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Mitt Romney’s Mormon Politics

Is there a Jewish equivalent to the translation of sacred to political?

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Two recent pieces have explored how Mitt Romney’s devout Mormon faith directly informs his politics.

In the New York Times, Jodi Kantor reports, “Mormons have a long tradition of achieving success by sharing secular versions of their tenets.” So it’s not only that Romney’s positions on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage stem from what his church teaches. It’s that more abstract concepts like his devotion to following the rules, which shows in his being anti-corruption, or his belief in American exceptionalism, find sacred parallels in Mormonism.

And in New York, Benjamin Wallace-Wells, writing about Mitt’s father George, who contended for the 1968 Republican nomination, has this fascinating disquisition:

Institutions have an essential place in Mormon thought; they are the mechanisms by which the individual is transformed. In Romney’s private correspondence this theme is vivid: Asked repeatedly by young men for his advice, he suggests they dedicate themselves to their church, to their professional organizations, to volunteerism. This was the sustaining idea of his life—that buying in would bring rewards. …

What was taking shape was his vision of a perfect society, one in which government need not intervene because the “independent sector”—community organizations, professional and religious groups, and American businesses—could fix social problems on their own. Whenever they were detailing a solution to a policy problem, Romney’s aides learned to look first to these groups before turning to the government. He believed “that these contexts would help the individual, that they would give meaning,” says De Vries. No one, after all, is more invested in a good elite than the outsider who has had to work to join it. “I think he believed that America would always work,” De Vries says, “because America had always worked for him.”

My question: is there a specific politics that Judaism, as a religion, informs? Adam Kirsch broached this topic last week in his essay on the strange death of left-wing Judaism. Is the historic Jewish association with causes of social justice a function purely of historical circumstance? Is it something to do with tikkun olam? Or is it far more theologically sophisticated?

Romney’s Faith, Silent But Deep [NYT]
George Romney for President, 1968 [NY Mag]
Related: The End of the Jewish Left [Tablet Magazine]

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Official Mormon doctrines like, eternal marriage and divinity through conjugal love, permeated Western Culture long before Joseph Smith was born. You can see it in the arts from Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute” to “Star Trek: The Movie”. Although larger numbers of people may buy into anti-Mormon lies such as those found in the short story, “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle, or “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Louis Lamour, the core of anti-Mormonism is small, alien, and ultimately anti-Western.

dhrogers says:

Reverand Jeffress said. “And I still maintain there are vast differences in theology between Mormons and Christians.”

This seems to be a common view among many Christians and actually they are right to say that there are some major differences, although there are more similarities than differences. . However, there are also vast differences between current Christianity and Early Christianity.

If Christianity means “historic orthodox mainstream Christianity” of today then I would agree that Mormonism is not historic Christianity; at least not in every doctrine. Although Mormons have much in common with other Christians Mormons also believe differently than historic Christians in some key areas. But the real questions to ask are 1) What is original Christianity? 2) Is mainstream Christianity of today the same as original Christianity? It turns out that Joseph Smith was right. Mormonism is a restoration of Original Christianity. It is not my intent to criticize Christians of today. However, with all the criticism of Mormonism it is important to notice that in many areas of belief Mormons are closer to original Christianity than are most Christians of today.

Mormons believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Our first Article of Faith states: We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. However “Trinity’ is a word that is not found in the Bible. Nor are the definitions and wording formulations in the extra-Biblical creeds found in the Bible. In 325 AD a council of about 300 (out of 1800 serving) bishops gathered in Nicea at the request of the pagan Emperor Constantine and formulated a creed that tried to reconcile the Biblical statements that there three persons called “God” and yet there was “one” God. They then forced all Christians to accept their solution as “gospel”, with varying results. Theological debates and other councils continued to tweak the concept for centuries which produced additional creeds.

Mormons are not supposed to be Christian because we have some doctrinal differences with other Christian groups of today. The foundation for the beliefs of these other groups is the creeds of the 4th. 5th, and 6th centuries and so on.

For example; in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a non-Biblical creed, we read that “there is but one God, a most holy spirit, without body, parts or passions,” thus denying the resurrected Christ, for if Christ is not risen and we do not believe him when he tells us that he has an immortal body, we can then have no hope of a resurrection (Phil 3:21.) Contrary to the creed Jesus taught: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and ones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)

From this passage we know that Jesus had his physical body after the resurrection. We also know that when Christ comes again, he will still have his physical body. (Zech. 14:4; 12:10; 13:6; John 20:24-28, Acts 1:9-11; Rev 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 12-20, 35-42; D&C 93:33).

It is claimed that Mormons are wrong because they believe in extra-Biblical revelation and scripture. Yet much of Christianity believes in extra-Biblical creeds and councils formulated centuries after the time of Christ and the Apostles. Most of the wording formulations in these creeds cannot be found in the Bible. This is often the excuse used to exclude members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) from being Christian. It is well known to historians that Christian doctrine changed over time and across different Christian groups.

The Bible is then viewed through the lens of these creeds causing certain interpretations to be favored and other biblical teachings to be minimized or ignored. Interestingly, if you look at the doctrines of the early church fathers before the creeds, they are very Mormon-like. In a number of doctrinal areas the early Christians were good Mormons and would be rejected as non-Christian by many Christians of today.

In many areas of belief (probably the majority of areas) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe the same as most other Christians. It is true that in some limited areas – some very critical ones – the beliefs of Mormons differ from other Christians. Likewise there are some major areas of difference between Catholics and Protestants and likewise between one Protestant group and the next. Every denomination could make the claim that the other groups are not Christian because those other beliefs differ from their own.

Joseph Smith taught “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 121).

The central belief of Mormons is that Christ came into the world as the Son of God. He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and restored life to the dead. He commissioned twelve Apostles to whom he gave authority. He suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, and was resurrected and will come again. He, and only He, provides the means for us to be washed clean in his blood from our sins, which sins we can never correct on our own or through our own works. If that is not Christian I don’t know what is. Christ never taught the need to believe in anything like the creeds. Those came later.

Mormon belief is very much like the teachings of the earlier Christians – before the creeds – and also matches the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. The further back in time you go the more Mormon-like Christian doctrine becomes. Mormons are often portrayed as non-Christian when we don’t believe in the later extra-Biblical creedal formulations.

The early Christians did not have the extra-Biblical creeds of later centuries. Were they then not Christian? The ontological debates and the wording formations of later centuries are not found in the words of Jesus or the words of the Apostles or in the words of the pre-creedal Christians . There is not a word about a one substance god in the Bible or in the early beliefs. If believing in the creeds is necessary to be Christian then that makes the earlier Christians not Christian – it even makes Christ not Christian.

One other interesting aspect of this topic: Some Christians claim that we must get our beliefs and doctrines from the Bible only. It is claimed that God finished his work and no longer has prophets or gives revelation. They say the Mormons are wrong to have prophets and extra scripture. Consider this: If the Bible is sufficient and no post-Biblical revelation is allowed, then the post-Biblical creeds are not necessary and are not authorized by God. If God authorized the creeds then why aren’t they in the Bible? How could they be from God if the Bible is complete, if God has finished his work, and if there is no more revelation? They are extra-Biblical and no one should be held to them as a requirement to be Christian. It is so ironic that Mormons are criticized for having extra-Biblical revelation by people who themselves believe in extra-Biblical creeds. Once one puts on the glasses of the creeds then everything in the Bible is filtered to match the creeds.

Mormons believe in original Christianity restored to the earth through revelation to new prophets. Nowhere does the Bible say that God has finished his work, that the cannon of scripture is closed. It seems ironic to us that we Mormons are accused of adding to the Bible by people who have done just that – added creeds and metaphysical definitions to the Bible. We advocate for believing original Christianity.

LakersTrent says:

“Social justice” and left wing politics are not the same thing. Religion is and will be for social justice, but that doesn’t mean a Jew or any other believer should feel obligated to vote toward the left to ensure justice. I bet if you asked Romney or Santorum or Lieberman, they would all say they are on the side of social justice, even though their politics are different.

In my opinion, freedom and self-determination are some of the most basic elements of justice. I vote for candidates in both parties who seem to understand that.

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Mitt Romney’s Mormon Politics

Is there a Jewish equivalent to the translation of sacred to political?

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