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(Mitt Romney's 'Faith In America' Speech)
I've written a lot about what Mormons believe, their history and the influence they have over Mitt Romney, including a story about his polygamist great-grandfather and their exodus to Mexico. If I asked 100 people to name the head of the LDS Church, or what the First Presidency is, I bet not one would know the correct answer.
In our history the media went crazy over John F. Kennedy being a (correction) Catholic to run for President and he was forced to address it and disavow how much influence the papacy would have over his presidency. Fox News went ballistic over Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his "Black Liberation Theology", forcing Barack Obama to step down from his church. But apparently Mitt Romney is given a complete pass when it comes to his faith. It's astounding.
Here's something you may not know.
Mormons have no full-time paid clergy, and instead are led by an all-volunteer lay male leadership.
Mormons do not have a paid clergy to run their church so males make up the entire infrastructure and as usual, women need not apply. Mitt was ordained at the age of twelve, like other Mormon males. He became a Bishop in 1981 and Boston Stake President in 1986. The dedication each Mormon makes to his faith is as a high as any minister, priest, rabbi, imam or cardinal. The reason a Catholic bishop (I'm Catholic) has never run for public office is because he cannot separate his religious beliefs from governing a secular United States made up of many different faiths and non-faiths. His religious views would dictate exactly how his votes would be cast and how his policies were shaped. That's not a dig against this hypothetical bishop, that's exactly what everyone would expect him to do.
So I ask again, why isn't Mitt receiving a serious look into his religious views?
And by the way, every member of the Mormon faith must pay out 10 percent of their wages to remain in good standing with the church, a practice known as tithing. That's why he has given so much money to the LDS church, according to the only tax return we've been able to see.
Romneys "gave away $7 million in charitable contributions over the past two years, including at least $4.1 million" to the LDS Church. Paying 10 percent of their annual income in tithing, what members of the LDS Church refer to as "a full tithe," makes Romney, if nothing else, a typical Mormon.
I love how the Deseret News frames Mitt with his millions of dollars of charitable giveaway as just typical Mormon on 'tithing."
Huffington Post: The Mormon Moment -- Postponed
In the last few months, considerable attention has been devoted to Mitt Romney's tax returns and his former company's "job-creating performance," but there has been insufficient discussion about what arguably has had the greatest role in shaping who he is and how he views the world: his Mormon religion. Despite his reluctance to address the subject directly, public interest in Mormonism remains at historic levels.
His "Mormon Moment" is laden with obligation: never in the history of the United States has an ordained minister been a major party's candidate for the presidency. The Mormon Church has a lay priesthood, and by virtue of his ordination to the offices of Bishop and Stake President, Romney has occupied ecclesiastical positions equivalent to those within the Roman Catholic Church of Priest and Bishop. Were a Catholic Bishop to run for the presidency, there would doubtless be a demand that he address aspects of his religion in far greater detail than would be required of candidates never ordained to the ministry -- and thus Gov. Romney's obligation.
In 2007, Romney was forced to give a speech on religion called "Faith In America" . Not surprisingly, he mentions the word "Mormon" only once! Instead, he chose to give a series of platitudes and generalities. Of course, he made sure to include a heavy statement about 'religious tolerance' to dissuade the demand for any specifics:
"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
That's a nice cop out. If you question Mormons on some of their more bizarre beliefs, then you're an intolerant lout. Obama had to discuss his beliefs in great detail. John F. Kennedy had to do the same. But there's one big difference with Romney's faith. Many religions do believe and preach that they are the true faith of God, but Joesph Smith, the founder of Mormonism stated quite clearly that either you follow the God of Joseph Smith or you follow evil. Via Krakauer's Under The Banner Of Heaven
Joseph preached something he called “free agency”; everyone was free to choose whether to be on the side of the Lord or the side of wickedness; it was an entirely personal decision—but woe to those who decided wrong. If you knowingly chose to shun the God of Joseph and the Saints, you were utterly undeserving of sympathy or mercy.
In the Huff Po piece that I cited above, they ask a germane question for Romney to answer:
What your church labels "sacred" is frequently termed by others "secret" or even "sinister," leading many to conclude that Mormons may not always be telling us what they truly believe. How can you assuage these suspicions by articulating your beliefs?
Mitt Romney will never challenge a Mormon principle, ever. Nor will he be open about what the LDS church teaches.
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Here's a segment of Meet The Press from 12/16/2007. You'll notice that Romney will not condemn his church for their odious treatment of African Americans until 1978.
MR. RUSSERT: You, you raise the issue of color of skin. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education, desegregated all our public schools. In 1964 civil rights laws giving full equality to black Americans. And yet it wasn't till 1978 that the Mormon church decided to allow blacks to participate fully. Here was the headlines in the papers in June of '78. "Mormon Church Dissolves Black Bias. Citing new revelation from God, the president of the Mormon Church decreed for the first time black males could fully participate in church rites." You were 31 years old, and your church was excluding blacks from full participation. Didn't you think, "What am I doing part of an organization that is viewed by many as a racist organization?"
