An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Mitt’s Mormon Model

Mitt Romney has been criticized as unauthentic by many pundits. Most recently, David Brooks called him, “other-directed.”

Mormons should not be surprised that one of our own is reluctant to express his own thoughts. We are trained in Church meetings to say what is acceptable to the group. We are “nice.” We have good manners. We tailor our remarks to fit the occasion. Mormons who spew venom at the referee of their kids’ soccer games would not dream of expressing disagreement with the Gospel Doctrine lesson. Of course, Mitt tells his audiences what they want to hear. He’s had six decades of practice at Church. He knows how to focus his gaze on the Sacrament Meeting speaker while his mind is elsewhere, then shake the speaker’s hand after the meeting and say, “Great talk!”

A bigger political problem for Mitt may be the fear that he will take his orders from Church headquarters. I think that’s an unlikely scenario. More threatening, in my view, are some of the teachings Mitt imbibed with his mother’s milk—American Exceptionalism being the most dangerous for a US president. The Book of Mormon is rife with passages about America being a land “choice above all others.” The D& C and the 10th Article of Faith promise that Zion will be built upon this continent and the righteous throughout the world will gather here.

Mitt’s book, No Apology: the Case for American Greatness presents the notion that with good leadership, the US can continue its dominance of the world economy and power for the foreseeable future. Mitt’s model fails to address the simple fact that a shift in world positions is being brought about, not so much by our slipping, but because other countries are catching up economically—and in China’s case—militarily.

Insisting on American world dominance in the 21st century could lay the ground for endless wars and military spending. Mitt’s threat to designate China as a “currency manipulator” and his promise to build up US military troops by 100,000 trouble me much more than his willingness to tell an audience what they want to hear.

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