LDS 101

We are all going to be learning about the Latter Day Saints, should Mitt Romney gain the nomination. One side benefit of a Mormon candidacy for the president would be sustained attention to a fascinating religious group, comprising a distinctive thread in the American tapestry. To be blunt, this is a group of people who stick to traditional values and thrive brilliantly. Their success speaks for itself, epitomized by Romney himself. The more people who look closely at the Mormons, the better off we will be. There are implications to be drawn, and nothing teaches like example. Work hard, be thrifty, save, give, emphasize family, and have kids are values that transcend any one religion.

Richard Lyman Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University,  writes a very
illuminating essay in The New Republic (subscription required) on why George Romney's Mormon religion shouldn't be an issue in the race for the presidency. Word-for-word, it is the best quick course I have gotten so far on the Mormon view of church/state relations. But it goes far deeper, explaining the role of prophecy in the church.

There is precedent for concern over a Mormon occupying high office. The first Mormon Senator, Reed Smoot (of the tariff), faced questioning about his duty to obey the church before being seated. President Joseph F. Smith, the nephew of the founder, also testified.

Over and over, he [Smith] assured the committee that he had no intention of dictating Smoot's votes in the Senate--until, eventually, Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and swung the balance in Smoot's favor.    ...

[The Church] explicitly releases Mormon politicians from compliance with the church's political positions. According to the church's website,
"Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent." 
Not only doctrine, but prophetic tradition makes it impossible for a church leader to claim prophecy as the justification for some new action or doctrine that would have political consequence. Much as precedent constrains courts, prophets rest their legitimacy on the roots of their reasoning in previous prophecy.

Romney will never face a dictum from the LDS to do something or other, and it is important for him to have the voting public understand this. Should he gain the GOP nomination, he will have opportunity to explain, and so will others.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky
We are all going to be learning about the Latter Day Saints, should Mitt Romney gain the nomination. One side benefit of a Mormon candidacy for the president would be sustained attention to a fascinating religious group, comprising a distinctive thread in the American tapestry. To be blunt, this is a group of people who stick to traditional values and thrive brilliantly. Their success speaks for itself, epitomized by Romney himself. The more people who look closely at the Mormons, the better off we will be. There are implications to be drawn, and nothing teaches like example. Work hard, be thrifty, save, give, emphasize family, and have kids are values that transcend any one religion.

Richard Lyman Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University,  writes a very
illuminating essay in The New Republic (subscription required) on why George Romney's Mormon religion shouldn't be an issue in the race for the presidency. Word-for-word, it is the best quick course I have gotten so far on the Mormon view of church/state relations. But it goes far deeper, explaining the role of prophecy in the church.

There is precedent for concern over a Mormon occupying high office. The first Mormon Senator, Reed Smoot (of the tariff), faced questioning about his duty to obey the church before being seated. President Joseph F. Smith, the nephew of the founder, also testified.

Over and over, he [Smith] assured the committee that he had no intention of dictating Smoot's votes in the Senate--until, eventually, Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and swung the balance in Smoot's favor.    ...

[The Church] explicitly releases Mormon politicians from compliance with the church's political positions. According to the church's website,
"Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent." 
Not only doctrine, but prophetic tradition makes it impossible for a church leader to claim prophecy as the justification for some new action or doctrine that would have political consequence. Much as precedent constrains courts, prophets rest their legitimacy on the roots of their reasoning in previous prophecy.

Romney will never face a dictum from the LDS to do something or other, and it is important for him to have the voting public understand this. Should he gain the GOP nomination, he will have opportunity to explain, and so will others.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky