Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Would You Write That If He Were Jewish?

Mitt Romney’s campaign search-and-replaces ‘Mormon’ for ‘Jew’

Print Email
Mitt Romney earlier this week.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

When do discussions of Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and how it influences his politics cross the line? “Our test to see if a similar story would be written about others’ religion is to substitute ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish,’ ” a spokesperson (Andrea Saul, who is Jewish) tells the Washington Post.

Several months ago, Yair Rosenberg presciently compared anti-Mormon sentiment now to historic American anti-Semitism. Where I think the analogy, between connecting Judaism to politics and Mormonism to politics, breaks down somewhat is that Mormon theology (as I very primitively understand it) has certain inherently political things to say beyond the sort of Leviticus-style moral prescriptions you can find in any organized religion: about the role of voluntarism in society; about American exceptionalism. To that extent, the content of Romney’s faith might be important for determining what kind of president he would be.

“This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion,” Romney said at one town hall. “I’ll talk about the practices of my faith.” That distinction is the one everyone should seek to maintain during this elections season—with the caveats that, first, Romney is a devout Mormon whose personal faith is more often than not going to mirror the doctrines of his religion, and, second, that with Mormonism particularly the practices of one’s faith can have direct political implications.

Is Mitt Romney’s Mormonism Fair Game? [WP]
Related: Protocols of the Elders [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Mitt Romney’s Mormon Politics

Print Email
InfantryVeteran says:

Mitt Romney has served as a High Priest and Bishop of his church and spent two years of his life to exclusively spreading the teachings of his religion, which at the time practiced racially discriminatory exclusion of blacks from its temples.

Lieberman as a VP candidate did not bring scrutiny to Orthodox Jewish practice because  Judaism is not a cult. 

Judaism is no more analogous to Mormonism than it is to Scientology.  

LakersTrent says:

I don’t think that Mormon theology is political, beyond saying that God wants people to do their best to contribute to civic life, which I think is implied in most religions. Mormonism’s  moral teachings for believers don’t require an adherent to vote for public policy that matches them, for instance abortion- abortion in most cases is immoral in Mormonism, but that doesn’t mean Mormons want to make it civilly illegal for all people. My own opinion is that religious and political conversation both decrease in quality when they are mixed. I respect Romney for keeping religious rhetoric to a minimum, especially when he leads a party that is often addicted to it.

Beyond that, I like that this piece points out that Andrea Saul is Jewish- I wouldn’t have known, and I think her being a Jew makes the campaign’s practice of using it as a comparative litmus test much more tasteful. I also think the focus on a religion’s practices, rather than doctrines, is spot on- that is much easier to discus in secular or ecumenical settings and much more applicable to possible policy implications. Mormons for instance are often ridiculed for their beliefs, but most people readily admit that in practice they live decent lives. It’s easier for a non-believer to see and judge practices than beliefs, which are often more subtle and complicated.

LakersTrent says:

I don’t think that Mormon theology is political, beyond saying that God wants people to do their best to contribute to civic life, which I think is implied in most religions. Mormonism’s  moral teachings for believers don’t require an adherent to vote for public policy that matches them, for instance abortion- abortion in most cases is immoral in Mormonism, but that doesn’t mean Mormons want to make it civilly illegal for all people. My own opinion is that religious and political conversation both decrease in quality when they are mixed. I respect Romney for keeping religious rhetoric to a minimum, especially when he leads a party that is often addicted to it.

Beyond that, I like that this piece points out that Andrea Saul is Jewish- I wouldn’t have known, and I think her being a Jew makes the campaign’s practice of using it as a comparative litmus test much more tasteful. I also think the focus on a religion’s practices, rather than doctrines, is spot on- that is much easier to discus in secular or ecumenical settings and much more applicable to possible policy implications. Mormons for instance are often ridiculed for their beliefs, but most people readily admit that in practice they live decent lives. It’s easier for a non-believer to see and judge practices than beliefs, which are often more subtle and complicated.

AriShavit says:

“[...] but that doesn’t mean Mormons want to make it civilly illegal for all people.” 
Like gay marriage?  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its followers have historically steered clear of influencing political discussion (as a group).  That primarily arises out of their status as a despised minority (especially early in their history) and the lingering effects of that status.  Simply put, the church has shown an increasing willingness to influence politics in recent years.  I suspect that trend will continue as the tension between latter-day saints and the rest of the population continues to diminish.  

Given the hierarchical structure of the church (especially in regard to the centralized collection of money), it is poised to be quite influential in debates it wishes to enter.  For example … spending millions in California to ensure an act they consider immoral is made unlawful for the rest of the population.               

By the way, the phrase “civilly illegal” does not make sense.  

AriShavit says:

“[...] but that doesn’t mean Mormons want to make it civilly illegal for all people.” 
Like gay marriage?  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its followers have historically steered clear of influencing political discussion (as a group).  That primarily arises out of their status as a despised minority (especially early in their history) and the lingering effects of that status.  Simply put, the church has shown an increasing willingness to influence politics in recent years.  I suspect that trend will continue as the tension between latter-day saints and the rest of the population continues to diminish.  

Given the hierarchical structure of the church (especially in regard to the centralized collection of money), it is poised to be quite influential in debates it wishes to enter.  For example … spending millions in California to ensure an act they consider immoral is made unlawful for the rest of the population.               

By the way, the phrase “civilly illegal” does not make sense.  

InfantryVeteran says:

I particularly like reading the comments sections for those articles. 

Funny, there are no Mormon missionaries in Israel or any Arab countries.

InfantryVeteran says:

I particularly like reading the comments sections for those articles. 

Funny, there are no Mormon missionaries in Israel or any Arab countries.

bytebear says:

 The church’s reaction to gay marriage is directly related to how it affects religious liberty.  Notice they did not and do no oppose gay rights to employment and other civil liberties.  They did not oppose California’s civil union laws, and they have not opposed gay marriage in states where the declaration specifically excludes religions from acknowledging the ritual, because for the religious it is a ritual, and one that is not taken lightly, so governments can define anything they want, give any rights they want to gay couples, but they cannot impose those definitions on churches or force churches to administer in the acts. 

Had California put in protections for religious worship, it would have been very different.

bytebear says:

 The church’s reaction to gay marriage is directly related to how it affects religious liberty.  Notice they did not and do no oppose gay rights to employment and other civil liberties.  They did not oppose California’s civil union laws, and they have not opposed gay marriage in states where the declaration specifically excludes religions from acknowledging the ritual, because for the religious it is a ritual, and one that is not taken lightly, so governments can define anything they want, give any rights they want to gay couples, but they cannot impose those definitions on churches or force churches to administer in the acts. 

Had California put in protections for religious worship, it would have been very different.

Funny?  Because they are not allowed by those countries.

Funny?  Because they are not allowed by those countries.

You write:  “Mormon theology (as I very primitively understand it) has certain inherently political things to say.”  I am unaware of those inherently political things unless you are referring to a support for a government dedicated to the freedom and agency of its citizens.  Of course that position is somewhat contrary to Marxism and it’s offshoots.

You write:  “Mormon theology (as I very primitively understand it) has certain inherently political things to say.”  I am unaware of those inherently political things unless you are referring to a support for a government dedicated to the freedom and agency of its citizens.  Of course that position is somewhat contrary to Marxism and it’s offshoots.

 The church did not spend millions. Its members did. That is a very important distinction–after all, if you do something, does that mean the Washington Post did it, too, since you are a member here? The church made a very small in-kind donation–no cash at all.

 The church did not spend millions. Its members did. That is a very important distinction–after all, if you do something, does that mean the Washington Post did it, too, since you are a member here? The church made a very small in-kind donation–no cash at all.

