In what way will the Mormonism of Mitt Romney shape his values should he ever be elected as president of the USA? I noticed a Time article covering this topic recently but upon reading it I concluded that the writer’s ignorance of Mormonism meant the piece did not dig deeply enough for me.
As an ex-Mormon I can comment on some of the oddities of the group and this may give us clues to how Romney will be shaped by them. As someone who has studied the religion since leaving and becoming a Christian I think I have come up with some factors that might be worth noting.
Mormons are trained, encouraged and urged to do all they can to recruit non members to their organisation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The zeal to do so can become a life-absorbing work. Mormons are taught that their eternal progression (eternal reward) depends upon their success at recruitment.
This recruiting will of course be done by the young people who take time out to travel to other locations, away from family and their usual environment to become Mormon missionaries, but it will be pursued by most Mormons in less obvious ways too.
Mormons will try to “out nice” the people they mix with, hoping that by their nice behaviour others will be either impressed or curious enough to be interested in finding out more of the Mormon religion. Mormonism is not to be understood as a private faith.
Many Mormons persist in trying to pass themselves off as a type of Christian even though that is completely inaccurate. They may appear to hold on to some sort of double-think as they admit that it is a deception while at the same time wanting to believe it is true*.
Would a Mormon president of the USA be able to resist the imperative and habit of a lifetime to do all within his power, and within the power of his office, that would lead to recruitment to Mormonism? Would national issues take second place to Mormon goals? Though my memory of Mormonism includes a people who tried to be honest much of the time I saw that to further the cause of recruitment truthfulness was routinely abandoned.
Being part of the group
It has always seemed to me that Mormons crave the acceptance of their peers. To be accepted by the group is a strong motivation in human life for many, but for Mormonism this takes on a different dimension. To be a Mormon is to be part of a group of people that will have little social contact with outsiders. This will result simply from the limited time available, which limits the options available. It is not unusual for a Mormon to be expected to be present at their local Mormon building most nights of the week.
A Mormon who wants to leave the group can believe that it will be difficult to find fulfilling life outside of the group. This is of course a common problem for people wanting to leave a cult, the fear that there is nothing for them out there, that they will be on their own. Ex Mormons who leave to become Christians, or just to sever the ties to Mormonism, can find themselves being quite out of practice at making friends or mixing socially outside of Mormonism. As with any cult they too can find themselves ostracised by the group.
Would a Mormon USA president surround himself with fellow Mormons, finding it easier to trust one of his own? Would he crave the approval of the group (Mormonism) so much that it would effect his judgement and decisions?
Non Mormons are referred to in early Mormon literature as ‘gentiles’. This is the ancient name applied to those not members of the Jewish race but Mormonism uses the term to describe not Mormons. The use of this term illustrates how outsiders are viewed as very other, very much outside the group.
Describing outsiders in such an extreme way may explain part of the horror residing in many a Mormon mind at the thought of leaving and becoming ‘other’, an outsider. It also emphasises how Mormons value, or not, those that are not part of their group.
Mormons have some doctrines that are an embarrassment to them so much that some of those doctrines are only disclosed to people who have been in the group for some time. I have spoken with Mormons who, not realising that I was once a committed Mormon, and assuming I was an outsider, when I have asked about certain Mormon doctrines have heard them flatly deny they had ever been believed. Only after convincing them that I was once a Mormon and could quote sources have they admitted that the doctrines in question were a part of Mormonism. I have found this dishonesty to be my experience too when discussing Mormon history.
Could a Mormon USA president find it easy to be honest with non Mormons more than your average politician does? I would think the temptation to be dishonest with the electorate must be a difficulty for any politician without the added complication of the strange values of Mormonism and the way they treat outsiders.
Mention of Survivalists may conjure up all sort of visions including gun-toting, conspiracy obsessed, half crazed loons, but there is a different sort.
For many decades now Mormon leaders have been warning their faithful of the need to store up food and water in case of calamity. I remember this when I was young when the Mormon periodicals explained the best ways to carry out this task, how to store water, what foods to store, how to join with other Mormons and buy in bulk, etc. One important lesson was that this store had to be secret as if others knew, in time of disaster, people would come the Mormon household and there would not be enough to go around. I do not remember any comment about protection but understood that if a Mormon household was known to have a store at some time of crisis, they would have to take drastic measure to protect themselves.
Does this survivalists component of Mormonism explain anything about Romney? Would Romney put his own group first before the general good? I don’t know, but in time of disaster I know where food is likely to be found, at the home of the nearest Mormon. But in the USA watch out for the guns!
*I have not addressed in this post the beliefs of Mormonism as I addressed that in my previous post here – Mitt Romney: Would the USA people elect a Mormon President?