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Romney takes his faith's conservative - and doubles down. That's a fair takeaway from this LA Times article, titled "Romney's conservative roots lie in Mormon faith.  It's an interesting read, often at points for what it doesn't say.  Before I continue: I don't countenance religious bigotry: the "magic underwear" comments that surface occasionally are not welcome in this diary.  We can oppose and, daresay, challenge the application of Mormon scriptures in the United States Code without mocking the Mormon faith and its adherents.  Please don't go there in this diary.

It's always dangerous to infer a person's political positions based on their religious affiliation, and I firmly believe that a person of any religion is qualified to hold any office in this nation; it's their politics that matters, not their personal relationship (or lack thereof) with G-d.  But as one lens of many with which to view the Romney campaign, this article's lens appears to be particularly insightful.

Anyhow!  Please turn off all electronic devices and ensure that your seat backs are fully upright and locked as we prepare for takeoff.

When the bottom fell out of the real estate market, Jason and Liz Anderson reached out to the institution they trusted most: the Mormon Church.

[...]

The bishop "was really open and loving," Liz recalled. But it was tough love. "We're not going to pay bills. We can't pay your mortgage," she recalled him as saying. He offered food assistance and a blessing.

The Andersons said it never occurred to them to seek government assistance, although with two young children and a monthly income that had dwindled to $1,200, they surely would have qualified for food stamps.

I think that says a lot, really.  Of course, given that Gov. Romney has not really addressed his Mormonism head-on, it's difficult to infer specific Mormon beliefs to him.  For those of us who are believers in some faith or another, we all take some aspects and discard others; as to me, I love a good lobster :).  But it still says a lot.

The Federal food assistance program is an amazing program, one of the most successful programs; it of course benefits those who receive food assistance, but it also benefits many others - it benefits their children, who are able to better perform in school; food assistance benefits area grocery stores, large and small, where the money is spent, and it is designed in hopes that it also boosts the agricultural industry, including small farmers and large businesses.  Because the money is immediately spent upon disbursement, in a down economy, food assistance can be one of the most stimulative of government programs.

In short?  It rocks.  It should not be as controversial as other programs because it really benefits interests on all ends of the spectrum.  The Feds have recognized that and incentivize states to actively promote food assistance, at one time financially rewarding states that sign up more eligible households (and perhaps today, I don't have current knowledge of this).  But even this awesome, effective program is discouraged by the Mormon doctrine described because of what the article describes as a historical aversion to government assistance.

Viewing his "47%" comments in that context, it's easy to see how he could see any recipient of government benefits as engaging in morally questionable behavior - it appears that this community is one that believes in communities only aiding themselves, not the wider society, and even within the community shuns the undeserving, for want of a better word.

The communal spirit rests side by side with a strong belief in individual responsibility, and a suspicion of big government going back to U.S. persecution of Mormons over polygamy. It is a family-centered culture that believes strongly in private initiative; has a fierce work ethic; and believes the community — not the government — is best equipped to help the needy and, importantly, set them on the path to self-reliance.

"We don't believe in the dole," said Joel Kasparian, who runs a Mormon employment center next to the Los Angeles food warehouse. "We have a scripture that says the idle 'shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer.' So that's pretty strong."

First, for the low-hanging fruit - although I certainly want to be careful about conflating equal marriage with polygamy, it's a little interesting to go from "persecution" of polygamy to carpetbagging their way into California with massive funding of Proposition 8.  Do as they say, not as they do, eh?  Again, it's a little dangerous to infer LDS Church positions to Gov. Romney when he has spoken so little about these sorts of things.

But this position implies that anyone in need of help is "idle" and thus undeserving.  First, many of those 47% paid into social security or unemployment benefits and are simply receiving what they paid into.  But those in receipt of other benefits to the economically disadvantaged also pay into the system - they pay into the system in the times when they are able to work, particularly with their higher taxes due to the proportional disadvantages of the income tax versus the payroll tax.  They are not "idle" either, often facing career, family and health problems when they hit bottom.

In the end, this sort of doctrine could explain Romney's view of the disadvantaged - he seems to say that they ought to be dealt with, for want of a better phrase, by their own community, be that community Mormons, Catholic, Armenians or yodelers.  And it is yet to be seen if Romney would have all of those non-Mormon communities in the world apply the same sort of tough love that the LA Times article describes in the California Mormon community.

Interestingly, the Times also reports one instance where Gov. Romney is more conservative than the LDS Church.

