Let Me Repeat: Mitt’s Mormonism Matters

Bishop Mitt Romney, 1984

This morning, Andrew Sullivan penned what I think is a devastating post about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. In short, Neither Mitt nor Anne nor his parents spoke against their church when it was rabidly racist for decades. Mitt claims that his parents wept with joy when a “new revelation” led church leaders to begin including African-Americans in the 1970s, but what led him to stay so silent for so long?

As Sullivan notes, all churches have their dark histories. But even the powerful and relatively monolithic Catholic Church — to which Sullivan belongs — allows for public dissent. Just drive around Minneapolis this week and see the lawnsigns that read, “Another Catholic Voting No,” in direct defiance of the stated position of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on the marriage amendment.

Here’s the lede of Sullivan’s post:

Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had never attended Jeremiah Wright’s church in Chicago and had decided to attend services, and proselytize for, a black separatist, nationalist church that refused to allow whites to participate in crucial religious services because white people had been condemned by God for their iniquity in the ancient past and had been for ever marked white so black Americans would know instantly to keep their distance. In fact, the definition of white in this black supremacist church was just one drop of white blood in a black person. It was Nazi-like in its racist precision and exclusion. Whites were denied the rites that made a person a full member of the church. Even blacks with a tiny strain of white DNA were kept from full participation.

Imagine further that backing this racist church was not a youthful folly on Obama’s part, but a profound commitment – that he went on a mission abroad to convert Christians to a new religion based on black racial supremacy, and has often said that the most important thing in his entire life to this day is a church whose sacred scripture declares white people to be cursed by God for their past sins – and the sign of this curse is their white skin.

A simple question: Do you think this issue would not come up in a general election or a primary? If Obama was subjected to news cycle after news cycle of clips of Obama’s actual former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, can you imagine the outrage if Obama had actually been a part of a black supremacist church – that denied whites equal access to the sacraments – for over a decade in his adult life?

I raise this because it is a fact that Mitt Romney belonged to a white supremacist church for 31 years of his life, went on a mission to convert Christians and Jews and others to this church, which retained white supremacy as a doctrine until 1978 – decades after Brown vs Board of Education, and a decade after the end of the anti-miscegenation laws.

Read the rest of Sullivan’s post, including quotes from the Book of Mormon and from the writings of Brigham Young: Religion, Race And Double Standards – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

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  • Thanks for sharing this Tony. With the script flipped you begin to realize just how much this has been de-emphasized by the media and Christians. How can this not have a profound view impact on our view of Romney as a presidential candidate?

  • I think we should start a fund for the apoplectic stroke that Joanna Brooks is going to have while writing about how Sully is completely wrong, while pointing out precisely zero issues with the article except that it hurt her feelings (see also: Hitchens, Christopher).

  • Curtis

    For me, the issue is not so much LDS teachings about blacks. After all, Joe Biden’s church teaches the exact same thing about gays that Romney’s church taught about blacks until 1978. The issue, as Tony rightly points out, is the LDS church’s lack of tolerance for any kind of dissent among its members. That is a troubling background for the president of the most powerful democracy in the world to come from.

    • Pax

      In what way is the Catholic teaching on gays the same thing as what the LDS church taught about blacks?

      • You couldn’t possibly have asked that question earnestly.

      • Curtis

        Open gays are denied access to the holy sacraments by the Catholic church, for one thing. Do you want more?

        • Pax

          That’s not true actually. There’s no question that the Church teaches that certain sexual acts are immoral, and that’s true whether the act is between two people of the same sex or opposite sexes. But, that doesn’t mean that the Church views the person as wicked or bars them from the sacraments. Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say (i.e. the official teaching of the Church):

          2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

          2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

          I realize that even this is objectionable to many people. But it isn’t at all the same thing as the LDS teaching on blacks. The Church asks the same thing of homosexual people as it does of all single people, and it specifically calls for them to participate in the sacraments.

