One of Mitt Romney's problems is the fact that he believes in a pre-Youtube ethic of being able to say things to one audience that he wouldn't say to another. Now, one could argue that that's because he's an old-school politician. Or one could say that he's steeped in a culture of lying endemic to the leadership of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Consider the story of Ken Clark, former Latter Day Saints bishop and coordinator for the Church Education System:
I began this list when I was a full time employee of the LDS Church Education System (CES). I worked as a Seminary Principal/teacher, Institute teacher/Director, and Stake CES Coordinator from 1975 - 2002. My last assignment was brief. I signed a Letter of Agreement with CES to serve as the Director of the Pullman, Washington LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to Washington State University in July 2002. I resigned from CES a month later. I carry fond memories of the students, ward leaders and others I grew to respect in the LDS Church. I started this list in an effort to defend the church from its detractors. I was insulted that critics accused LDS church leaders of dishonesty. I "knew" the criticisms could not be true...Clark lists over a hundred examples of baldfaced lies knowingly told by the church hierarchy, justified because they believe it serves the greater good. It is a cultural ethic deeply embedded in the LDS system. Consider the way Latter Day Saints missionaries are trained:
Evidence presented in this essay establishes that when the church image or its leaders needed protection it was and is, okay to fib, deceive, distort, inflate, minimize, exaggerate, prevaricate or lie. You will read quotations by church leaders who admitted that deception is a useful tool to protect the church and its leaders "when they are in a tight spot," or "to beat the devil at his own game." They admit engaging in moral gymnastics; that God approves of deception - if it's done to protect the "Lord's Church" or "the brethren" as the leaders are called...
D. Michael Quinn called the use of deception by LDS church leaders, "theocratic ethics." (The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, page 112) Smith lied to protect himself or the church; which was an extension of himself. Dan Vogel in his excellent work, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, described Smith's viewpoint; he was a pious deceiver. Smith used deception if in his mind; it resulted in a good outcome. Smith had Moroni, an ancient American prophet and custodian of the gold plates declare, "And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. ( Moroni 4:11-12). Translation: if deception was necessary to do good, or bring a soul to Christ, then it was worth it, as long as God approves. Smith believed he knew when God approved of lying.
As John Aravosis points out regarding these lies and the common (and secretive) LDS practice of posthumous baptisms for countless individuals, including Anne Frank and Adolf Hitler:
It's ghoulish to be sure, but it's neither rare nor a mistake. It's what the Mormons do. And when they get caught, they lie about it, just as they're lying to our President today, and just as they've been lying to the Jews for over a decade.This isn't just a broadside on Mitt Romney's religion. It's important to remember that Mitt Romney has a very important and prominent position in the LDS hierarchy as a stake president:
Why does this matter? Because the Mormons are "the" bankers of the religious right. Last fall, the Mormons dropped $20 million into California and singlehandedly turned a losing battle into the successful repeal of marriage rights for gay couples in that state. The Mormons have bankrolled hate initiatives in Alaska and Hawaii and across the northwest and midwest for the past decade. They are not some fringe "religion" to be shrugged off. The new anti-gay marriage coalition, National Organization for Marriage, keeps finding, seemingly out of nowhere, $1.5m for this ad campaign, then another $1.5m for that ad campaign. Where are they finding this sudden infusion of cash? Inquiring minds want to know.
In ticking off his credentials on the campaign trail — management consultant, businessman, governor — Mitt Romney omits what may have been his most distinctive post: Mormon lay leader, offering pastoral guidance on all manner of human affairs from marriage to divorce, abortion, adoption, addiction, unemployment and even business disputes...It's critically important to remember that Romney's lies aren't just a feature of his personality. They're a feature of his cultural and religious training.
From 1981 through 1994, he was a powerful figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is run almost entirely by volunteers beyond its headquarters in Salt Lake City.
First as bishop of his own congregation, and later as Boston “stake president,” overseeing a region akin to a Roman Catholic diocese, he operated as clergyman, organization man and defender of the faith, guiding the church through a tumultuous period of rapid growth.
He confronted anti-Mormon sentiment and management challenges, supervising youth programs, the church’s social welfare system, missionary training and outreach to Hispanic, Portuguese and Southeast Asian converts, including Cambodian and Laotian refugees whose teenagers were joining the church in droves.
Later, when his official duties were complete, he contributed handsomely to the construction of the grand — and controversial — Boston Temple, high on a hilltop in Belmont, its steeple topped by a golden angel, just minutes from the Romney home. “Mitt’s Temple,” some local residents called it derisively.
The only difference is that he's switched from serving a religious Lord to serving Mammon and our modern-day plutocratic House of Lords.
But the same ethic rules regardless.
Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo