Saturday, March 10, 2012

In which Mitt Romney appeals to (religious) authority...

What is it with Mitt Romney?

According to a story on CNN's website, Romney was asked during a radio interview in Alabama recently whether he believes that "America is the new 'Promised Land'," which the interviewer characterized as something taught in the Book of Mormon. The interviewer asked for a yes or no answer.

But Mitt, being both Mormon and politician, couldn't - or wouldn't - commit. His answer was, according to the CNN story,"You're gonna have to go to the church and ask what they think about that." He continued by saying, "There's no question about the fact that Israel is the 'Promised Land.' That's what the Bible tells us. And my guess is that they're the lands of promise to other people."


Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. The interviewer didn't ask you what the LDS church teaches about the location of the Promised Land. He also didn't ask you what the Bible says about the question (which could actually be two different things). He asked what you believe about it. It doesn't speak well of your independence from your ecclesiastical leaders that you have to depend on them to answer a simple question about what you, as an individual, believe about a question touching on spiritual beliefs.

I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that Mitt wouldn't commit. Mormon theology is slippery that way, and oftentimes even the highest authorities in the church won't give a straight answer about the church's beliefs to those who are not LDS themselves. Still, I worry about someone who won't answer a simple question about their beliefs. If you're ashamed of what you believe, maybe you should rethink your belief system. And if you're afraid to say what you believe because it will lose you votes, well, that's just lying for personal gain. It makes people like me wonder what else you might be waffling on in order to win elections. How can I be sure anything you say is what you really think?

Well, I don't trust Mitt anyway. He's a politician. And, as a former Mormon, I'm very familiar with the way that the LDS church, and its members, often have one set of answers for the faithful and another for the members of the church. They call that "milk before meat", and as far as I'm concerned all that means is that they will like about what the church really teaches in order to snag converts. This is not something I'm guessing at; I know this to be a fact because it happened to me when I converted to the LDS church when I was a teenager. But that's another post for another time.

Right now, the issue is Mitt and his reluctance to state his beliefs, deferring to the institutional church when the question clearly asked what he believes, not what his church believes. What his appeal to the authority of the church reminds me of more than anything is how LDS parents will take their toddlers, children who can barely speak a complete sentence, up to the stand on Fast Sunday - usually the first Sunday of the month, when LDS faithful abstain from two meals and give their sacrament meeting over to the congregation to bear their testimonies - and then whisper in the child's ear, for the child to repeat, "I know the church is true..." It is an exercise in ventriloquism. And it isn't attractive when the ventriloquist's dummy is any adult, much less one who aspires to the Presidency.

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