The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Mormon Theocracy Meme Debunked

Bigotry is bad; how hard is that to remember?

Apparently, very hard for a lot of American liberals who have allowed their dislike and suspicion of Republican politics to lower their defenses against cheap and ugly religious bigotry.  Nasty, ill-founded slanders against alleged Mormon plans for theocracy are spewing forth from news organizations and writers who, when the better angels of their nature are more fully in control, recognize the vicious and evil nature of religious bigotry in other contexts.

An article at Tablet should be the last word in this discussion. Yair Rosenberg not only takes these temporarily deranged partisan bigots (who never objected to Harry Reid’s Mormon faith when he ascended to the leadership of the Senate’s Democratic majority but discovered dark Mormon plots when a member of the church became the front runner in the GOP nomination fight) to task for the double standard; he demolishes the half-truths and rumors on which the Mormophobes erected their paranoid framework and illustrates the parallels between this form of bigotry and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Writes Rosenberg:

Tellingly, the sort of specious argument that Salon’s Denton makes about the perils of Mormon theocracy is exactly the sort of conspiracy theory that the same publication rightly denounces when it comes from Robert Spencer about Muslims and the threat of creeping Sharia. The latter narrative is clearly seen as false, but the equally problematic nature of the anti-Mormon argument is obscured by partisan blinders.

But one need not agree with Romney’s policies to recognize that it is wrong to play Da Vinci Code with his faith’s traditions, picking and choosing questionable texts from LDS history and using them to demonize an entire diverse religious community. One need not agree with those policies to understand that Romney’s positions are his own, and not dictated secretly by his church, which sometimes openly advocates for diametrically opposed policies.

Ultimately, there’s only one way to understand Mormons. “Meet a Mormon. Talk to a Mormon. Not about the church—just find out who we are,” said Card. “You’ll find out we’re perfectly normal. We have the normal percentage of wackos, like any other group—you can find wacko Baptists, wacko agnostics, and wacko college professors—but most of us are ordinary people. We keep up our yard, we pay our bills, we buy our houses, pay our mortgage, do our job, work hard.

Read the whole thing.

When it comes to questions of faith and doctrine, I am not a supporter of the LDS church and find some of its core teachings deeply opposed to what I believe to be the most important pillars of Christian faith. But being an American involves knowing when to pay attention to questions like those and when to set them aside. And being an American involves speaking out when others, temporarily deranged by partisan heat, seek to turn bigotry into a political tool.

When he’s not writing for Tablet under his own name, Yair Rosenberg writes on this site as part of Team Mead. I’m pleased and proud to see one of our contributors doing such good work on such an important subject at this early point in his career.

 

Published on February 22, 2012 5:01 pm
  • Charles R. Williams

    Concerns about theocracy and Islam have a reasonable basis. Concerns about Mormonism do not. But the left in the US is obsessed with the danger of Christian theocracy since it gives the left grounds to dismiss the arguments of Christians in the public square. There is a rational foundation for opposing abortion, for example. There are certain people who want to dismiss these arguments as faith-based and consequently illegitimate.

    As for the real Christian theocrats, they probably number a couple hundred thousand and have zero influence outside their little sects.

  • John Barker

    So the truth finally comes out, the Elders of Zion are not Jewish.

  • Gary L

    In a better political world than ours, Mitt Romney would stage a joint press conference with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). The Democrat Mormons would all state that while they could think of many excellent reasons for opposing Romney’s candidacy, the one reason they would reject would be opposing Romney on the basis of his Mormon faith. They would then ask the several GOP Mormon Congressman (Rob Bishop, R-UT, Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Wally Herger, R-CA, Raul Labrador, R-ID, Buck McKeon, R-CA, & Mike Simpson R-ID) to step forward, displaying the full range of ideological diversity within the Mormon community.

  • Kris

    Trolling for another Orson Scott Card appearance?

    John@2: “So the truth finally comes out, the Elders of Zion are not Jewish.”

    How do you figure? The POTUS is but a figurehead, true power resides in a certain manor in glamorous Queens. And it is now revealed that the HQ mastermind that all fawn over obsequiously is one “Rosenberg”…

    I rest my case of beer.

  • Toni

    Mr. Card could have added wacko atheists.

    Ender and Bean ROCK.

