January 28, 2008
Memo From Mexico, By Allan Wall
The Republican presidential nomination is still very much up for grabs, but the winner may be Mitt Romney, a Mormon, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter referred to as LDS).
This is not the first time a Mormon has been a candidate. The group’s founder Joseph Smith (regarded by the LDS church as a prophet) ran for president in 1844, but his campaign was cut short by his death at the hands of a mob. In more recent times, two other candidates have run—Orrin Hatch in 2000 and Mitt’s own dad George in 1968. But this is the first time a Mormon has gotten so close to the presidency.
And that brings up the Mormon Question. According to a Gallup Poll , taken in December of 2007, 22% of those polled saw Mormonism as an undesirable characteristic for a president and 17% would not vote for a Mormon. Broken down by party lines, 18% of Republicans, 18% of Democrats, and 14% of Independents said they would not vote for a Mormon.
(In the same poll, 4% would not vote for a Catholic, 5% for a black, 12% for a woman, 12% for a Hispanic, 41% for a homosexual and 48% for an atheist.)
Some say the Mormon question shouldn’t even be brought up. For example, talkshow host Hugh Hewitt, a long-time Bush booster who can’t bring himself to mention Ron Paul (for example look at the table on his website here) says it’s a taboo subject that shouldn’t be discussed. Of course, Hugh is stumping for Romney and wrote a book called A Mormon in the White House? so it’s too late for him to complain about it.
Here at VDARE.COM collective, we’re interested in the National Question. Since Romney is the first Mormon this close to the White House, there’s nothing illegitimate about looking at his religion to see how that might affect his presidency.
And from a Republican standpoint, what’s wrong with exploring the Mormon Question now, before the general election?
After all, if Mitt makes it to the general election, the Democratic Party operatives might not obey Hugh Hewitt’s gag order. They could bring up all these issues, maybe more.
Nor is it a violation of the religious test prohibition in Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution, which only limits the government. An individual voter can apply any sort of test for the candidates he likes. In fact, we all do do that, don’t we?
The LDS church was founded in New York State in 1830 by Joseph Smith, regarded by Mormons as a prophet who received his doctrine by revelation. Throughout most of the rest of the 19th century, Mormonism was in constant conflict with mainstream American society, a conflict which sometimes erupted in violence. There was the "Missouri Mormon War" of 1838, the Missouri Extermination Order against Mormons of 1838, the Illinois Mormon War of 1844, the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 and the Utah War of 1857-58.
The reason the Mormons moved west and settled Utah was to get away from the U.S. But by a strange twist of fate, the Mormons arrived not long before the region was annexed in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo so they wound up back in U.S. territory. As it turned out, Mormons played an important role in the American settlement of the vast Southwest.
The real turning point in Mormon-American relations was the church’s official renunciation of polygamy in 1890. Slowly but surely it began to move Mormons into the American mainstream, without their losing their distinct Mormon identity.
Nowadays Mormons are patriotic Americans and overwhelmingly vote Republican. Their social values (though not their doctrine) are almost identical with those of evangelical Protestants.
The LDS church has shown a remarkable ability to activate its laity. In that respect they put most Protestant denominations to shame. In fact, local Mormon churches are led by laymen (Mitt Romney has served as a Mormon bishop). It’s only in the upper levels of the hierarchy that church officials work full-time.
Nearly every Mormon man serves two years as a missionary, Mitt Romney, for example served as a missionary in France. This missionary experience is formative for individual Mormons—it makes them active participants in their church, not just spectators. The experience helps lock them into the LDS church for life.
From the LDS’ beginning in 1830 in upper New York State, it has grown to embrace over 13 million members worldwide, half of them outside the United States.
Here in Mexico, the Mormons have had phenomenal growth. There are now over 1 million Mormons in Mexico . Mexico has 12 Mormon temples and the Mexico City Temple is the largest outside the U.S., which is not surprising, as Mexico has the second-largest Mormon population in the world. In the metropolitan area in which I reside, I have had Mormon co-workers and it’s not at all uncommon to see Mormon missionaries on the streets. Mormons are also starting to get into politics.