InfantryVeteran says:

Mr. Jay, yes, funny. If you read the linked articles (particularly the first one) you will see that while Mormons are praised for their outreach and missionary efforts to the point that young Jews are encouraged to follow the Mormons’ example…

“One reason for that growth is that Mormons have a proselytizing religion. Indeed, there was much concern in the 1980s here and in Israel when they planned to build a branch of Brigham Young University on Mount Scopus, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. A showdown was averted when the church agreed not to proselytize to Jews in Israel.”

Funny.

The third article was actually written by a Mormon (Mark Paredes is a member of the Jewish Relations Committee of the LDS Church’s Southern California Public Affairs Council.). He writes…

“I have long advocated that Jews once again become active proselytizers, so I disagree with the professor’s desire to keep the korban program focused on service, not “increasing membership.”…
As much as I applaud Professor Zasloff’s idealism and altruism, I’m afraid his proposal is incomplete.”

Funny

I do like the comments section…

“A common technique among religious cults is to instruct people to ask God what He wants them to do. Members are exhorted to study and pray in order to know God’s will for them.” (Combatting Cult Mind Control, p. 70, Steven Hassan) Often the result of such prayers is for individuals to think they have been inspired by God to join groups like the Moonies or Jehovah’s Witnesses which are clearly destructive, manipulative groups.

InfantryVeteran says:

Mr. Jay, yes, funny. If you read the linked articles (particularly the first one) you will see that while Mormons are praised for their outreach and missionary efforts to the point that young Jews are encouraged to follow the Mormons’ example…

“One reason for that growth is that Mormons have a proselytizing religion. Indeed, there was much concern in the 1980s here and in Israel when they planned to build a branch of Brigham Young University on Mount Scopus, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. A showdown was averted when the church agreed not to proselytize to Jews in Israel.”

Funny.

The third article was actually written by a Mormon (Mark Paredes is a member of the Jewish Relations Committee of the LDS Church’s Southern California Public Affairs Council.). He writes…

“I have long advocated that Jews once again become active proselytizers, so I disagree with the professor’s desire to keep the korban program focused on service, not “increasing membership.”…
As much as I applaud Professor Zasloff’s idealism and altruism, I’m afraid his proposal is incomplete.”

Funny

I do like the comments section…

“A common technique among religious cults is to instruct people to ask God what He wants them to do. Members are exhorted to study and pray in order to know God’s will for them.” (Combatting Cult Mind Control, p. 70, Steven Hassan) Often the result of such prayers is for individuals to think they have been inspired by God to join groups like the Moonies or Jehovah’s Witnesses which are clearly destructive, manipulative groups.

InfantryVeteran says:

Which state has ever had a proposal that would “force churches to administer” marriage on gay couples?

This is a false argument attempting to paint the church as the victim of an overbearing state.

You lament that “governments can define anything they want,” and when it comes to purely civil functions like marriage, you are correct. But the state will no more force you to marry gay couples than it will force you to stop dead dunking Holocaust victims.

AriShavit says:

it is wholeheartedly a red-herring argument.  even if a proposal to allow gay marriage does not include a specific exception, the constitution provides one.  The church has lawyers, and those lawyers know this with absolute certainty … 

“But the state will no more force you to marry gay couples than it will force you to stop dead dunking Holocaust victims.”
great line.  

AriShavit says:

it is wholeheartedly a red-herring argument.  even if a proposal to allow gay marriage does not include a specific exception, the constitution provides one.  The church has lawyers, and those lawyers know this with absolute certainty … 

“But the state will no more force you to marry gay couples than it will force you to stop dead dunking Holocaust victims.”
great line.  

bytebear says:

You are asking the negative. Several other states have specifically entered exemptions for churches regarding gay marriage. California did not.

Your mistake is that you think marriage is a civil function. If hat were the case, then Californians would not have cared about the law, since civil unions in that state specifically grant “all the rights of marriage”. So, Prop 8 was not about rights, but about use and determination of who decides what marriage is.

