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Civil Rights

Hey Mitt: Racism is a Latter-Day Sin.

“It ought to be borne in mind that Romney is not a mere rank-and-file Mormon. His family is, and has been for generations, part of the dynastic leadership…It is not just legitimate that he be asked about the beliefs that he has not just held, but has caused to be spread and caused to be inculcated into children. It is essential. Here is the most salient reason: Until 1978, the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an officially racist organization.Slate‘s Chris Hitchens explains why Mitt Romney needs to start being more forthright about his Mormonism. I’m inclined to agree — if nothing else, he needs to clear the air as Kennedy did in his 1960 address to Southern Baptists (a strategy Romney avoided in his run against JFK’s little brother in 1994.)

A self-proclaimed paragon of virtue, Governor Romney has recently been publicly tsk-tsking Barack Obama’s candor about his drug use. But I doubt I’m the only American who’d feel more sanguine about my child experimenting with marijuana than he or she espousing some of the notions that the Mormon Church declared holy writ within my lifetime. “[I]n antebellum Missouri and preaching against abolition, Smith…announced that there had been a third group in heaven during the battle between God and Lucifer. This group had made the mistake of trying to remain neutral but, following Lucifer’s defeat, had been forced into the world and compelled to ‘take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro or African race.’ Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple.” As Hitchens aptly points out, “Mitt Romney was an adult in 1978. We need to know how he justified this to himself, and we need to hear his self-criticism, if he should chance to have one.Update: Facing a surprising (to him) Huckabee surge among Christian conservatives, Mitt Romney announces he’ll discuss his faith in a major speech next Thursday, akin to Kennedy’s 1960 address. I presume he won’t be delving into this former aspect of his faith, but you never know.

Discussion

4 Responses to “Hey Mitt: Racism is a Latter-Day Sin.”

  1. As I lifelong LDS, I’ve heard the LDS Church officially repudiate the neutrals-in-the-war-in-heaven notion all my life. It just never has been part of accepted LDS doctrine.

    Posted by manaen | November 28, 2007, 4:21 am
  2. Thanks, manaen. Not being LDS myself, I have no idea how much this doctrine was/is actually espoused or repudiated (although to say it was never part of accepted LDS doctrine doesn’t seem right to me — As the Hitchens and TIME articles note, it was part of the official LDS canon until 1978.)

    Still, I think it’s something we need to hear from Governor Romney, particularly if he’s going to continue to make a habit of tsk-tsking other candidates’ morals.

    Posted by Kevin | November 28, 2007, 12:44 pm
  3. As you might remember, I was LDS for most of my life, until I woke up to the inconsistencies of the doctrine while at BYU. This, much like polygamy, was a part of LDS church doctrine. I have heard African Americans testify in sacrament meetings of the blessing of finally being able to receive the priesthood after the prophet Spencer W. Kimball received revelation that black people could now enjoy the fullness of the gospel. A cornerstone of the LDS church is that a prophet speaks and receives direct revelation from God. If you believe this, then you accept the prophet’s word as truth. To me, there was never room for self reflection and reasoning in that environment. In fact, Mormons are warned against even reading books that disagree with LDS doctrine. Based on my experience, Romney can say he disagreed with the prophet/God (much like he clearly did in his shocking earlier stances on abortion) or, what my family would say, “that we don’t understand all of God’s revelations.” That being said, I think the percentage of racist Mormons is probably on par with the rest of the population (ie higher in the South). I think Romney will continue to avoid discussing his religious beliefs in such detail and will not try to defend doctrines that the church no longer espouses.

    Posted by kashelle | November 28, 2007, 11:08 pm
  4. Hey, Kashelle…great to hear from you. What’s it been, 15 years? We’re a long ways from GSSM. :)

    Thanks for posting. I agree — Romney’s probably going to run out the clock as long as he can without explicitly discussing his Mormonism, other than using it in vague terms to come across as a man of faith. But, if religious-minded voters continue to coalesce behind Mike Huckabee instead, Romney might be in big trouble.

    Posted by Kevin | November 30, 2007, 3:14 pm

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