Everything is breaking right for Mitt Romney this year, as his opponents do their best to imitate Joe Louis’ old “Bum of the Month Club.” Unless the same strategy that’s failed to revive our economy over the past three years suddenly starts working, it looks like America is about to have its first Mormon president.
Which is perfectly ok. Mormonism is no more bizarre than Christianity, Islam, or Judaism – it’s just newer. I wouldn’t disqualify Romney based on his supernatural beliefs – even though his bigotry would disqualify me. “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom,” he proclaimed in 2007. “Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.” He went on to condemn humanists in bitter terms:
It’s as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong. … We are a nation ‘under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust. We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history.
That’s still not a disqualifier; humanists get the same middle finger from Obama, who insists that religious faith is “fundamental to human progress.”
There is one big Romney religious scandal that really ought to be a disqualifier, though – unless he’s big enough to issue an apology.
Mitt Romney volunteered to serve as a Mormon missionary in France from 1969 to 1971. He excelled at the work, becoming a zone leader in Bordeaux, then assistant to the mission president in Paris, the highest position for any missionary. Hundreds of French were baptized into the Mormon faith during his tenure. He has never claimed to have preached and disseminated anything other than standard Mormon doctrine during this period.
During Romney’s missionary period, standard Mormon doctrine concerning race was exemplified by the Juvenile Instructor, a publication for Mormon children: “We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. . . We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white.”
Mormonism teaches that souls exist long before the humans with which they are associated are born into the world. The official Mormon doctrine was that souls who had sinned against God before physical birth were punished by being born with dark skin. Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith described this in 1935:
Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning.
Bruce McConkie, the leading modern-day Mormon theologian, wrote in 1958 that “The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord.”
When the Supreme Court began ending school segregation in 1954, the Mormon church was appalled. Apostle Mark Petersen stated that:
I think the Lord segregated the Negro, and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing – what God hath separated, let not man bring together again.
Mormon-sponsored Boy Scout troops even discriminated against black Boy Scouts, because they had to hold church positions in order to become patrol leaders, and they could not do so.
Mormon doctrine was especially vehement on the evils of miscegenation. Brigham Young, the Mormon leader after Joseph Smith:
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.
Won’t it be juicy to watch Romney run against the world’s most famous miscegenation product?
The relative darkness of the skin of American Indians, at least in comparison with that of the Mormons, was also related to their sins, according to the Book of Mormon that Romney tried to plaster all over France. “And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” [I Nephi 12:23].
There was hope for the coloring of Indians who converted to the true faith, though. Spencer W. Kimball noted in 1960 that:
I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today . . . they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people. . . . For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. . . . The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl – sixteen – sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. . . These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness.
Kimball was rewarded for his powers of observation by becoming the 12th LDS president in 1973, five years after Romney returned from France. Not until five years later did another LDS president have a “revelation” to allow black males into its priesthood, without officially changing Mormon teaching on the “pre-birth” evil of black souls.
Mitt Romney was 19 years old when he left for France, six years after Kimball spoke, and nearly 22 when he returned. He was old enough to think, to vote, to fight, and to supervise 175 missionary subordinates. Instead of saying “I am not going to try to promote any organization with teachings that obscene or that preposterous,” he did everything in his considerable power to try to extend the reach of that organization as much as he possibly could. Not only has he never apologized for any of this, he is still bursting with pride over the entire missionary episode.
People make mistakes, especially young people who have been brainwashed by elders claiming to speak for God. Mistakes can be forgiven, but only for people who acknowledge that what they did was wrong and resolve not to do it again. So is Mitt Romney ever going to apologize, not for being Mormon, but for spreading vicious and disgusting teachings on race? Unlike Joseph Smith, I don’t claim to be able to predict the future. I do know, though, that the title of the campaign book Romney published earlier this year is No Apology.