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Expect to hear more comments like this about Romney and Mormonism

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Time: 6:18 PM

I'd like for you to meet political commentator Lawrence O'Donnell.

For those who don't know O'Donnell is also a person who makes frequent appearances o television shows such as NBC's The West Wing and HBO's show "Big Love", a series about an Utah polygamist with three wives.

Coming on the heels of the former Massachusetts governor lack-luster speech in Texas last week, On Sunday, O'Donnell's launched into what is considered the most vicious attack against Mark Nielsen's Mayor Mark Boughton's presidential man Mitt Romney and the racism behind Mormonism to date...and I have a feeling that this won't be the last we hear of people really taking Romney to task over his faith (seeing that Mormons distanced themselves from their past racist views about blacks in 1978 when Mitt was 30 years old.

Adding gasoline to the fire, Matt Yglesias at The Atlantic Monthly had this to say about Mormonism last week.
So Mitt Romney cited the civil rights movement as an example of the sort of common faith-based moral causes that bring people of all faiths together. Maybe he needs to re-read about church history. Here's the April 13, 1959 Time:
Whatever they may do or leave undone about their Negro brethren, most U.S. churches hold that all men are equal before God. One notable exception: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon teaches that the colored races are descendants of the evil children of Laman and Lemuel, who impiously warred against the good children of Nephi and received their pigmented skin as punishment. Last week a Utah State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights drew on this Mormon scripture in a scathing report on the state of the tiny nonwhite minority in Utah.

Now, obviously, they've jettisoned that these days and that's not what Mitt Romney believes. But it highlights out vacuous this notion of an all-encompassing universal faith-and-goodness is. Most major religions do espouse a mostly-admirable moral creed. But old-style Mormon teaching on "the evil children of Laman and Lemuel" isn't admirable. Arresting people for naming a teddy bear "Mohammed" isn't admirable. Settlers who believe the entire West Bank is God's gift to the Jewish people aren't admirable.
Food for thought...and trust me, it would be WORSE from the Republicans if we were talking about a Democratic candidate who was an atheist.

UPDATE: For those who want to learn up on the origins of Mormonism, check out the quick video clip here AND read my blogging colleague's experience with the religion.

Finally, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and current columnist Bill Curry had this to say about Mitt's speech and Mormonism.
In College Station, Romney faced an audience packed with believers of the political kind. He too spoke about religious freedom, but took no questions and barely even mentioned Mormonism. His stated excuse was that to talk about it would violate the spirit of the Constitution. He cited Kennedy.

But no one asked Kennedy about transubstantiation or why he ate fish on Fridays. There was really only one question: "Would the pope in Rome or any cardinals or bishops in America tell him what to do?"

Kennedy knew it was a fair question. The Catholic Church has long been interested in civics. You may recall the Holy Roman Empire; or the more recent battles in Ireland over divorce and contraception; or in Latin America over social justice. Kennedy flatly promised to be his own man.

Mormons have a number of striking beliefs: that American Indians are the lost tribes of Israel; that Jesus visited them in Missouri and will return there at the end of the world; that God was once a man and lives in a distant solar system.

It's none of my business. My faith may strike some as odd, including especially the notion that anyone but me would care about my salvation. It's amazing how many people you meet who think every story but theirs is ridiculous.

But the Church of Latter-day Saints is also interested in politics. The first Mormon to run for president was Joseph Smith, the first Mormon. From the start, his relations with government were rocky, often openly hostile. Vigilantes killed him before he had a chance to show the seriousness of his candidacy.

There is much in Mormon literature about the imminent collapse of America's government and the inevitability of Mormon rule of North America. I haven't a clue as to the relevant views of Romney or other prominent Mormons. (Mormons aren't much for freedom of information.)

Ours is an era in which people with strong opinions about the end of time have influenced foreign policy. It is also an era in which many seek, through politics, the virtual amalgamation of religion and the state.

