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A Mormon? Seriously?

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 1/20/12

( Newt Gingrich’s demolition of CNN’s John King during the Republican primary debate in South Carolina last night—to standing ovations—made for perhaps the most electrifying five minutes in the history of televised political debates in America. There is no doubting Gingrich’s intellectual fire power and his sheer brilliance as a debater. I would pay good money to watch him outclass the glib lightweight who currently occupies the White House.

But Ron Paul is the only candidate for the Republican Party nomination who is not robotically programmed to launch America’s next unjust war while maintaining our nation’s utterly preposterous enchainment to Israel.

No one is more critical of libertarian error and nonsense than this Remnant columnist, but given the field of liberals that American politics has always been, in this election Paul is far and away the liberal who will do us the least harm.  And unlike the serial philanderer Gingrich, Paul is a genuinely decent man, concerning whom even the ultra-sensitive nostrils of the media jackals have been unable to detect so much as a whiff of scandal. In the rogues gallery of American party politics that is saying quite a lot.

But, barring a win by a surging Gingrich in the South Carolina primary tomorrow, it appears that Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. Yes, the Republicans would be nominating a Mormon as their candidate. Let the reality sink in: a Mormon. Should Romney win the Presidency, the nation’s quasi-monarchical Chief Executive will be a member of—why mince words?—a fantasy cult invented 200 years ago by a lunatic in upstate New York.  

It all began back in 1823 with Joseph Smith, inventor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (all Mormons in good standing being saints).  Smith had been having visions for quite some time, including an apparition of God the Father and Jesus. One day an angel by the name of Moroni—no, really, his name was Moroni—informed Smith of the location of certain buried golden plates. Many Mormons believe the angel Moroni was once Captain Moroni,  a military commander of the Nephites, the tribes that inhabited America around 1 B.C., when Jesus appeared at the Nephite Temple.  (I think I have this right, but who really cares?) 

The golden plates contained a summary by the great prophet Mormon of what the prophet Nephi (of the aforesaid Nephites) had earlier inscribed on a larger number of plates. Conveniently enough, the plates were buried on a hill near Smith’s home in Manchester, NY. After uncovering the plates—on his fourth annual attempt—Smith translated them with the aid of a “seer stone” he found in the bottom of a hat. By placing the seer stone over his face, he could read the otherwise indecipherable words on the golden plates. Whence the Book of Mormon, which contains such surprising revelations as the existence of three heavenly kingdoms in the afterlife that can be likened to first class, tourist class, and steerage on an ocean liner, with upgrades available as the journey progresses. (A few unfortunate souls, however, are cast overboard into eternal punishment.)  

Any questions? Well, you might ask: Where are those golden plates? As the Mormons will tell you, Smith promptly returned them to the angel Moroni! What else would you expect him to do with such priceless  sacred objects? The Mormon authorities assure us, however, that there is no reason to doubt Smith’s veracity, for they have carefully preserved the testimony of two groups of witnesses—the Eight Witnesses and the Three Witnesses—who swear they saw the plates before Moroni repossessed them.  That settles that.

Long story short: Smith ended up being shot to death during a gun battle with rival Mormons at a jail in Carthage, Illinois where he had been imprisoned after surrendering on charges of riot. (Acting as mayor of nearby Nauvoo, Illinois, Smith had ordered the destruction of a rival Mormon faction’s printing press.)  But Smith’s new religion survived. His successor, Brigham Young, acting as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, led the cult into the salt flats of the Utah desert because not even Protestant America could tolerate their heresies. There the cult flourished against all odds. Today we have Salt Lake City, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Osmonds, and million-dollar TV commercials about how cool it is to be a Mormon—so cool that a Mormon will be the Republican candidate for President of the United States.  All this because a lone man, with help of an angel named Moroni, had the guts and the gumption to found his own religion, gosh darn it.  And isn’t that the American way?

