During the Republican debate when the candidates were asked how their religious beliefs would effect the decisions that they made in the presidency I thought that Mitt Romney said something like, “I would also seek the guidance of our prophets in making critical decisions.” After checking the transcripts it became clear that that wasn’t quite what he said. The following is an excerpt from the actual transcripts:
He seems to have hesitated before coming up with the word providence which made me wonder whether or not what he meant to come up with was what I thought I heard. In fact, after reading more about the Mormon religion it would actually make more sense if that was what he said but that wouldn’t be politically appealing since most people aren’t Mormon. How would you “seek the guidance of providence?” In the Mormon religion they might do this by consulting with their leaders who they consider prophets. Actually he does deserve the benefit of the doubt on this since the phrasing seems to be my mistake but his views on religion and how Mormonism might effect his potential presidency is still a legitimate issue.
All the current candidates including Romney have made a big issue about religion and accused the Obama administration of carrying out an attack on religion; including the following quote from Mitt Romey that came from the last debate on February 22 in Arizona:
This particular comment didn’t address his own religion which he was raised on; but it still reflects his intention to use religion at least for political purposes. This isn’t a guarantee that he will take this position, if he gets elected, due to the fact that, quite frankly he flip flops on everything when the political pressure is turned up so you never know which position he will take on any given position. However that is another problem and it doesn’t make him any more credible. The beliefs that he might be most inclined to take seriously are those that he was raised in, which is Mormonism, or as they refer to themselves most of the time, Later-Day Saints. Whether he takes them seriously or not is hard to tell since he hasn’t discussed it much in his campaigns or at least not the details of his religion. He has often said that he takes his faith very seriously as do most politicians but that doesn’t always mean that they do; which might be just as well since when they do take it seriously they often put the emphasis on the most irrational aspects of religion. Mormonism has its share of contradiction, if not more; and they have been much better documented since this religion is still less than two hundred years old and the founder of the religion has often recommended extensive records be kept.
In a previous Blog on Mormons I reviewed A Relatively Brief History of the Mormon Church; there is an enormous amount of documentation on how this religion developed unlike religions that started hundreds if not thousands of years ago before they kept extensive records. The current discussion has rarely ever done a good job looking into the Mormon religion in the Mass Media but there are many other sources that do a much better job.
As discussed in the previous Blog I believe that if Mormonism is interpreted the way their leaders teach their followers to then it would fit my definition of a cult, as Robert Jeffress claims that they are; however I came to that conclusion for different reasons. Franklin Graham has recently come out and repeated this claim and once again the Mass Media hasn’t provided what I would consider an adequate review of the claim.
The definition that I prefer to use for a cult is simply an organization where the leaders dictate the truth to the followers without scrutiny. However, in practice there are many more details about how they do this and how they manipulate the people and other typical characteristics of cults.
As indicated in the previous Blog about Mormonism the early followers of Mormonism believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet from God and that he received revelations from God which they were supposed to accept without scrutiny, more or less. This seems to be typical of most religions except for the fact that the revelations that the Mormons receive have occurred in modern times and they continue to occur to this day; or at least many of the Mormons believe this. There is no evidence that can be confirmed for the skeptics but, of course the religious people routinely respond to this by saying that it should be taken on faith and that is what religion is about. If you accept my definition of a cult then it would mean that essentially if a God arranges to have the truth dictated to the people without scrutiny then that God would be behaving as a cult leader. This is what the Mormon God has allegedly done, assuming you believe these revelations are real, which the Mormons do. Many of these revelations are very extreme and they often include claims that God will “damn” or “destroy” those that don’t abide by his commandments. One of the most extreme and famous is a verse from the Doctrine and Covenants where God allegedly provides a revelation through Joseph Smith about the practice of polygamy and instructs his first wife to abide by it:
There has been much debate about whether or not this was a legitimate revelation among the various sects of the Later-Day Saints. According to many historical documents Emma Smith reluctantly accepted this while her first husband was still alive; although there were many stories about her having conflicts with his polygamous wives which weren’t officially acknowledged until eight years after his death when the Church officially acknowledged the practice. This practice was a major contributing cause that helped lead to the murder of Joseph Smith, although the mob that participated in it may not have known it. This led to dissent within the church and one of the dissenters, William Law, published some of his objections in the first addition of a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, created to express dissent; he didn’t actually name polygamy as part of his objections but he strongly implied that it was his main objection and the people within the church knew it. Joseph Smith ordered the press be destroyed and the anti-Mormons in nearby Carthage used this as an excuse that led to his murder before it was done.
When the Mormons moved west to Utah Emma stayed behind and later indicated that she never believed that this revelation was a true revelation from God although she still believed that her husband was a prophet and her son, Joseph Smith III became the leader of the reorganized Later-Day Saints, which is perhaps the second largest sect of Mormonism and has never believed in polygamy. The Utah based LDS abandoned polygamy after a lot of pressure and another alleged revelation from God telling them to do so.
