An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Mitt Romney’

Eating the Bread of the Laborer Part 2

Continuing my thoughts on D&C 42 :42:  “He that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.”

As I stated in Part 1, many Mormons interpret this passage as God’s decree against government welfare. Modern American Mormons are red, white, and blue patriotsyet most are leery of government social programs. Mormons believe people should work for what they receive. They believe government programs encourage idleness.

I previously made the case that the majority of social benefits from our government go to idle retirees rather than to idle welfare moms. I’d like to address another group of idlers. According to the census bureau, the top .12 % of Americans (that’s point 12 %, not 12 %) average $1,600,000 annually.

Now, except for a few CEOs and sports or entertainment stars, most people in the top .12% are not wage earners. They live off investments. Since they don’t work, I suspect they meet the D&C definition of idlers. And they definitely receive government help through our current tax rates.

Our son Wort has been politically conservative for years. This year he is supporting Obama for president. When I asked why, he said:

 “I switched parties when Gingrich forced Mitt Romney to release his tax records. Romney made $20.9 million from investments last year and was taxed at a rate of 15.4% because his personal income is taxed as capital gains.  Gingrich paid a tax rate of 31 ½% because most of his money is earned income. That’s about what I pay. It’s totally unfair that someone who works hard to support his family is taxed at twice the income rate of someone like Mitt Romney who is not working. Why should I vote for someone who wants to keep this unfairness going?”

So, are those living off investments eating the bread of the laborer? Obviously, businesses need investment capital in order to function and provide jobs. But, investors also need laborers in order to reap their dividends. Whether or not investors are taking advantage of those laborers probably depends on how well the laborers are compensated. Growing rates of income inequality in the US indicate a problem in this area.

The issue is complex, but trying to understand God’s message in D&C 42:42 surely deserves more consideration than simply dismissing the word “idle” as a term used only to describe the poor.

Mitt and Mormon Thinking

In an interview with Salon, Judy Dushku said something about Mitt Romeny which made me realize why I don’t enjoy spending time with most mainstream Mormons: “He’s not someone to engage people in conversation. He’s a person who comes to a conclusion, is emphatic about it, and he’s not interested in dialogue and exchange.”

Mitt’s inability to dialogue and exchange ideas with others should surprise no one. Mormons don’t discuss. Mormons don’t dialogue. Mormons quote authority. Mormons affirm each others’ faith. Discussing alternative opinions would imply that legitimate ideas exist outside approved discourse. Members who suggest ways of improving the organization are reproved as murmurers. Those who question official policies and doctrines are on the road to apostasy and are best avoided.

The closest Mormons get to religious discussion is in trying to resolve conflicting statements made by General Authorities. Even there, a pattern is followed. Prophets trump apostles who trump everyone else. Recent prophets outrank those of the past—although Joseph Smith gets some deference.

My neighborhood book group came close to having a meaningful discussion recently. After reading Irene Spencer’s memoir, Shattered Dreams, most of the group wondered how the author could have received an affirmative answer to her prayer about becoming a LeBaron plural wife. The discussion about discerning between our own wants and needs and divine inspiration ended when Sister Alwis Wright informed us that only people who keep all the commandments received authentic answers from God. Everyone else can be deceived. “Even what some people think are trivial sins like swearing will keep a person from receiving answers,” she informed us.

Well, that ended the discussion. Who was going to admit to trouble understanding answers to prayer if the problem is secret sins—maybe even swearing?

Thought-provoking questions raised in Church classes are handled much the same way. Askers who push for satisfying answers may find their worthiness questioned—or the topic will be termed a “mystery” about which lesser persons should not inquire.

Our son was asked not to return to his Institute class when he brought evidence (some from LDS sources) disputing the instructor’s insistence that all 66 chapters of Isaiah were written by one person. “Thou shalt not disagree with Church leaders” might as well be the 14th Article of Faith.

Mormons are taught from infancy to follow the prophet and that our leaders will never lead us astray. April points out in her post at Exponent  that Mormon leaders even tell us what we think—“Mormon women don’t want the priesthood.”

Black and White Mormon thinking may serve Mitt well during political campaigns where thoughtful answers to complex issues are not the norm. Would it serve him in making the kinds of decisions required of a president?

 

Genghis Khan and Women’s Rights

For anyone interested in a real game-changer, I recommend Jack Weatherford’s book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Weatherford, an anthropologist, accessed sources of information not available to authors of 20th century history books. The Secret History of the Mongols written in 13th century Mongolian was translated from its Chinese characters in the late 1970s. The author also visited sites in Mongolia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Lack of information has fueled Western concepts of Genghis Khan as a murderous barbarian destroying civilized countries. It is true that Genghis and his warriors were illiterate animists, yet their acts of warfare were in many ways less barbaric than those of Christian crusaders of the day. While Mongols had no compunction against killing enemies, they abhorred torture and preferred taking captives (who could be sold or used as slaves) to genocide.

It seems odd to think of war as a means to peace, but Genghis united the small, warring tribes of Mongolia into a peaceful kingdom with an economy based on plunder of neighboring countries. Not great for the neighbors, but a real step forward for Mongolia. Countries taken into the Mongolian Empire thrived. Genghis imported scholars, including clerics, from China and Persia to teach his people.

Although they adopted literacy, arts, and sciences from other countries and tolerated Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity, Mongols kept their own culture—including an active role of women in their social and political life. Mongol society lacked the belief that female sexual purity was a value to be defended at all costs—including defense of and seclusion of women. When one tribe was ambushed by another, the men fled on horses so they could live to fight another day. Captured women were taken as wives by the conquering warriors. If the men escaped, they attacked and recaptured the women. A recaptured wife might be pregnant with her captor’s child, but the child was raised by her husband as his own.

While the warriors were off sacking and looting—sometimes for more than a year at a stretch— Mongol women ran the country. Mongolian girls as well as boys were educated when schools were established. Both Genghis Khan’s wife and mother influenced his governing decisions.

True, Mongolian women did not have total equality, and prosperous Mongols could take more than one wife. Yet, compared to women in 13th century Europe, China, Persia, and the Arab world, Mongolian women had a good deal.

And what about the present? Despite the lifting of legal restrictions on gender discrimination, too many American women are limited by the Cinderella syndrome—the notion that somewhere a prince awaits them—a man who will save them from the drudgery of the working world. The obvious problem with this line of thinking is the dearth of men with large incomes. The competition to snare a good breadwinner is fierce, especially in Mormon circles.

Despite Church emphasis on modesty, many devout Mormon mothers enroll their three-year-olds in dance classes, dress them in skanky costumes, and paint their faces with lip gloss and mascara for performances. Planning weddings is a frequent Primary activity for girls. Make up sessions are regular YW activities. Even before puberty, girls are groomed for the meat market.

One possible solution is to bring back polygamy for multi-millionaires. Only a sentimentalist would object to being Mitt Romney’s 20th wife. The living would still be more lavish than being the sole wife of an average wage-earner.

A less likely solution would be to encourage girls to develop their talents and abilities and opt for a marriage where equal partners negotiate the best way for each to support and nurture their children.

Or, we can follow the Mongol lead—send the men off to war and let women run the country.

Mitt and Ann

Not surprisingly, Mormon Republicans strongly favor Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy, but polls show he is also popular with Mormon Democrats. No one should be particularly surprised at this example of religion trumping politics. Mitt and Ann Romney are the epitome of Mormon success—living proof that keeping the Word of Wisdom, holding Family Home Evenings, attending church, and magnifying Church callings results in blessings in this life as well as the life to come.

The Romney’s diligence in keeping the commandments has paid off with a large family of active Mormon children and grandchildren, prestigious church callings, and a really, really comfortable lifestyle—“Which Cadillac shall I drive today?” Church members need look no further for evidence that sacrifices made for good standing in the Church are worth it. The Romney example should also  aid missionary work.

With so many pluses to the Romney candidacy, it’s small wonder that Republican Mormons can overlook his flip-flops on conservative issues as mere political expediency. A stranger support group are Mormon Democrats. For them Romney’s positions on social issues—more tax breaks for the über-rich, cutting programs that aid the poor—must matter less than his and Ann’s sterling example of devout Mormons making good in a corrupt world.

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.

Disconnect

Ranta, a young relative, has posted a fervent defense of Rick Perry on Facebook—which surprised me. I expected Ranta to be in Mitt Romney’s camp just out of ethnic loyalty.

Ranta’s support for Perry is based partly on his strong belief in God— apparently Mitt doesn’t love Jesus enough.  Ranta is also convinced that removing all business regulations and repealing “Obamacare” will restore our economy.

 Since Ranta has less than zero interest in my opinions, I did not post a comment asking how the health care plan, which will not go into effect until 2014, is impacting today’s economy. But I am tempted to ask about her trip to Mexico for dental work which she could not afford in our country.

As far as I know, American dental care and pricing is under no federal restrictions and is not mentioned in the new health care bill. Surely the U.S. free market must be giving us the best and least expensive dental care in the world.

Church Attendance for an LDS President

Rumor has it that President Obama does not attend church regularly, his reason being that his presence is too disruptive. What a great excuse for getting out of going to church. I will certainly use that one in the unlikely event that I become president.

A blogger has speculated about Mitt Romney’s dilemma of trying to attend his LDS ward in the also unlikely event that he becomes president. Since Mitt is a devout Mormon, he does not have the option of staying home and reading the newspaper in his pajamas on Sundays. But his home ward would certainly have to make accommodations. And so would the government. I imagine all his Secret Service bodyguards would have to be LDS. No non-Mormon would sit through three hours of our meetings every Sunday for any amount of pay. Would the Secret Service would also have to prepare the sacrament bread and water and pass it to the First Family? Or would it be safe enough if they provided the bread and water and supervised the teachers’ and priests’ preparations?

Would metal detectors be installed at the entry to the President’s ward building? And what about Home Teaching? I suppose the Pres would be excused from serving as a HT, but how would the HTs assigned to his family ever schedule their visits? Maybe on Air Force One?

Does the White House have adequate space for the Romney’s food storage? And would they have to employ temple recommend holders to do the family laundry?

These are quite fascinating questions, but before I sign up to work for the Romney campaign (I just know one is coming), I need an answer to this question: Would a Romney presidency impact the church positively or negatively?

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