I wrote the following some months ago when it appeared clear that Mitt Romney might be a challenger for the 2012 Republican nomination. The same speculation has now arisen regarding fellow Mormon Jon Huntsman who, like Romney, is a well respected person. I believe the comments written regarding Romney apply equally to Mr. Huntsman.
I am certain That Mitt Romney has a belief in his Mormon faith that is deeply held and sincere. It, his faith, is a mark of his character which I applaud and respect.
It appears to me that he, through his faith holds to ideals of peace, love and humanity. Indeed, I have never met a person of the Mormon faith whom I did not find anything but pleasant, especially at a number of inter-faith meetings I have attended at the Church of Latter Day Saints temples from time to time.
For me however, when it comes to choosing which candidate to vote for, especially for the highest office in the land, I am unable to separate the person from their religion when that religion is Mormonism.
I can appreciate that most, if not all religions have a degree of the fantastic about them. Much of this is clearly set out to illustrate moral precepts or is, frankly, propaganda directed at perceived enemies. However, nothing I can see in the Judeo-Christian Muslim context is divorced from historic, anthropological and archaeological reality.
Taking an undisputed source, The Book of Mormon itself we find in the introduction what is set out to be the historical setting of Mormonism. In summary the introduction advises, inter-alia, that " A glorified, resurrected being, Moroni," showed to Joseph Smith in 1823 some golden plates upon which Moroni's father Mormon had inscribed the history of an ancient civilization in America and the visit of Jesus Christ to that civilization.
Again in brief " Two great civilizations came from Jerusalem ( to America) in 600 BC" namely the Nephrites and the Laminites the latter being the "Ancestors of the American Indians".There was apparently an older civilization the Jaredites which preceded them after "God confounded the languages at the Tower of Babel."
Now it is indisputable there is not a single shred of archaeological evidence of any pre-Native American ("American Indian" ) civilization, especially one of the purported size and sophistication set out in the Book of Mormon. Not a building, boat or artefact, not a domestic utensil, article of jewellery or clothing, or grave, in fact, nothing at all.
The ancestors of the "American Indians" did not come from the Middle East, they are indisputably of Asian origin having crossed the ancient land bridge from Siberia. The idea that the language (or rather multiplicity of languages) of Native Americans' was "confounded in Babylonia" is ridiculous and is not of course supported by any regarded ethnologist. We are clearly dealing not with fable or even fantasy but with a romance.
Again, there is a lot to challenge in the history of the Christian religion but nothing on the level of the entire religion being divorced from any sort of reality grounded in time and place.
I appreciate that people of faith can compartmentalize their life views. World famous scientists can view their work in the strictest of rationality whilst being sincere Christians which religious dogmas they understand they adhere to as a matter of faith divorced from the mindset they use in their occupation.
However, as much as I respect this attitude (which I hold to myself) there is a point at which I have to question the mindset of those who have, as I see it, stretched the faith/rationality dichotomy beyond its limits.
Thus for Romney to hold, as I am sure he sincerely does, to the purported historic roots of the Mormon faith shows that, to me at least, he has thought processes that are a significant aspect of his personality that are questionable in respect of wider views he might hold now or in the future.These include concepts which, again to me, are are totally divorced from reality. I would not look to a candidate for president to have, again as a major aspect of his very being, this sort of mindset.
Simply put, if non-rationality at this core level can be accepted and acted on then what other non-rationality can also be accepted and acted on?
It may be said that Palin might hold to a fundamentalist belief which may or may not consider e.g. evolution to be totally true and which might take the old testament to be literally correct. However those views, even if held, are well within the mainstream of acceptable religiosity and have been held by world leaders throughout the ages. I would be sure the majority of voters would be comfortable electing a person to high office who subscribed to them.
It might also be stated that the same objections to Romney/Mormonism was made in respect of John F. Kennedy (and Alfred E. Smith before him) which objections have proven to be unfounded.
However, the objections to Roman Catholicism was predicated on the belief that the Pope would be put in a position of having undue influence on American politics through the mechanism of a Catholic president-not primarily to the basic beliefs of the religion itself.Whether the majority of voters would be comfortable in voting into the White House a person who held to the Mormon faith is a matter of conjecture but for me it is a settled issue.