There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the news lately over Evangelical Christians calling Mormonism a cult and preferring presidential candidate Rick Perry over Mitt Romney for this reason. The most reasonable explanation of the opinion I’ve seen came from Rev. Robert Jeffress:
The other Republican candidates keep taking the high road and saying that being a Mormon should be a non-factor in Romney’s candidacy. I believe they are doing this so they can look magnanimous and also to keep from having anyone apply scrutiny to their own religious beliefs.
So let’s try a little exercise. Let’s bridge the gap between Romney’s religion and muse about what Mormonism might mean in terms of real life presidential policy.
If you’ve read the Church Handbook of Instructions, you’ll know that the LDS Church threatens stiff punishment for anyone who has an abortion or assists others to have an abortion. Many religious politicians have been able to strike a reasonable compromise by saying that while they personally opposed abortion, they recognised the right of individuals and society at large to determine that matter for themselves. Mitt doesn’t get that liberty. If he sincerely is Mormon, then as head of the US Government he would be responsible for assisting others in obtaining abortions so long as it remained legal.
The good ol’ CHI is also strictly opposed to in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, and single parenting. How would that translate to a Mormon president’s social policy?
There’s also the problem that comes with Mormonism’s teachings that a woman’s place is in the home and a man is head of the family. If Mitt really believes in his faith, then Americans can’t count on him to address the wage gap between male and female workers or do anything about the glass ceiling that affects women’s job progress.
Racial and sexual minorities might want to consider what it would mean to have a Mormon president. Herman Cain graciously sidestepped the question over Romney’s faith when asked, but I wonder if the African-American candidate knows what Mormonism has to say about black people. Would the ironically named Mr. Cain have a problem with a president who believed him to be a descendent of THE Cain, born in this life with The Curse of Cain because he sat on the fence during the War in Heaven between God and Lucifer?
A Mormon president would be under massive pressure to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and revoke any marriage-like benefits currently available to same-sex partners. A Mormon president would be obligated by his faith to oppose gay adoption or birth to gay couples via surrogacy or artificial insemination. Since Mormonism sees homosexuality as a form of delusion or even a mental illness, would a Mormon president be in favour of recriminalising gay sex acts?
But let’s not forget the extra-fun perennial issue:
That, er, Israeli-Palestinian Thing
Mormons are pro-Israel. Not because they are anti-Arab or anti-Islam, but because Mormonism was founded as a type of neo-Judaism. Mormons consider themselves literal descendants of Israel (usually through Ephraim) and borrow heavily from the Old Testament for their religious rituals. Mormons look forward to The Second Coming, when Jesus returns to Earth and reigns in glory before the final judgement. However, very specific prophecies must be fulfilled before this can happen. The nation of Israel needed to be established. That’s been done, and Mormons are in favour of its continued existence. (Sorry, Ahmadinejad.) One of the biggies is that the Jewish temple needs to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Israel then needs to be on the brink of annihilation, at which time Jesus descends and shazam, world peace.
Prophecies are all well and good and abstract, but let’s think through the physical realities. If you are a faithful Mormon you aren’t anti-Palestinian per se, but you are definitely pro-Israel. What’s more, if the temple is to be rebuilt then a Mormon would have to favour Jewish control over Jerusalem to the point of making the reconstruction of the temple feasible.
I doubt most Mormons know what the Al-Aqsa Mosque is or why it’s important to Islam. I also doubt that most of them know that it’s parked right on top of the ruins of the Jewish temple. So let’s review. Translating abstract belief into real-world foreign policy, if he truly believes in his faith, he’d like the Second Coming to happen as soon as possible. This means peace in the Middle East doesn’t really benefit God’s plan. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has got to go, and the Jewish Temple has got to be rebuilt. And if one thing could trigger Armageddon, it would be knocking down the Dome of the Rock. How on earth can a US President shape foreign policy with this kind of awkward religious doctrine hanging over his conscience?
But of course this is just theoretical
Would any of this actually affect a possible Romney presidency? I doubt it. Romney is a politician first and a Mormon second. His political track record shows that. Like Obama, I feel that Romney pays lip service to religion because he knows it’s required for the American public to feel that he is firm in his convictions. But this little exercise does demonstrate how difficult it is to elect a Mormon because you simply can’t predict how serious someone like Mitt is in implementing his faith in the real world. Mormonism isn’t just a religion. It’s a social, cultural, and foreign policy rolled up into a church.
The repeating refrain among the flock of GOP hopefuls is that religion doesn’t matter when it’s inconvenient to a candidacy but it matters very much when it’s helpful. I’d hope that voters notice this and carefully consider what exactly they’re signing on for when endorsing a candidate.