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  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Feb 1, 2012 11:05 AM Flag

    The elephant in the room

    Mitt Romney is a Mormon, everybody knows that, but he isn't Joe Average Mormon. He's a bishop in the Mormon church and on a path to become one of the handful of elders who run the church. While all religions have their peculiarities, Mormonism has credal elements that set it apart from all other prominent religions. For one thing, Mormons believe in a ritual called "baptism of the dead" by means of which people who weren't Mormons while they were alive are converted into Mormons after their death. That ritual is the driving force behind the Mormons' intense interest in geneology, visible at their site Ancestry.com. From the data submitted by people putting together family histories, the Mormons get the names of people who can then be retroactively converted to Mormonism. Speaking for myself, while, on the one hand, I don't care what happens to me after I die, on the other, I'm offended at the thought that these guys are going to (for their own purposes, anyway) turn me into something I'm not when I am no longer in a position to object.

    The Mormon church also has a history of violence such as the so-called "Mountain meadows massacre" of 1857. To its credit, the church has frankly acknowledged that this event was unjustified and is a terrible stain on its history. For the official Mormon account, see here:http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=1c234dc029133110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&locale=0

    Like the conservative elements of other Christian denominations--southern Baptists for example--the Mormons have been adamantly opposed to gay marriage. Unlike the other denominations, however, the Mormon church has put its considerable financial muscle into political campaigns to delegitimize gay marriage, having spent more than $20 million in California alone to pass the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8.

    The church's treatment of women and minorities has also been less than exemplary. It wasn't until the late 1970's that the church dropped its Jim Crow policies. And the role of women in the church has always been subservient, both in its polygamous early days and more recently.

    I've known and worked with and frankly admired a lot of Mormons. For the most part, they are decent, hard-working, honest and straight-forward. They are also clannish, defensive, and at some core level, don't really trust anyone who isn't a Mormon.

    I mention these various things because there has been more or less a conspiracy of silence about Romney's religion, as if asking him about something that is of such obvious importance in his life is somehow displaying bigotry. But I think it is fair to ask of a man who occupies a prominent leadership position in the Mormon church how his role as a religious leader will translate into practical actions as President. Will he, for example, try to make it impossible for gays to serve openly in the military now that they are finally able to do that?

    What do others think?

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