Americans have a right to be confused about what exactly a Mitt Romney presidency would mean. After all, this is a man who, politically, at least, has held every position on every issue. But religiously; well, that’s another issue.
Never having had a Mormon president before, most Americans are in the dark about Mormon theology, and if you say anything about it, you get the Church of Scientology treatment – perhaps you don’t get sued, but you do get shouted down on public forums and if you’re a Mormon, you get a visit from the bully boys: you get silenced.
I’ll never forget being told the most important thing (to me, at any rate) about Mormon belief, and that only in the moments after baptism: that when I died, I’d become a God like the God of this world. I ran for the hills.
But first I demanded why I wasn’t told this before agreeing to be baptized. I had trusted the missionary who brought me to the church. I felt betrayed. He lamely told me that would have been like giving me desert before the meat. Now, with all I’ve read about secret Mormon teachings available only to some, I worry about getting another big surprise – on the day after Romney takes office.
Earlier this month, David Twede, the managing editor The Mormon Thinker, posted a series of articles on LDS history. He asked this question: “If he were elected, would the LDS church influence President Mitt Romney to administer its agenda?”
Now, David Twede is a Mormon himself. He isn’t some Evangelical sowing fear. He is asking what he sees as a legitimate question, a question no different really than those asked of John F. Kennedy, America’s first Catholic president.
Given Romney has served as a clergyman, still holding the office of High Priest in the LDS church to date, he just may find that he answers to a higher power (i.e., the LDS prophet) more than to the US voters. Romney, as a faithful LDS member, has solemnly covenanted in the Mormon temple that he wholly-devotes himself, his time and his talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see the words of the “Law of Consecration” and “Law of Sacrifice” given in the temple).
David talked about a great many things the Mormon church might like to forget, including, presciently as it turned out, a list of people excommunicated for “political and/or contrary speech.”
I say presciently because no sooner had David published his third article than he was hauled into the offices of the Mormon Church in Orlando and “interrogated”, according to Mormon scholar Jean Bodie, by his “LDS Bishop, LDS Stake President and two Church executives .” According to Bodie, they said, ”Cease and desist, Brother Twede.” and “In a letter hastily typed, they scheduled an excommunication ‘for apostasy’ on September 30 at 7:30am, to remove David from the LDS church.”
Writing on his personal blog, here is what David had to say about the meeting:
I followed him to the stake offices and there waited until the stake presidency and my bishop filed in, sitting in mostly an arc before me (bishop to my left). They chatted about who I am and my membership history and then confronted me about my writings–the (formerly) prozac-ville blog and my editorial role at MormonThink.com.
Before I admitted to writing any of it, I asked them how they had gotten my name and learned that I was writing any kind of blog. They would only say that they were perhaps “inspired” to know my identity. Then they told me they were scheduling a disciplinary council for my role as managing editor at Mormonthink.com, and particularly over my recent articles and writings, while attending the Hunters Creek Ward in Orlando, Florida.
My writings, of recent last week, (from September 11 -15) which were posted to this blog and MormonThink include “The God of Mitt Romney” and one on the political history of the LDS church, as it relates to Mitt Romney’s campaign.
They gave me a letter stating a disciplinary council for “apostasy” is scheduled on September 30 at 7:30am. During our chat, the leaders persistently asked me about other contributors, why we kept secret our identities and implied that that I am an anti-christ. This was the first time I had ever met each of these leaders, and none of them knew mebefore by name or face, from what I know.
They denied that they are on—in their words—“a witch hunt” but they continued asking me to answer questions such as, “If people are truly interested in truth, as you say they are, then why would they hide their name or who they are?”
Many of us have seen the harm openly raising doubts can cause with family, friends and community in the Mormon culture. Most of my family is true-believing Mormon, and they will be hurt by my probable excommunication for apostasy.
HuffPo, without mentioning David’s problems, publishing a piece a few days later called “Mormons and Mitt: the Myth about Separation of Church and State.” The author is Derrick Shore, who grew up a Mormon. Shore told his readers: here’s why Mr. Romney’s religion is relevant: For Mormons, there really is no such thing as separation of church and state.”
It seems as if the First Amendment does not really apply. David’s experience was very inquisatorial. One can easily imagine several fellows from the Gestapo’s stopping by to ask about something you wrote with regards to the Fuhrer or the Party. That isn’t how things are supposed to work in America. But is that how things would be in Romney’s America? Americans have the right to ask – at least those of us who aren’t Mormons.
It has been objected that David is in trouble not because of his views on Romney but because he challenged church doctrine. But a Mormon president who, for instance, supported marriage equality, would be challenging church doctrine. Let’s not split hairs. The question is how much freedom of thought and action would a President Romney have? The answer is, apparently, not much.
David talks about the secrecy. The secrecy is part of what troubles Americans about Romney. He’s cagey. he doesn’t give any details about his policy plans. He doesn’t talk about his time at Bain even though he claims to be running on his strength as a CEO. He doesn’t talk about his bullying days at school or dodging the Vietnam War draft. He doesn’t talk about his taxes. And he doesn’t talk about his religion. From his vague comments you’d think he was your typical Evangelical, which no doubt suits him just fine.
But if your religion is going to inform your politics, then voters have a right to know. Kennedy told us his religion would not inform his politics, that his religion was a private thing. And he was true to his word. Americans were distrustful of Kennedy and given the record of the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps they had a right to be. We have seen several Catholic candidates we had good reason to be nervous of. And now we have a Mormon candidate we should be nervous of. For once, we are untroubled by a Protestant, but don’t feel bad for them. They had quite a run from 1964 to present (and we should fear them particularly, since many of them claim to talk directly to God without need of a pope or a prophet).
Our concern right now must be Mitt Romney. We are unlikely to ever know (from his lips at least) if he will obey the prophet, who is said to be in direct communion with the Mormon God (I say Mormon God because even as a Mormon, I recognized that their God was not the God I had grown up knowing as a Lutheran). And the Lutheran Church (LCA in those days) did not have a leader who was in direct communion with God. I could think, talk, write, without worrying about being excommunicated. When I had doubts, my pastors talked to me about it. They didn’t threaten me.
David’s situation is troubling. If Mitt Romney is elected president and he acts as John F. Kennedy did – as a president should – by keeping his religious views out of his policy-making, will he run afoul of his church elders? Will Mitt Romney be brought to task and interrogated by his religious leaders and threatened with excommunication for apostasy if he does not do or say what he is told?
Right now, both Romney and the Mormon Church are acting like they have something to hide, and the reason is that they do have something to hide. Romney is constrained by his beliefs in a way most Protestants and Catholics (a noticable exception being nuns) are not. And in a country founded on the principle of Separation of Church and State, and on the rejection of state-sponsored religion, that is a very worriesome thing indeed.