The Mexican government has recognized the size and influence of Mormonism. In President Vicente Fox’s visit to Utah in 2006 the Mexican president paid a visit to recently deceased LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley (who was regarded by the church as a living prophet.)
Fox and Hinckley discussed Mexicans in Utah. Afterwards, Fox commented: "We are very pleased at the way they have been treated in this land [Utah]". The Mexican president was referring, of course, to Utah’s liberal treatment of illegal aliens, which some attribute to the influence of the LDS church. Some have even accused the church of encouraging Mexicans to migrate to the U.S, though this is denied officially. [Church denies it lures members from Mexico Statement is response to comment from CNN By Matthew Brown Deseret Morning News, May 24, 2006 9]
What’s certain is that Utah has a rather illegal-friendly legal system. It’s one of only 4 states to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens . Utah’s law not only discriminates against Americans from other states who can’t get in-state tuition there, it even discriminates against U.S. citizen residents of Utah—if they leave the state for 3 years they lose their right to in-state tuition, but illegal aliens never lose that right !
Utah also has poor coordination between law enforcement and immigration authorities, resulting in a de facto sanctuary policy. And it has a "driver privilege card" especially designed for illegal aliens.
In a 2006 Denver Post article, Border Issues Moot to Mormons in Utah [May 2, 2006]], Michael Riley linked the state’s welcoming attitude to illegal aliens with Mormonism, citing well-known open borders politicos as Chris Cannon and Orrin Hatch, and quoting illegal alien Teresa Campos, who manages a store (not exactly "living in the shadows"): "I’ve lived in California. I’ve lived in Las Vegas. No place is like this…they don’t think just because we don’t have papers we aren’t human beings."
In his article, Riley directly linked this illegal alien accommodation to the Mormon doctrine. According to the Book of Mormon, ancient Israelites settled the Western Hemisphere. One group became known as Lamanites. Traditional LDs teaching is that the American Indians are descendents of ancient Israelites. However, in recent years DNA evidence has shown how unlikely that is, and the latest introduction to the Book of Mormon says that Israelites are "among" the ancestors of American Indians. Since Mexicans and other Latin Americans are of majority Indian ancestry, it would be a logical jump that contemporary Latin Americans are Lamanites, and thus their emigration to the U.S. is part of Mormon prophecy.
Some Mormon Latinos have taken up this view. One Venezuelan immigrant put it this way:
"The people who come here to the United States, the people who come to Utah, are the chosen people. They come here looking for the church and they don’t know it. I am an example of this."
Arturo de Hoyos, a retired professor of sociology at Brigham Young University stated that "The Latinos are joining the Mormon Church tremendously. We believe that it is because they are beginning to remember who they are."
Maybe some reporter should ask Romney: "Do you intend to increase Lamanite immigration?"
A more recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune estimates there are 100,000 illegal aliens in Utah, and contains more happy talk quotations with Mormons who have no problem with illegal immigration. [LDS Church urges lawmaker compassion in addressing illegal immigration, By Peggy Fletcher Stack, January 24, 2008]
However, not everybody in Utah—and not all Mormons—are happy with the way things are going. A recent poll showed 60% of those questioned in favor of a local role in immigration enforcement, 74% in favor of employer sanctions, and 85% of citizenship verification before receiving government benefits. [Utahns favor local immigration laws, By Deborah Bulkeley, Deseret Morning News, January 16, 2008]
In fact there are several organizations in Utah fighting to change it (click here, here and here). Utah Senator Bill Hickman is crafting a law for the state modeled after Oklahoma’s H.B. 1804 .
However, LDS church leaders (who meet with legislative leaders of both parties at the beginning of each Utah legislative session) have already exhorted the Utah Legislature to re-introduce the "element of humanity" into the immigration debate.
