Should Romney repent? ‘Yes!’, says the prophet Mormon

I had determined that I had said all that I was going to say about Romney – I wasn’t going to dignify the man with any more attention, nor give his groupies yet more fuel to respond with their ‘correctives’.  But I’m too gob-smacked at the moment to be restrained.

Firstly, I don’t know where Romney gets off complaining about anyone who pays no taxes  when he’s used every trick in the book – (financial instruments I think they are called) to avoid paying his own.

Secondly – and not to put too fine a point on it – I’m deeply uncomfortable about sharing a faith community with him, and frankly anyone like him.  I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who is a registered Republican went hoarse  in their ecstasies at Romney’s nomination.  Many of them (I’m hoping) will be that cherished brand of Republican who refused to tip off the edge with the Tea Party and are probably just as staggered as everyone else by this new brand of post-truth, post-fact, post-ethics, anything-just-to-get-elected, politicking.

At least I hope so.  At the bottom of my heart and from the bottom of the world I am hoping that Romney is courting a vocal minority.  A vocal minority who has painted broad brush-strokes on our religious identity without getting permission from the rest of us.  A minority who have so effectively nudged Mormonism down the neo-liberal rabbit hole with memes and discourses that rattle around the cage suggesting that true Mormonism:

  • is the free-market
  • isn’t government
  • is the GOP
  • isn’t state assistance for the most needy
  • is personal wealth accumulation at any public cost
  • is pro-war
  • isn’t expansive and thoughtful
  • mustn’t  try to address socially inequality with political measures
  • is fearful of  everything, everyone, and everything everyone does, but mostly feminists, gays and intellectuals.

So I have a few words to say to the vocal minority who have so brazenly claimed a religious identity for Mormonism that they had no right to manufacture in the first place- its time for you to repent!   And here’s why.

  • Whether or not there are dubious historical anomalies in the church record,
  • Whether or not polygamy was sanctified by the heavens, or a convenient sexual innovation for some libidinous pioneersmen,
  • Whether God didn’t think Blacks should have the priesthood (and then changed his mind because of the civil rights movement),
  • Whether or not men or women or both are divinely entitled  to administer the ordinances of the gospel,
  • Whether or not an Apostle, a General Authority, a Stake President or a Bishop is speaking at any given time as an oracle of Christ himself,
  • Whether or not the City Creek Mall battle cry to ‘lets go shopping’ was prophecy, revelation, or counsel,

IS ALL BESIDE THE POINT!

All of these tensions are the unavoidable consequences of the struggles and contests that a faith tradition in the religious market place invites.   But there is one constant in Mormonism that has never changed (aside from the 3,913 editions that have been made since 1830) – and that is The Book of Mormon.

Whether or not The Book of Mormon is a literal account of a Meso-American people is somewhat redundant. The fact of the matter is,   The Book of Mormon is our story, our religious and social manifesto, our uniquely Mormon road map for navigating the vicissitudes of  mortality, our morality tale,  and the only consistent (aside from the 3,913 editions) reservoir of philosophy, theology, and thought that is uniquely Mormon.  As a companion to the Holy Bible (which has had absolutely no editions – never, ever),  The Book of Mormon is Mormonism’s theological constant that has the power to inform our public ethics, our public morality, and our politics.  In this respect, it is stunning, coherent and nothing short of a miracle.

But if we can’t or refuse to read The Book of Mormon as the grand  narrative and the tragedy that it is, and merely default to a cut and paste morality tale with ‘nice’ stories of all-day prayers, and naughty boys who fancy the local harlot,  we miss the import, we miss the big picture, we miss sharing with our children a moral, ethical and spiritual road map that points us to our own apocalyptic end times if we don’t wake up and put on the whole armour of righteousness.

As the Nephites and Lamanites spiraled into a cycle of mutual destruction I am reminded of the following verse in Alma:

And thus because of iniquity amongst themselves, yea, because of dissensions and intrigue among themselves they were placed in the most dangerous circumstances.

In this verse the root cause of their vulnerability was named. Iniquity.  We are used to hearing iniquity being storied as sins of personal morality –  bad behaviour in bed,  buggering, boozing and blaspheming.   These are the flagship Mormon morals that appear in little books that we give to our youth as their coming of age gifts.   But in the case of The Book of Mormon the problem that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the entire civilization was surprisingly NOT that Isabel’s skirt was too short, or that Shiblon watched an R-rated movie.  It was much, much more than that.  Iniquity in this account is documented as, a) dissension,  and b) intrigue.

So what is dissension?

Eris, Greek goddess of discord, angry at not having been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, sought to foment discord among the wedding guests. She threw into their midst a golden apple inscribed “for the fairest.” When Hera, Pallas Athena, and Aphrodite each laid claim to the apple, Paris was called upon to decide the issue. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus bringing upon himself the vengeance of the other two goddesses, to whose spite is attributed the fall of Troy. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dissension, accessed 20/9/12)

Dissension is the human struggle to win that one elusive golden apple.  The golden apple is an illusion that fuels human vanity, that tells us we could be the finest if we could just obtain it.  Its that great and dreadful story that abundance and goodness and beauty and entitlement belongs to one alone.  Dissension is the lengths we will go to in order to win the prize, and is accompanied by the idea that  the majority needs to suffer for the prosperity of a few.  It’s the story of the 99 – but in a satanic reversal.    Dissension is what fuels the heart sickening scramble for more than we need, for the illusion that ‘we can buy anything with money’, for the foundationless, vanity filled,  large and spacious mansion that sits above the earth with little other than hot air needed for its levitation.

Intrigue is the method that drives and inflates dissension.  It is all the seemingly legitimate machinations that take place underneath the surface, the secrecy, the handshakes, the deals, the plotting, the lack of transparency, the legal loopholes, and smoky backrooms where a sign is hammered to the door ‘Private – No Admission’.   It’s the $50,000 a plate fundraisers where the language of exclusion is constituted because it promises a new Lexus for the affluent attendees.

I’m embarrassed and furious that my faith tradition has courted a strain of Mormonism that is so at odds with its own scriptures.  I’m angry that American Mormon neo-cons have been allowed to grab the microphone and dictate an identity that is a startling contradiction to the central message of its canon.   I’m peeved that Mormonism in the US, in an effort to manage itself into the mainstream, has bedded down with a brand of uniquely American, conservative Christianity and manufactured an orthodoxy out of it.

But I’m glad of one thing.  I’m glad that I’m a New Zealander and that I live in a free country.  It might be expensive to live here, but I value my ideological, political, philosophical freedom in the antipodes.  I’m especially glad that come election time, the equally free members of my ward will vote all over the political spectrum, and whether they are social democrats, neo-liberals, left libertarians, Greens, or will vote for the Maori party, New Zealand First or even ACT, it  will have little bearing on whether or not they are entitled to call themselves true Mormons.

  • Mike Cammock

    Hey Gina,

    Like the Blog.

    Check this out.

    http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Mormon/mormons-in-america.aspx?src=prc-headline

    A recent Pew study. Mormons are the most conservative religion in the US (by a wide margin) with over 70% of US Mormons affiliating themselves with an extremely conservative political perspective. As such, your issue with Mitt Romneys portrayal of Mormonism is actually with the US Mormons portrayal of Mormonism. Check out the full study (it is 175 pages long) very very interesting, and honestly a little scary. I just got back from a two hour class with my local ward where I went over the research data in detail.

    Later.

    • Gina Colvin

      Mike! How the heck are you? So not a vocal minority after all? At least not in the US. It would be great to do a global study to see if non-US Mormons are as conservative as American ones. My pick is probably not. What kind of ward class looks over a Pew study? What’s your sense about the political climate among Mormons in Vermont?

  • Sherri Park

    Gina, your blog is starting to spread on the LDS Democrats site , the Mormons for Obama site and other liberal LDS sites. Just wanted you to know. We all feel your pain. We are ashamed that M. Romney and G. Beck are the face of our church today. Thanks for all your work on this piece. I am sure that thousands of your fellow LDS agree with you. I know I do

    • Gina Colvin

      Thanks for sharing Sherri! I can’t imagine what its like for progressive Mormons in the US (especially in those red states). But you will be pleased that we are seeing that real Romney that was so elusive in the early days!

