A reader writes:
I've told my friends before that we'll know when Romney is truly leading in this race when Obama supporters start to smear Romney's faith, when Dems start attempting to make his Mormonism an issue. Right on cue here you are on the Dish, just absolutely puzzled as to just how HOW!? could the press, how could America fail to hold Romney accountable for the Mormon church stance on race before 1978! Here will come the history lessons on all the evils and strangeness of the Mormon faith, just watch.
Well, we are a little touchy, aren't we? Why can we not look at the only set of beliefs that Romney has consistently adhered to his entire life? And I included a question from Tim Russert, asking the kind of question today's press won't – for fear of the charge of religious bigotry. Where were you when the GOP spent months in 2008 trying to make Obama's church disqualifying for the presidency? But the racial rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright is nothing compared with a church that declared black people cursed by God until 1978. Another:
The LDS church was a "white supremacist" church? Really? It's "racist precision and exclusion" were "Nazi-like?" Seriously? For someone who is perennially pissed that Republicans can't admit past wrongs or even present defeats, you tend to beat the shit out of an American religion that has been essentially admitting "We were wrong" about some pretty crucial things. The prohibition of the priesthood for worthy men of African descent was one of those instances where you had leading members of Church saying to the Mormon public: "I was wrong, and so were you. Let's move forward."
To cherry pick some moldy old quotes from Brother Brigham's journal is completely, shamefully ridiculous. Do you think the Mormons of Mitt Romney's youth spent Sunday afternoons memorizing those vile passages instead of the Scriptures? You haven't fully grasped just how the continuing revelation thing works for Mormons: what is said today by Church leadership takes precedent over what went before. And to claim that this is done "casually" is to betray your ignorance on the question.
No one said "we were wrong and we are sorry." No leading official of the Mormon church has apologized for a century of white supremacism as theology. I gave you the video of the former president of the LDS refusing to apologize or even explain. And yes, I do understand how Mormon theology works, as my reader writes:
What is said today by Church leadership takes precedent over what went before.
That's reminiscent of Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie in 1978:
“It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978."
As a character in "The Book Of Mormon" puts it, "“I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people." Now run along and remember that tomorrow is always a latter day! We don't need to explain; we never apologize; you just obey, whenever we change. This is the culture in which Romney was not just raised but marinated in. So he can say anything, as long as it increases his own power and wealth. It explains in my view how he can flip-flop without any qualms. What was doctrine yesterday is just wrong today. And please don't ask me to explain. Another:
Mormon reader here, and one who has no qualms saying that Brigham Young was wrong, wrong, WRONG on racial matters. The priesthood ban will always be a stain on our history. But I'm writing because I think your use of the term "white supremacist" is both factually incorrect and unnecessary.
The priesthood ban that existed until 1978 was not against non-whites, but rather against blacks of African ancestry. The Mormon priesthood had been extended to Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Native American, Polynesian and Melanesian Mormons without restriction. Not that this makes the ban any less abhorrent, but it was certainly not about "whiteness." I know you were going for shock value, but "racist" is just a damnable as "white supremacist," and is far more accurate in this case.
Oh, so because Africans and African-Americans alone were singled out for the special curse, it wasn't so bad. Another:
I was born the month after the Priesthood Ban ended. Do I like your post? No. Do I want to defend my Church? Yes. But let the axe fall where it may. I have no stomach to defend a racist policy. Mercifully it is over, but the shame of it is not. I feel embarrasment for it and I hurt inside knowing our congregations will always have fewer black members than they otherwise would were it not for our history. Hopefully the Mormons of tomorrow will be better for it and maybe someday we will earn forgiveness from those hurt by it.
Forgiveness begins with a genuine apology. We've never gotten one. When asked why the ban was suddenly lifted in 1978, president Hinckley said, "I don't know." I want a Tim Russert to demand why Romney participated in a white supremacist church for 31 years, and what he did to resist such racism and how he reconciled his conscience with it. I want the same attention paid to Romney's faith in 2012 as was paid to Obama's faith in 2008.
This is especially true because the only consistent intellectual thread in Romney's life is Mormonism. It's the only thing we know for sure he believes in. Because on almost every other topic of public policy, he has been on both sides of the issue.
(Video: Part of an extended preview of "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons")