“Brother Romney”

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 29 2012 @ 12:38pm

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Here's a fascinating round-table by LDS members about the candidacy of Mitt Romney, a high priest and former stake president in the faith. It's fascinating because it's so diverse – showing just how heterogeneous many Mormons are in their politics. Maybe the simple act of a Mormon nominee will unite all Mormons behind Romney, but at the intellectual level, not so much. One sample from Bryan Benson:

Romney, like anyone else, can be completely in harmony with the Church's teaching on marriage; polygamy, we now know, is not a requirement for exaltation. The teachings respecting Zion, on the other hand, remain intact. Whether one believes that we are not called to live those teachings at this moment or that we simply do not live them, no serious Latter Day Saint can feel completely comfortable with either economic individualism or with the tremendous inequality that results from it. This is not to say that one must see government as the remedy to inequality, but simply that the principles themselves, because in tension with Mormon doctrine, must necessarily produce a certain amount of unease. If we find no sign of uneasiness regarding these things in Romney or other Mormon candidates for high office, it may be more a matter of prudence than principle. Or it may be a sign of the extent of Mormon assimilation.

What is difficult to deny is that balancing the budget entirely on the backs of the poor, old and sick, while actually enriching the already super-rich, and increasing defense spending is not in line with the communitarian ethos that originally inspired the LDS church. Thelma Young:

If there is any message that rings loudly in Christian doctrine, and especially in the Book of Mormon it is the importance of taking care of the least fortunate in our society. We are told to “succor those that stand in need of your succor” and to not “suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish” (Mosiah 4: 16).

Indeed our salvation depends upon it – “And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you-that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God-I would they ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spirituality and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).

According to their wants. Not their merits.

(Illustration: Brigham Young's 1857 Declaration of Independence from the US in the new country of "Deseret" from Jared Farmer's "Mormons in the Media 1830 – 2012" [PDF].)