  • jb

    love you gina colvin!!!

    • Gina Colvin

      :)

      • Frances Harriman

        More than 20 years ago I spent several months in Utah, in a rural mormon community – I visited a friend with whom I’d attended HS in the East. Even then, the families were as conservative and money oriented as they are portrayed now. Charitable towards ‘their own’ – absolutely, but critical and condescending towards those who did not see life as they do or who do not share their beliefs.

        • Gina Colvin

          I agree – certain mormon communities are extraordinarily good at looking after their own. The problem is of course that their world doesn’t resemble the rest of the world and that’s why we have government, who (if they are worth their salt) should be interested in all social groups.

  • http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/ Ron Madson

    Gina the genius genie pulls another wish out of the bottle! I was hoping someone who writes so colorfully and honestly would write such an article. I too have been stewing and thinking of writing on this topic. For me the problem is not so much Romney but the fact that he represents the face of contemporary mormonism in the United States. For if he was an anomaly we would just be embarrassed for him, but he is not. He reveals the worse of Mormonism—Korihor capitalism, spiritual self absorption, militarism, all expressed in a modern day Zoramitism. Anyway, thank you. Your voice is heard clearly thousands a miles away and very appreciated by many of us.

    • Gina Colvin

      Ron – you are most, most welcome! As Josh suggested, we need a thoughtful collective voice boldly sharing a mormonism that feels relevant, has theological depth and captures the beauty of our canon. We’re all in it together Ron – I’m glad to be able to row this waka (canoe) with people like yourself.

  • Garth

    I think this is how a raging liberal tries to reconcile being a Mormon while simultaneously hating a product of Mormonism (Romney.) Of course, Harry Reid is also a product. But this lady admits she celebrates dissension as the “elusive golden apple.” Another revisionist trying to get the religion to fit her world view, instead of dreaming of amending her world view to fit her religion. A very odd combination of leftist bile mixed into her LDS theology is why it’s confusing. Like when the author rants against the church because it’s fundamentally conservative in its theology, which offends her liberal world view: “I’m embarrassed and furious that my faith tradition has courted a strain of Mormonism that is so at odds with its own scriptures.” Which of course she then redefines the “scriptures” to match her own world view. Whatever. She does define iniquity well–but I suspect would not understand how the Democratic party– which embraces abortion, dependency, welfare-as-life-style, anti-Israel, pro-drug legalization, sexual ambiguity, lowering of ethical standards, etc–is seen by many within the church as the very embodiment of iniquity. Sure the church has a human element which inserts error. But the version of the LDS church that would need to exist to embrace the liberal Democratic party of today would not even be reconcilable with what Makes Mormonism, Mormonism. I think this author wants to be a Unitarian, but still bring her book of Mormon with her. Hard to reconcile those two.

    • Gina Colvin

      Golly Garth – such venom! There might be a wee adage that applies here…something about the pot calling the kettle black. I’ll stay thanks – it just so happens that in my ward in New Zealand we pretty much all think like this with only a few exceptions. Actually I would venture that many NZ Mormons feel less wedded to the conservative strain of Mormonism that you feel is sanctified by God. What do you propose – 50,000 members all leave the LDS church and become Unitarians? How about you become an evangelical?

      • Wayne Haymond

        Well, Gina—I believe Garth pretty well summed up your ignoble article well. While the Lord loves all His children through all times and ages. In order for that love to abide in each of us, we must be willing to love him back. He clearly teaches us: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He still expects those who desire salvation to do it His way. The gate is still narrow, the path straight which leads to life, and few there be that find it. The gate is not broad, the path not wide as you paint it. God’s definition of truth is “things as they were, as they are, and as they are to come. In other words, what was true yesterday will be true today and true tomorrow. God’s truth is unchanging. No amount of progressive meddling will alter that as regards God’s eternal plan of happiness. Your pitch in the article amounts to secular humanism. Nope, we still need God, and His Christ and His plan, not a poor substitute.

        • Gina Colvin

          Oh contrare! To make an appeal to scripture for ones moral roadmap is the very essence of religious observance. Clearly, that I see our canon differently to you is a matter of theological debate and exegesis, not an excuse to label others with political philosophies that you find repugnant.

      • pagansister

        Unitarian by marriage and proud of it. IF any LDS folks need a liberal place that encourages free thinking—come! We would be happy to have you. :o) My brother-in-law is a Mormon, married to my sister who, like me, was raised Methodist, but never left–I did. They have 2 children, one is a Mormon and the other is Methodist. Those decisions were made by the children. I think my brother-in-law is certainly a liberal thinking LDS member or he wouldn’t have married my sister 32 years ago, as he knew she wasn’t going to convert. I have a feeling he won’t be voting for Mitt, nor will my sister.

        • Gina Colvin

          I love it! Thanks for the invite and its often a temptation to unlatch. But how about this for a crazy idea? Lets have all the Unitarians come over to the Mormons – the church is always great with new converts and will be more tolerant of your progressiveness – so much so that combined with us less conservative sorts we’ll manage a hostile take over and nudge the entire US church back to a more moderate political position! We can become the Unimoms or the Mornitarians! :) back at ya!

          • pagansister

            Good Idea—I like “Unimoms or Mornitarians”—-picking a name could be really hard! IMO my brother-in-law is a good example of an LDS member! Their marriage is a strong one even with the different faith choices.

    • Eric

      What part of these scriptures do you not get?

      Mosiah 4
      21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

      22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

      23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

      24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

      25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

      26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

      Alma 4
      11 And it came to pass in the commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the aexample of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people.

      12 Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the aneedy and the naked and those who were bhungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.

      13 Now this was a great cause for lamentations among the people, while others were abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy;

      Alma 34

      27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

      28 And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.

      29 Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.

      • JohnH

        I can not speak to what his particular situation but there is the problem that modern day prophets have repeatedly spoken out against nearly all forms of government assistance and said that forcefully using other peoples money as charity is not charity and helps neither those that are required to give it nor those that receive it. This was even referenced in a recent conference talk when Heber J. Grants warning and condemnation of the Townsend Plan (Social Security) during general conference was mentioned.

        • Gina Colvin

          That’s right! there was an era of outspoken tabernacle politics that decried social programmes and effectively turned Utah from a blue state to a red. Now of course there is an official back-tracking by the institutional church and an effort to promote their non-partisanship. Clearly religions/political partisanship hasn’t/isn’t working. I wonder why? (said with mock seriousness)

      • Fred Rauback

        Eric, you missed one: You failed to mention Mosiah 18:27-28: “And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given. And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires toward God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul”

    • jerry lynch

      @Garth. Do you really believe that ” the Democratic party– which embraces abortion, dependency, welfare-as-life-style, anti-Israel, pro-drug legalization, sexual ambiguity, lowering of ethical standards, etc” is true of all Democrats? Do you really see helping those people who have lost jobs, homes and their wealth due to a failing economy or are elderly or have debilitating illnesses or other severe health problems as “welfare-as-lifestyle” candidates? Show where the Democratic Party is anti-Israel (other than the lies and distortions of Fox and friends). The Prime minister himself said Obama was a best friend to Israel.

      “But the version of the LDS church that would need to exist to embrace the liberal Democratic party of today would not even be reconcilable with what Makes Mormonism, Mormonism.” Which was a point primary to her piece: that neither party represents Mormonism and the Mormonism just be itself, neither left nor right, liberal or conservative. Nowhere did she advocate for the Democratic Party or liberalism as a better view for Mormons. Thus your other venomous claim that she is re-constructing Mormonism to fit her worldview falls flat.
      Your apparent hatred of Democrats and liberals seems to conform to her definition of dissension and iniquity, which you admired. Can you really back your outright derision with scripture? “Leftist bile”? And what, “Rightest manna”? It is just that very claim by you that Mormonism is”fundamentally conservative in its theology” that is so dangerous both to your faith and the nation.