        • Frank

          So are all open sinners. Those that have succumbed to their desires and reject God in the process.

          • Evelyn

            Sinning, while it may result from a lack of faith and intelligence, is not a rejection of God. It opens up the pathway for God to show grace and grow understanding.

      • Sven

        That’s a pretty poor comparison.

        The Roman Catholic Church’s stance on openly gay people is that they are deliberately turning away from God’s teachings. The LDS Church’s old stance on black people was that their ancestors had deliberately turned away from God’s teachings.

        Basically, the difference is that the LDS Church said that blacks were BORN unworthy, while the Roman Catholic Church claims that GLBT people were born good, but fell into wickedness.

        Now I am NOT defending the Roman Catholic Church’s abhorrent behavior towards GLBT folks. I’m just saying the comparison is poor.

        • Sven

          Whoops, I meant that in reply to Curtis, not Pax

        • Curtis

          Thanks for the clarification. I’m sure gays in the Catholic church take great comfort in the church’s kind teaching that they are not barred from the church by birth, just barred because they are wicked people. I’m sure that makes them feel much better.

          • Sven

            Deflect all you like. Your statement was still inaccurate.

    • Terry

      If Obama’s “wedding ring’s” engraving is Obama’s belief, then females, homosexuals, Jews, Christians and virgins (children) better watch out.

    • Mormons think they are gods… google endowment ceremony.. hence the name saints… here on earth.
      they are the ones who funded california lobbying bill for to prevent same sex marriage..
      google all this , talk about facts..
      next to this day, there is abt 2 percent black people living in Utah, and that can find work if lucky, to this very day.
      They dont live there for a reason. latinos have very hard time finding work there too. the mormons are very racist and have high disparity laws they pass against all minorities.
      i could go on.. but theres no need too. everything about their religion is about money, and converting others to feed their weekly pick up fees of ten percent. and to judge and tell u how to live. while they built their church on falsehoods and prostitution, among every other thing that is illegal and against their own church policies. they harass kids in their schools who are non mormon.. they hike up prices to non mormons on sales on everything in Utah… they got their hands in every law and profit business thing they can.

  • Patrick S

    If life were fair, there would have been a thorough vetting of Mormonism and Wright prior to either being nominated by their party. Didn’t happen. But it really doesn’t matter. These are the two we get to choose from (please don’t bother saying we have more options, we don’t). I find Obama’s association with Wright to be deeply troubling because Obama was in solid agreement with Wright’s views. We can only guess if Romney agreed with his Church’s views (see first sentence above).

    But it is Obama’s incompetence and failure as president that is far more important than religious views I don’t agree with. Same goes for Romney: I’m voting for smarter economics, not Mormonism.

    • Frank

      Well said! You can tell the Dem are very worried so expect more and more nonsense from them. After all they cannot tout Obama’s failed record.

    • What is wrong with Jeremiah Wright’s views? He said that if America isn’t a just place, it should not receive the blessings of God, but the opposite. What is bad about this?

  • I like how Sullivan assumes the media even gave more than a cursory glance at anything Obama did.

    If Romney were Muslim, would Tony talk about Islam and it’s subjugation of women? Would he talk about the Koran calling Jews and Christians pigs?

    Face it, all that Tony and the political Left has is “Romney is a racist, and so are those that vote against Obama.”

    • John, I would ask those questions of a Muslim candidate in a heartbeat. And I would ask a Jewish candidate about his/her Zionism.

      • Does Harry Reid’s Mormonism matter? Or just Romney’s?

        Did Obama’s position on gay marriage matter for you in 2008?

        Before this goes all cuckoo, I want you to know that I loved your “Postmodern Youth Ministry” book. Seriously good stuff. (How’s that for a back-handed compliment?)