That kind of rhetoric is usually code for "don’t enforce the law".
Nevertheless, the church leaders were careful not to lay down specific legislative prescriptions. Quoth LDS spokesman Rob Howe, "We communicated our policy ... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken no position regarding currently proposed immigration legislation."
Until 1978, the Mormon priesthood (i.e., full-fledged membership) was closed to blacks. The reason for this prohibition was related to Mormon belief in a battle fought in a pre-mortal spiritual existence. In 1978 though, the LDS church claimed a convenient "revelation" and opened the priesthood to blacks.
Romney was recently interviewed about this by Tim Russert. Watch the interview [YouTube]—the candidate handles it very smoothly.
Romney’s challenge is that (1) he doesn’t want to be disloyal to the LDS church, and (2) he wants to show he’s not “racist”. The problem is, in order to be a consistent Mormon he would also have to agree with the pre-1978 no-blacks- in- the-priesthood position. Tim Russert, the interviewer, asks Romney "It was wrong for your faith to exclude them [blacks] for as long as they did?" Mitt dodges the question and Russert gives him a pass and moves on to another subject.
But honestly, can you imagine the Hillary or Obama campaigns leaving that one alone?
Of course, in the interests of fairness, if they’re going to ask Romney about that, how about some tough questions being asked of Obama about his Afro-centric church?
But politics, and the MainStream Media, isn’t fair.
Whenever you discuss Mormonism, the subject of polygamy also tends to come up. The LDS church officially renounced polygamy in 1890 (although not its belief in polygamy in the afterlife). Those who practice it today are heretical “Fundamentalist Mormons", not part of the LDS church. But in the late 1800s, some Mormons who wanted to continue practicing polygamy fled to Mexico, among them ancestors of Mitt Romney. That’s why Mitt’s father George was actually born in Mexico.
The left-wing pundits who criticize Mormonism probably wouldn’t vote for Romney anyway. But Mitt’s biggest problem on the Right is with Evangelical Christians. They generally consider Mormonism a cult.
This has predictably led to Evangelicals being accused of intolerance toward Mormons, which is not fair, since Evangelicals’ objections to Mormonism are based on sound theological reasons.
And not only Evangelical Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church also considers Mormonism a cult, refusing to accept Mormon baptism though it does usually accept Protestant baptism. The United Methodist Church (of which both George W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton are members!) declares that "the LDS Church is not a part of the historic, apostolic tradition of the Christian faith."
Mormons shouldn’t be offended when other churches say this. After all, according to the Mormon Scripture known as Doctrine and Covenants, (I: 30), the LDS Church is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth ".
In contrast to orthodox Christianity and its doctrine of an omnipotent God who created the universe and its angels and men, Mormon doctrine posits a universe of gods and men who are really one species in different phases of development. According to LDS doctrine, individual Mormons (including Mitt Romney) may, if they follow the rules, become gods in the afterlife. So the U.S. presidency is not the highest post Mitt is shooting for.
And despite the fact that Mike Huckabee got hammered for bringing it up, the LDS Church does indeed teach that the Mormon Jesus and Satan are brothers. (See here and here .)
The secretive nature of the LDS church is another thing that bothers some people about Mormons—their reticence to share doctrines with the general public, and the closed nature of their temple ceremonies. Some go so far as to speak of a "Mormon Conspiracy" to take over the country.
There may be less there than meets the eye. Certainly, the LDS church works to expand its influence (what group doesn’t?) and most Mormons are likely to vote for Romney (they mostly vote Republican anyway). But it’s interesting that even in the U.S. Congress, Mitt’s fellow Mormon Republicans didn’t all rush to endorse him. A couple of them endorsed McCain—Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore) and Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake.
