Romney quotes the Book of Mormon

One of the reasons it’s important to have reporters who understand religion is so that they don’t miss the subtext or deeper meaning of words spoken by those they cover. Usually that’s just important for covering average people in their day-to-day affairs. But it’s also important for understanding how politicians speak in the rhetoric of civil religion.

After the tragedy Colorado suffered this week, we heard various political figures discuss the situation. And from reading the Salt Lake Tribune, I learned that Mitt Romney “harked back to a passage from his faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon,” in his remarks.

That discussion was further expounded upon at CNN, which began:

In a speech to a wounded nation, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney returned to his roots of faith in the face of a national tragedy.

It was a rare public expression of faith for the candidate who has kept much of his faith private.

Romney, who was the head of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation in Boston, quoted heavily from the Bible and the Book of Mormon as he stood before a small crowd in New Hampshire.

The story then gives the exact references to the Gospel of Matthew, followed by:

Romney continued, “And we can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado.” That phrase “mourn with those who mourn” is found in the New Testament and is also found in the Book of Mormon.

“Our prayer is that the comforter might bring the peace to their souls that surpasses understanding,” he said, evoking the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

Romney also left no doubt about his source material in his next line when he said, “The Apostle Paul explained – “Blessed be God who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.” He was quoting from 2 Corinthians 1:4 using the King James Version of the text, a translation favored by Mormons.

Romney also said grieving families could know they were being lifted in prayer by “people in every part of our great nation.”

The phrase “mourn with those who mourn” is found in the New Testament, but not in the King James Version, so I was happy to see that the Mormon preference was explained.

The story goes on to explain the “so what” of the remarks and why evangelical voters might care. The head of the Family Research Council weighs in on the speech as well as talking about meetings Romney has had with evangelicals.

The article mentions that 18 percent of voters have traditionally expressed reticence about voting for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And it shows what Romney has done to reach out to evangelicals, including the relevant quotes from his commencement speech at Liberty. And a Mormon editor weighs in as well:

“The speech would be completely at home in a Mormon meeting and yet was carefully ecumenical,” added Kristine Haglund, the editor of Dialogue, a quarterly journal on Mormon thought that is independent of the church.

Haglund noted that “mourn for those who mourn,” which is found in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 18:9, “is in the top 10 passages for Mormons.”

The article even discusses Mormon views of afterlife, and Haglund’s sense that Romney offered an olive branch to evangelicals by using the phrase “lifting up in prayer.” She says that’s not typical Mormon language.

The variety of perspectives really made this a worthwhile story. Good catch from a variety of reporters showing how a candidate’s faith makes an appearance in his rhetoric.

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  • Kristine

    I second the praise for Eric’s CNN piece–it was clear from our conversation that he had done his homework and was prepared to ask intelligent and subtle questions.

  • Julia

    Very interesting and enlightening. Helpful details to know.

  • CarlH

    A quibble with Peggy Fletcher Stack’s and Mollie’s headlines: While Romney very clearly quoted the New Testament, he did not “quote” the Book of Mormon. Yes, he used a phrase that “evokes” a passage from the Book of Mormon (to use the verb from the CNN report to refer to a reference from Paul that wasn’t directly quoted).

    And why not point out that the exact phrase used by Romney and treated as “quoted” from the Book of Mormon, is in fact, exactly the phrase as used in the New International Version of Romans 12:15 (if not in the King James, which says “weep with those who weep”)?

    I am glad that the “so what” aspect of the story was noted–which, from my perspective, is the most important part of the whole kerfuffle. But then there just wouldn’t be a “Romney is still a Mormon” story to write, would there?

  • Chas Holman

    That was no quote, a paraphrase at best.. .. it was a sentiment.. and as much as I have great disdain for the Governors political brand, I like to think it was a sincere sentiment.

    I doubt you’ll see the Governor be as bold as to directly quote from the book of Mormon while running for office.. there are Evangelicals galore that the Governor needs to win, that think it a book of Satan and that Mormons will be burning for eternity for their beliefs..

    If the Governor does take the Presidency (lord help us all) I doubt you will see him even mentioning the religion or any references to it.. although as he will keep worshiping as he always does (I would assume) people will make their own conversations.

  • Peacenik2012

    To CarjH, I am so glad you caught that. At least someone out there knows their scripture.

    I have studied Mormonism extensively and here are 10 glaring Facts about the Mormon cult.