        • “Does Harry Reid’s Mormonism matter? Or just Romney’s?”
          It matters as much they say it matters. Politicians can claim affiliation with any group they want, we can judge them for the claim and for how consistent they are. If they are claiming it just for show, yes it matters, if they claim it but say they can still recognize the plurality of their country, then it is less of a matter, but it still matters. If their religion includes some weird beliefs that are in conflict with the constitution and they aren’t addressing those conflicts, you bet that matters. If their words are out of sync with their actions, it matters.

  • Chris

    “This morning, Andrew Sullivan penned what I think is a devastating post about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.”

    Devastating?? Come on, do you really take this seriously?

    Just one example from the “devastating” piece which is an “analysis” of a video of the 2002 Mormom president Gordon Hinckley. Sullivan says:
    “His explanation for the sudden change? “I don’t know.” He has no answer, except, it seems, that the racism was inhibiting expanding market share for the religion in the developing world (and a white supremacist church might begin to worry about its tax exempt status in the late 1970s). Notice too the easy, casual shucking off of past positions and awkward inconsistencies. Remind you of anyone?”

    First, the question was never “Why the sudden change?” The interviewers question was “Why did it take so long?” That is not a distinction without a difference. Answering “I don’t know” to the first version would paint a picture of ubiquitous conformity of thought and opinion which would not allow for any progress or change. But answering the way he did to the real question implies that he didn’t understand why it had to take so long for blacks to be accepted. That he would have prefered that it would have been much sooner. I’m not Mormon, but there obviously is dissent within the Mormon church. I think it’s probably more a matter of keeping it “within the family” as it were and not airing family squabbles the way many are prone to do today.

    Sullivan just can’t hide his disdain for anything that smacks of Republican. You have to (you ought to) ask yourself who the real hate-monger is.

    • There is vocalized dissent in the Mormon church until the church hears about it. Then you either stop dissenting or you stop being Mormon. Growing up a Mormon in Provo, UT, I can categorically say that you are wrong.

      Also, you clearly don’t know what a “hate-monger” is.

  • Patrick Moore

    I am voting for the President Obama as I did four years ago.

    However, when it comes to political leadership, I don’t believe what a person does in their prayer closet or their bedroom should matter that much.

    I think there is a great gulf between what a particular religion or denomination teaches and the actual actions of those adherents, even among the most committed. 20 years of pastoring churches as taught me this, as well as living in “Muslim” countries for three years.

    Was Nixon a good Quaker or a bad Quaker? Did it really matter?

    I am not for privatized religion, but I am against guilt by association.

    • Patrick S

      Well said (except for the ‘voting for Obama’ part).

      : )

    • A good approach, I think, but I think that the chasms between what someone says their beliefs are and how those beliefs are executed is actually important. If Nixon’s Quakerism wasn’t strong enough to prevent him from bombing campaigns in Cambodia, how could you trust anything that he said about anything else? Such an acute discrepancy, at the very least, necessitates a closer look at similar discrepancies.

      But since Romney is practically a case study in inconsistency (albeit cynically calculated inconsistency, as far as I can tell), someone else will write that very long, very depressing book.

      • Patrick Moore

        I understand your concern about discrepancy/inconsistency/etc. And I would look closer if the person was applying for the pastor of a congregation, professor at a seminary, or executive at a denominational HQ. However, as an elected official, chosen to represent a myriad of folks of different religions and perspectives, you “sell your soul” a bit to be in a position to make decisions that you might find morally wrong, but in the best interest of the State. I though VP Biden articulated that nuance very well during the debate regarding abortion.

        An unrelated concern is this: Commitment to a particular congregation or religion is really quite complicated. I don’t want someone in my congregation judged unfit for office because of my preaching or theology.

  • Could this not be said for the majority of people over a certain age, who lived through the period of time when segregation was considered divinely mandated?

    • Yes, but I think the primary issue at hand is that he didn’t speak out against it then, and won’t really even speak out against it now, aside from a “boy, I sure am glad that really awful thing that I never much protested against is over.”

