#3 Is America ready for a Mormon president? One writer says NO

As 2011 winds down, I’ve decided to reblog some of my favorite posts from this past year. This post is actually the combination of a series of two posts I did on the book “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters.” Originally posted July 13 and July 14.

Conservative strategist Tricia Erickson does not believe that the American people should elect a Mormon president, and by extension, Mitt Romney. She makes this emphatically clear in her new book: “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?”

She puts fourth the idea that the Latter Day Saint movement has been systematically working to get Mormons in places of political and cultural significance. For the author, a former Mormon herself, she sees this as problematic.

I think that this book is an interesting read, and I do sincerely agree with one of Erickson’s primary theses: the Mormon Church has done a very effective job of depicting itself as being mainstream and just another Christian denomination. But this isn’t comparing Presbyterians to Methodists. Mormonism has a lot of beliefs that are radically different from the rest of evangelical Christianity.

I think Erickson generally presents well reasoned arguments, however her language can come across as inflammatory. Numerous times throughout the book, her writing has undertones of, “Seriously, how can these people actually believe this garbage?!”

Here is one example towards the end of the book:
“There are so many lies, distortions, and secrets in the Mormon Church that it boggles the mind as to why they have any followers at all.

I think that Erickson’s writing style will fail in changing views. For those who are already weary of Mormonism, this book will be preaching to the choir. For those who may want to learn, the abrasive rhetoric will just force people to become galvanized in whatever their prejudices of Mormonism were prior to reading the book, and have opinions which are largely unaltered.

Erickson does raise several interesting points pertaining to Mormon doctrines, especially pertaining to the loyalty Mormons are commanded to have to the church’s leadership in Utah. Her line of reasoning seems to be based around the fact that Romney has had significant positions of authority within the church, most notably as a “Stake President” which is essentially the Mormon equivalent of being an archbishop. She argues that it wouldn’t make sense for a person to be placed in such positions if he were not a loyal and obedient member of the faith community. In other words, he is someone who sincerely believes Mormon teachings.

The Mormon Church is lead by a president, two counselors, and twelve apostles. These men are considered prophets within the church and have significant power and influence over the religion. Given that their theological proclamations are considered prophecy, Erickson is concerned that Romney will be beholden to the whims of the church which would be bad for America.

In the 1960 presidential election, many people were concerned in the potential of a catholic president as John F. Kennedy pursued the White House. Far fetched fears existed of how the Vatican would be running the country.

Could this just be the same thing?

No. Erickson says that Romney’s Mormonism is very different from Kennedy’s Catholicism, and Salt Lake City would have a much bigger impact than Rome.

Certainly a relationship where the church says “jump” and Romney says, “how high?” would be deleterious.

But is it really that simple? Is Romney just a helpless political shill?

The author argues that Romney cannot go against the council of the church lest he be subject to penalties which could have negative effects on his eternal security, something which Romney surely would not want.

I cannot help but think that the idea that Romney would have to follow every arbitrary whim is a stretch. If the church were to ever consider him as an apostate, how bad would that make Mormonism look to outsiders? For that reason, I think that Romney is not without power, especially given the public backlash which would follow from removing the church’s most high profile figure.

Tricia Erickson argues throughout the first section of her book “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters” why the American people should not want a Mormon president. In the seventh chapter, she kicked it up a notch and her rhetoric took on a much more Dan Brown/conspiratorial tone. Erickson writes:

“Behind the scenes of the Mormon Church is a secret political agenda that the leaders don’t want you, the public, to know about…Birthed within the (Mormon) Church, yet distinct from the church is a secret organization formed by Joseph Smith during early Mormon history. This organization is the political machinery of the “priesthood” of the Mormon Church, named “the Kingdom of God” and “the Government of God.”

The American government is a very large, very complex entity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statics,the federal government has roughly two million employees.

They are spread out across the entire nation through dozens of departments and agencies, many with their own unique “personalities” that have been forged by politics and history. We have a constitution with checks and balances, and within our system of government, the idea that one president with a radical agenda could “take over” the country and force his ideology onto every aspect of our lives is farfetched and a scare tactic used to get people not to vote for certain candidates.

Maybe we could have a president who had beliefs that were radical or which could be consequentially negative for the rest of the country. Luckily, if that did happen, there is a difference between radical beliefs and actually turning those beliefs into reality. Especially given that Mormons make up less than 3% of congress and 0% of the Supreme Court.

Furthermore, the idea that the American people would stand by and allow for such a thing to occur is a stretch, especially given the surging atheistic and secular worldviews within this country.

Given these and other reasons, I have a hard time worrying that a Romney president would lead to the Latter-Day Saint Church taking over America and setting up a Mormon theocracy, as Erickson seems to fear.

Erickson continued:

“Mormons believe that they are the only true church and their main objective is to be ready when the time comes for the millennial reign by having their leaders ready to rule or already in key places of authority and power…The political agenda of the church is to place a Mormon man in the presidential office in order that the church may take over and control the country and further the world for the “Kingdom of God.”

On what is she basing these claims?

Erickson sites “The White Horse” prophecy which she claims is a belief that exists within the Mormon Church that our government will collapse, and that the church will be in place to take over and run the country.

Even if there are Mormons who believe that, if God is not the God of Mormonism, what difference do their prophecies make? It is not consequential.

In politics, I feel like certain factions within an opposition movement will always have themselves convinced of, “If this person gets into office, they will destroy the world.” Some perpetuated this fear when Barrack Obama was running for president in 2008.

The Glenn Beck’s of the world had certain people believing that if Obama were to become president, the fairness doctrine would be forced upon the media, people wouldn’t be able to have guns, and from there, he would basically setup a Stalinist regime.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many criticism which could be levied against the Obama White House, but guess what? If people don’t like what he’s doing, someone else will be elected next year.

I feel that I would be remiss if I did not note the interesting dichotomy that there are people who fear Obama is turning America into a socialist state and Erickson is worried that Romney will turn the country into a nation that is controlled by the Mormon Church. If both groups are right, how utterly amazing is the idea that a nation could swing from one extreme to the other in a span of four years?

Would the Mormon Church leadership have any influence over Romney? Probably. Would they vicariously be running America and plotting to take over Europe and the rest of the world? Absolutely not.

I am a proud Freemason, and Erickson’s conspiracy theory of the Mormons attempting to take over the government reminds me of different books I’ve read that try to proove that the Masons are taking over the world. I believe that the crux of these types of arguments is having a psychological justification to explain the fallenness of the world. Depending on people with whom you talk, the Mormons, Freemasons, socialists, and any number of groups are all in the midst of taking over the world, and that there is a proverbial wizzard behind the curtain orchestrating the puppet show.

I think the world has much bigger problems with which to deal.