      I am not a Mormon but it seems rebuke is also part of your relgion. Her rebuke is to stop politicizing the faith and that Romney has clearly shown (if one allows an honest look) a decided lack of character purely in the name of politics.

      • jerry lynch

        @Garth. This came to me in the shower. You seem to be making the point that being Conservative is being godly (as well as the reverse, being Liberal is being satanly). Her point is that being Conservative is not being godly. Being godly is living by the scriptures, not a political affilaiation, even one so broad as Conservative.

      • Gina Colvin

        Thank you Jerry.

    • Hamish the Yeti

      “The doctrines of men mingled with scripture.” She thought she was in the majority of US members, lol.

  • Mike Cammock

    Hey Gina,

    We have a Continuing Education Class once a month and we normally do lectures on faith and that kind of stuff. For the next few weeks we are reviewing issues surrounding the M0rmon Moment in the US. After reading the Pew Study my first question was how this would stack against non-US Mormons. I would suggest that as a church (with the majority of LDS members now outside the US) that we are probably more moderate than conservative. I don’t know what happened in the US to push LDS members into the ultra conservative box but I find it disappointing that this has occurred.

    • S Mark Barnes

      Growing up in the 1960s there was a time when Utah had more democrats in Congress than Republicans. Then Ezra Taft Benson became President of the Quorem of the Twelve and launched his attack on what Americans call liberalism. This was the real turning point. People like my mother and grandmother were attacked for their support of women’s rights and the ERA. As with the early church and its marriage to Constantine, we should have learned that bad things happen when church mixes with politics.

    • Gina Colvin

      That sounds about right S Mark Barnes. And then there was McConkie and the John Birch Society. A post-fordist reaction to the cold war got all mixed up with religion and suddenly we find senior church leadership looking for reds under the bed, issuing hyperbolic political and philosophical edicts and suddenly a generation is all over it.

  • Daniel Zappala

    Gina, I’ve heard you several times on Mormon Matters … always appreciate your insight.

    From my perspective here in the States, I don’t think this campaign is defining Mormonism as any of these things (free market, pro-war, wealth accumulation, etc.). Rather, it is defining the Republican Party as these things. I may be naive, but it seems to me that America has been curious about Romney’s Mormonism, has struggled at times to learn about it, but has mostly come to peace with it and doesn’t see it as defining Romney nor him defining Mormonism.

    I have a friend who is a staunch conservative who ranted and railed during the Primary season that Democrats and Obama were going to go hard after Romney’s Mormonism and paint him as a weirdo. I think he had developed a bit of a Mormon persecution complex. I argued that the campaign would be much more concerned with painting Romney as a wealthy elitist who cares only for accumulating riches for him and the upper 10%. He confessed recently that I was right. This campaign hasn’t been much about Romney’s Mormonism at all, but about who really cares about the middle class and who we trust to move the country forward.

    So I would say, “be of good cheer.” I sit right in the heart of Utah, a transplanted Californian, and a convert who is somewhat dismayed at all the conservatives surrounding me. Many of them are Mormons rooting for Romney simply because he is Mormon and because it is unthinkable to consider a Democrat. Yet I don’t think Romney has come to define what the church is about. We have the hugely effective “I’m a Mormon” campaign that is doing a lot to counteract any image he might give us. We also have folks like Joanna Brooks giving a very public and very different face to what it means to be a member of the church. The church itself is being very neutral and focusing on its ministry.

    Hang in there. I’m on your side — let’s give the church a public image that we are first and foremost about loving our neighbors, as Christ taught.

    • Gina Colvin

      I suppose its a small mercy that he hasn’t fronted Mormonism very much at all through out the campaign! My feeling is that the institutional church is being very cautious – as they should and have allowed themselves the room to distance themselves from any partisanship. Its the ultra conservative ‘common’ church discourse that I find most problematic. Garth’s comment (above) is a very good example of what I mean. I find this infuriating, not just because I’m more left of centre but because there is an assumption that I’m not welcome as a Mormon if I am. But you are right – loving our neighbour really is where the rubber the hits the road! I’ll try to love Mitt – but perhaps not today eh?

  • Annetta Bunce

    Gina,
    This is the first time I have found your blog. You are such an eloquent writer with truth and straight-forwardness. (That probably isn’t a word, but I stand by it.) Thank you for putting forth such strong truths, so many in Utah can’t see it. I’ve been saying we are on the top, teetering for a fall in the BoM pride cycle and Mitt is the poster boy.
    I think you are my new favorite blog!

    • Gina Colvin

      You are very kind Annetta! I’ll agree that I’m straightforward but to be honest I don’t know if what I say is necessarily true! But thanks so much for the vote of confidence!

  • http://mormonliberals.org Mormon liberal

    Thank you for this passionate defense of the idea that Mormonism does not automatically equate with American conservatism. For any of us who have felt frustrated by tacit assumptions in Church membership — “of course we’ll all vote for Romney”; “of course progressive taxation removes agency (just like Satan’s plan!)”; “of course everyone must support conservative policies if they want to be a good Mormon” — it’s great to know we’re not alone.

    I blogged just the other day about what seems to be Mr. Romney’s idea: “Blessed are the 53%.” This idea that somehow the poor brought it upon themselves doesn’t seem to jive with our shared religion. I just hope we Mormon liberals are vocal enough to help others across the country see that Mormonism does not condone this stance doctrinally, ethically, or morally.

    Here’s the link, just for reference: http://mormonliberals.org/blessed-are-the-53/

    • Gina Colvin

      I read this blog – great work! This moment really does signal the necessity for us to be clear about our theology. It also suggests that there is a stark difference between international Mormonism and American Mormonism. I feel pretty confident that the conservative Mormon strain that runs through the BOM belt bares little resemblance to the the Mormonism of the majority at the periphery of the church – we just need to find ways of bringing a collective voice together to challenge this myopic view of our faith!

  • http://learnandteachstatistics.wordpress.com/ Nicola Ward Petty

    Thanks, Gina.
    I have been feeling more and more embarrassed that Romney has been identified as Mormon, and am deeply unhappy about the “every man for himself” philosophy he is shown to espouse. To me it is antithetical to a Christian caring for others. In my own family, with a son with special needs, I am so grateful to live in a caring society where he will be looked after for all his life. By Mitt’s definition he doesn’t pay taxes, but he sure as heck matters and contributes.

    I suspect that LDS in just about every country other than the US are further to the left than the majority of Utah mormons. Actually that must be true as there isn’t much room to the right, it seems from here. To LDS Democrats, hang in there! You have plenty of support on “the isles of the sea.” To be fair, I was pretty happy this week with the videos coming out, as it seems less likely now that Mitt has any hope of being elected.

    • Gina Colvin

      Snap Nicola!!! Love it.

  • Mike Cammock

    Garth,

    Your perspective is well-noted. A couple of quick points for you. The Church should not have to do anything to embrace either the left of the right perspectives on politics… It should simply be the Church and stand for the views of the church, independent of political movements. Gina’s observations simply state, that from the perspective of a non-US mormon this has not happened. Many share her thoughts. As a final note on this, our church must contort and distort our faith to fit within either a left or a right wing ideology, such distortions have taken place in the USA inorder to align certain religious dispositions with political ones.

    As for the religious-political hegemony of the USA. Up until the early 1970′s there was zero correlation between ones religious position and their political one. (This is based on over 100 years of Pew and Gallup polling, I have linked in an earlier response.) By this I mean you would be unable to know a persons religious disposition from political affiliation and vice-versa. Now in the USA the results of one question, “Do you say grace/prayer daily over dinner?” will indicate with over 85% accuracy ones political inclination. There may be many who may look at this and be proud of this… however, this information has corresponded with a fundamental erosion of the essential idea of government and religious separation, which should be a major concern to people who advocate for any form of freedom and are concerned with the reduction of government impact in our private lives.

    • Trent

      Excellent comment, please pass on this information to as many people as possible.