Then there’s the "White Horse Prophecy", a prediction that may or may not have been made by Joseph Smith, claiming that the U.S. Constitution would "hang like a thread" and the nation would be rescued by Mormons, symbolized by a white horse. This is not official Mormon teaching but apparently a common folk belief.
How about the immigration voting records of Mormons in Congress? There are 5 Mormon senators, 10 congressmen, and 1 non-voting delegate from American Samoa.
Here are the evaluations accorded them by Americans for Better Immigration, which gives each senator and representative a Career Grade and a Recent (2005-2007) grade:
ROBERT BENNETT R- Utah, Career C- , Recent C-
In addition, Senator Bennett favors some sort of common market involving the U.S. and the European Union.
HARRY REID D- NV C Career, Recent F
Senator Reid’s recent leadership in favor of amnesty is well-known.
GORDON SMITH = R, Oregon Career C+, Recent C+
Senator Smith favors some sort of common market involving the U.S. and the European Union.
ORRIN HATCH R- UT, Career C+, Recent B+
Hatch deserves low marks for his promotion of the DREAM act amnesty.
MICHAEL CRAPO, R- Idaho, Career A-, Recent A-
This Mormon senator has a very good record on immigration, much better than that of his fellow senator from Idaho Larry Craig, who is a non-Mormon, and has a grade of C (career) and C- (recent).
So, with one exception, Mormon Senators don’t have great records. Now let’s turn to the House:
MORMONS in the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TOM UDALL D-NM, Career D, Recent D
JEFF FLAKE R- ARIZONA, - Career C, Recent C
JOHN DOOLITTLE R-CA, Career A-, Recent B+
WALLY HERGER R—CA, Career A, Recent A
HOWARD "BUCK" McKEON R- CA, Career A, Recent A
MIKE SIMPSON R- ID, Career B+, Recent A-
JIM MATHESON D-UT, Career C+, Recent B
CHRIS CANNON R- UT, Career C, Recent C-
ROB BISHOP R-UTAH, Career A-, Recent A-
DEAN HELLER R- NEV, Career A, Recent A
So, the immigration records of House Mormons are not so bad, and those of Simpson and Matheson are actually improving. Technically Tom Udall has the worst record. However, Jeff Flake and especially Chris Cannon deserve extra criticism for their negative leadership encouraging illegal immigration.
Still, looking at the big picture it’s hard to demonstrate a pattern of Mormon open borders advocacy that is worse than other congressmen.
It’s also fair to point out prominent Mormon champions of border control, who weren’t afraid to run against fellow Mormons on the illegal immigration issue. Matt Throckmorton, for example, opposed Chris Cannon in Utah. In Arizona, Russell Pearce ran against Jeff Flake and is currently working to eliminate the anchor baby loophole. Bravo for that.
At the grassroots there are many LDS members working hard to fight illegal immigration.
I have no doubt that, despite their doctrinal differences, most politically conservative Evangelical Protestants would vote for Romney if he were the GOP standard bearer. After all, in the recent Michigan Primary, Romney beat Baptist preacher Huckabee among Evangelical voters 34-29.
Can anybody seriously doubt that, when November rolls around, most conservative Evangelicals would vote for Romney—against Hillary, Obama or Edwards?
As for Romney’s immigration positions, on the negative side he says he wants to increase legal immigration. And he repeats the same, tired diversity rhetoric we’re used to from all the candidates.
On the plus side though, Romney doesn’t exhibit the emotional obsession with opening the Mexican border that our current president has.
Regarding illegal immigration, Romney has made some good promises. But like all promises, they will have to be followed up. Romney’s feet will have to be held to the fire to make him keep those promises.
Frankly, none of the Republican candidates (Romney, McCain, Huckabee, Giuliani or Paul) are completely satisfactory on the National Question—although some are better than others.
And the Democrats would be even worse.
The bottom line: it’s up to Americans to demand that our next president, whoever he (or she) may be, enforce the law.
Without that pressure, it won’t happen.
American citizen Allan Wall ( email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.