Mitt Romney’s Rhetoric Versus His Mormonism

Mitt Romney acts as the Republican crusader for individualism these days, with his attacks on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” hiccup and a more recent swipe at religious collectivism in the Jewish Kibbutz.  Here’s what Mitt Romney said just days ago:

“It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America,” Romney said. “What America is not a collective where we all work in a Kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.” [sic]

But how does this square with Romney’s own Mormon faith?  We know Mormons have practiced their own version of the Kibbutz, called the Law of Consecration, or the United Order.  In early Mormon history, members were commanded by the prophet Joseph Smith to deed their properties to the church, and the church then deeded a “stewardship” back to the members.  They were only allowed to keep a certain amount of their earnings, anything over what they needed was given to the collective whole.

Mormon leadership has taught the importance of this doctrine, and for reasons that might relate to Mitt Romney himself.  Mormon Apostle President George Q. Cannon taught:

“The time must come when we must obey that which has been revealed to us as the Order of Enoch, when there shall be no rich and no poor among the Latter-day Saints; when wealth will not be a temptation; when every man will love his neighbor as he does himself; when every man and woman will labor for the good of all as much as for self. That day must come, and we may as well prepare our hearts for it, brethren, for as wealth increases I see more and more a necessity for the institution of such an order. As wealth increases, luxury and extravagance have more power over us. The necessity for such an order is very great, and God, undoubtedly, in his own time and way, will inspire his servant [the prophet] to introduce it among the people.” (In Journal of Discourses, 15:207.)

To further the point, Mormon scripture quoting the Lord himself says, “It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” ( D&C 49:20 ).

If anyone other than a Mormon Apostle had said something like this, Mitt Romney would be asking why they want to punish success.

All Mormons (including Mitt Romney and myself) who get their temple “endowment” make a promise to God to live this Law of Consecration.  So Mitt Romney’s own faith prescribes a practice nearly identical to the Kibbutz.  How does he square this with his individualism rhetoric, let alone his dismissive attitude of the Kibbutz?

Well, this is just what we’ve come to expect from a guy who championed a mandated health care system in Massachusetts, and is now a constant critic of the mirror national legislation “Obamacare.”  Apart from that, perhaps Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.

Self reliance is something to be admired and sought for.  It’s Romney’s lack of willingness to help others that concerns me.  It’s this same conservative mentality prevelant in many Mormons in this country that demonstrate a lack of committment to be willing to give from above that which they need.  It’s unacceptable to live in such a wealthy nation as this one, and have 50 million people going without medical care.  I’ve seen the resistance to Obamacare from so many conservative Mormons, and I just can’t seem to square it with how I percieve a faith that teaches love and compassion as a cornerstone.

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30 Comments

  • Linda Overbey
    August 10, 2012, 10:24 am

    Great article.

    REPLY
  • A. Black
    August 10, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Mr. McAffee, I’ve read some of your other work and find it interesting that you are an openly gay man that seems to indicate you are a practicing, temple going Mormon. My understanding was that practicing gays weren’t allowed to be in the Mormon church, or at least weren’t allowed to go to their temples. In most cases I actually thought practicing gays were excommunicated from the Mormon church. Can you help us understand your current status and relationship with the Mormon church? I think it would help us as readers better understand the perspective from which you are approaching Mormonism.

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    • Justin McAffee@A. Black
      August 10, 2012, 12:22 pm

      I am not a gay man Mr. Black, and if you don’t have any evidence to the contrary, I suggest you use more caution before making false statements about people. I am a progressive Mormon, and I believe in the 14th Amendment, and that equal protection of the law applies to gay people as much as straight people. Either way, your attempted character assassination is pretty sad.

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      • A. Black@Justin McAffee
        August 10, 2012, 12:36 pm

        Interesting. I saw your post for the Clark County Democratic Party that mentions being openly gay. Since you work for them and posted an article saying this, I guess we need to assume you were doing it for someone else.

        That being the case, I apologize, however, you still didn’t answer the question regarding your current status and relationship with the Mormon church since your positions seem to differ quite a bit from their normal positions. Are you attending their services regularly, do you go to their temples? Mormon friends of mine don’t normally talk about what they do inside their temples so I’m interested as to why you do.

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        • Justin McAffee@A. Black
          August 10, 2012, 12:54 pm

          I admin the site, and the chair is openly gay, so I could see your confusion.