The fact that this debate goes on and that it often settled by using intimidation tactics to convince people to follow their leaders is what indicates to many including me that when religions are practiced in their most extreme beliefs that they constitute a cult. The Mormon religion involves prophets that dictate the word of God to their followers and in the early days there were many people that claimed that they were receiving revelations from God and there was much debate about whether these were from God or the Devil. In many cases they were settled by seeing who could intimidate the followers into joining behind one leader that would speak for God and that leader was Joseph Smith who had several revelations saying that he was the only one that would speak for God. These revelations were published as the Doctrine and Covenants.
These weren’t the only revelations or translations that he had; the first major one was the Book of Mormon which was translated from the “Golden Bible” as it was known (discussed briefly in previous post about Mormonism) and he also translated a new version of the King James Bible which may not have been complete and he translated a set of papyrus that later became known as the Book of Abraham. Part of the original papyri that became the The Book of Abraham turned up in a New York museum in 1967 the translation was checked by scholars and it was found to be false this story has been told in many places including this article about the Book of Abraham at Mormon Think. Regardless of the legitimacy of the translations by Joseph Smith the Mormons are taught to believe that they’re true; therefore it is worth considering as a hypot6hetical even if they aren’t.
The following excerpt indicates essentially how many cults tend to act in practice:
Once they’re taught to believe what they’re told from their leaders they can’t think for themselves if they take to extremes and they just do what they’re told by their leaders without understanding it. If you go to the Book of Moses and read the rest of it then you’ll see that Adam and Eve turned around and started following the right God but Cain followed Satan and this is replicated over an over again in many different stories both mythical and in real life.
The Doctrine and Covenants has many verses that tell people about how to handle their financial affairs and when and how to fight their enemies. These rarely if ever involve teaching them how to figure out these things for themselves; nor do the revelations teach the Mormons that they should learn how to get along with their enemies instead of fighting them generation after generation. These revelations do often involve alleged threats that are intended to be carried out by God; however unless the religion or cult carries them out in their name there is rarely if ever any follow through on these threats. The exceptions are generally when the faithful point to a variety of events that don’t seem connected and attribute cause to them, like when some fundamentalists claimed that 9/11 was retaliation for gay people having sex. Not everyone believes this interpretation of the cause and effect, to put it mildly. In fact there are several passages that discuss how God will seek vengeance to those that don’t abide over several generations; this keep the threat going when there is no follow up.
If the hypothetical God which they chose to believe in was benevolent then you would think that he could do a much better job revealing himself in a manner that wouldn’t divide people into different groups that would fight among each other for thousands of years; and yet if you accept the text that are attributed to him then he is essentially instructing them to follow a course of action that will lead to inevitable conflict.
Or to put it bluntly, if this hypothetical God exists he’s staging wars for one generation after another; this isn’t benevolent or worthy of worship.
This doesn’t mean that Mitt Romney is the most devout Mormon or that he follows the most extreme version of Mormonism; in fact for a long time his faith wasn’t the main focus of his political career and he didn’t put much emphasis on it when he was running for office in Massachusetts. It is also worth noting that many of the revelations involve not forgetting to take care of the poor and the needy. Unlike Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who both grew up with the lower classes and did manual labor in their early years, Mitt Romney seems to have forgotten these however there is good reason to believe that he continues to promote the authoritarian aspects of the religions especially if he is the authority figure.
The Mormon Church did help him restore his reputation indirectly in 2002 when he was brought in to save the Olympics after a scandal in Utah. Utah is dominated by the Mormons including Gordon Hinckley who did a lot to reform the image of the Mormon Church for the public. According to Time Magazine he might be The Man Who Made Romney Possible by doing this. His predecessor was Marion G. Romney, cousin of Mitt’s father George Romney. Apparently Mitt Romney Sent Millions of dollars to Mormon Church in both tithing money which he donated and he also used his business deals at Bain Capital to steer numerous deals and other partners to the Church. According to John Heinerman and Anson Shupe “The Mormon Corporate Empire” 1985 the Mormon Church also has an enormous amount of investments in both the insurance industry and the media industry. Some doubts have been raised about The Mormon Corporate Empire by Malin L. Jacobs; however Jacobs had close ties to the church and it was also reviewed by Richard Ostling who didn’t have ties to the Church and he found it to be much more reliable; furthermore Jacobs didn’t address many of the issues that Heinerman and Shupe raised. Mitt’s strong ties to the Church could impact his willingness to regulate both these fairly and it could also indicate a partial reason why the Mass Media hasn’t been reporting many of the details about the Mormon religion nearly as well as they could have.