  • Linda Furness

    I think I would have loved Romney as bishop or stake president, he is just in over his head in this quest. He seems to want to be President without really knowing why, except just that he wants to be President. While I think charisma is not all a US President needs, possession of SOME personality is important. All of his speeches sound like Stake Conference talks, which I realize some think is a good thing. His overseas gaffes seem to be along the lines of comments Gina has made about visiting US church authorities’ tendency to condescend.

    • Gina Colvin

      Crack up! Huntsman would have be light years better on all fronts – especially foreign relations.

  • Benjamin

    Gina, thank you for writing such a wonderful post about the central themes of the Book of Mormon. I have been a Latter-day Saint now for over 30 years. I was baptized in 1976. Quite a few years ago when I was in my latter teens I read a lot of LDS books along with the 4 standard works including the Book of Mormon. As a side note, I love the Book of Mormon and am so happy that you testified here as to the power of that book and the message or “morality tale” which is central to the Book of Mormons message.

    The main LDS author I gravitated toward when I was a teenager and who’s works I continue to read to this day is Dr. Hugh W. Nibley. He definitely got it. One of my favorite books of his which is a compilation of several of his works is entitled “Approaching Zion” and this book is a powerful rebuke to the Mormon American culture and what is emphasized today. Even Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke about this during an interview several years ago. From my studies of Latter-day Saint history over the years combined with my reading of the scriptures and the aforementioned book Approaching Zion, I have come to the realization that it is great wealth that most often creates this terrible self-righteous Pharisaical arrogance that I see among too many American Mormons, especially in the intermountain west. I sometimes have felt that if the Church were driven into poverty like it was during the late 19th century throughout the early 20th century that perhaps the Lord could work with the Saints and get them to hear His voice in a much clearer way and He could get them to be much more of a Zion people through that experience. Poverty typically humbles people and after watching this election cycle and viewing the way so many (not all) members of our Church have viewed Mitt Romney as some sort of savior to save America and the Constitution I am seriously disheartened at the “zeal without knowledge” that so many LDS people place on the Romney campaign. There is even one LDS artist who has painted terribly offensive and disrespectful paintings of our President Barack Obama painting him as a man who would burn the constitution. It is men like Glenn Beck (a man with borderline schizophrenia) and others that many Mormons in America often listen to and zealously believe.

    Here is an excerpt from Nibley that we see so plainly manifest in much of the Mormon American culture today. “Why are we so often decoyed? Nibley replies, “We know what Zion is, we know what Babylon is, we know that the two can never mix, and we know that Latter-day Saints, against the admonition of their leaders, have always tried to mix them. How is that done? By the use of rhetoric–”The art of making true things seem false and false things seem true by the use of words.” The trick is to appear rich as the result of being good–to cultivate the virtue of respectability. The “worst sinners, according to Jesus, are|.|.|.|the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism.”
    Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.9, Foreword, p.xv-xvi

    The bottom line is that too many Mormons in America have been spiritually blinded by their riches and they become incensed when you call them out on it and try to explain the Gospel message through the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 4:9) using passages about inequality and how the poor must be taken care of and lifted up. Also how offensive that inequality is to the God of Zion who is our Heavenly Father.

    I believe the Book of Mormon’s message is a message of warning and also a condemnation of the Church as an institution. That’s one of the main reasons it was recorded and translated. The prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. understood this as plainly as the sun shines. There is even one section in the Doctrine & Covenants where the Lord even speaks about this condemnation in D&C 84:57. That’s one of the main reasons Joseph strove so mightily to establish Zion and was faced with such terrible opposition. Greed and the love of power and riches has plagued the Latter-day Saint from time to time as it has the world at large. The Temple explains this principle very clearly but many Latter-day Saints don’t get it. They don’t think about it. They think that if they just pay their 10% that all will be well. The Endowment is merely a play, a rehearsal for the real thing. It’s not the real thing in and of itself. The Temple testifies about how important God’s creations (all spiritual beings) are from insects to plant life to animal life and finally to the sons and daughters of God. The earth, she is our stewardship. Mitt Romney is about as far away from that message as I can see. He does not emphasize it. I know a person who was in his Stake in Massachusetts and needless to say my friend explained to me that you should never just trust a man simply because he holds the priesthood or priesthood calling in the Church. Trust must always be earned.

    I have come to understand that we should never place the same kind of trust in our leaders as we do in our Savior. Never trust them simply because of the nature of their calling but that trust must be earned as that leader aligns himself or herself with the Spirit of Christ. We can Identify that Spirit through the works of that leader. The pride cycle that is presented as a major theme in the Book of Mormon is manifest in the Church. Nobody escapes it without repentance and turning to Christ (authentically) and truly loving our fellow beings.

    In final it is interesting how the Republicans rant and rave that God should be written all over the Government buildings, money, etc. but that one of God’s greatest principles should not be practiced by our Government, the principle of charity, of helping individuals to have an opportunity (just like Mitt’s parents were enabled to get a head start through government assistance) to start a life on a stable footing. Also the principle of caring for those who cannot completely care for themselves, children, the elderly and the disabled. I see a lot of selfishness and greed in the GOP today. So outwardly the GOP wants God to be written into the government buildings but when it comes to that same government reflecting the way of the Savior (charity, hope and love) that is a different story to them. I am reminded of the following scripture:

    In Matthew 23: 27-28 we read: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
    Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

    • Gina Colvin

      Amen, and amen.

  • Alece

    Looks to me like there’s a lot of judging going on here. I guess all of you have forgotten what the scriptures say about that, too!

    • Gina Colvin

      Yes, but this is righteous judgement – and that’s permitted in the scriptures. Jesus used it when he condemned the sanhedrin. Look it up.

      • Alece

        It’s only righteous judgment in YOUR eyes! Better take that beam out before you continue.

        • Gina Colvin

          Are you judging me Alece?

          • Alece

            Frankly, yes, because I’ve found much that is full of pride in what you have written in your blog, and especially in your replies to those who have “dared” to cross you. I meant what I said about that beam in your eye. It is not at all attractive.

          • Gina Colvin

            Well, I’m pleased we have that clear now – as I mentioned to Garth, there is a wee saying about the pot and the kettle that you might like to think about here. My blog is an invitation for some robust and thoughtful argument. My comment section isn’t just a place for people to have a rant -to throw around their polemics and expect me to capitulate and cower. If anyone wants to make a comment (on my blog) then I’m entitled to challenge them because -as I say – its my blog. I approve all comments (unless they are vile and offensive) even if I don’t agree with them because I think healthy debate is essential for a strong public sphere. You seem to be under the impression that your distaste for my politics gives you permission to make all kinds accusations as to my judgements, pride, unattractiveness, and clearly my willingness to challenge. I’ve allowed you to do this without deleting your comments but I have a right of reply. Alece, I’d like to challenge you to ‘up your game a little and produce an articulate and thoughtful counter to my central argument that a thorough exposition of the Book of Mormon indicates that the post-modern incarnation of US Mormonism’s attachment to ultra-conservative politics is problematic. And can you do this without casting dispersions upon my character, or an emotional appeal as to my spiritual flaws?

  • Brig

    An overarching theme in most of the comments here is that conservatives are greedy, don’t care about the poor, are judgemental, and worldly. I would agree that conservativism is the absolute worst political philosophy in the world. . . except for all the others.
    I’ve read Approaching Zion, and it impacted me dramatically. It challenged the paradigm extant in the world today, not just in Mormonism, but in the entire world. We, as the human race, are worldly. But we’re trying to overcome that. As Latter-Day-Saints, we battle the same temptations that non-members do. For some, the promise of “inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land” has come at least in part, in the form of material wealth. Many of the ancient prophets were wealthy. But the key was that they didn’t make that their focus.
    Most of the thoughtful Democrats I know believe people need help and the government should provide that help. I too believe people need help sometimes. But I don’t believe it’s the government’s place to do that. Why? Because government, by definition, is the power of force. When it uses that force to TAKE from one person in order to give to someone else (taxes to fund social programs), it is not charity. That becomes “the end justifies the means”. I have yet to find where the scriptures define charity as taking from one to give to another. Frederic Bastiat’s The Law is an excellent reading on this.
    There are lots of good, hardworking people who happen to be poor. Just as there are many good, hardworking people who are wealthy. Being poor is no more a virtue than being wealthy. It is all about the heart. When the wealthy persecute the poor, or the poor want to take from the wealthy, both these actions are condemned in scripture. The latter rebuke is usually ignored in discussions such as these. Isn’t the admonition to “freely give” instead of “get the government to provide everything for you by taking it from others”? I’m for personal charity, not forced government charity. Government is the worst method of helping the poor, for a myriad of reasons. Government programs exist, in large measure, to get more people on them, not to help people get off the assistance. “There is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program”.
    Another warning in the scriptures is to the highly educated. There is a tendency among the cognoscenti to be lifted up in pride as well. We see it today in the name calling. Saying that conservatives are stupid, unenlightened, clinging to God and guns, and that they just don’t get it. And this from those who call for the punishment of those who offend them.
    On final comment. The other night, I saw on the Daily Show where people were interviewing attendees at the Democratic National Convention. Each person interviewed declared their tolerance of everyone…except anyone who thought differently than they did. They were completely oblivious to how intolerant and prejudiced they were. I’m not saying all Democrats are that way. But the comment of “yes, but this is righteous judgement” seems to go right along with that setiment. I think we all need to be very careful when we seek to justify ourselves as being “righteously judgmental”. That goes for both sides of the aisle.

    • Susan

      Brig: I love your post. I think it sums up everything I wanted to say, but more articulately and more kindly.

      I actually came to the Patheos site to remove myself from the email list, but was sidetracked by the original post (“Should Romney Repent?”). After reading it, I was torn: the author makes some very valid points (I especially liked the bit about dissension and intrigue), with a lovely tribute to the Book of Mormon–and all 3913 of its editions (?). However, there was an underlying nastiness that really rubbed me the wrong way.

      I have long identified as a Republican, though I am increasingly discontent with the process altogether. Am I “that cherished brand of Republican who refused to tip off the edge with the Tea Party”? Perhaps I am, if you categorize anyone who supports a bare-bones federal government with correspondingly lower taxes as belonging to the Tea Party. In fact, I’ve even attended a meeting or two (or three or four) put on by my local Tea Party. However, there was not an obviously crazy person in sight…mostly senior citizens concerned about how the mounting US debt would impact their grandchildren. Does that make them “off the edge”? My goodness, then, call the men with the white jackets, for I might best be described as an “anarcho-capitalist”…completely off my rocker! But wait, why are my personal economic ideals of such import? Are you suggesting that it’s your political/economic views that are unarguably aligned with scripture?

      By the tone of your post and the responding comments, it is obvious that there is a political divide within the Church; can we be surprised? Rarely has the masses enjoyed righteous government, and has only done so when the masses DESERVED righteous governing; corrupt politics do certainly rule this day, and I am not in the least bit surprised. Any which way, I do not like the right/left paradigm, and for many reasons, not least of which because of the division it causes (THIS side vs. THAT side). The adversary seeks to keep people divided; it’s not a new trick. But why help Ol’ Scratch along by contributing to the problem? We Saints, out of everyone, should be united; after all, don’t we share the bond of eternity? Don’t we enjoy the common perspective that the nonsense that happens here, during our mortality, is just that: nonsense? Aren’t we taught that it’s what we share that’s important, not what makes us different? After all, it’s the bigger picture that matters.

      Finally, to answer your question, “Should Romney Repent?” I say that that’s best left between Romney and Heavenly Father; it’s not our question to ask. Good grief, woman, you must know better than THAT!

      • Gina Colvin

        Not so Susan! A call to repentance is a call for change, and humans ask for change from each other constantly. My argument is that a thorough exposition of the Book of Mormon would suggest that Romney’s political philosophy (at least the one he shares in exclusive dinners) clearly isn’t backed up by his own canon. To ask someone to reconsider their position is an enormously Christian gesture and Romney isn’t above being asked to reconsider. Good grief woman – he’s running for public office – his philosophical business is everyone’s business not just Gods.

  • Stephen

    For this non-Mormon, de-churched Christian living in the US, this is just another discussion about what has become an ultra-conservative radical theocratic cult. The Gospels and tenets have been appropriated and used not for the furtherance of the kingdoms of heaven, but for the furtherance of a worldly kingdom.
    For me, there are 2 pictures from the texts. the first is Belshazaar’s Feast where he handled the utensils of the Jews. handled in this sense is more than grabbing hold, it is the appropriation of something sacred (set apart for God) that is subsequently used for profane ends. But we know that it’s not just the golden goblets that can be so appropriated, it can also be the words and the directives that drive our faiths. In this, the 20th century ultra-conservative evangelical cults have committed an act of handling the sacred words and texts.
    The second picture is from the Gospel of John (New Testament). “If anyone says they love God and hates their neighbor, they are a liar and the truth is not in them.” This in the context of the rich, young, ruler asking, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus answering, “The least of these your brothers.” is very telling in terms of how we are to comport ourselves as followers of God.
    Where, in all of this, is the connection to politics, power, and governance? Who among us is hard at work acting to discern who is my neighbor and what is my obligation to him/er?

  • Phil Fox Rose

    This is wonderful, Gina. You do talk about ways in which you disagree with some Republican positions adopted by many Mormons, and many of the comments follow up on that, but you clearly say, “All of these tensions are the unavoidable consequences of the struggles and contests that a faith tradition in the religious market place invites.”

    The point you are making so well, and it is such an important one, is that while we can debate about how God’s love should or should not be manifested in public policy, what is not acceptable is using “dissensions and intrigue” to further our goals. I’d add fomenting division and anger and fear of the other to that list. In recent years, these things have constituted a large part of the Republican strategy. Stirring up fear of immigrants and gays; dividing into makers and takers; using hate radio to disseminate daily points to argue about. The Democrats are guilty too, for sure, but the Republicans have turned it into an art form.

    I wrote a post a few weeks ago here in Patheos that you might find interesting, “Millennials want hope not complaining in politics and faith” — I go into how the Republicans have embraced this negative posture but also express my sincere and strong expectation that while most boomers and many Gen Xers are locked in this mindset, the problem will fade away as the millenials take control of our institutions.

    • Gina Colvin

      Love the article Phil. Its given me food for thought. Very nice. Clearly I’m just an observer of US politics and I’m optimistic about this anticipated ‘third way’. But I think the US’s political duopoly makes this very problematic. I wonder if Millennial’s are too politically nuanced to be attracted to the Democrat/Republican binary. The other question is ‘what happen if elected governments don’t deliver the sweeping social change that the Millennials are seeking? Obama’s 2008 campaign clearly had this message in mind and the ‘yes we can’ campaign clearly pitched to that optimism, but I’m struggling to see how they have made a great deal of difference and I wonder what the effect has been on this generation?

  • Dora

    I’m much more simple than you are, I’ve just been concerned that MR would end up making the LDS Church look bad. On the good side his 2011 released taxes show that he gave 30% to charity. I suspect that some people like the Democratic party (USA) because they are all for giving a handout. But I don’t agree with being forced at gunpoint to give to “charity”. Of course the needy should be helped, but it makes a lot more sense to do it privately so the government doesn’t get the chance to screw it up. I’m totally with you that politics and religion don’t mix, and shouldn’t be mixed even if we share the religion of the candidate.

    • Gina Colvin

      I’d agree with you -if you could legislate for private giving, but that is clearly a contradiction. One of the biggest problems facing advanced post-industrial governments is the issue of social inequality. The bigger the gap between the wealthy and the poor the more complex and costly those problems will be. It is not usually the case that those in higher income brackets are that generous. Even the LDS church with its impressive tithing revenue dedicates less than 10% of their giving for social relief. Most of it goes into property and operational costs. The US tax system is generous enough to incentivize charitable giving but still the gap exists. The fact is that the higher earners have not given enough to mitigate for this divide. The dilemma is to either allow this situation to continue and invite massive, costly, and dangerous social discontent and conflict or allow the government to take steps to deal with it in federal programmes?