And before you make such a broad clam that the state will not force churches to change their beliefs, I suggest you read some history. Did you know voting rights of Mormons was taken away, not if you were a polygamist, but if you even were suspected of believing polygamy was acceptable to God. Truth.

bytebear says:

You are asking the negative. Several other states have specifically entered exemptions for churches regarding gay marriage. California did not.

Your mistake is that you think marriage is a civil function. If hat were the case, then Californians would not have cared about the law, since civil unions in that state specifically grant “all the rights of marriage”. So, Prop 8 was not about rights, but about use and determination of who decides what marriage is.

And before you make such a broad clam that the state will not force churches to change their beliefs, I suggest you read some history. Did you know voting rights of Mormons was taken away, not if you were a polygamist, but if you even were suspected of believing polygamy was acceptable to God. Truth.

bytebear says:

By the way, the difference between gay marriage and polygamy is that there are currently no cohabitation laws so both lifestyles are for all intents and purposes legal today. The only difference is governmental recognition. But governmental recognition bleeds into civil rights legislation forcing church recognition.

bytebear says:

By the way, the difference between gay marriage and polygamy is that there are currently no cohabitation laws so both lifestyles are for all intents and purposes legal today. The only difference is governmental recognition. But governmental recognition bleeds into civil rights legislation forcing church recognition.

AriShavit says:

you’re attempting a rather nonsensical distinction in this particular case.  

The followers of LDS may well have contributed large sums of money to Prop 8 campaigns, but the church itself called for those donations by providing resources, calling centers, church staff time, etc.  (i.e., the church itself was intimately involved with funding millions to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.)  

I fail to see a meaningful difference between (1) the church collecting the money from members and then sending it to organizations attempting to bar gay marriage; and (2) the church using its considerable resources to tell the members to send money to the organizations directly.  Do you?  [plus, are you actually willing to suggest that your relationship to your church (adherent) is comparable to my relationship with a news website (consumer).]

AriShavit says:

you’re attempting a rather nonsensical distinction in this particular case.  

The followers of LDS may well have contributed large sums of money to Prop 8 campaigns, but the church itself called for those donations by providing resources, calling centers, church staff time, etc.  (i.e., the church itself was intimately involved with funding millions to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.)  

I fail to see a meaningful difference between (1) the church collecting the money from members and then sending it to organizations attempting to bar gay marriage; and (2) the church using its considerable resources to tell the members to send money to the organizations directly.  Do you?  [plus, are you actually willing to suggest that your relationship to your church (adherent) is comparable to my relationship with a news website (consumer).]

phillipcsmith says:

We Mormons try to have a good relationship with Jews worldwide. My father and longtime Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollak were good friends. During the 1930s and 1940s, when many Jews were trying to enter the United States to escape persecution in Europe, the two Mormon senators from Utah, William King and Elbert Thomas tried to get legislation through the U.S. Congress to admit thousands of these individuals, in the face of resistance from, among others, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mormons love and support Jews, while at the same time continue to cultivate good relations with Muslims, who are also beloved children of God.

Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

anabeth says:

I fail to see how a president who is Mormon can have an adverse affect on the United States due to his/her religion. I have been told the Mormons have a good work ethic and Washington DC could certainly use it. Presbyterian, Espicopalian, Catholic, Baptist, etc. presidents have not done damage due to their religion. The way I see it, only a muslim president could damage this nation by his/her religion.

edlobel says:

The real problem with Willard is that he has, and continues towith his church’s approval, baptize deceased Jews into his religion so the may gain entry into his heaven.  This is done without any approval of the deceased family’s members.
Willard is a staunch defender of his faith and will not go against it’s teachings and since this is part of his faith, how can he be trusted? 

jws021 says:

There are three issues about the Mormon religion that deserve legitimate scrutiny by non-Mormons.

