Romney and the church

Romney and the church

Two Nevadans are being heard from on the subject of Mitt Romney and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Salon carried an article by Boulder City native Sally Denton, author of bestsellers like The Blue Grass Conspiracy and The Money and the Power. The article is titled “Romney and the White Horse Prophecy.”

Denton’s article recalls the presidential campaign of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith in 1844: “Challenging Democrat James Polk and Whig Henry Clay, Smith prophesied that if the U.S. Congress did not accede to his demands that ‘they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them.’ Smith viewed capturing the presidency as part of the mission of the church. He had predicted the emergence of ‘the one Mighty and Strong’—a leader who would ‘set in order the house of God’—and became the first of many prominent Mormon men to claim the mantle. … Romney is the product of this culture. At BYU, he was idolized by fellow students and referred to, only half jokingly, as the ‘One Mighty and Strong.’ He was the ‘alpha male’ in the rarefied Cougar pack, according to Michael D. Moody, a BYU classmate and fellow member of the group.”

Moody himself, now a Las Vegan who ran for Nevada governor in the 1982 Republican primary, has published a book, Mitt, Set Our People Free. A news release says the book “discusses the hypocrisies of Mormonism in an open letter to Mitt Romney in the book. … He delivers an insider’s look at politics, Mitt, and the Mormon Church, contending these hypocrisies relate directly to the manipulative mind of Joseph Smith and to practices like communalism and polygamy that he incorporated into his nineteenth century cult.”

These interpretations of LDS history and its role in Romney’s candidacy have prompted Nathan Orme in the New York Daily News to point out that in its later history the church changed its stance on political power and issues like polygamy. Orme notes a congressional investigation of the church in 1904-1907:

“Ultimately, church President Joseph F. Smith [a different Smith from the founding prophet] appeared before the Senate. He disclaimed any theocratic agenda; he insisted that Mormons were loyal citizens of the U.S., and he pledged that the church would not direct or seek to dominate Mormons elected to political office. We now have more than a century of experience with that pledge. While the church occasionally acts politically—as do all American denominations—it has abided by Smith’s promise. Robert Bennett, for example, a former three-term Republican senator from Utah and a practicing Mormon, insists that in 18 years in office, church leaders never instructed him on how to vote on a single issue. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate and a Mormon, says the same thing.”