      But you’re right: both situations should make us all be far more cautious about someone claiming that God wants us to subjugate anyone, cough cough COMPLEMENTARIANS cough cough.

  • Bob

    So Harry Reid should also resign in disgrace? Let the witch hunt begin!!

  • I think God is using this historical moment to expose the absurdity that happens when Christians put their faith in government. The conservatives don’t even want to think about the serious issues that surround Mitt’s family’s practice of Mormonism, because he’s their guy. Liberals don’t want to talk about it, because they might lose their self-righteous sense of ‘tolerance.’ An us-vs-them mentality silences all nuanced discussion of important issues. I’m so glad that people like Tony and Scot McKnight are talking about Mitt’s Mormonism from their more broad platforms. It would make me lose hope if I saw no leaders in the church speaking up about this.

  • Lee P.

    Republicans hate Obama soooooo much that they are willing to deal with Mitt’s Mormonism and the fact the VP candidate virtually worships a really mean, hateful atheist author.

    Hey maybe this presidency thing is just practice for the day Mitt will be able to be a God over his own planet

    • Also, if everything else was the same, but this was pre-Citizens United, the race wouldn’t be close. Money has muddied the issues, allowed the Republicans to reach people who wouldn’t have voted or would have voted differently if they weren’t misinformed. Money has created what looks like news media but is actually an outlet for the candidates. What the Republicans should be doing is examining their platform, finding out what their base really wants and figuring what the country really needs. Instead, they are responding to what a handful of people with a lot of money are telling them to do.

      • Bob

        This also applies to Democrats who receive free in-kind contributions from 98% of MSM outlets, and Union dues confiscated from many unwilling donors/workers. Democrats controlled the whole ball of wax for 2 years, and took their eye off of the ball (the economy) to focus on Oboondogglecare.

      • Patrick S

        Pre-Citizens United, democrats outspent republicans. Now the money race is about even.

        For those old enough to remember the 2008 election, do you recall how ‘exciting’ it was when Obama raised so much money in 2008? How it was proof that the world loved him? (I mean that literally. Obama did then and is now getting a ton of money from outside the country, which is illegal.) Do you also remember how terrible it was when Romney was out-raising Obama this summer (until Obama raised more in August)?

        For proof of the money imbalance, please go to the website below and note who the top all-time funders have been from 1989-2012.

        • Bob

          I notice this does not factor in MSM in-kind contributions.

        • First you say it is about even, then you say there is an imbalance. The important difference is that there enormous amounts of money in elections now that wasn’t there before. I don’t really like either candidate and this is not a political blog. Take your cherry picked statistics elsewhere.

          • Patrick S

            “This is not a political blog.” While you were commenting elsewhere on this post you may have missed the title. It was “Let Me Repeat: Mitt’s Mormonism Matters.” (By the way, today’s post is titled “The Conservative Allure of the Pseudo-Intellectual” so….)

            The numbers are the numbers. Maybe you just haven’t seen them before.

          • I know the numbers. The chart is for donations to candidates. So a group like American Crossroads doesn’t get mentioned even though they are spending 68 million. I don’t really care about the details of this manipulation of data. Do you really think you can change my mind with one lousy chart? If you don’t know that conservatives are spending massive amounts of money to change the political landscape, maybe your remote is broken. Get off your easy chair and change the channel.

          • Patrick S

            …because there are no liberal groups giving money to democrats.

  • Larry Barber

    There are plenty of reasons to vote against Romney other than his religion. How about the fact that he’s a despicable human being who got rich on the suffering of others, and directly caused a good deal of that suffering himself? That he never met a position that he couldn’t claim as his own? That he named a man who wants to dismantle what little is left of our social safety net as his running mate?

    (Please don’t take this to mean that I support Obama or plan on voting for _him_, either.)

