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.

Justin McAffee is the publisher of the Nevada Ledger. Justin and his wife Aimee own a digital media consulting firm, Most Digital, in Las Vegas, Nevada. They specialize in website design and SEO, graphic design, content creation and photography.

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30 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. “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.

    1. All this links to the McCarthy cold war era, and the church hoping to avoid being tagged communists. I understand avoiding forcing people to concecrate all their possessions, but creating a society where we are promoting sharing and caring for the whole, and against greed, that should be what all Mormons do. Mitt Romney does the opposite.

      1. Justin: Interesting piece. I think you’re right that there is a constant tension between our highest ideal as contained in the Law of Consecration and the extent to which we are able to live that law in this time and place.

        There were approximately 180 attempts to live this law in various forms in our early days. All failed. I think personally it’s an nearly impossible standard in this world–the city of Enoch being the exception that proves the rule.

        You didn’t touch on this, but I have to point out that consecration is voluntary and indicates a personal change of heart while social democracy forces those who disagree and releases individuals from their personal obligation to care for the poor: the government will do it for me. This is not a technical distinction.

        Thanks for your piece.

        1. Brother Romney has forced the people of Massachusetts to pay taxes against their will, as well as BUY HEALTH INSURANCE, just as OUR PRESIDENT has done so with the ACA. Is Mitt the Devil? Or is he simply trying to forward a double standard???

  5. I neither know nor care who among the author or the commenters are Mormon. Actually, I don’t care that Mr. Romney is a Mormon, either, just as I don’t care that Mr. Obama seems to be a Christian of some kind. To me, the ONLY reason to consider a candidate’s professed religion is to gain insight into his thought processes, and try to gauge how he would act in office. I must say that in the case of Mr. Romney, one of two things must be true. Either he believes Mormon teachings, or he doesn’t. If he does, then he must be somewhere between gullible and certifiable. No insult intended, but the Mormon faith is among the more non-reality-based faiths out there. To honestly believe in the Joseph Smith story, in the gold tablets discovered in New York or in getting your own planet marks the believer as someone just a bit out of touch with reality. And I don’t want as my President someone who ignores reality; we’ve had enough of that already. On the other hand, Mr. Romney may actually not believe Mormon teachings. If THAT is the case, then he is somewhere between an opportunist and a liar. And I wouldn’t want anyone from that section of the truthfulness scale as President; again, we’ve had enough of that already.
    Lest other commenters feel that I am simply some pointy-headed Liberal engaging in “Romney-bashing,” let me add that I judge Mr. Obama the same way. He, too, has put reality, science, logic and reason aside to choose to adopt a set of beliefs that have absolutely no basis in reality or fact, and for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence at all. Again, I don’t want a President who ignores the facts and the evidence; some 6000 American soldiers have already been sacrificed at the altar of irrational beliefs blindly held even though there was no evidence to support them.
    I suppose it should be obvious that I do agree with Mr. Dawkins: religion poisons everything.

  6. One error in your description of the Law of Consecration, I think: the words “allowed to keep.” As with everything else in the Church, what is returned above and beyond the needs of the individual would be determined by the individual. Nor does the communal ownership of property of the Kibbutz fit the United Order, what the individual does not return to the community remains his.

    Finally, in 2011 Romney’s combined taxes, tithing and charitable giving came to 42%.

    1. Mitt Romney hasn’t filed a 2011 tax return, that’s his estimation. If you look at the only one he’s actually filed (2010) he paid 7% in tithing, and 14% in taxes, and about another 7% in donations to charities (mainly affiliated with the Mormon Church).

        1. And isn’t it wonderful that we’ve managed to reduce that obscene level of taxation down to something more reasonable?

      1. I doubt there is going to be much variation in the Romneys’ final 2011 numbers, so any variation would be a percentage point or two. But yes, the 22.8% taxes (federal, state, local & foreign claimed) and 19.3% charitable giving estimates for their 2011 estimated tax return is higher than the 18.6% taxes (federal, state, local & foreign claimed) and 13.8% charitable giving for their 2010 tax return.

  7. Enjoyed the article, Justin.

    All I gotta say is this…

    Obama/Biden reelected in 2012!

    and

    Romney/Ryan release all your 1040s!

  8. It’s unfortunate to read such a misinformed article from someone who is only vaguely familiar with LDS history and doctrine–and who is equally ignorant of Mitt Romney’s actual willingness to help others. That misinformation–coupled with the liberal disconnect that the government forcing people to do what’s right (pay their fair share) is really God’s plan should really concern thinking Americans–and especially Mormon Americans who should be able to recognize that forced charity is someone else’s plan.

    No Mormons were “commanded” to deed their property to the Church. When Mormons moved to Ohio, some Christians who already were living communally; and Joseph Smith taught them how it ought to be done for those who chose to do so. The author fails to perceive that the LDS concept was entirely voluntary.

    “It’s Romney’s lack of willingness to help others that concerns me.” Oh really? Then you really should be concerned with Joe Biden–whose donations to charity have been negligible. A few years ago, a student at the University of Utah broke his spine in a skiing accident during his first year of medical school. Unable to continue his education without help, he would have dropped out; but Mitt Romney paid for his school to allow him to finish. Yet the author here is willing to judge Romney from nothing more than a position of self-righteous ignorance.

    1. In the early church, living the United Order was at times a requirement for church membership sir, so I do believe you are mischaracterizing history, if anyone was.

      More importantly, my point is not that Mormons should be in favor of implementing the United Order all around the world, that wouldn’t be prudent, and you are right, that would be against free agency. The point is that our tradition strongly supports the idea that we work together for each other.

      Your isolated example of Romney’s charity is not impressive in the least. He, like many in the modern conservative church, is simply stingy and greedy. That is why you are against a United States that lives up to the Constitution, wherein we “form a more perfect union, establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare…” etc. You can’t hide your selfishness behind the flag of “free agency.” For it is your free will that chooses to vote against a system that tries best to help all.

      1. My goodness, Bro Allred! One doesn’t even have to look at the United Order to realize that financial inequality is contrary to Mormonism. Just read the Book of Mormon, which clearly teaches that when people took care of each other there was peace and righteousness, but as some got richer and less caring, sin and secret combinations became the norm. My opinion is that many of us take the Rameumptom stand when we make our contributions but fail to address social justice issues in this country!
        If you were to read the Bible, you would find that we fall short in our concern for our “neighbors” by any yardstick therein, too.

        1. Gee, Bro Allred would suggest that any form of taxation is the equivalent of Communism, since any form of taxation takes away the free agency of people to help the collective whole in some way. BS friends.

  9. Pingback: Mitt Romney & Mormons Can't Shake Collectivist Nature | The Nevada View

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