Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mitt Romney, Lies and The Mormon Church 3/3

by Nomad

In the previous two posts (Part One, Part Two) we have taken a close look at the convoluted history of the Mormon faith, its suspicious origins and the character of its founder. In part two we examined the instances of deception when it came to explaining the religion to outsiders.

I want to conclude this series by coming full circle.  We shall now see how there are certain principles that the modern LDS Church is willing to forsake- purely for the sake of power- that no Mormon follower can possibly accept. 

Honest Hearts, Honest Actions
When it comes to lying, the official stand of the Church is- not unexpectedly- in favor of honesty. In February of 1831, the Prophet of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, in a revelation before twelve elders in Kirtland Ohio stated:
Thou shalt not lie; he that lieth and will not repent shall be cast out.
Thou knowest my laws concerning these things are given in my scriptures; he that sinneth and repenteth not shall be cast out.
That's not a wishy-washy position. Dishonesty ranks on the list of grievous offenses near the top, along with murder and stealing. In fact, honesty is a steadfast principle of salvation

In the official manual, Gospel Principles, given to new converts, the importance of honesty is spelled out leaving no doubts. 
“If we accept salvation on the terms it is offered to us, we have got to be honest in every thought, in our reflections, in our meditations, in our private circles, in our deals, in our declarations, and in every act of our lives”
Certainly a tall order for any human. (Even a God in the making.) Brigham Young also famously said that "honest hearts produce honest actions."(Presumably the opposite is also true.) 
This sentiment is unlikely to change because what religion would promote dishonesty? Hopefully not the LDS Church.

In 1971, stressing the importance of honesty, Mark Edward Petersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter-day Saints from 1944 until his death, wrote in Conference Report:
“Complete honesty is necessary for our salvation. An Apostle of the Lord has said: "Honesty is a principle of salvation in the kingdom of God. . . . Just as no man or woman can be saved without baptism, so no one can be saved without honesty."
(Strangely enough, in a recently revised edition of the Gospel Principles, the Petersen remark has apparently been edited out.)
If we give the Church of Latter-Day Saints the benefit of the doubt- that they actually truly mean what they say about honesty, we are left with a mighty large and unwieldy hypocrisy to explain. 

Candidate Romney
By now, most of the American voters are aware of the strange sad fact about the Republican presumptive nominee.

Mitt Romney has a problem telling the truth. He misrepresents things. Okay, he's a liar.

Nearly all politicians tend to fib or exaggerate, play up the positives and delete the negatives. And while a certain level of falsehood is expected by the public, Romney is, by any measure, in a league of his own.

Romney has lied time and time again about Obama. Not just making disputable claims but outright lies; Lies about President Obama's trade policies, lies about the President's healthcare law or about President Obama's record on regulations. In this cynical age, those lies might be expected in a campaign.

Moreover, Romney constantly lies about his own policies. He has lied about his position on climate change, about his "job creator" record, about his record on gay rights and his position on immigration and abortion.
He has also lied about his business career and finances. For example, he has clearly lied about the exact date of his retirement from Bain Capital. A minor point but some think there is more to be revealed about what he engaged in as CEO. More lies, to be sure.

Come to think of it, it’s hard to find an area that Romney hasn’t lied about. (For an astonishing but incomplete list of the many Romey lies, check this portal link.)

Seriously, though, how many presidential candidates lie about their own childhood memories? Romney did.. twice. He apparently lifted an inaccurate account from a biography of his father, having them march down a street with Martin Luther King.
How many candidates lie about their own name? Romney did. During one of the three hundred debates in 2011, he actually told the audience:

“I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”
Uh, no, Mr. Romney. Willard is your first name. And calling yourself Mitt doesn’t make you one of the “regular” folk. You will alway be a Willard (with all of the rodent connotations).
In the election of 2012, the Republican presidential candidate and presumptive nominee for his party has been exposed time and time again as a person who does not respect truth.
Time and time again, he has repeated lies about his opponent, about his business career and just about any question put to him.

Does Church Silence Amount to Approval of Romney's Lies?

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Romney's cousin claimed that Mitt Romney would be conflicted if he became president because “obedience to the leadership of the Mormon Church is part of the covenant of the temple ordinances to which Mitt Romney is absolutely a party.”

In other words, a member of the Church, Romney is obligated to obey the Church, its doctrine and the leadership. Instead he is making a mockery of them all.

Indeed this issue has its own flip-side too. If Romney can be influenced by Mormon Church as president of the United States, then his behavior (as one of its most famous members) also has a positive or negative impact on the image of the Church.

Yet throughout this election campaign, with Romney constantly engaging in one lie after another, not one leader of the Mormon church- which claims that honesty is a key principle of the belief- has publicly condemned Romney. (And apparently not privately, since he continues to spin his deceptions on a daily basis.) 
Not one official in the church hierarchy has warned Romney that he risks excommunication from his religion -not to mention the salvation of his own soul. 

Doesn’t Thomas Spencer Monson, the 16th and current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have a duty to say something on the matter? There's no doubt that the task- as regrettable as it must be- falls on his shoulders. According The Doctrine and Covenants, the President of the Church is, in fact, the only person who is authorized to receive revelation for the entire church and to clarify doctrine. If lying is now okay, then he needs to be bold enough to announce this to his congregation. They ought to know.

In Discourses of Brigham Young, Young stated that the president of the Church is:
"authorized to counsel and dictate in the greatest and what might be deemed the most trifling matters, to instruct, direct and guide this Saints."
However, past presidents have also assured the congregation that  God will never allow the President to lead the Latter-day Saints astray and that God will "remove" any man who stands at the head of the Church who intends to mislead its members.
So, we can assume that any kind of statement (a reminder to Romney?) against lying would be left up to Monson's conscience alone.
* * * *
If Romney were merely a casual follower of the faith, it could be argued that this is a personal matter. However, Romney is unquestionably more than a humble member of the congregation. In his past, Romney has (and still) does represent the LDS Church for a lot of Mormons. 
While Romney was building his career at Bain Capital, he was also a Mormon bishop (equivalent to a pastor) and a stake president (presiding over several area congregations) in suburban Belmont, Mass.

Because the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no paid clergy, Mormon men take turns overseeing wards (congregations) and regional stakes while continuing their full-time careers.

As a religious leader, Romney met weekly with students, teachers, immigrant converts and Utah transplants. He had to learn how to give sermons, advise squabbling couples, organize worship services, manage budgets and address the diverse spiritual needs of more than 1,000 Mormons in the region.
If nothing else, Romney would provide young Mormons with a role model and what kind of role model would that actually be? That lying is okay so long as the prize is a pearl of great price?

You could perhaps speculate that Romney’s missionary training has helped him hone his ability to deflect questions about his political positions, or to his hidden offshore wealth. That training taught him the real value of keeping his cards close to his chest. Tax returns? You don't need to know that.

Perhaps as a Mormon bishop, he learned the value of destroying incriminating evidence that might become a later nuisance. In late last year, Romney admitted that he had ordered his staff to destroy all email and other records from his time as governor of Massachusetts. He also admitted that he had gone so far as to buy up all of the hard drives, just in case, computer forensic teams could salvage what had been erased. Is this honesty? Really?

Could it be that his Mormon faith has taught him that he doesn’t need to be truthful? That Lying for the Lord and Lying for Romney as President is pretty much all the same? That would be a sad indictment of the LDS Church.

From the LDS Church’s vantage, Romney, as the first Mormon presidential candidate, with his habit of deception risks tarnishing the Mormon faith, even further than it has already been. According to one article, the leaders were “taken aback by the amount of anti-Mormon sentiment aired during Romney's unsuccessful 2008 campaign for the Republican nomination.” 

But why should they be? This is, after all, a candidate who in his previous career at Bain Capital made a few very rich people a whole lot richer and made a vast majority miserable and poor. This is also a candidate whose rock-solid opinion on such subjects as abortion and immigration and a host of other topics can suddenly change according to the audience he is addressing. The only surprising part is that the LDS leadership have not noticed that word “flip-flopping” is just a fancy way of saying compulsive lying.

No One Can Earn a Million Dollars Honestly

There’s another more disheartening possibility that cynics would spot in a second. Romney has given large charitable donations to the Church (reportedly somewhere in the vicinity of $3 million) might suggest to some that he has all but bribed its church hierarchy in Salt Lake City. to hold their tongues. Their continued silence would appear to confirm that theory.

From Romney's perspective, perhaps he views the Mormon Church in the same way Bain Capital saw smaller companies. A kind of hostile buyout. Borrow on the prestige of the Church (as a kind-of, sort-of Christian organization), sell off its assets (its core principles), and keep the upper management happy with as much money as it takes and when you have squeezed as much as you can, declared bankruptcy. In the case of a Church, it is moral bankruptcy, of course.

The leaders of LDS Church are aware of the delicate balancing act and have made their choice between sticking to the professed principles and its hopes and pride of Romney’s candidacy. The possibility of seeing a Mormon in the White House has blinded them to the human failings of the candidate. They have pretty willingly shaken hands with the devil for the sake of unlimited executive power. Instead of overthrowing the Federal government, as Joseph Smith once dreamed, the modern church is poised to seize the reins of government and claim it as their own. 

And the hypocrisy cannot be dismissed lightly. The doctrine of the Church- at least as far as it pertains to the humble flock- makes that very clear. Here's a quote from Chapter 31 of Gospel Principles:
People use many excuses for being dishonest. People lie to protect themselves and to have others think well of them. Some excuse themselves for stealing, thinking they deserve what they took, intend to return it, or need it more than the owner. Some cheat to get better grades in school or because “everyone else does it” or to get even.

These excuses and many more are given as reasons for dishonesty. To the Lord, there are no acceptable reasons. When we excuse ourselves, we cheat ourselves and the Spirit of God ceases to be with us. We become more and more unrighteous.
The questions the LDS leaders might ought to be asking themselves are  simple ones.

What if, despite all of the money thrown into the campaign, Romney does not win? Will Monson tell his suddenly disillusioned flock that he too was deceived by Romney- despite all of the evidence? It seems pretty clear what's going at the moment, months before the election.
In the long term, what will be left of a Church that has proved itself more than willing- eager, in fact- to ally itself with an unscrupulous power-hungry liar. 
In the case of the Mormon Church, their pearl of great price will have been sold, as venture capitalists say, "below-cost".