I’ve been following this Mitt Romney-Mike Huckabee thing for the past few days, and I have to say that if they can’t find anything to do besides quibble about religion, they don’t need to be running for president. You might expect that sort of thing on the playground; I don't expect it on the campaign trail. Then again, I tend to be idealistic about these things.
But they are…running for president and quibbling about religion…and all of this gets spread out all over the media.
I won’t even discuss Mitt’s speech last week, or not much anyway. Suffice it to say that I know exactly what he was doing, who he was trying to impress, and I don’t think that throwing the atheists, the agnostics, and the non-monotheists under the bus in an attempt to gain the evangelical vote speaks very well for the man and his principles, especially after his line about a “symphony of faith”. Apparently he believes - or wants evangelicals to believe that he believes - that only monotheists, and preferably Christian monotheists, have a faith that is acceptable to him.
Not that it is all that easy to put your finger on exactly what Mitt believes, since he seems to change his mind so often on policy issues.
The more recent tempest in a teapot is more entertaining.
Apparently an article will appear on Sunday in the New York Times Magazine in which Mike Huckabee raises an interesting question of Mormon theology. Do the Mormons believe, he asks (rhetorically or not), that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers?
Mitt has come up sputtering that he thinks its dirty pool to attack his religion, and the LDS church has come up with a non-denial denial. According to a church spokesperson:
“We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.”
All an accurate picture of LDS belief, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far.
I was a Mormon for a long time. If I heard the story about Jesus and Lucifer once, I heard it a hundred times in Sunday School classes and Relief Society lessons and across the pulpit in a number of venues. It goes like this:
In the preexistence, Jesus was the eldest brother of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Their second son (or maybe the son of Heavenly Father and another of his plural wives; anyway, Heavenly Father’s second son) was Lucifer. Heavenly Father loved both of them exceedingly, and when the planning for this earth was in progress both Jesus and Lucifer presented their schemes for the Plan of Salvation. Jesus plan was that each spirit child (by then there were hosts of them, as Heavenly Father and his wives had been very busy) would come to earth for the mortal probation and have the free will to accept God’s plan and believe in him or not. Lucifer’s plan was that mortals would be forced to accept God’s plan of salvation. That way everyone would be saved, whether they wanted to be or not.
Heavenly Father put his seal of approval on Jesus’ plan. Of course, that pissed Lucifer off and he and his followers (generally numbered as one-third of Heavenly Father’s spirit children) rebelled. This resulted in the war in heaven, and Lucifer and his followers were ejected from Heaven.
Yeah. I know. But it’s what they teach. Whether they are willing to admit it or not. Which is why I don’t get why Mitt is going around now complaining about how Mike Huckabee has attacked his religion. Yes, Mike likely asked it in order to raise doubts about Mitt’s status as a Christian, or at least as a mainstream Christian. But, since it is something that has been widely taught in the LDS church for a long time, I find it fairly disingenuous of Mitt to act all offended. He said in his speech last week that “My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs.” He isn’t doing that if he isn’t willing to own all the teachings of his church.
Well, no. I do understand what is going on with Mitt’s protestations, just as I know what he was trying to do in his speech.
That story is not for the consumption of outsiders. There are a lot of things like that in Mormonism, actually. You see, Mormons, or at least the official church treasure the concept of milk before meat. That means that when someone is an outsider, or is investigating the faith, you don’t exactly tell them everything. You don’t talk too much about things like how Jesus and Lucifer are the eldest spirit children of Heavenly Father. You don’t talk about how Heavenly Father has more than one Heavenly Wife. You don’t talk about the story (a faith-promoting rumor, basically; read that as a specifically Mormon urban legend) that Jesus occasionally comes down personally to the temples to check the records and see that everything is being done correctly.
The things that fall into this category of “reserved for the believer” vary from time to time and place to place, and there are more of them now than there used to be. It has become somewhat of an in-joke among former Mormons how often the General Authorities (the leaders of the church) say, these days, “I’m not sure that we teach that.” This was famously uttered by Gordon B. Hinckley, the current president and prophet of the church in an interview with Larry King on CNN, when he was asked about the couplet that was repeated more or less constantly when I was active in the church that “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”
Well, be that as it may, now it seems that Huckabee has apologized to Romney for asking the question, which is probably a good thing. He probably shouldn’t have asked it in the first place. But he did ask it, and it managed to attract the media’s attention and, likely, caused a few headaches in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.