    • pagansister

      My guess, dora, is that 30% was probably to the LDS church! And that is a total guess—but he could probably buy and sell several of the LDS temples with the money he has.

  • Stuart Spencer

    Should Gina Colvin repent? Definitely.

    First, for her gauche overuse of exclamation points. But I get it! She’s excited!

    Second, for the common crime of vehement indignation without complete knowledge or even a credible effort at knowing. It’s hard to even know where to begin with your litany of misrepresentations and mischaracterizations but we can begin with your claim that Romney “used every trick in the book” to avoid paying taxes – yesterday’s tax release showed that he has consistently left significant deductions on the table and donated far more to charity than any presidential candidate the US has ever seen – including the equally wealthy John Kerry. Your factually catastrophic POV also neglects to mention that the man refused a salary during a decade of hard work – six of those years in public service. But never mind all that right? You’ve got exclamatory reductios go on exclaiming about!!. !!

    Finally – and this is something of a shibboleth for political literacy in the 21st century – you clearly don’t know what neo-conservativism actually is. So I’m feeling pretty comfortable giving you a half roll of the eyes, wishing you the best out in your Antipodean backwater, and heading out to the Strand here in NYC.

    Cheers.

    • Gina Colvin

      Firstly, I agree with you on one point Stuart Spencer. Yes, I should repent – about all kinds of things. Perhaps one day I’ll even repent about this blog – but right now I’m just not feeling it.

      Secondly, perhaps you could share a link to the punctuation style guide that suggests that one exclamation point in the title and two in the body of a 1200 word blog post is a ‘guache overuse’.

      You don’t have to agree with my position, but please, could you not have offered a retort which was civil rather than condescending?

      Perhaps your response might have been as follows (just for future reference):

      1. Here is the evidence to suggest that Romney hasn’t used an array of financial instruments to avoid paying taxes.
      2. Here is the evidence to suggest that Romney’s charitable donations have provided for domestic relief programmes that mitigate for the spiraling gap between the wealthy and the poor.
      3. Or, here is the reason why I take issue with your use of the term ‘neo-conservative’ – historically it was a position which was occupied by liberals and was directed at questions of democracy and foreign policy, (at which point I would have argued that neo-conservatism is been through many different incarnations, the latest of which is the tendency to focus on issues of private rather than public morality).

      By all means, you venture out into the streets of NYC – and in a similar vein to your unfortunately executed response to my post – ‘don’t let the door hit you in the arse’.

      Oops – I’ll repent about that bit of naughtiness – but perhaps tomorrow…

  • jerry lynch

    @Garth. Do you really believe that ” the Democratic party– which embraces abortion, dependency, welfare-as-life-style, anti-Israel, pro-drug legalization, sexual ambiguity, lowering of ethical standards, etc” is true of all Democrats? Do you really see helping those people who have lost jobs, homes and their wealth due to a failing economy or are elderly or have debilitating illnesses or other severe health problems as “welfare-as-lifestyle” candidates? Show where the Democratic Party is anti-Israel (other than the lies and distortions of Fox and friends). The Prime minister himself said Obama was a best friend to Israel.

    “But the version of the LDS church that would need to exist to embrace the liberal Democratic party of today would not even be reconcilable with what Makes Mormonism, Mormonism.” Which was a point primary to her piece: that neither party represents Mormonism and the Mormonism just be itself, neither left nor right, liberal or conservative. Nowhere did she advocate for the Democratic Party or liberalism as a better view for Mormons. Thus your other venomous claim that she is re-constructing Mormonism to fit her worldview falls flat.
    Your apparent hatred of Democrats and liberals seems to conform to her definition of dissension and iniquity, which you admired. Can you really back your outright derision with scripture? “Leftist bile”? And what, “Rightest manna”? It is just that very claim by you that Mormonism is”fundamentally conservative in its theology” that is so dangerous both to your faith and the nation.

    I am not a Mormon but it seems rebuke is also part of your relgion. Her rebuke is to stop politicizing the faith and that Romney has clearly shown (if one allows an honest look) a decided lack of character purely in the name of politics.

    This came to me in the shower. You seem to be making the point that being Conservative is being godly (as well as the reverse, being Liberal is being satanly). Her point is that being Conservative (or Liberal) is not being godly. Being godly is living by the scriptures, not a political affilaiation, even one so broad as Conservative.

  • John

    It made me sad to read some of these comments. I have heard the conservative Mormon argument that welfare states erase personal charity, that it makes me feel nauseous. I would like a conservative to point out a state where social programs are practically non-existent, where people’s lives are better. My experience is mostly in Latin America where conservative oligarchs have controlled the machinery of government for half a millennia. The wealthy in these governments do not spend their time, money or energy on the poor; and if they do give charitably, it is as a huge tax right off and a chance for free publicity. I honestly don’t think wealthy donations to soup kitchens will provide enough of a safety net for a significant enough percentage of the poor among us, to make such arguments valid. The fact is, when the church councils people who are in poverty, leaders are instructed to advise people to use the programs that are available. Safety nets need to exist because there are people who can’t help themselves, and I believe government is the only institution that can do it for the many people who need it. I don’t want to belabor this point, but just to say that charitable giving is not just done with money, but is rather a reflection of our stance to the poor among us. I would argue that both liberals and conservatives are capable of charity equally, just as they are capable of selfishness in equal measure. We elites with our high-speed internet access spend our time arguing these points. Yet we know that not miles away from us there are “poor” people who could use our assistance in some way. These “poor” people live in wealthy suburbs and poor slums. Get offline and go help someone. You will feel better.

    • John

      excuse the grammar and spelling errors. I’m tired.

    • JohnH

      “when the church councils people who are in poverty, leaders are instructed to advise people to use the programs that are available”

      Do you have some evidence of this? “Providing in the Lord’s Way” which is the current welfare manual for bishops has “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life.” and further instructs leaders to help members not become dependent on government assistance if they do go against the council of the church and get on it and has quotes from Kimball and Grant warning of the danger of the dole.

      • Gina Colvin

        JohnH, but what if the person is NOT physically or emotionally able and they are literally unable to take care of themselves and their family’s well-being?

        In the same document that you cite, members are asked specifically to care for others, Stake Presidents are charged with ensuring that bishops understand welfare principles, and Bishops are required to seek out and care for the poor and the needy. While Bishops quite rightly need to advise people not become welfare dependent these safety nets can and must be available particularly for those who are not able. Page 8 of ‘Providing the Lord’s Way’ makes the option to seek government assistance for basic needs a clear and reasonable option.

        • JohnH

          That would be page 8 of the summary version, not the full version (whose page 8 is on fast offerings), my citation came from the full version but I see that you are correct. The equivalent statements are found on page 15 of the full version.

          Church assistance is still to come first with usage of DI and bishop storehouses the preferable method of caring for those that can not care for themselves, where those are available. Medical coverage does appear to be something that the church can’t handle.

          Whether the safety nets must be available seems an unrelated question as to whether it may be okay to use them. As I said above given that an Apostle mentioned the warning related to the Townsend plan I think it is fairly safe to say that the church still does not approve of the existence of social security, which is the safety net for the elderly and those with disabilities in the US.

          • John

            Since we live in a church that relies on modern revelation, I doubt the church stands by statements made in the past. It’s easy to understand why. Look at the issue of Civil Rights for example. The fact of the matter is, the church leaves many of these decisions up to local leadership. As to social security, I imagine if the church were pressed today to say anything official, the PR department would probably go with the tried and true “no comment”.

      • John

        My evidence is serving in my branch presidency. We lived in an inner city branch and many of our members lived off welfare either temporarily or on a permanent basis. Members who temporarily did so were usually young families in grad school. The permanent recipients were people who’s life experiences, disabilities, or other circumstances made them incapable or working. The church’s programs are usually for periods of emergency but is not catered to the people who need this help permanently. Thus, we counseled people to use food stamps, section 8 housing, and other programs to help them make it.

