Ww-9

Mormons believe so – and so, presumably, would a future president Romney. Here's an extract from a 1987 statement by the then-Mormon president, Ezra Taft Benson. It's worth reading the whole thing, but these passages stood out to me:

Our Father in Heaven planned the coming forth of the Founding Fathers and their form of government as the necessary great prologue leading to the restoration of the gospel. Recall what our Savior Jesus Christ said nearly two thousand years ago when He visited this promised land: “For it is wisdom in the Father that they should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth” (3 Ne. 21:4). America, the land of liberty, was to be the Lord’s latter-day base of operations for His restored church…. For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off…

I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it. I testify that the God of heaven sent some of His choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and He has now sent other choice spirits to help preserve it.

We, the blessed beneficiaries of the Constitution, face difficult days in America, “a land which is choice above all other lands” (Ether 2:10).

My italics. For Mormons, the Constitution was a necessary great prologue for the real endeavor: the restoration of the Gospel, i.e. the triumph of Mormonism over other forms of Christianity. The same president of the LDS church confirmed the Mormon belief that the Founding Fathers appeared as spirits in Utah's Saint George Temple to a previous president, Wilford Woodruff in 1877, and stayed for two days and nights in order to be properly saved by a Mormon baptism. Woodruff wrote of this experience:

The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, "You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God." These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them … I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister [sic] to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others…

George Washington was posthumously named a high priest in the LDS church, alongside John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus. Yes: Ben Franklin is a Mormon High Priest now, according to Romney's faith. More significant to me is that all these figures in American history were asking to be baptized since they now knew that Mormonism was true and they needed saving. 

In some ways, Mormonism is the perfect form of Christianity for Christianist nationalist politics. It is the only form of Christianity that believes Jesus visited America; that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in Missouri; and the only one that, as a theological proposition, sees the US Constitution as an integral part of the divine order, and one that Jesus personally foresaw in his appearances in America two millennia ago, and blessed.

I raise this because such an understanding of America's unique and divine status among nations has profound foreign policy implications. It means that America alone has divine permission to do what it wants in the wider world, that America is subject to different standards than everyone else (because we alone are divinely blessed), and that geopolitics is about the global supremacy of the modern world's first divine nation (even if Iran and Israel might differ on which country is divinely blessed).

Jesus-christ-in-america

There's a reason, in other words, that Romney's foreign policy does not have a moderate, realist strain to it; that it is wedded to zero-sum conflict as the only way to engage the world (he regards Russia as America's number one geopolitical foe and wants a trade war with China); that its opposition to Jihadism gets perilously close to opposition to Islam as a whole; and that its core principle is that America is always, by definition, right.

I wish we had a Mormon candidate in a party that adheres to a separation of church and state and of politics and religion (like Reid or Huntsman in a different universe). Then we could regard that faith as utterly irrelevant to a candidate's capacity for running the country. But when the GOP affirmatively declares that there is no such thing as a secular decision, that there is no place and no decision and no policy which is not subject to religious and theological influence … it seems to me that we have to examine how a candidate's faith affects their politics – by the GOP's own reasoning.

Does Romney believe that America is uniquely divine among nations? How would that affect his decisions as president? Does he believe that the Constitution is also divine and a "necessary prologue" for the triumph of the LDS Church in America and across the world? Would he therefore appoint Justices who share that view? Or if the original Constitution is divine, and the Amendments are not, as Garry Wills asks, what status do the Amendments have in a Mormon president's eyes?

(Painting: the Founding Fathers appear to Mormon President Wilford Woodruff in the St George Temple in Utah in 1877. A painting rendering the Mormon view of Jesus' appearance to the Nephites in the Americas after his resurrection. )