Mitt’s Mormonism

The Republican nominee low-bridges his faith in a party of Bible-thumpers

young_annmitt_1_lr.jpgBY PAUL KAIHLA — The Democrats have their “minority” candidate in-waiting for president — Hillary — and a minority president, through the prism of the ‘race card.’

Religously-speaking, the Republicans have a minority candidate, too. Mitt Romney (translation: Mormon).

Mitt is a Boomer begat by a baronette of American politics: George Romney, three-term governor of Michigan, a former federal cabinet secretary and a runner-up to Nixon in the 1968 Republican primary for president. But did you know that Romney senior was born in Chihauhau, Mexico?

And did you know why? His parents had fled the U.S. because the LDS — Mormon shorthand for their official church — had disavowed polygamy. Although it was officially illegal in Mexico, who back-then-there would give an Eff about such a statute in an out-of-the-way place?

Was Mitt’s father a polygamist? Hardly. But he was a true believer, and actually worked as a Mormon missionary before his political career and turn as CEO of American Motors.

Back to the future: When Mitt launched his campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination, he worked overtime to dispell “misconceptions” about Mormonism in a big interview that the New York Times splashed on its front page:

He said he shared with many Americans the bafflement over obsolete Mormon practices like polygamy — he described it as “bizarre” — and disputed the argument that his faith would require him to be loyal to his church before his country.

Holy speaking in tongues — ”bafflement”?! Your own grandparents fled the U.S. over the issue, and your talking point that polygamy is so obsolete and outres doesn’t wash when there’s an estimated 30,000 practicing polygs in Utah alone today.

HBO riffed on the phenomenon in its hit series, Big Love, and reality TV filled out the genre with Sister Wives.

We write this from a place of actually knowing, and having spent time with, polygs in Utah: Woe be unto Mitt Romney.

In a famous poll by CBS, only one religion ranked lower than Mormonism in the minds of Americans: Islam.

It’s partly why Romney was heckled in Florida in 2008 by a lost mind: “You sir, you are a pretender. You do not know the Lord.”

No American-born faith has as much baggage as Mormonism, with the exception of a branch of the Seventh Day Adventists called the Branch Davidians.

Mitt’s idea is to run as the intact family-values candidate of the righteous, a brand distinction not available to McCain and Giuliani in ’08, or within reach of Newt now.

It works in a geo-historical sense, too. There’s a certain symmetry to his Massachusetts-Utah axis: the Mormons were the Puritans of the Wild West. But it won’t have legs in an America where campaigns are conducted over airwaves, and the first rule of politics is, ‘the best defence is a good offence’.

Romney’s foes may not have fathomed how deeply they can mine Mitt’s Mormonism for campaign hit-pieces, starting with the mining habits of Mormonism’s founder.

Here’s an excerpt from the book, Savage Messiah, about the man whom Mormon’s embrace as their Buddha, Joseph Smith:

The most important sect spawned by the Second Great Awakening was the brainchild of Joseph Smith. He was the son of a farmer who had settled in New York state, and claimed the ability to locate underground streams with a forked hazel switch. Young Joseph, an ambitious sort, decided that he could do one better than his father. While still in his teens, he began to advertise his services as a finder of buried money, crystals and enchanted stones that could be used to locate underground caverns. Directing his team of money-diggers with a wand at midnight under a full moon, Smith demanded absolute silence from his clients and the assembled spectators. When, as was usually the case, his crew turned up nothing, Smith would explain that just as they were about to reach the treasure, someone under the devil’s influence had spoken and caused the bounty to disappear. In 1830, at the age of 24, Smith published the Book of Mormon, which he claimed was a translation of a set of gold plates he’d dug up in the hills near Palmyra, NY, in a spot reavealed to him by the angel of God.

Smith claimed that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, the cradle of human civlization and home of an emissary of God named Mormon who preached around the time of Christ. The Son of God himself had visted the American continent after his crucifixion, and would appear there again for the Second Coming. Smith soon gathered a large number of followers in an organization he named the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and led them from New York to Missouri to establish the new Jerusalem. But during their long quest for sanctuary the young Mormon sect was ejected from town after town as suspicious outsiders. In 1843, Smith enshrined plural marrriage as a sacred commandment of Mormonism. He pointed out that the Bible called upon Christians to “multiply and replenish the Earth,” and that the old prophets had had many wives. A year later, Smith was shot and killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois.


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