  • http://scienceteachermommy.blogspot.com Science Teacher Mommy

    Spot on, Kiwi Mormon. My own liberal (and liberating) journey began when I was a Mormon missionary in Sydney with a Kiwi convert for a companion. I had considered my self pretty open-minded for a Utah girl, but it wasn’t until my days Down Under that I learned just how much church doctrine had been undermined by church culture. A couple of years ago, during the American brouhaha over health care, a kindly LDS neighbor here in Oregon was talking about self-reliance and health care and the end of freedom. You know the line. (Ironically enough he was Irish.) But he was also a good friend. I said, “You mean to say, Brian, that if a person is living in a country with government health care then they can’t truly be self-reliant? That they can’t somehow enjoy all the blessings of the gospel?” The comment took him aback and I think it made him, at least for the moment, see his rant for what it was. I am proud to be an American; I think people should take what is best from whatever heritage they have and incorporate it into their lives. I think America’s divine purpose was real–to create conditions under which the gospel could be established. But I can’t really believe that it somehow has an ongoing divine purpose. That painting our current election into some apocalyptic struggle between good and evil is righteous or helpful or necessary. The Lord will bless righteous people with the Holy Ghost–in ANY land, as he has always done. My current reading of the Book of Mormon has led me to the conclusion that wicked influence never destroyed the Church from without . . . . it has always been dissension, enmity and envy within the Church that is the real trouble.

  • JohnH

    “counter to my central argument that a thorough exposition of the Book of Mormon indicates that the post-modern incarnation of US Mormonism’s attachment to ultra-conservative politics is problematic.”

    In Ether 8:23-26 We are commanded to seek the destruction of secret combinations. I am highly aware that most secret combinations are of an internal nature rather than external but both do exist and we are commanded to seek the destruction of both. Al Qaeda and drug cartels are both fairly obviously secret combinations per the description of such in the Book of Mormon, therefore the neo-conservative foreign policy positions would appear to be in line with the recommended foreign policy positions per the Book of Mormon. Obviously, there are many that hold a sinful element of pride and boasting in our own strength, which has and continues to be paid for in blood and money, but that element of pride is not a necessary part of the foreign policy position.

    In Ether 9:11 we read of the time tested “Panem et circenses” being used by a political party to buy the votes of the people in order to gain and maintain power. This, of course, is usually funded by the increased taxation of the populace. Now one of the sins of King Noah in Mosiah 11 is that he increased the tax rate to be one fifth or 20% of what the people were earning, which I note is lower then the average US tax rate and about the same as what is paid in New Zealand (on average). This showing that the Book of Mormon both condemns high taxes and government dependency and those that advocate for either.

    Yes, the rich are to care for the poor and the needy and give of our substance to them but as Mosiah 18:27-28 points out this should be done of their own free will and desires toward God and in Mosiah 4 the one admonishing the people to take care of the poor was the king, had he wanted to then he had the power to impose equality on his people but instead explains himself in Mosiah 2 by again explaining the evils of taxation and how instead he has labored with his own hands for his support instead of taxing the people.

    Then there is the whole question of religious freedom and morality which we are commanded to fight for as well in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps you are unaware of HHS mandate fight that is happening between the Catholics and those that support religious freedom and the Obama administration. If we look at the September Ensign there is a nice talk by Elder Cook, which echoes similar talks by other Apostles such as Elder Oaks, where he discusses the subject in detail and says in no uncertain terms that “We must work together to protect religious freedoms and restore morality”. http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/09/restoring-morality-and-religious-freedom?lang=eng

    If I extend the question to include the D&C then the GOP’s support of the right to bear arms is also scriptural. Of course, the GOP’s position on immigration is completely contrary to the both the churches stated position and my reading of 2 Nephi. I also already mentioned the problem of pride with foreign policy; there is also the problem of “we earned it” or “we built it” mentality which is likewise a matter of pride and according to the Book of Mormon an extremely dangerous prideful position to hold, not that one necessarily must hold that position and vote GOP or hold office.

    I suppose I should bring up that I don’t actually support the party system in general, voting instead for third party candidates usually. I am currently registered under R due to being required to in order to vote for the candidate that I supported in the primaries (which was not Romney and never endorsed Romney). The main qualification for office per the Book of Mormon is that one be a just man and I have little faith in most politicians being just regardless of party. Given Romney’s tax return and service in the church I may end up voting for him over the third party candidates I have looked at so far.

    I, of course, write only for myself and my views are not meant to imply church policy or positions except where I am referencing church policy or positions.

  • http://intothehills.org Kullervo

    Powerfully said, Gina. Goring up a U.S. mormon, I often struggled with the sharp inconsistency between the politics of Mormons and the politics of the Book of Mormon.

    • http://intothehills.org Kullervo

      That should be “growing up.”

  • http://www.yorkshiretales.com/allaboutmormonism Ronnie Bray

    .
    Interesting Op-Ed. I really only have one comment and that is in reference to the statement:

    “But there is one constant in Mormonism that has never changed (aside from the 3,913 editions that have been made since 1830) – and that is The Book of Mormon.”

    It might benefit right-wing Mormons to know that Mormons living in socialist countries, such as Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, most of Europe, etc, that are not godless or communistic nor even collectivist, that they are just as busy as the USA in rooting out and shutting down secret criminal and terrorist organisations.

    Ronnie Bray
    The Book of Mormon has not been through 3,913 ‘editions’ since its first printing. What has happened to it is that more than 3000 punctuation changes have been made since its first, and some clarifications added where it was felt they were necessary to avoid confusion.

    There are good reasons why these changes were made, as any good proofreader will know.

    Incidentally, I am a latter-day Saint, English, and in favour of the British Labour Party, a socialist party, and find no conflict between my faith and socialism as understood by Bible readers and Christ followers.

    Now all Mormons are conservative, although they may be predominantly so in the USA. However, the USA does not dictate the politics of Mormons in the wider world, just as the LDS Church does not dictate what political party its members should support. That is a matter for individual conscience.

  • http://www.yorkshiretales.com/allaboutmormonism Ronnie Bray

    Amended post:

    Interesting Op-Ed. I really only have one comment and that is in reference to the statement:

    “But there is one constant in Mormonism that has never changed (aside from the 3,913 editions that have been made since 1830) – and that is The Book of Mormon.”

    The Book of Mormon has not been through 3,913 ‘editions’ since its first printing. What has happened to it is that more than 3000 punctuation changes have been made since its first, and some clarifications added where it was felt they were necessary to avoid confusion.

    There are good reasons why these changes were made, as any good proofreader will know.

    One further pint comes to mind: It might benefit right-wing Mormons to know that Mormons living in socialist countries, such as Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, most of Europe, etc, that are not godless or communistic nor even collectivist, that they are just as busy as the USA in rooting out and shutting down secret criminal and terrorist organisations.

    Incidentally, I am a latter-day Saint, English, and in favour of the British Labour Party, a socialist party, and find no conflict between my faith and socialism as understood by Bible readers and Christ followers.

    Now all Mormons are conservative, although they may be predominantly so in the USA. However, the USA does not dictate the politics of Mormons in the wider world, just as the LDS Church does not dictate what political party its members should support. That is a matter for individual conscience.

    • Gina Colvin

      Hurray! (I was being facetious about the 3913 editions) I agree entirely. The Book of Mormon is a reservoir of doctrine that is of global significance. The use it as a justification for one nation’s or one party’s politics is a claim of supreme arrogance. For instance,
      to suggest that the BOM is anti-gun control also suggests that every other nation in the world should adopt similar gun legislation and constitutional rights as the US. This would of course have to apply to Iraq, Iran and Palestine etc. Or if the GOP Mormons see the BOM as a justification for withholding government resources then they are suggesting that any nation who have high tax rates that support a full range of social services are wicked nations and need to become more like a US Republican run country notwithstanding the many, many benefits of the Nordic model. Those Americans who claim a scriptural basis for their party platform are making enormous universal claims against a myopic political context and are effectively decrying every other national political and economic arrangement in favour of their own. I think there are many countries who would rather have the teeth and nails pulled rather than model themselves politically and economically on the US.