Mormons tend to be less conservative on immigration than evangelicals, a position some attribute to the fact that so many of its young people serve abroad as missionaries. (On this, though, Romney tends to be more conservative than his co-religionists. During the Republican primaries, he took a hard line on immigration reform and said he believed in policies that would prompt illegal immigrants to "self-deport.")
Self-deportation is a euphemism for making life so difficult for undocumented individuals that they choose to leave the US.  Regardless of how one feels about immigration, it leads to the SB 1070s of the world - laws that sweep in any non-white person or any person for whom English is not their first language, resulting in frequent, frightening law enforcement contacts.  It's the sort of program shunned by California cities because police departments such as the LAPD know that they cannot conduct even the most basic of community policing if any person of color is fearful of police contact because of the likelihood that will result in a potentially long and frightening immigration screening.  It's telling that this issue is where Romney departs from Mormon doctrine.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Mannie, luckylizard, kurt

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 09:59:13 AM PDT

  •  My grandmother would NEVER take food stamps. (8+ / 0-)

    Being LDS, she believed that she should not do that. So, the duty fell on my mom.

    My Grandma lived almost rent-free for almost 30 years in an apartment that my mom owned. My mom helped her with literally everything. Yet my Grandmother tithed until she couldn't anymore. She was in Relief Society for decades.

    As my Grandma got older and her hearing and body was unable to tolerate the three hour LDS block, the home teachers would come by on occasion. In her later years--the last 15--when the church no longer received tithes from Grandma, the church literally dumped her. They stopped coming around altogether.

    At her funeral (yes, she was wearing traditional LDS garb when she was buried), the Bishop led her small service. Not one person otherwise came from her Ward. No one from Relief Society. He got the family names wrong and her history was completely manufactured. I was so angry I started to cry and walked away from the service.

    I adored my grandmother. ADORED. HER.

    You have no idea how painful it was to see her treated this way by a church that suggests--and most certainly gives the impression--they care for their own. They don't.

     

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 10:22:13 AM PDT

    •  That's horrible :(. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie, kyril

      I'm sorry that you had to go through that, wow... that's really horrific :(.

      "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

      by auron renouille on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 11:13:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is awful. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auron renouille, kyril

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 11:54:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My relatives had positive experiences. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, kurt

      On my mother's side, the family was at one time all Mormon, but several later dropped away from the church, or their children never did join. My father's family was never Mormon. Of those who live(d) in Utah, many needed help at some time in their lives. As far as I could see, all were able to benefit from the church's social safety net, regardless of church affiliation.

      It is true the Mormons do not believe in government social programs. However, they have an incredible, fully formed system of supports, including health, food, welfare, and work. It is part of the church's calling, and is centrally organized and implemented locally in each community. The diarist refers to this as the community helping itself. While they don't like to be involved in government programs, they also do not believe that people are entirely on their own and without needing help. Their safety net is much more complete and humane than that offered by our governments, and, in fact, is more similar to those found in Europe.

      My relatives in Utah have, at various times, been down on their luck or needed something extraordinary. When my young cousin was diagnosed with cancer, the church-run children's hospital provided all his medical care, at no cost to the parents and without insurance. The parents were asked to make donations as they could, but the care was not dependent on that. The elderly received food and housing assistance. An out of work father received job training and was given a job, and the family was helped with housing during the transition. The belief is that people deserve help, but they don't believe that able-bodied people of working age should just be given a handout. They are given job training, provided a job, and helped in many ways, but are required to do something for it. It is hard to fault such a system.

      Yes, the Mormons don't like government running social systems, but at least they do acknowledge the need for those systems and provide them within their communities. Traditionally, churches provided health care and relief, but then government stepped in to ensure everybody had access. Community-based decisions and services are the ideal, but our people realize that is not happening and provide an alternative. The Mormon church has its head in the long-ago, but cannot be faulted for having its heart in the right place.

      Romney seems to understand just part of the Mormon philosophy -- that people should be self-sufficient. He seems to not remember that the road to self-sufficiency is often paved with lots of support.

      I am sorry Cany's grandmother had such a negative experience. As we know, no system is perfect, and sometimes people in the best systems are jerks.  I don't know where Grandma lived, and my experience is only within Utah, so that may account for the differences.

  •  Not really. (0+ / 0-)
    I firmly believe that a person of any religion is qualified to hold any office in this nation; it's their politics that matters, not their personal relationship (or lack thereof) with G-d
    If a person has a personal relationship with God as in 'he answers literally when I pray' I would have serious doubts as to mental stability. And if a person takes their God's commandments as more important than the constitution I would not count them qualified either.

    And those kind of convictions can crop up in any religion, Buddhism possibly excluded.