  • mike h

    There’s much that can be said about the strengths and deficiencies of all candidates. However, for those of us who want to claim allegiance to Jesus I think there are a lot of considerations. Without writing a lot of stuff, I would direct folks to a couple other blogs.


    And a final note from one of my professors at Ashland Theological Seminary. John Byron quoted John Wesley form his October 6th diary of 1774. He wrote:
    “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
    1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy:
    2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against:
    3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on
    the other side.”
    ~John Wesley 1774

  • Alan K

    No votes for Mormons then, including Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid?

    • You’re not reading very closely, Alan.

      • Bob

        Did Harry Reid also belong to a white supremacist church and go on a mission to convert “Christians and Jews”?

        I love Sullivan’s reductio ad hitlerum argument, and was surprised he had enough time to emerge from his investigation into Sarah Palin’s uterus to comment about this very important topic.

        The big problem is the hatred and anger (bigotry?) I detect in Sullivan’s comments, which ironically I find missing in Romney himself. So I guess Romney must be better at hiding it than Sullvan.

      • Alan K

        I’ve read everything quite close, including Sullivan’s piece. I’ve never heard denunciations of Mormon teaching or theology from any Mormon politician, including the two above–mentioned because before Romney, they were the highest profile Mormon politicians in the country. Seriously, are Mormons of a certain age suspect for political office unless they somehow become less Mormon? Sullivan certainly seems to be arguing for it.

  • T. Webb

    Who gives a damn? Nobody here is going to vote for Mitt anyway.

    • Patrick S

      Already did.

  • Mormonism is more nutty than malevolent. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, it neither slits my throat nor bombs my bus. I’d guess that black Americans have been more abused by Southern Baptists over the years than by Mormons–yet no one could seriously call Jimmy Carter racist.

  • Chuck

    I don’t care if a candidate sacrifices children to Moloch. If he can fix the economy he gets my vote.

    • what abt if he deserts protecting his country and puts religion before country and protecting life , liberty and freedom, let alone not promoting democracy…. perhaps your sons would be a good under serving a coward in chief to get them in harms way.. .hearts and minds… sure if ur a coward corporatist in charge. sure thing.

  • Mormon Church Helps Romney, Baptized President’s Dead Mother
    It comes as no surprise the Mormon Church has its dirty hands in every law making Policy in Utah State. From Profiteering of Taxation to Running a Business, against Church Doctrine consisting of Alcohol , Coffee, Tobacco, Casinos, Brothels or Speak Easy’s.
    Currently, The situation can only get better, Recently ABC news uncovered another Mormon Plot to attack the Dead Mother of the President Barack Obama, by Baptizing her to make Mormonism seem less a Cult and a Business than what it really is being just politically Controlling, Abusive and harmful.

    ABC News has confirmed reports that Mormons posthumously baptized President Obama’s mother five months before the election.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints confirmed Tuesday afternoon that someone improperly, posthumously baptized the late mother of President Obama into the Mormon faith.
    Last June 4 — the day after then-Sen. Obama secured enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nominee — someone had the president’s mother Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995 of cancer, baptized.
    On June 11, she received the endowment.

    The baptism was first reported by AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis, who found an ordinance record on the Mormon genealogical Web site, FamilySearch.org.
    Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said that “the offering of baptism to our deceased ancestors is a sacred practice to us and it is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related. The Church is looking into the circumstances of how this happened and does not yet have all the facts. However, this is a serious matter and we are treating it as such.”

    Once it is dissected as being nothing more nothing less, the faster people can get help to those who been socially and psychologically harmed/victimized by this Cult. All we need is another Waco part two.
    Disrespecting someones Mother , besides being dead is just flat out disrespectful and incomprehensible .
    How many People really know about the Mormon Religion itself, other than those who grew up in Utah State being Non Mormon? Church and State Ran and Taxed Liquor Stores, The high Racism, high disparity Policies, Drug abuse and Alcoholism, Unwanted Teen Pregnancies.
    A quick look into Mormon History in Utah is what most Mormons from out of Utah State are not told or are unaware of altogether.
    Most who do know, are aware of Brigham Young was merely a paid Scout hired to bring the Mormons from New York to a Place where their Ideology and Doctrine of Polygamy, Child Slavery and Child Weddings were acceptable to settle.