    So do Mr. Rosenberg and Tablet. Look what I just found: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/91568/heart-of-texas/

  • http://thepencilofnature.net Lorenz Gude

    In ’28 Al Smith, a Roman Catholic, ran on the Democratic ticket and was soundly defeated because the Solid South would not vote for a Catholic openly fearing Popish plots and the like. 32 years later Roman Catholic JFK won against Quaker Nixon. Religion in 1960 was little mentioned (and I was paying close attention) much like race was not much talked about openly in 2008. What is permitted changes, human nature does not.

  • Steve Gerow

    Some of us are old enough to remember the arguments sometimes used against John Kennedy during the election that as a Catholic he would be a puppet of the Pope.

  • Eric Rasmusen

    It is easy to call someone a bigot, but you haven’t debunked anything in this article. Of course, I don’t know what it is you’re trying to debunk, either. The article’s point seems to be that nobody should criticize the structure and influence of the Mormon church, but it doesn’t present evidence one way or the other. “Meet a Mormon” is a silly answer, if the accusation is that the Mormon church is a highly secretive organization that tries to conceal its influence and doctrines and centralizes its power while telling its members not to think about doctrine, just believe.

    It is also worth noting that the Mormon church *was* a theocracy for its first 50 years or so,a nd even moved to Utah so it could continue as a theocracy. That was a long time ago, and things have change, but don’t act as if it’s evil to wonder how much they have changed.

  • BarryD

    I think that we can and should include one’s voluntary religious association in our assessment of the person’s character, intelligence, judgment, etc.

    That isn’t bigotry.

    WRT Mormon theocracy, well, insofar as there is such, they do it at the local level. One has to travel out of Wisconsin to see it. It’s not bigotry to call it what it is.

    I don’t believe the Mormons have any designs on the Federal Government. But someone who thinks that there’s no theocratic tendency in Mormonism is naive. The same can likely be said of many sects, including some “mainstream Christian” ones.

  • Sam L.

    I’m glad the libs have finally twigged to Harry Reid’s dastardly plot. Now we get so see what they do about this eviilllllll insidious person.

    The Elders of Zion are not Jewish? I seem to recall hearing from an in-law Mormon that there’s a belief that they (their faith) are descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. (I might misremember.)

  • TT

    I suspect that, when reading 19th century Mormon documents and positions, one should keep in mind that they are the only identifiable group of citizens ever forced out of the U.S. at the point of a gun. Oh, and then a few years later I think the U.S. Army invaded their new homeland for little or no reason. That’s gotta leave a mark

  • Tragic Christian

    Does anybody remember as far back as … oh, last fall, when Michele Bachman wanted to bring theocratic Christian rule to America? The tolerant Left, which refuses to see a Muslim soldier executing his comrades at Ft. Hood while screaming “Allhu Akbar” as anything related to Islam, are more than willing to raise the alarums and whisper plots when Evangelicals, Mormons, or the “wrong kind” of Catholics (like Santorum) are running for office. Is anyone surprised by this?

  • abdul7591

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Romney’s Mormonism will have very little impact on how he would formulate economic or foreign policies as president.

    As an aside, I do think it is unfortunate that Robert Spencer’s name had to be dragged through the mud of comparison with leftist partisan hacks. Spencer has written more knowledgeably about Islamic teachings than almost anybody else, and has never advocated hating people simply for being Muslim. As even the atheist, Sam Harris, has pointed out, Islam is quite a bit scarier than any other religion because of its divine mandate to its followers to wage jihad against unbelievers. Spencer’s principal contribution to this debate is to provide a great deal of very specific factual information about Islamic teachings and Islamic history. In no sense can he be legitimately compared to the hypocritical fools who see dark conspiracies in Romney’s Mormonism, but think Harry Reid’s Mormonism is not an issue at all.

  • Half Canadian

    Eric,

    Mormons didn’t go to Utah to practice their theocracy, they went to Utah to save their hides.
    Was there a strong overlap in religion & government? Yes. Could non-Mormons thrive during that time? Yes, and some did.

  • Anonymous

    What is with this constant equivalence between Islam and other religions? It’s so easily debunked.

    How?

    Burn a holy book.

    Burn a Bible. What happens? Not much. Burn a Book of Mormon. What happens? Again, not much. Burn a Koran? Even SPEAK about burning a Koran? Riots. Death threats. Jihad.

    Islam is a totalitarian ideological core inside a religion wrapper.

  • Toni

    To Sam L. & all,

    “The Protocol of the Elders of Zion” is 100% fiction concocted in Czarist Russia, for reasons I don’t know.