 Whatever faith (used here as a verb) is required by adherents of other religions, Mormonism requires several magnitudes more.  The centrality of the Mormon faith is that 2500+ years ago Jews made their way from Judea to South America and continued their Jewish practice until Easter Sunday when the risen Jesus appeared simultaneously to them and in Jerusalem.  This civilization was ultimately destroyed by native Americans.  The history of these people is recorded in the Book of Mormon which was revealed to Joseph Smith on Mt. Palmyra in New York in the early 19th century.

The second issue deserving scrutiny is the prohibition of non-Mormons to set foot in a Mormon Temple.  If ever there were issues of cultism and a secret society, it is this issue.

Finally, as a Jew, I have a hard time being referred to by a Mormon as a gentile.  A couple of years ago, I spent a Shabbat with Chabad in Salt Lake City.  The rabbi there related the newpaper headline upon his arrival some 16 years before:  ”Gentile Rabbi Establishes Congregation.”

jmm64 says:

    Theology does not matter at all. Values matter and similarity of values do matter. That’s why Orthodox Jews consistently vote  and support Republican, Conservative , Christian candidates since they have more similar values with the candidates even though the candidates’ theology is diametrically the opposite of Jewish theology.  It’s interesting that the Jews who have the most knowledge about Judaism and  practice Judaism on a regular basis are the ones who support Conservative,  Christian, Republican candidates while the least knowledgable and observant Jews consistently support  Left-wing, Democratic candidates and clock their support of these candidates in the name of Jewish values.

PhillipNagle says:

My biggest problem with Mormons is that they consider me a gentile.  Actually as a Romney supporter I would be more than happy for the electorate to compare the Mormons to the church Obama belonged to for 20 years and he only abandoned when it got politically too hot to handle.  No one is accusing the Mormons of being anti-Semitic or anti Israel, a claim Obama cannot make about his former church.

There is no question that Mormons were persecuted as a religious minority which forced them to move from NY to the midwest and then to Utah.  Also no question that they brought a good work ethic with them.  But the religion has some more disturbing issues:
(1) Declaration of Independence are divinely inspired and part of the gospel, but things like amendments are not (2) very slow to integrate unlike other religions (3) definitely a believer in a millineal apocalyptic perspective which has its nihilistic dangers and tendencies.
But, Romney’s religion really isn’t his problem.  He is a craven coward as shown by his dismissal of his own conservative foreign policy spokesperson simply because the man was gay.  He has embraced Robert Bork’s view of the constitution which is highly dangerous (see religious tenett above). 

It is a tempting argument but flawed in many ways.  I am a Jew and I would be very nervous if an ultra orthodox Jew ran for president.  I would be concerned he would put his dedication to G-d before his country and it would make sense that this would also be a question many would ask and many in the Haredi community would ask as well.   But I suggest that it would present a conflict and hence an ultra-orthodox Jew would place his devotion before his desire to run for high office in a secular country.  Mitt Romney is not a secular man.  His entire life and world is informed by his faith.  A faith that changes more frequently than most when it comes to prophecies and new rules.  He is not a lay person either – he is a bishop in his church and he has spent at least two years pitching his beliefs to strangers in other countries as part of his religion.  His religion is secretive and has a belief system that believes in interplanetary travel and which seals people – without permission – in celestial marriages.   He believes that the almighty specified our country and constitution as a divine prophecy given to LDS.   He believes that things happened 6,000 years ago – before Judaism, Christianity and Islam were on the earth.
These are the beliefs he cherishes and he is more than welcome to do so – but not as a President representing me.  Forget about his money or his cars or his dog or his wife and her horse hobby – the basic core of his belief system is out of kilter for the job as a secular leader of a secular country.  The job of US president requires a person whose faith does not drive his actions – it can drive his moral compass – but 
as the Commander in Chief and Head of state – I cannot see any way to pit the word Jew against the word Mormon and call anti-LDS the new anti-semitism.  It belittles the millenia of Jew hating that has existed.  

