In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Laurie Winer has an incredible #longread piece documenting both the history of the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney‘s reluctance to talk about it at all.
No doubt, Republicans will want to denounce this piece as some sort of attack on his faith. It’s not. It’s an honest telling of the story of Joseph Smith that’s easy to read; it’s hard to believe how anyone could take it seriously. If you’re offended by what she writes, take it up with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not Winer.
The story of Joseph Smith in its particulars has no relation to that of Romney. What they share is an ability to shape-shift without anguish, a refusal or inability to see those shifts as hypocrisy, and what looks like a full belief in whatever they are saying, until it comes time to say something else. Also, they both ran for President.
Perhaps all churches begin as cults, and certainly they all resist change, harbor forms of racism, and engage in strange ritual. The more recent the religion, the more traceable are its imperfect human footprints, the more ammunition for ridicule, the more the need for secrecy and for the brutal cut-off of apostates. In this regard, Scientology is the new Mormonism. (In a recent television skit the comedian Daniel Tosh played a Scientology recruiter whose office-wall poster reads: “Scientology: Making Mormons look sane since 1952.”)
Aside from the trinity of the Godhead, the main difference between Mormons and other sects of Christianity is that their founding is recent enough to have been extensively documented by verifiable witnesses and historians at every turn. Mormonism therefore requires a different kind of faith than does other Christian sects. It requires a very special obedience. It asks its members not to read, and not to believe, wide swatches of their own country’s history.
… Romney remains safe in his fundamental belief that, no matter what he says, he is essentially honest. And he can always, if he needs to, believe and say something else later. He has learned at the feet of masters.
If Mitt Romney becomes the next president, we’re electing someone who believes in the story of Joseph Smith and everything that comes with it. That lack of good judgment should terrify all of us.