There is an enormous amount of information about the Mormon Church available from many reliable sources but the Mass Media rarely ever covers much if any of the most controversial details. The influence from the Church as reported by Heinerman and Shupe may provide a major explanation as to why they were able to improve their image so much without scrutiny. They have even more influence among many media outlets than the more widely reported reverend Sun Myung Moon owner of the Washington Times who is also considered a Messiah by his own followers. This may have been part of the reason why Gordon Hinckley was able to do so well when trying to reform the image of the Mormon Church without putting many of the most controversial aspects of the Mormon Church in the spotlight. On the rare occasions that they do make the spotlight they often appear to be portrayed as the actions of rogue sects from the Mormon Church like the Fundamentalist Later-Day Saints led by Warren Jeffs or his close associates now that he is in jail. This is only a partially accurate assumption. The polygamous sects including the FLDS are no longer part of the official LDS but they have their roots in the same doctrine as the LDS which practiced polygamy officially until 1890 and unofficially for at least ten years while it was underground before they truly abandoned it.
Other high profile incidents which the Church has been involved in include the Mark Hoffman murders which Gordon Hinckley wasn’t directly involved in but he was involved in buying many documents from Mark Hoffman which later turned out to be forgeries and he was also involved in attempts to conceal many documents which might have portrayed the Church in a negative light. In fact many books about Mormonism that were written in the early eighties still have errors as a result of these forgeries; this includes a minor error in “The Mormon Corporate Empire” which didn’t deal directly with the forged documents but as they were going to press the murders were in the news so they felt obligated to include a brief paragraph about it at the end of the book that gave both the Mormon church and Mark Hoffman the benefit of the doubt which it soon became clear that they didn’t deserve. This was exposed during the investigation of the Hoffman murders which occurred despite a lack of cooperation, if not obstruction of justice, from the Church; this was further reported in “The Mormon Murders” By Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith and “Tracking the White Salamander” by Jerald Tanner (free online copy as well as much more information about the Mormon religion). the Mormon Church has had a long history of trying to control the information that is presented about it which dates back to its origins at a time when the information from anti-Mormons was often as distorted if not more distorted than the information that the Church put out. The Mass Media is now much more inclined to present the Mormons in a positive light but if you look at other sources there are often as many exaggerations and satires about it as there was in the nineteenth century. These exaggerations and distortions are much more common when it comes to aspects like polygamy, sacred garments or “magic underwear” as they’re often referred to by critics and the Mountain Meadows Massacre in the 1850’s however a close look at the truth is often almost as negative as the exaggerations and satires.
A bigger issue should probably be the amount of influence the Mormons have in the insurance industry and the fact that they don’t rely on science to make important decisions on issues like Climate Change or pollution. As explained recently in a blog about Santorum etal including both Mitt Romney and Back Obama endorse Health Care Waste and Fraud the insurance industry is involved in an enormous amount of waste; and the portion of the money people pay for their premiums that actually goes to their own health care isn’t nearly as much is it could and should be due to the enormous amount of money the insurance companies pay on other activities including advertising and lobbying or keep for profits. His position on the environment could be just as negative if it is impacted by his Mormon beliefs or by his business ties and judging by his rhetoric as a candidate they would be if he is actually elected president.
On a comparatively minor point it also appears that Mitt Romney has admitted that he has baptized Jews after death without permission as pointed out by Francoise Arouete’s Blog “Romney Admits to Baptizing Dead Jews!?” From a policy position for most secularists this hardly seems important but most religious people would consider this highly offensive if it was brought to their attention whether they’re Jewish or not since they also practice this for people of all faiths. Combined with silly satires about his underwear and the fact that Romney is such an incredibly bad candidate it is hard to imagine that he could actually get elected president though. The only reason he seems to be a front runner for the GOP nomination is because of the fact that the rest of the field is so bad and the only reason he appears to be competitive in the polls with Barack Obama is probably because Barack Obama isn’t much better and the Mass Media has been unwilling to provide good coverage of anything let alone educate the public about the issues and present sincere candidates to them.
Thanks to blunders by Rick Santorum like the following it does appear that he is going to gain the nomination due to the fact that there is no one else:
These facts seem to have been simply made up to appeal to the emotions of Santorum’s followers and they often seem to work with his constituency. Mitt Romney is appealing to a similar constituency that doesn’t check facts and he has indicated that he may act on many of his bizarre beliefs if he can get away with it. The only reason that he appears to be getting the nomination is because his opposition, as presented by the Mass Media is even more insane; and by the same token the only reason Barack Obama may seem like the more credible candidate is because the Republican Party is so bad.
The Mass Media continues to tell the majority of the public that we have to choose from the candidates that collects the most money from corporations for our nominees then we can only chose from either the most corrupt Democrat or the most corrupt Republican. If the public wants a true democracy we’re going to have to stop accepting this false hypothesis and create a candidate from the grass roots level and stop playing the game on the terms of the corporations. This will require some form of Election Reform; and we need to rely much more on alternative media outlets since we can’t trust the corporate media for our information.