The postings below show an amazing lack of knowledge about the LDS faith.  I would suggest before you cut it so much slack you actually bone up on your LDS theology.  Jews are a concern of the LDS church. Until recently the LDS was marrying Jews in celestial marriage until Jews told them to stop.  Is there proof they have or is it just another “secret”.  Don’t take my word for this – find out about the LDS church and then decide.  When the word of God is handed down by very old men who are the presidents of the church and not by tablets or tradition – I ask myself – who is running the show.   Proposition 8 in California was funded by the LDS.  No matter what your beliefs are – the government is a secular body.  We do not live in a theocracy.  I suggest Mr. Romney is a theocrat. 

jcarpenter says:

so much criticism has been said about Obama without saying their actual issue—that he is black—unless one looks at online comment streams.  Black, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim—any and all face such demonization from the lowest levels of society, and sadly the ignorance and intolerance is fueled by PAC operatives. America the Beautiful can get quite ugly at times, usually around elections.

LakersTrent says:

 Sorry for the delayed response, AriShavit, I’ve been away from my email for a few days. Also sorry for the “civilly illegal” gaffe, I guess it came out because I was distinguishing in my own mind between the laws of the civil society and the laws of a religion or it’s claimed G-d.  Abortions for convenience or “oops” abortions are against Mormons’ own religious laws, but many Mormons are fine with pro-choice civil or secular laws since many citizens don’t ascribe to a religion and the state’s authority should probably end before it gets to a woman’s womb.

The same could be said of gay marriage- it’s clearly against Mormons’ religious laws but some Mormons think it wouldn’t harm a society to allow secular gay marriages. All can voice their views and vote, and in the case of CA prop 8 the LDS Church itself joined some other Churches and groups and recommended that Mormons support the proposition. Most Mormons did, but many didn’t, and some decided that their values conflicted too much with the LDS Church’s and chose to leave the faith.

As to the Church showing ‘an increased willingness to influence politics in recent years’, I’m not sure that I agree. Prop 8 involvement became very visible, partly due to the touchy subject and partly because of the backlash, but other than that I can’t think of an issue where the LDS Church  took a specific stance. Prop 8 could arguably also be seen as a surrogate for LDS’ wider desire to take a public stance on the gay marriage issue, since it had come to the forefront and CA was seen as a bellwether. Gay marriage will pass in coming years or decades, but the LDS Church chose to make their position clear before the critical mass shifted in favor of gay couples. So I tend to see LDS involvement on that issue not coming from a desire to be more and more influential in politics, but because a major moral-social issue had come to the forefront and they felt a need to take a stand, as did most religious bodies. Despite their growth and increased recognition, the LDS Church hasn’t been noticeably more interested in political influence- Prop 8 was a bit of an outlier, which it probably should be, as the main social shift of a generation.

Not to nitpick, but it’s also worth pointing out that Prop 8 vote didn’t seek to incriminate gay acts or make them unlawful, but rather to amend the CA constitution in order to trump a judge’s ruling. I haven’t heard any Mormon calls for criminalizing gay acts, even though such acts are immoral according to LDS belief.  Also, as far as I’m aware, the LDS Church contributions totaled 190 thousand or so (all non-cash), rather than millions, out of about $80 million total spent for and against Prop 8. The San Francisco Chronicle later concluded that all the money spent didn’t make a difference anyway: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/15/MN051DVGNE.DTL . So maybe the LDS Church isn’t so influential, even when it does choose to enter a public debate. Practicing Mormons, after all, are only 1% of the population.

Anyway, sorry for being long-winded and thanks for the reply and correction. I’ve found that the Tablet’s readership has more thoughtful discourse than most publications’.

Jayson2 says:

Obviously, you’ve not researched Mormonism.   Your precious Romney, if elected, will always put his ”church” before your needs, or the country’s needs.
Get your head out of the sand. You’re supporting a cult member for President.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Would You Write That If He Were Jewish?

Mitt Romney’s campaign search-and-replaces ‘Mormon’ for ‘Jew’

More on Tablet:

Garry Winogrand

By amiller2 — At the Metropolitan Museum of Art