          On speaking about what Mormons do in the temple, it is obviously sacred, but it isn’t some secret. I’ll quote directly from the Mormon Church’s website, which says exactly what I said.

          “We covenant to give of our resources in time and money and talent—all we are and all we possess—to the interest of the kingdom of God upon the earth”

          A guy hiding behind an avatar asking about my church attendance? Really? Tell you what, I’ll discuss it when Mitt Romney releases his tax returns.

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  • E B
    August 10, 2012, 12:46 pm

    I think it’s important to understand something about the law of consecration in comparison with socialism. I am a Mormon too. The law of consecration only works if people choose to give their all to a common cause. It cannot be forced. Nor can it work if anyone in the community is acting selfishly. This is precisely why socialism doesn’t work. People don’t work hard enough to pull their weight, and the system collapses with everyone equally poor with fewer goods and services to boot. Have you been to the Bloc in Eastern Europe? China? To motivate the self-interested community, capitalism is the answer for a prosperous society.

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    • TomW@E B
      August 10, 2012, 12:56 pm

      E B nails it. The differences between voluntary consecration and forced socialism are profound.

      For an LDS overview of these differences, one can look to one of Romney’s near relatives, Elder Marion G. Romney, who was one of the church’s Twelve Apostles and eventually a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church prior to his death. He addressed the significant differences between consecration and socialism in this talk: http://search.ldslibrary.com/article/view/101349

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      • Justin McAffee@TomW
        August 10, 2012, 1:03 pm

        This in no way diminishes from the fact that Mormonism at it’s best is very collectivist, and the individual takes a back seat to the whole. It’s something to be strived for. As the Lord said: “It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” ( D&C 49:20 ).

        You can argue that the violent revolutions and property seisures in Russia, China, etc. where bad, and that’s what Marion Romney was speaking of. All the other wealthy capitalist democracies in the world other than the U.S. have universal health coverage, and are much more collectivist than we are. I think it’s contrary to the teachings of the church to be fighting against our nation coming together for the whole. I’m not saying we have to live the United Order, and I think you know that.

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        • Kendall@Justin McAffee
          August 10, 2012, 4:10 pm

          Yes it does. You are cherry-picking doctrines to support your liberal views. I could cite where the BoM explains that a 20% tax rate equates to bondage, or discuss how modern collectivism is really “satan’s plan” to force people to be charitable. Attempts at using Romney’s religion against him are easily exposed as very weak straw men (comparing obamacare and the united order…really?). But it is revealing how liberal views regarding wealth redistribution have more support in religion than empirical data.

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          • Justin McAffee@Kendall
            August 10, 2012, 4:51 pm

            Well it’s a free country. You can start your own blog and write about how a 20% tax rate is bondage… or about how Brigham Young rode across the planes on his white buffalo, but in both cases you’d be relying on fantasy.

            What’s really sad is that the appeal to empirical data doesn’t seem to be effective in convincing Republicans of anything. I thought what the hay, I’ll try speaking their language. It certainly won’t penetrate everyone’s stiffneckedness, nor did I expect as much.

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  • zarbor
    August 10, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Cherry picking doctrines as usual. Jesus himself taught the parable of the talents, whereby it is considered an honorable trait to successfully have increase through hard work. “It’s Romney’s lack of willingness to help others that concerns me.” This is pure hogwash, with all the biography of Romney in disagreement with that statement. Sure, we can disagree on universal healthcare (INDISPUTABLE FACT: most American’s DON’T want it), but to bear false witness against Romney and portray him as an selfish, evil, rich guy is disgusting.

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  • M.R. Heeman
    August 10, 2012, 1:02 pm

    “Early Mormon history” as presented here has nothing to do with the modern eras.

    IF Mormons still sign over their property to the church, which they do not, you’d have some kind of point. But, you don’t!

    Liberals attacking Romney’s religion remind me of the attacks on John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism. Senseless and hollow then, vacuous and corrosively Obamunist now. Romney will serve SLC no more than JFK was a sock puppet for the Pope.

    “Commune-ism” was rejected as far back as the Jamestown settlements for good reason as it was then and still is destructive. This e-mag suggests not one thing forward-looking by spiffing irrelevant, ancient history and bogus conclusions.

    REPLY

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