, he took an oath of obedience to the “law of the Lord.” Voters are entitled to know the terms of that oath and how they would fit with the one he would swear as President. In the endowment he would also swear a separate oath to “consecrate your time, talents and everything with which the Lord has blessed you… to the Church.” Would the Presidency constitute such a blessing and if so, how would Romney consecrate it to his Church? Who would judge, during his Presidency, whether Romney had fulfilled his obligations to his Church and obeyed God’s commandments?]

The Mormon faith historically was steeped in racism and it did not admit black people to its priesthood until 1978, when Romney was 30. Did he take any positive steps to end this discrimination – or did he just pray for it to happen? Does Romney now stand by the Mormon scriptures which describe black skin as a curse from God? [One other historic question: did Romney make any effort to join the Mormons who served in the Vietnam war?]

The role of women in his Church is murky and controversial, but it is clear what constitutes the ideal Mormon woman. She marries a Mormon man, bears him children (future tithe payers), keeps house and does voluntary work in the Church. Women who make different choices in life are considered inferior and may face intrusive personal examinations by the local branch of the Church. If a wife makes it into heaven first class as an appendage to her man she goes on bearing his spirit children into eternity. Does Romney share these concepts of womanhood?

Romney’s Church regards gay people as afflicted and in need of support. Does he too? Mormons think that gay people who cannot overcome their same-sex attraction by prayer or counselling or therapy and make a successful opposite-sex marriage should be celibate for their entire lives. Does Romney think this too? [Gay people who have any form of sexual activity, even within a unique and committed relationship, are sinners heading for spirit prison and heaven third class. They should not adopt or raise children. Does Romney believe all this?]

[Romney’s Church makes more demands on the lives of its adherents than almost any other. Resistance to them carries penalties in this life and even more so, in the next. Why does Romney believe that poor people should pay their tithe to his Church before they feed their families or pay their rent? Mormons must pay all their tithe to their extremely rich Church, in preference to charities which feed the hungry or combat disease. Why does Romney support this?]

Mormons are directed by their Church to store at least three months’ food against an imminent catastrophe. [A year is preferable and some Mormon texts pick out foodstuffs that last for 30 years. Characteristically, the Church sells food to its adherents and facilities for storage.] How much food does Romney have in storage, and would he shift it all to the White House? Does Romney believe in a God who wants Mormons to survive a catastrophe while others starve? Does he imagine that poor and homeless people can readily afford to buy up that much food and store it safely? Does he believe that all Americans should store food in such quantities and what would happen to food prices and the world economy if they tried to?

Mormons are expected to swear off alcohol, tea and coffee – completely. Does Romney believe that people will be judged and punished by God for enjoying these things in moderation? Has he ever wondered why Jesus Christ turned water into wine, and not the other way round?

Does Romney seriously believe that God cares what undergarments people wear? Mormon underwear symbolizes much about his Church – weird, controlling and expensive. Of course it is obtainable only from the Church, which has a great gift for turning its doctrines into money.

[I expect Mormons and others to protest at my treatment of these questions. They can protest away, so long as they do not pray for me or baptize me after death. I am not prepared for Romney, or anyone else, to suggest that these are private matters of faith which have nothing to do with his qualifications for the Presidency. They say a great deal about him, and I believe that all voters deserve to hear Romney’s account of them.]

After over a month’s immersion in Mitt Romney and his faith I find him a perplexingly split personality. He is presented regularly as a cool-headed pragmatist providing evidence-based solutions to problems, whether as a management consultant or as an administrator or as a driver deciding how best to transport the family dog. But he has grounded his life in an outlandish faith which defies history and evidence and reason and logic, [is regularly reckless with the truth, and has built a huge structure of doctrine and commands on the self-proclaimed revelations of a prophet with a sordid personal life.

Which of these two people would become President Romney?]

28. May 2012 by rkh
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