Some Republican image brokers are hallucinating if they think their candidate, Mitt Romney, is immune from the charge of religious extremism. In reality, the shoe of religious extremism fits Mitt Romney’s foot far better than it does even Rick Santorum’s. Characterizing a traditional Catholic as extreme, all the while ignoring the Mormonism of Romney, is one of the most surreal moments to date in this year’s Republican election cycle. If the Republican establishment is truly concerned about the problem of extreme religious values plaguing the election news cycle, then perhaps they should be supporting Newt Gingrich?
Mitt Romney is a bishop in the Mormon Church. He is, therefore, fully aware of Mormon religious doctrines, many of which are quirky. One of its most controversial practices is to vicariously baptize the dead in order to bring as many people as possible into its fold. Politically, some Mormons have held to a “white horse prophecy” that predicts that one of their very own will become president and save the United States of America and help usher in a theocratic kingdom on the earth. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s joke on the campaign trail five years ago about Mormons believing that Lucifer is Jesus’s brother is just the tip of the iceberg.
The book of Mormon teaches that Jesus Christ visited the American continent where he gave the gospel to some leftover Jews who had fled Jerusalem in 600 B.C. This North American Jewish remnant was eventually wiped out in 4th or 5th century A.D. in a battle near a hill called Cumorah. This particular site is the very place where Joseph Smith (1805-1844) , the founder of Mormonism, unearthed the Mormon Bible in 1823. Strangely, the book was allegedly written in ancient Egyptian, but an angel by the name of Moroni came alongside Joseph Smith to help him translate the book. The Mormon religion is thus not anchored in history, but was buried underground for some 1,400 years – all based on a very unlikely story about some Jews who escaped to America right around the time of the Babylonian exile.
Many of the original Mormons also had a penchant for polygamy. Even Romney’s Mormon ancestors in the late 1880’s embraced polygamy. When the U.S. federal government demanded that the Mormons in Utah give up their polygamous practices, Romney’s great grandfather fled the country to Mexico. He then established a Mormon colony in the Sierra Madre Mountains where Mitt’s father, George (1907-1995), was born. In 1912, the Mexican Revolution erupted forcing the Romney colony to flee once again. After the revolution, some of the Romneys returned to Mexico, but George’s immediate family did not.
Mitt Romney has publicly criticized the practice of polygamy as “awful.” Yet, Brigham Young (1801-1877), the second most important leader in Mormon history, had up to 55 wives. Today, there is a university named after him. With regard to Joseph Smith, Mormons have obfuscated the historical record so badly that it is very difficult to tell how many wives he had – anywhere from 0 to 50.
Smith was a quixotic character. He and his father were avid treasure hunters of the mystic variety digging up holes in various areas places across the New York countryside where they lived. On March 26, 1826, a court hearing condemned Smith’s occultic excavating activities. New York charged him guilty of “digging for money.” Many nearby residents often complained of Smith’s treasure hunting expeditions. Yet, it was during this time that Joseph Smith claimed to have unearthed a gold plated Bible, i.e., the book of Mormon. This excavation became the foundation of a new religion.
After a stint in Ohio, Smith later moved to Illinois where he built up a Mormon enclave. In 1844, he announced his candidacy for president. Unlike many Mormons today who extoll the Founding Fathers, Smith was very unhappy with the United States of the 1840’s. Smith believed that he was the commander in chief of God’s army destined to overthrow the United States of America and rule it with a “theodemocracy.” Smith liked to be called “general” by his followers. Presaging the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago by 150 years, Smith prophesied that God would damn America for their wayward ways.
Some dissenting Mormons began to publicly criticize Smith’s leadership and his new proclivity for polygamy in a local newspaper. Smith retaliated by shutting down the newspaper. This action, however, backfired. The controversy became so heated that the state of Illinois was forced to step in because Smith had created his own militia. Smith was eventually charged with treason and conspiracy. What happened after the trial is murky, but Mormons popularly hold that Smith was persecuted and martyred by an out of control mob. After the fallout of this tragedy, the Mormons packed their bags and moved to the Rocky Mountains under the leadership of Brigham Young.
In 1857, President James Buchanan sent one third of the American army to Utah to quell the rebellious spirit of the Mormons. Thanks to effective Mormon guerilla tactics, foolish mishaps, false reports, and bad weather, the expedition was a disaster. In southern Utah, Mormons massacred 120 emigrants that same year. On September 11, 2011, 154 years to the date after the massacre, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar designated the site as a national historic landmark. In 1858, the Americans and Mormons settled for peace.
Some Republican elites are curiously disinterested with such historical details. It seems as though they are satisfied with the fact that Romney does not talk about his religion. However, there is a very good reason why Romney is silent when it comes to Mormonism. Romney knows that if Mormonism becomes a part of the public discourse, he has no chance of winning the election.
While both Christians and Mormons have softened their religious views toward each other under the societal pressures of political/religious correctness, there are many Christians who still believe Mormonism is a cult. Historically, many Protestants traditionally understood Mormonism as a cult. Reverend Franklin Graham, in a recent interview on MSNBC, rejected the notion that Mormons are Christians.
In November, many Christians will have a very difficult time voting for Mitt Romney because of his Mormonism. This may jeopardize Romney’s potential presidential victory, especially in swing states , and if Republican elites continue to hound Rick Santorum for his presumed religious extremism, they risk the possibility of conjuring up a quiet holy war between Christians and Mormons.
Perhaps more troublesome is that it is doubtful that the left wing media will be as congenial as the Republicans have been toward Romney’s Mormonism. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel recently laid down the gauntlet on Romney by asking him to tell his church to stop baptizing dead Jews. Sally Denton of Salon also weighed in by displaying her concerns about the potential dangers of a Mormon theocratic millennialism. Mormonism is also shrouded in a white racist past.
However, to his credit, Romney has rejected the racist past of Mormonism. In fact, it appears that Mitt Romney is a ‘liberal’ Mormon like his father. While this may offer some hope that will distance him from certain troubling aspects of the Mormon faith, it also suggests that Romney’s rejection of many conservative principles has its roots in some of the so-called ‘hard right’ inclinations of Mormons that is readily seen in states like Utah and Idaho. Associating conservative principles with an obtuse Mormonism seems to be some of the drive behind Romney’s moderate Republicanism. In other words, Romney’s understanding of conservatism is too much informed by his Mormon faith.
While many political pundits censured Santorum a few weeks back for being dragged into a debate about Satan, Romney and his cohorts need to be just as careful. In criticizing Santorum for his Catholic beliefs, they may have crossed a line that will haunt them later on in the election. How can it be that Mormonism is given a pass, while traditional Catholicism is ridiculed?
If Romney wins the Republican nomination and becomes a serious threat to Obama, the odds of the left ignoring Mormon idiosyncrasies become far less likely – even though the GOP power brokers are depending on it. Helen Radkey of MSNBC is compiling a list of deceased scoundrels, including a 9/11 hijacker, Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy, and other Muslims, who have been posthumously baptized into the Mormon Church. Even though mum’s the word when it comes to Romney’s Mormonism on the Republican campaign trail, the Achilles heel of Mitt Romney is his eccentric religion, and the left will have no qualms whatsoever in bringing this out for all to see.
He is the author of Nazi Oaks: The Green Sacrificial Offering of the Judeo-Christian Worldview in the Holocaust and a commentary on the warning passages in the book of Hebrews called “Wrath or Rest: Saints in the Hands of an Angry God.”