    Brigham Young, had Military Ties to Protect them and eliminate Indian Tribes that no longer exist today in Utah, to steal land from them, and Change the names of the land in Utah, and later the history of the Indians in Utah.
    Brigham Young was paid with Women of his choice the Mormon leaders promised him. In order to do so, they came up with a book devised to make it appear as if he was some kind of Prophet to make their women go along with being manipulated into serving their Calling into Prostitution or sold for payment along with land, and businesses, as being the same as serving the Lord, with the Book of Mormon to incorporate this to make it believable and acceptable. Since then, the Book of Mormon has been revised , yet can still be found.

    Here are a couple of Bizarre rituals , rights and doctrines the Mormons are not so famous for and most are unaware before they opt into when only scraping the surface of what the Cult/Business is about. This so called religion, has also used everyone for its purposes.
    They believe black people are monkeys, among Indians Mexicans are part of that food Chain or Cycle of origin.
    It wasn’t until the early 1978-1980′ when the Supreme Court had to force their Church into allowing black folks into their temple or Church.
    They still import People from other Countries for their cheap slave labor sources, also have had many sexual assaults upon these people who are younger and foreign are not being reported due to the Same Mormon Government protecting their Church reputation and Leadership, otherwise they themselves, would find themselves excommunicated from their Mormon Church/Community to survive.

    Mormon’s to this day in Utah will say, Polygamy is part of God’s plan to re populate the earth, as Noah’s Clan had. Also use other parts in the Bible.
    Very Few Black People to this day live or will live in Utah, and those who do. will usually leave due to the high racism and disparity of Mormon Values and their ideologies. Mormons incorporate their Synagogues named Seminary School, in every school curriculum as school credit.


    Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said that “the offering of baptism to our deceased ancestors is a sacred practice to us and it is counter to Church policy for a Church member to submit names for baptism for persons to whom they are not related. The Church is looking into the circumstances of how this happened and does not yet have all the facts. However, this is a serious matter and we are treating it as such.”
    For almost two centuries, Mormons have performed baptisms on behalf of deceased relatives, but church members are counseled to request temple baptism only on behalf of their relatives. To do so for those who are not relatives is contrary to Church policy, officials of the Mormon church said.
    The Provo Daily Herald notes that the LDS Church “has run afoul of Holocaust groups multiple times,” because of efforts by Mormons to posthumously baptize Jews killed during the Holocaust. “Leaders said in November that they are making changes to their massive genealogical database to make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy.”
    Those changes are specific to victims of the Holocaust, however, and would not have affected the baptism of the late Mrs. Dunham.*
    – jpt

    So much for a slap in the face of our President. Just not anything is tolerable or acceptable. even for a fad or fashion of the Mormon Church.

    • Evelyn

      I think we should all be able to copyright our souls before we die so the Mormons can’t get their hands on them without getting sued.

  • So because some kid in his early 20s didn’t speak out against his church when it was in error over 40 years ago, and then he assumed leadership positions in that church after it corrected its error, we know his thoughts and motivations back then and now, and can say with a straight face that this issue actually has relevance.

    C’mon, Tony. Even Ken Silva doesn’t have the chutzpah to go back more than a decade with his criticisms.

    • Oh, never mind. I think I understand your thought process now. Romney’s Mormonism was only important enough to garner 2 brief posts here from April through early October. But now that the race isn’t a slam-dunk for Obama and the undecided voters become more critical, it’s suddenly an important enough issue to generate 4 posts in 8 days.

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  • DPiero

    Do Me a favour before you pass judgement on the Romney, you need to only look at your own doings first.