Would that then imply that we should anticipate racist policies, or that having multiple wives will be a permitted? No, that would be daft and simply taps into the historical baggage that the Mormon belief system carries. As observed by Martin Kettle today …
Polygamy certainly still exists in some Mormon sects, but the main church repudiated it a century ago – as they much later abjured the church’s earlier doctrine that black people are inferior beings. It is not the movement’s past but its present that matters most.
I do hope that was not a surprise for you. While they do indeed hold some weird views, neither Polygamy nor racism is in their scope anymore. We might indeed mock the Polygamy or frown upon the past racism, but put that aside because there is stuff within the belief system today that is truly of concern …
Underlying the whole of Mormonism, past and present, is the claim – part of what makes it a heresy to traditional forms of Christianity – that America is divinely blessed and the US divinely inspired. These claims run through the Book of Mormon, supposedly translated – with the aid of special stone glasses – by the movement’s semi-literate founder, Joseph Smith, from golden tablets dug up by him in New York state in the 1820s at the direction of the angel Moroni, who then conveniently removed the plates to heaven.
OK, that sounds eccentric, and yet perhaps harmless … right? Er no, you see where such thinking takes you is a truly scary place. Once you start down this road the next step is to view the Declaration of Independence and the US constitution as divinely inspired documents (yes they really do believe that), and before you know where you are, American foreign policy has divine sanction too, and that it is answerable to its own (ie God’s) rules, not those of other, by definition lesser and less blessed, nations.
So if he should actually get elected, how would things then play out? The worry there is that it would very much depend upon how committed he is to his beliefs. Is he simply a social and cultural Mormon who ticks all the boxes, but is quite happy with the concept of separation of church and state (many believe this to be the case), but what if that assumption is not true. There is indeed evidence that he is not simply a pew filler, he was once a ward bishop and later presided over a dozen congregations around Boston – a church role that occupied as much as 30 hours per week for him. So what happens if he does truly embrace the core belief and actually begins to entertain the idea that he has been specially selected by a god to divinely rule a special nation, and that his ideas are divinely inspired so nobody has the right to question them?
Do not misunderstand me, I’d not reserving special criticism for Mr Romney’s beliefs, you need only look to some of the alternative Republican candiates we might have had, they were even crazier. No, the core problem is that when you start mixing politics with religion you constantly play with the risk of opening the door to a theocratic dictatorship. People should of course be free to believe whatever this wish even if it is obviously not true, but there also needs to be a very robust wall of separation maintained between the state and all beliefs. If not, then when one belief gains some leverage we risk the lose of freedom for all.
As for Romney, well even if you are not scared of his beliefs being deployed, he is still scary. He has already hired a large number of ex-Bush advisers so I’d also be more than a tad worried about his Republicanism as well.