GOV. ROMNEY: I'm very proud of my faith, and it's the faith of my fathers, and I certainly believe that it is a, a faith--well, it's true and I love my faith. And I'm not going to distance myself in any way from my faith. But you can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking at, at our lives. My dad marched with Martin Luther King. My mm was a tireless crusader for civil rights. You may recall that my dad walked out of the Republican convention in 1964 in San Francisco in part because Barry Goldwater, in his speech, gave my dad the impression that he was someone who was going to be weak on civil rights. So my dad's reputation, my mom's and my own has always been one of reaching out to people and not discriminating based upon race or anything else. And so those are my fundamental core beliefs, and I was anxious to see a change in, in my church.
I can remember when, when I heard about the change being made. I was driving home from, I think, it was law school, but I was driving home, going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I heard it on the radio, and I pulled over and, and literally wept. Even at this day it's emotional, and so it's very deep and fundamental in my, in my life and my most core beliefs that all people are children of God. My faith has always told me that. My faith has also always told me that, in the eyes of God, every individual was, was merited the, the fullest degree of happiness in the hereafter, and I, and I had no question in my mind that African-Americans and, and blacks generally, would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had and that God is no respecter of persons.
MR. RUSSERT: But it was wrong for your faith to exclude it for as long as it did.
GOV. ROMNEY: I've told you exactly where I stand. My view is that there--there's, there's no discrimination in the eyes of God, and I could not have been more pleased than to see the change that occurred.
Romney was thirty-one years old when he supposedly pulled his car off the road and wept with joy, but he never once spoke out publicly in defense of Black America prior to that, so we're supposed to take it on faith that he always believed in it. In reality, the pressure of their bias became too great for the Mormon Church to handle along with the fact that they also wanted to build a massive temple in Brazil so the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a prayer session reversed the horrible century-old law. I bet you never heard of the Quorum of Twelve, right? When Russert tried to get Mitt to admit Mormonism was wrong to be so biased against African Americans. Romney ducked the question and reiterated that there is no discrimination in the eyes of the Lord. He makes my point for me.
However, in the eyes of Mitt Romney's 'Lord' it was just to exclude blacks from the priesthood. He slyly tells a story about his father supporting MLK, but he avoided any sentence that would have even hinted that Mormonism was fallible. He'd never say anything against his church, even with their discriminatory practices. To clarify, blacks were not allowed to enjoy the hereafter before 1978. But that exclusion--the lifting of which brought Mitt to tears--was not enough to question his faith or criticize it even retroactively.
Now I imagine most think that Mormons, as all Republicans, believe that life begins at conception. Actually, that's not true in Mormon teaching. For Mormons, life begins in spirit children from a premortal world. These human spirits live with heavenly Father and Mother. Jesus is there to help Mormons get over sin and death and all their earthly trails and tribulations on earth. Mortals have no memory of their spirit life The only reason why they're born into a corporeal being at all is so they can be tested by how Mormons live their life.
But that's not what most Republicans believe, so when Russert quizzes him on this point, he waffles through it.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe life begins at conception?
GOV. ROMNEY: I do. I believe, I believe from a, from a, a political perspective that life begins at conception. I, I don't, I don't pretend to know, if you will, from a theological standpoint when life begins.
Romney is lying outright by saying he doesn't pretend to know from a theological standpoint when life begins. Mitt Romney understands every bit of Mormon theological viewpoints thoroughly. He can teach it to you. He's a Bishop, remember?
Another hugely important point about the Mormon religion is that so much of their rituals are secret. Why? If they are proud in their beliefs today why not share them with the rest of us including entering their over 100 Temples around the world? Or maybe the promise of the afterlife. There are three kingdoms (Telestial, Terestrial. Celestial) in the afterlife a mortal can exalt to. How strictly people adhere to Mormon teachings will determine their destination. It's a plan of salvation, so to speak. God's plan was for all his spirit children to be able to transform into God as well, ruling their own kingdom with their spirit mate and children. When so many of the Republican Party identify themselves as fundamentalist Christians, don't you think they deserve to know this about the man for whom they are expected to vote?
Helen C. Whitney and Gregory A. Prince conclude their piece with this:
We realize that in addressing these issues, Gov. Romney would likely open himself to criticism from some quarters. However, the office to which he aspires demands of its aspirants a level of openness and clarity that he has yet to reach. Ironically, his reluctance to be open about his religion only reinforces the last and arguably most enduring of all Mormon stereotypes: its secrecy. Given the overwhelming importance of his religion in shaping who he is and how he views the world, we see the above questions as an opportunity for him to begin to emerge from obscurity.
At least someone other than moi is asking finally....