The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Mitt Romney knows better

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There’s a particular Mormon forum that I used to be a regular contributer to, for many, many years. I don’t post there now, as I’ve lost the sense of “belonging” that I had in the days when I was an active participant there. But occasionally, I will silently visit and read the words of those who I once had an affinity for, and this brings me to the reason for this entry.

Earlier today, I read the transcript of Mitt Romney’s speech, the link to which I had come across at the forum that I refer to, and a certain paragraph jumped out to me. Actually, there were more, but I want to say a few things about this one paragraph:

Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

I read that and immediately thought to myself, “Oh, come on, who are you trying to kid? Whose eyes are you trying to pull the wool over?” Of course, it’s quite obvious that he’s trying to appease certain Christians who find his brand of religiousness troubling. But seriously, as a practicing Mormon, the importance of willingly submitting to the words of church authorities will have been indelibly etched on his psyche, so I don’t believe for one minute that he’s capable of temporarily disentangling himself from a lifetime of Mormon indoctrination at the drop of a hat. If Romney is as devout as he appears, I doubt that he will be able to ignore his deep-rooted prejudices, his innate Mormonism.

So I just want to show how a “good” Mormon, like Romney, views the authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although he says that they will never “exert influence on presidential decisions”, the church authorities, especially the prophet and President of the Church, wield a huge amount of power in the lives of Latter-day Saints. I hope to demonstrate this by referring to an address that’s very well-known in Mormon circles.

In 1980, Ezra Taft Benson, who was at the time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk called The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, which has since become a Mormon classic, where he explained that if a person hopes to be crowned with God’s glory in the hereafter then that person must follow the prophet. This “grand key” – as he called it – is chief in importance as it alone unlocks the door to the highest heaven and all the membership of the Church knows this, so there’s no getting around it. This talk encapsulates everything that orthodox Mormons – including Romney, if his profession to be a faithful church member is correct – believe about their prophets. So though Romney claims emphatically that he can ignore his firmly implanted beliefs when making crucial decisions, I very much doubt this, given the paramount significance of the prophet’s utterances in the lives of Latter-day Saints.

Benson says that “the prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything” (fundamental 1, emphasis mine) and follows that up by quoting from Mormon scripture:

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. [Doctrine & Covenants 21:4-6]

Did you hear what the Lord said about the words of the prophet? We are to “give heed unto all his words”–as if from the Lord’s “own mouth.”

Suppose the prophet makes an official declaration that runs counter to a presidential policy decision. How would Romney, as a Mormon, respond to this? Am I to seriously believe that he will choose to ignore the Lord’s mouthpiece and, in effect, ignore the Lord himself?

In his talk, Benson addresses this dilemma and answers it (fundamental 7):

The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

Said President Harold B. Lee:

You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life…. Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow…. Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church. [in Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152-153)

How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.

So where’s the wriggle room for a professed faithful Mormon when it comes to choosing between obedience to the Lord’s anointed and political expediency?

In his speech, Romney suggests that its inappropriate for a spiritual leader to become involved in political matters, that their stewardship is solely “within the province of church affairs”. But Benson says (fundamental 5):

The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet, and you’ll be blessed and time will vindicate you.

And he reinforces this concept later in his talk (fundamental 9):

The prophet can receive revelation on any matter–temporal or spiritual.

Said Brigham Young:

Some of the leading men in Kirtland were much opposed to Joseph the Prophet, meddling with temporal affairs…

In a public meeting of the Saints, I said, “Ye Elders of Israel…. will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?” Not one of them could do it….

I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be. [Journal of Discourses, 10:363-364]

The Mormon prophet is able to pontificate on any subject he feels inspired to speak about and it’s the duty of church members to “heed” his words and incorporate them into their everyday life, and even mindset. The prophet’s words will always be preeminent in relation to “earthly knowledge” or the wisdom of men.

When Romney says that the prophet’s authority “ends where the affairs of the nation begin” he’s pitting himself against Brigham Young who stated that no man should “point out the path a Prophet of God…or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things.” Of course, I don’t believe that Romney thinks he knows better than God’s chosen representative on earth, as that would belie his persona of being a good Mormon, so I can’t help but think that he’s deliberately being disingenuous by making such a statement.

In all, there are 14 fundamentals that Benson talks about – read the talk! – which give a correct impression of what all true blue Mormons believe. I hope the points I’ve brought out give a glimpse into how important the concept of obedience to higher authorities is within Mormondom. And as a former Latter-day Saint who found the prospect of being a latter-day ain’t more attractive, I understand completely the homage that members pay to those powerful men who sit in the highest quorums of the Church. This is why I find Romney’s statements utterly unbelievable.

To think that he would allow a lifetime’s worth of propaganda not to “exert influence” on him is a ludicrous idea, more so as he believes that his indoctrination is a good thing that will eventually lead him through the pearly gates. He would have been taught from a very young age to follow the prophet, and that that is where safety lies. It’s preached week in and week out at church and reinforced in the home. Not only are church authorities always exerting influence over him by virtue of what he’s been taught to accept as true from childhood onwards, Benson’s summary of what Mormons believe regarding their prophet explains what Romney’s attitude would really be if he was faced with a conflict between political necessity and the pronouncement of the man he upholds as God’s mouthpiece on earth.

Curmudgeonly Yours

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