    Yet another example of religious bigotry in general and anti-Semitism in general.

  • Kris

    I am greatly worried about the possibility that after the upcoming elections, the POTUS might be someone who has proudly and publicly stated that: “I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment, asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong.”

  • richard40

    I remember when dems, and the press, rightly stated how foolish it was to fear that somehow JFK would be controlled by the Pope, since he was Catholic. In Romneys case, such fears are even more foolish, since the Mormons are a very small minority, and could never sustain any sort of religious dictatorship.

    The paragons of rationality and tolerance on the left seem to completely disappear when it comes to tolerating anything about a repub. Rank hipocracy on their part, all the worse since as you pointed out no dem has ever objected to Harry Reid’s Mormonism. It reminds me that dems would howl to high heaven if any repub who used to be in the KKK was ever elected to anything, but tolerated former KKK leader Robert Byrd for years, and even put him in leadership positions.

    Romney might well let his faith guide some of his positions, but that guidance will be no different than that of a normal protestant or a catholic. But I suspect that is the dems real fear. They dont want any president that thinks his faith is important to his life, unless he is a leftist dem, and his faith is some form of American hating demand for redistribution, like Rev Wright.

    Personally I am much more afraid of Santorums religious beleifs, since he constantly wears them on his sleeve and lets them affect his public policy positions to a far greater degree. I have seen no sign of that at all in Romney, who treats his religion as privately important to him, but not for the rest of us, other than in positions, like opposition to abortion, and the importance of family, that many christians, and Americans of other faiths, share.

  • Micha Elyi

    The late Grand Klaxon of the Senate, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, wasn’t the only KKK-affiliated Democrat who held a seat in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body in our lifetime.

    Look it up.

  • Louise Adams

    Prediction: If Romney is elected guaranteed the LDS missionaries are going to make hay and there will be a distinct Romney bump in church membership.

    Unlike the bump the Southern Baptists didn’t get with Jimmy Carter or the Methodists didn’t get with George Bush.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Lorena Gude: The only states Al Smith carried in 1928 were in the Solid South. True, he was the first Democrat to lose Florida and Texas, and he also lost North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia – but he also lost everywhere else except Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Smith carried the South (the 11 ex-Confederate states) by 4.5%; he lost the rest of the country by 19.9%.

  • Toni

    richard40 wrote, “Personally I am much more afraid of Santorums religious beleifs, since he constantly wears them on his sleeve and lets them affect his public policy positions to a far greater degree.”

    No. Santorum is constantly ASKED ABOUT them, by the media and in debates. In the latter case, Romney has learned to use Santorum’s religion against him; Paul, too, to a lesser extent.

    In my eyes, Romney’s the guy with the good resume, but I never know quite how sincere he is. He’s been running for pres. for how many years? Six? Should we believe Mitt v.2000 or v.2006 or v.2012?

    For better or worse, Santorum is truly sincere. Religion-phobic corners of the media, including mainstream, attack. For better or worse, I prefer sincere.

  • http://www.ldsrevelations.com/blog LDSRevelations

    The reason the LDS Church gets accused of having theological aspirations is because early in it’s early years (19th century America) it did exactly that. In Missouri, Illinois and then finally in Utah the early Mormon community looked to the same leadership on both religious and civic matters. In fact a lot of the persecution of the LDS Church from it’s neighbors at this time came as a result of LDS leadership directing LDS faithful to vote as a block. The battle-less Utah War of 1857 was essentially President Buchanan putting down what he saw as a growing Mormon theocracy where Brigham Young was both Prophet and Governor and the LDS hierarchy were in charge of virtually everything.

    The question now is whether or not the LDS Church still has these aspirations. I live in Utah and certainly this seems to be the case. The Legislature is predominantly LDS and look to the Brethren and the Church for guidance. The recent Utah compact on immigration is a great example. The UT legislature proposes a tough immigration bill until the LDS Church’s speaks out suggesting a gentler approach. So then legislature them scraps Bill A and comes back with what the Church wants.

    Then of course there’s the Prop 8 debacle. The prophet speaks and the Mormons mobilize.

    Can the LDS pull off a theocracy? I doubt it. Would they if they could? Who knows?

  • Deej

    I’m Mormon and there is Mormon doctrine that there is to be no theocracy rules by humans. I hate Romney for his political beliefs but if he seeks council from the 1st Presidency of the church I’ll be up in arms protesting.