    MORMONS ARE NOT CHRISTIANS (Just Ask Your Pastor or Priest)

    The Book of Mormon

    1. Book of Mormon
    The book of Mormon is more correct than the Bible, (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461.)
    2. Devil, the
    Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163.)
    3. God
    God used to be a man on another planet (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333).
    4. God, becoming a god
    After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential of becoming a god (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-347, 354).
    5. God, many gods
    There are many gods (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).
    6. God, mother goddess
    There is a mother god (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 443).
    7. Heaven
    There are three levels of heaven: telestial, terrestrial, and celestial (Mormon Doctrine, p. 348).
    8. Holy Ghost, the
    The Holy Ghost is a male personage (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Le Grand Richards, Salt Lake City, 1956, p. 118; Journal of Discources, vol. 5, p. 179).
    9. Jesus
    “The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).
    10. Joseph Smith
    If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation.  There is no salvation outside the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Doctrine, p. 670).

  • Eric

    I have to agree with Chas Holman about the headlines, although I thought the articles did a good job of making the Book of Mormon connection. Romney’s phrase was a ecumenical Biblical Christian sentiment, and I seriously doubt he was consciously making a reference specifically to the Book of Mormon (much of which quotes and/or alludes to Isaiah, the four gospels and the Pauline epistles in any case).

  • cvg

    Interesting take would be to determine approximately how many funerals Romney presided over as a bishop and stake president. That probably means he is well versed in preparing his own condolence sermons.

    Not every senior political official is necessarily used to that type of on-the-ground participation. I wonder how closely Romney’s remarks mirror what he typically would say at such events. It would be interesting to compare how those who attended some of Romney’s talks/sermons would compare his recent remarks to those given in the past.

  • JWB

    The phrase “mourn with them that mourn” (where a modern reader might subconsciously change “them that” to “those who” without intentional misquotation — just as most of us no longer say “them that trespass against us”) can in fact be found in the King James Version, albeit in the so-called Apocrypha. It’s in Ecclesiasticus (a/k/a Sirach) 7:34. The commenters at the SLTrib site mostly do not seem impressed by the theory that this was a Book-of-Mormon dog whistle.

  • JWB

    The RSV has “mourn with those who mourn” in Sirach but “weep with those who weep” (tracking the KJV’s verb choice) in Romans where the NIV has “mourn with those who mourn.” Evidence of secret Mormon influence on the RSV and/or NIV translators? Or just, you know, coincidence?

  • Peggy Fletcher Stack

    Thanks for the shout-out and kind words, Mollie. Only one point — that post was on my blog but written by the paper’s political reporter, Thomas Burr. I pointed out to him that the phrase was also used in Romans, a fact he later noted.

  • Dandini

    The title of this piece alone says it was so focused you know the author has blinders on…………………..

  • Rex Whitmer

    As a Latter-Day Saint, I can say that Romney most likely did speak in this manner at several funerals he might have been involved with. A Bishop or Stake President often speaks at funerals, but it is by no means always done. Our members are also our clergy and while a member of the Bishopric may preside, this does not always include a sermon. Stake Presides preside less often. The article was pretty well done in my opinion.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    To “mourn with those who mourn” is part of the covenant made with God by ancient American Christians as they were baptized into the Church of Christ at the Waters of Mormon, as described in Mosiah Chapter 18. In fact, this is the origin of the word “Mormon”: it is the place where the Church of Christ was reestablished after a period of apostacy, and a community of believers formed who were tefugees from a persecuting government, who had fled into the wilderness for safety. The name Mormon was given by his parents to the man who was the editor of the thousand year religious history that was named “The Book of Mormon”. Mormon himself makes clear that the meaning of the name for him is the sacred place where the covenant of baptism in the name of Christ was restored to his people. And that baptismal covenant is taught to every person who is baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, straight out of Mosiah Chapter 18, whether they are an adult convert or an eight year old child of Latter-day Saint patents. Every Mormon knows that “to mourn with those who mourn” is one of the promises he or she made to Christ when they were baptized. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. A version of that sermon was also given by the resurrected Christ when he visited and taught Christians in the Americas after his ascension from the Mount of Olives, recounted in the Third Book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

    So that phrase is both a profoundly Christian doctrine and a commitment at the heart of what it means to be a “Mormon”, which literally means one who has covenanted with Christ by baptism.

  • Dan Bloom

    I posted a comment here a few days ago, i have the page view in my files, about new term in USA called “a mittconception” coined at Urban Dictionary, gently mocking some of Mitt Romney’s ideas. That comment was deleted with no explanation or email to me explaing why. do you practice censorship here or not? that is my polite question, Terry. SMILE.

  • Jettboy

    Dan Bloom, they do practice censorship as you call it here. It doesn’t matter if it comes from the left or the right. If the content of the comment is not considered on topic then it will be taken off at the discretion of the moderators. I expect your question and my response will be taken off soon, unless left up as educational.