People need to know if a candidate sees separation of church and state as a sometime thing. Romney says it has in fact of late gone too far. Those of us who see the Bush years differently are entitled to some elaboration.

Romney wants to reassure evangelicals that their religion would play a major role in his government. He dodges questions about his faith less out of respect for the Constitution than concern that doctrinal differences with them would be too hard to bridge.

John Kennedy read his moment brilliantly, but he couldn't know that the future he ceaselessly pondered would be lost to the atavism and fear he confronted that day in Houston. A half-century later, Mitt Romney invoked enlightened and inclusive leadership — but Romney, it turns out, is no Jack Kennedy and his speech was but the bookend of an era.

UPDATE 2: As O'Donnell's comment spreads across the internet, more people are coming out to back him up. Here's what Ryan Davis of The Huffington Post had to say:
Watching "The McLaughlin Group" on Sunday, I was impressed by Lawrence O'Donnell's fearless attack on the origins of Mormonism. I was also surprised to read Jason Linkins' piece, on this very blog, criticizing O'Donnell for a "radical assault on Mormonism" and claiming that he "lost his mind." Linkins seems shocked that someone would be so angry, but I totally understand O'Donnell - racism makes me angry too.

What Linkins completely fails to address is that nothing O'Donnell said about the Mormon faith is incorrect. Let's break down his statements:
...this man stood there and said to you "this is the faith of my fathers." And you, and none of these commentators who liked this speech realized that the faith of his fathers is a racist faith. As of 1978 it was an officially racist faith, and for political convenience in 1978 it switched. And it said "OK, black people can be in this church." He believes, if he believes the faith of his fathers, that black people are black because in heaven they turned away from God, in this demented, Scientology-like notion of what was going on in heaven before the creation of the earth.

None of this is inaccurate. It was assumed that "blacks inherited the curse of Ham and the curse of Cain" and it wasn't until a "divine revelation" in 1978 by LDS Church President Spencer Kimball that they were allowed to be full members of the Mormon church. Mitt Romney was thirty-one years old in 1978; he's been a practicing Mormon all his life ("My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs" is what he declared last week), so either he's lying about his commitment to his faith, or he believed this racist nonsense for the first 31 years of his life. What's more, Wikipedia tells us that in the mid-1960s, a full decade before Mormonism's divine racial correction in 1978, "Romney served in France for 30 months as a missionary for LDS Church." As a missionary for the Mormon faith, did Romney fully buy into Mormon doctrine of that time? These are highly pertinent questions for a man who wishes to lead a multiracial United States.

O'Donnell then goes on to claim that Mormonism was founded by a "fraudulent criminal." He's right, of course. Joseph Smith, Jr. was the charlatan who founded Mormonism; he's also a child molester by today's standards (his thirty-plus wives included seven minors: two 14-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and three 17-year-olds). The story of Smith's "revelation" is so bizarre and silly that I won't repeat it; you'd think I was making it up. You can read it all here, as told by Christopher Hitchens, if you have any interest in wading through all the revelations and counter-revelations, angels, gold tablets, and the true origin of Native Americans according to Mormonism (their account of Native American history, incidentally, is yet another horrifying facet of the Mormon doctrine of white supremacy).

Mormons were fairly pro-slavery, with one of their founding members quoted as saying "You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham..." Those were the words of Brigham Young, who incidentally has a college named after him in Utah, which incidentally graduated a certain Mitt Romney in 1971.

I'll resist dredging further into the swampland of Mormon doctrine; I personally think debating religious doctrine is sort of like trying to decide whether Tim Burton's Batman or Chris Nolan's Batman Begins gets closer to the truth of Batman's "actual origins." (The answer is obviously the latter.)

I don't understand Linkins' desire to defend a church with such a sordid history, a history that was at odds with our vision of American justice and equality as recently as 1978. Their beliefs make me as angry as O'Donnell was, and I'm glad he was gutsy enough to say what he said.
bingo!

posted by ctblogger at 6:18 PM | Permalink|

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