|Bye, bye Mitt, American Guy!
I'm pretty upset about Mitt Romney too. He used to be one of my heroes as the guy who saved the SLC Olympics in 2002. Then he went on to be a moderately progressive Republican Governor of Massachusetts (i.e., Romneycare). He even gave Ted Kennedy a run for the money as a progressive Republican competing for the Senate a few years earlier. That's why I was so confused when I saw Romney running in the Republican Primaries of 2008 and 2012. I was sure he wasn't ever "Severely Conservative" (whatever that is) except for maybe the neo-con part. I don't think the Republican Party has a Mitt Romney problem, the Republican Party has a Republican problem.
Let me stick with the Utah or Mormon issues for now. Many believed in Romney as our big chance to break out and gain some attention and maybe legitimacy in the world. We certainly got some attention. We got some recognition and at least the acceptance that we exist which isn't the same as legitimacy, but it gets us grudgingly closer. And that's not all because of Romney, but the whole swirling frenzy of the Mormon Moment which is hopefully over. Maybe we can replace it with the Mormon modicum of respectful acknowledgement that we exist, even without Romney, which may actually help for some of the reasons I've pointed out.
More on the deeper, psychological and maybe weird side, there was the common belief in Mormon circles that Romney was the one to fulfill the cultural belief that one day the Elders of Israel (Mormon Elders, not the Jewish ones), would rise up and save the Constitution of the United States. This arises from a few vague statements of LDS Church leaders, including Brigham Young, and is connected to a clearly discredited "revelation" - the so-called White Horse Prophecy attributed to Joseph Smith. For a pretty good run-down on this mythology, check out the Mormon apologetics site FAIR.
The important thing is that this very common cultural idea is widely believed by Mormons and it has never been official doctrine of the LDS Church. In fact, at least the White Horse Prophecy has been specifically disavowed. (This after a Mormon congressional candidate in Idaho was convening secret meetings of LDS Priesthood members to support his campaign on these theories. Fortunately, the guy never got elected to anything in Idaho and has moved on to Wyoming).
There is a problematic history of fringe and extreme conservative politics in the LDS Church. However, just like the tea party, it can sometimes be loud, but the influence is not actually that wide or deep. It has not had the official support of united quorums of church leadership to ever make it official doctrine or policy of the Church.
I've said all I intend to say about Ezra Taft Benson elsewhere on this blog. However, I will continue to denounce the religio-political hucksterism of types like the late Cleon Skousen, the current Glenn Beck, Utah politician Ken Ivory, and the alleged artist Jon McNaughton.
I still retain my hope in better things to come. Those many Mormon who supported Mitt Romney on false, pseudo religious grounds may be tempted to see this last election as a triumph of evil over good. That seems a bit hard to reconcile with the clear statement from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve:
We congratulate President Obama on winning a second term as President of the United States.
After a long campaign, this is now a time for Americans to come together. It is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints to pray for our national leaders in our personal prayers and in our congregations. We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people. November 6, 2012.I also have hope that while President Obama's second term will be tough, it will be even more successful than the first as the Republican leadership cooperates at least to some extent rather than face total extinction by the influence of their tea party minority who admittedly are loud, but definitely a minority even in their own party (just like the Skousenites and Beckites in Mormon circles).
The question I leave for my Mormon friends tempted to find this good/evil dichotomy in the last election is this:
If there was anything to that good/evil business or the "saving of the Constitution" ideas or anything else divinely ordained that Romney was to be President, don't you think the First Presidency might have said something? It can't just be about worries about the tax exemption. I mean, if the whole world is descending into evil and that thin thread of constitutional government is ready to snap, wouldn't the Church's tax status be the least of the First Presidency's worries?I think it's time for all to calm down and keep working with the President and all the people of the United States to form that more perfect Union.
I'll be hoping (and praying) for an epistemic opening!