LDS Church Backs Liberal Policy, Expert Says
While Rick Santorum openly discussed his Christian faith – and said it would not influence his would-be presidential decision-making – voters remain uncertain as to what role Mitt Romney’s faith may play should he become president.
Immigration may prove to be the most dramatic religious-political conflict in Mitt Romney’s bid for the nation’s highest office. His great-grandfather fled across the U.S. border into Mexico in 1885 to escape persecution for his Mormon faith. His father was born in Chihuahua, an American colony in Mexico, in 1907. Both men were denied citizenship there due to the country’s statutes.
Romney, who served as bishop over Boston Mormon churches for nearly a decade, compared the plight of his forefathers to that of current immigrants in America during a January speech in New Hampshire.
“He extended a sympathetic hand to Hispanic voters as a candidate,” says California attorney Robert P. DesJardins, who studied the Mormon religion and its history for his newest novel, Land of the Saints (http://robertpdesjardins.authorsxpress.com/). “It’s also a gesture that is consistent with the Mormon tradition of welcoming immigrants, both into the country and into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The LDS Church has publicly supported the Utah Compact, signed into law in 2010, which advocates policies that “reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming … state” and reflect the nation’s “history and spirit of inclusion.”
But several conservatives, including those in the Minutemen Project, an activist group that patrols the U.S.-Mexican border, say the compact promotes tolerance and amnesty for illegal immigration. Conservatives simply do not know where Romney will side on the issue beyond 2012, which is one reason why the wealthiest Republican presidential candidate has had to endure an extended vetting process, DesJardins says.
“It’s clear to most non-Mormons who have studied the religion that this view on immigration is meant to gain members,” he says. But the spirit of inclusion has not applied to everyone.
“The earliest publications of the Book of Mormon, in the 1820s, states that dark-skinned people are ‘cursed’ because they rebelled against God, whereas the ‘white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome’ colored people were in God’s good graces,” he says. “Black men were not permitted to hold priesthood until 1978, and women still are not allowed to hold the position.”
Conservatives fear Romney will say anything to get elected, he says. It’s the same kind of conformity his church followed in relinquishing polygamy, a then-crucial pillar of the church, in order for Utah to gain statehood after 50 years of petitioning during the late 1800s. It’s no coincidence black priests were permitted in the church only after the civil rights movement.
“While researching the religion I was surprised to learn about human deification, Kolob (claimed to be an actual planet existing nearest to Heaven), and ‘Mormon underwear’ – temple garments viewed either literally or symbolically to have powers to repel evil,” DesJardins says.
Attempting to predict the future in politics, as a rule, tends to make fools out of pundits, he says. However, as is the case with most individuals, the best predictor of future behavior is the past.
“I hope conservatives have their beachwear ready in August for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida,” DesJardins says, “because I’m pretty sure Romney is bringing his flip-flops.”
About Robert P. DesJardins
A successful California lawyer for more than 35 years, DesJardins is now a lecturer, private judge and judge pro tempore for the California Superior Court – in addition to being a novelist. In Land of the Saints, his third book, his main character is an attorney who finds himself drawn into the mysterious and dangerous world of Mormon spirituality after a friend is charged with murder. DesJardins is also the author of The Mistral and A Darker Shade of Orange.