      • JohnH

        If you were meaning to respond to me then you should note that I said the D&C is in favor of the right to bear arms in the United States and I don’t believe it has anything to say on the subject otherwise, except perhaps as I detail below.

        In reference to the Nordic model the correct response isn’t to bring up any potential benefits, as if the BOM actually is against state sponsored welfare then it doesn’t matter what the benefits are, but to point out that Nordic countries are representative governments in which the voice of the people is (presumably) in favor of the Nordic model and that it is not common for the voice of the people to choose evil and if they have chosen evil that is their right and they will receive the consequences for it (same with taxes).

        Finally, in terms of suggesting that every other nation of the world adopt similar constitutional rights as the US there are actually explicit scriptures on the subject such as D&C 98:5 and D&C 101:77; but the standard interpretation is that all nations will have constitutions, not necessarily that they will have the US constitution.

  • William Christopher Scott

    Gina: Thank you for this post. I am a new reader here, and I appreciate your comments re: The Book of Mormon as the proper “literature of identity” for the Mormon people (regardless of its historical authenticity). Your voice, along with the words of Jana Riess and Joanna Brooks, give me hope re: my choice to become a Latter-Day Saint. Blessings to you.

    • Gina Colvin

      And blessings back to you! Thank you – your comment means a great deal to me – today especially!

  • Phil

    Gina,
    I enjoyed reading your post. It was well-written and caused me to think. You identified Mormonism as your “faith tradition”, but did seem to call into question certain fundamental LDS teachings, such as:
    - That Joseph Smith (polygamy and all) was called of God as a Prophet
    - The Book of Mormon is both an authentic historical record and the word of God, as well as the most correct book (in terms of doctrine) on Earth.
    - The Church has always (at least in its highest levels and in its biggest issues) been guided by revelation, including in the matter of blacks and the priesthood.
    I am aware of many of the arguments which might contradict these points; I am aware that a scholarly study might cast doubt on many of the teachings of the Church, as well as on the teachings of religion in general. Science and academia can neither prove nor disprove matters of faith, because of the nature of what faith is – belief in things we hope to be true, based on spiritual evidence. Science (and much of academia) deals only in the physical realm with non-subjective evidence – that which can be peer reviewed and tested by others, not things like personal spiritual communications with God. I accept those “difficult” parts of the Church based on faith – I believe them to be true because I have fasted, prayed, and studied until the seed of faith has blossomed, as described by Alma.
    In regards to your comments on politics, there are principles of the gospel compatible with many political ideals. I feel that the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States is more a difference in rhetoric than substance. Of course we are to impart of all of our goods to the poor – but is the government to do that, or are we to do it of our own free will? Of course we are to be tolerant and to love others – but should our government allow gay marriage or not? Active, believing, mainstream members of the church can have differences of opinion on these matters, and that goes both ways. I am personally a libertarian – I believe in freedom, both economically and socially. I also believe that I have a duty to help my neighbor – communities can see that there are no hungry or poor among them, and in so doing have a personal experience with the poor as Christ would rather than having their money taken in taxes and the majority used to pay for projects and bureaucracies which do nothing to benefit the “least of our brethren”.
    If you want to talk about ugly politics, I would argue that Romney and Obama, Republicans and Democrats, are equally corrupt and only pay lip service to different constituent groups while really being concerned with money, power, and fame above all else. They are products of this world. But as Latter-Day Saints, are true kingdom is not of this world. That’s why it becomes dangerous when we put any part or any philosophy of the gospel. Yes, if having to choose between a Democrat and a Republican I will usually choose a Republican – but I would self identify as a child of God, a Latter-Day Saint, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, far before I would let my political ideology define me and cause me to question or stray from these other things. You seem very engaged and intelligent – I would invite you as kindly as I could to consider what really matters – loving others, treating them well, and making and keeping sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven. That is what will bring happiness in this life and the next more than adherence to any evolving political or social agenda – such things ebb and flow, rise and fall, cause contention and distrust and dissension (as you mention) and disorder – while God’s course is one eternal round and His gospel is a gospel of peace and understanding. There are good things about many of those Neo-Conservative American Mormons who you are lumping into one group, just as there are many good things about liberal New Zealand Mormons. At the end of the day, if we are living our lives the way we should, our political affiliation does not define us nearly as much as the way we personally treat our fellow men and behave ourselves. I invite you to prayerfully reconsider the basic teachings of the Church, if you are questioning them (I don’t know that you are but am just guessing because of the tone of the blog) and I would be happy to discuss any of this further with you. I apologize that my message is so long! Thanks again for your blog and for adding to the discourse on these issues.

  • William Christopher Scott

    Dear Gina:

    Happy to oblige! Here’s another blessing for you: it’s my usual “sign off” line for friends and family and comes from the Navajo tribe: “Walk in Beauty.”

    I think you are already doing this, based on your words…

    Keep walking the Way, and ma you continue to focus on the Beauty in your life and faith,

    WC Scott (over across the Big Pacific Pond in the state of Virginia)

  • Darren

    “Firstly, I don’t know where Romney gets off complaining about anyone who pays no taxes when he’s used every trick in the book – (financial instruments I think they are called) to avoid paying his own.”

    My “Corrective”: The point is, I think, that he *has* to pay taxes in the first place. If there’s a grup of people in society who pay no taxes whatsoever, than it’s easy t manipulate their vote. Just promise them that they’ll continue to pay no taxes while other groups, which is the “the rich” pay more. My concern is that why is the rich always burdened with the taxes while thers pay nothing? My official position is to rid governmnet of *all* power for to tax individuals directly. Anything which moves government to that end, including setting up tax breaks, I support.

    “Secondly – and not to put too fine a point on it – I’m deeply uncomfortable about sharing a faith community with him, and frankly anyone like him. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who is a registered Republican went hoarse in their ecstasies at Romney’s nomination. Many of them (I’m hoping) will be that cherished brand of Republican who refused to tip off the edge with the Tea Party and are probably just as staggered as everyone else by this new brand of post-truth, post-fact, post-ethics, anything-just-to-get-elected, politicking.”

    I cannot politically abide Harry Reid. He’s a liar, manipulative and no longer has any morals in his political life by which to cherish. That said, he is my borther in Christ as as part f the Kingdom f God. I’d have no problem sitting next to him in church, nor even be his home teacher. I think this is in exact accordance to the official position of political neutrality that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims. While Harry Reaid has in the past been my “challenge of faith” regarding the LDS position of neutrality as a church, I’ve come to be at great peace with it and never doubted that neutrality is the correct position to take as a church.

    “A minority who have so effectively nudged Mormonism down the neo-liberal rabbit hole with memes and discourses that rattle around the cage suggesting that true Mormonism:”

    My “Corrective”: First off, it is not a “minority” of Mormons who are conservative, at least not in the United States but a clear majority who are. As examplified with Harry reaid, it does nt matter what your political pursuasion is in affecting your standing in the LDS Church. That is primarily your personal moral living. Second, how is supporting the free markets and supporting small government “neo-liberal”?

    “I’m embarrassed and furious that my faith tradition has courted a strain of Mormonism that is so at odds with its own scriptures. I’m angry that American Mormon neo-cons have been allowed to grab the microphone and dictate an identity that is a startling contradiction to the central message of its canon. I’m peeved that Mormonism in the US, in an effort to manage itself into the mainstream, has bedded down with a brand of uniquely American, conservative Christianity and manufactured an orthodoxy out of it.”

    I agree 100% that Mormonism shuld not be used to identify with any political party or movement. And, yes, that will create great discord which is sinful. However, what does this have to do with Mitt Romney? He has shwn great restraint in NOT using his faith for political points. He’s been very humble in NOT talking about his Mormonism in public. I’vwe no idea what the connection between your main idea: that Mormonism should not be politicized, and your title, “Should Romney repent? ‘Yes!’, says the prophet Mormon”.


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