Monday, January 30, 2012

Sally Denton on Romney as Mormon Candidate: The Presidency as Theological Office

Sally Denton is not much liked among Mormons--perhaps because, though she has long Mormon roots, she has written books, including her work on the Mountain Meadows massacre, that scrutinize key points of LDS history from a strongly critical viewpoint.  For my part, I've always found her work illuminating, since I tend to think that it's those shoved to the margins of a righteous tribe who often have the most accurate fix on the shortcomings of that tribe.  And on its history.

And so I suspect what Denton is writing now about the need to look carefully at the theological roots of Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency will be hotly contested by many Mormons, and by members of the Republican elite who want to declare religion off-limits as Romney is vetted as a presidential candidate.  But I think we'd be foolish to ignore Denton's insider warning about what may well hang on Romney's presidential campaign, theologically speaking--and for the future of our political life, if he succeeds in becoming president.

For what it's worth, here's what Denton herself thinks, as a marginalized member of the LDS tribe, what hangs theologically (and politically) on Mitt's Mormon bid for the presidency: 

Called a "militant millennial movement" by renowned Mormon historian David L. Bigler, Mormonism’s founding theology was based upon a literal takeover of the U.S. government. In light of the theology and divine prophecies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unamended by the LDS hierarchy, it would seem that the office of the American presidency is the ultimate ecclesiastical position to which a Mormon leader might aspire.  So it is not the LDS cosmology that is relevant to Romney’s candidacy, but whether devout 21stcentury Mormons like Romney believe that the American presidency is also a theological position. 
Since his first campaign in 2008, Romney has attempted to keep debate about his religion out of the political discourse. The issue is not whether there is a religious test for political office; the Constitution prohibits it.  Instead, the question is whether, past all of the flip-flops on virtually every policy, he has an underlying religious conception of the presidency and the American government.  At the recent GOP presidential debate in Florida, Romney professed that the Declaration of Independence is a theological document, not specific to the rebellious 13 colonies, but establishing a covenant "between God and man." Which would suggest that Mitt Romney views the American presidency as a theological office.  

As I say, I think it's worth taking into consideration what Sally Denton has to say.  Because she knows whereof she speaks.

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