I know you’re thinking: Wait a minute, what about this polygamy business? Not a problem, thanks to the Mormon innovation of Continuing Revelation.® In 1890 the then President of the Church of Latter Day Saints, one Wilford Woodruff, emerged from his meditations to announce that he had received a heavenly bulletin that God no longer approved of Mormon polygamy. Fortunately for Woodruff,  God’s change of position did not apply retroactively to his own brace of five wives. Woodruff published the new revelation as the 1890 Manifesto, which mainstream Mormons consider divinely inspired. This revision of Mormon doctrine coincided rather neatly with a series of Congressional enactments penalizing polygamy and disenfranchising Mormon church corporations in the federal territories, and Supreme Court decisions upholding the laws—one of the few issues the federal government has gotten right, albeit for the wrong reasons. (Cf. Reynolds v. United States and  Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States).

True, even today there are fundamentalist Mormons who continue to insist on the divine ordination of polygamy. But not to worry: Romney is a mainstream Mormon (there are now three Mormon subdivisions: mainstream, fundamentalist, and reform). As such, he definitely adheres to the 1890 Manifesto—at least so far as we know.

One minor point: according to the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not Christian.  In 2001 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a decision approved by Pope John Paul II, addressed the question: “Whether the baptism conferred by the community «The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints», called «Mormons» in the vernacular, is valid. The response:Negative.” But, as we know, decisions of the Catholic Church are totally inoperative in United States territory. Indeed, Protestant America in general worships what Harold Bloom has called “the American Jesus,” the churchless Messiah of Locke’s “reasonable Christianity” whose Gospel is customized according to the requirements of the sects, including the Mormons.

The American Jesus thus serves with perfect obedience the “vision of the Founders,” whose memories we must revere because they so generously accorded Catholics the right to exist in their newfangled republic, provided we keep our papist superstitions to ourselves and promise never to act as Catholics if elected to public office.  As Jefferson  and Madison (following Locke) expressly recognized, the multiplication of religious sects—that is, the abandonment of Catholicism—is a primary safeguard of Liberty. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson observes that the “several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other,” preventing any one sect from installing the “Procrustean bed” of “uniformity” via government. Likewise, in Federalist No. 51, written to persuade the holdout states to ratify the Constitution, Madison declares: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects...” The more sects the better! For the essence of Liberty is religious division, without which the monism of state power is threatened by the spiritual power. (All of this and much more is explored in my book Liberty: the God that Failed, a tour of the “moderate” Enlightenment and the wild and wacky early history of the American Republic, culminating in that uniquely Protestant bloodbath known as the Civil War.)

That American politics is a diabolical joke is demonstrated by the unwillingness of any of Romney’s opponents even to intimate that Romney, who claims to be a Christian, belongs to a non-Christian cult dreamed up by a lunatic who went down in a hail of bullets while firing his own six-shooter at enemy Mormons. Sad to say, even Ron Paul rushed to Romney’s defense after Robert Jeffress, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, told Fox News the plain truth that Romney is a cult member. (Give the hardcore Baptists credit for candor at least.) website reports that “Speaking to Fox News, Paul argued that Jeffress’ remark was ‘unnecessary.’... Paul also suggested that whether Mormonism is a ‘cult’ or not isn’t the issue that voters care about in the GOP race. ‘I think liberty is the issue of the day. Our Constitution is the issue of the day. And too much government – that is the issue of the day. It’s not the definition of a cult.’”

Yes, yes, of course. We must never forget that in every American election Liberty is the issue. Including the liberty to invent cult religions out of thin air and then demand that everyone accept them as perfectly legitimate expressions of, well, Liberty. Why quibble over such matters of opinion as what religion God has actually revealed or man’s eternal destiny? The one thing on which Americans must all agree, however, is absolute reverence for the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, the sacred scriptures of the American civil religion. As John Quincy Adams declared some forty years after Saint George Washington’s ascent into heaven  in a flight of angels (cf. “The Apotheosis of Washington” mural in the Capitol Building): “Fellow-citizens, the ark of your covenant is the Declaration of Independence... and your Mount Gerizim [the mountain of blessings] is the Constitution of the United States...  cling to them as to the issues of life—adhere to them as to the cords of your eternal salvation.” 

Amen to that! The election of 2012 raises the curtain on the last act of the diabolical farce whose title was cited by Romney himself: “The Greatest Nation in the History of the Earth.”  It is only human to indulge in morbid curiosity about what the Adversary has in store for the final madcap scene.  In the meantime, we must let Caesar be Caesar and look after the salvation of our souls and those of our loved ones. Christ save us.

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