    He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

    by Sophie Amrain on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 11:52:55 AM PDT

    •  As to the latter, that seems covered by (0+ / 0-)

      "their politics."  That sort of viewpoint, that religion trumps governance, is core to the sort of viewpoint that I'd consider politics masquerading as religion.

      "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

      by auron renouille on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 12:53:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm LDS and I'm voting... (5+ / 0-)

    ...for the candidate who most closely aligns with my religious beliefs: Barack Obama.

    [Sorry about the length. This has been on my mind for a while, and I want to get it off my chest!]

    Yes, I'm a devout Mormon, no I'm not one of those fringe outliers who picks and chooses from what to believe. Most of the people who I go to church with every Sunday are die hard Romney supporters because he's the GOP candidate, and the fact that he's LDS is the icing on the cake.

    But I think the reason is that, even out here in Ohio, most of the LDS membership has roots in Utah. Either they're transplants, or they have family out there, whatever... and for those of us who have never lived there, the thought of moving into the Salt Lake Valley gives us considerable pause.

    That's because there's the Mormon faith, and there's Utah culture, and while there is a lot of overlap, those of us outside of the Utah culture can see that they are two separate things. As you may know, the Church's official position is one of political neutrality, and so things like Proposition 8 came not from the Church itself but from members of the church who were following the Church's counsel to be active in government. (In fact, a recent member of the First Presidency — James E. Faust — served as a Democratic state representative and the leader of Utah's Democratic party.) Because there is a lay ministry, the lines are often blurred.

    But the thing is, LDS doctrine, being what we believe to be a restoration of Christ's mortal ministry on Earth, has some fundamental principles that seem pretty liberal to me:

    - While the current commandment is to tithe, we believe that when Christ returns (or perhaps sooner), the Law of Tithing — giving 10% — will be replaced with the Law of Consecration — giving 100%. Under this law, members would donate all of their property, which would then be redistributed among all, ensuring that the poor and needy were taken care of. Members are encouraged to prepare for living the Law of Consecration by consecrating their time and giving liberally to the less fortunate.

    - Religious freedom and individual agency is paramount. "God will force no man to heaven," an LDS hymn states. The Articles of Faith, penned by Joseph Smith himself, include the following: "11. We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may." Understandable, really, coming from a religion who suffered dearly from religious persecution in its infancy.

    - And yes, that means anti-gay marriage laws, in my mind, go against the doctrine of the church. Yes, we believe that homosexuality is a sin, because we believe any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin. And yes, we consider marriage in the church to be between a man and a woman, but here's the thing: it's a religious ordinance. If someone else's religion — personal or organized — supports a different idea of marriage, then according to the eleventh Article of Faith above, we should respect that. Sure, we'd like to share with those people our beliefs which we think are right, and help them to realize that they're doing it the wrong way, but that's the realm of proselytization, not legislation.

    Anyway, there are other points, but you get the idea... on one level, it baffles me how so many LDS members so willingly go along with the GOP's stances, especially when lately there has been so much dishonesty and corruption involved. But breaking away from one's culture — especially when it is tied so closely to one's religious beliefs — can be a very difficult thing to do.

    I had thought once that Romney's progressive policies in Massachusetts were evidence of the Mormon doctrine separating from Utah culture, which of course was very exciting to me. For whatever reason, he's obviously not that person now. Obama's policies have in pretty much every case matched up with what I believe: take care of our poor and needy, let people have the freedom to choose and believe what they want, and judge not, lest ye be judged. I voted for him in 2008, and I'm planning to vote for him again in November.

    •  Interesting - Faith vs. Culture. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auron renouille

      Yes, the Mormon teachings are very Christ-like. The practitioners, however, are all over the map. While most Mormons are Republicans, many are Democrats. Harry Reid is probably the most prominent example now. Even Salt Lake City is a blue city -- described as a blue spot in a sea of red. Many are socially liberal Republicans (John Huntsman, George Romney, and Sandra Day O'Conner).

      Mitt Romney is now playing in the super conservative sandbox. I won't go into the obvious traits. But I do wonder how he got to be so insensitive and out of touch. There could be many causes, but I believe it could be partly because he was sent away from home at a young age to a boarding school. This broke the family bonds (doesn't have a close relationship with his siblings), and put him in with other entitled children of the rich. Generally, Mormons disdain ostentatious displays of wealth, send their kids to public schools, try not to set themselves apart from others. The Romneys are the antithesis of my experience with wealthy or powerful Mormons.

      There is much in the theology of Mormonism that I have problems with, but I have deep respect for their very progressive values as TobyRush described them. I can say from experience that they can be the finest neighbors, co-workers, and bosses.

      In general, our world would be so much kinder if people really followed the precepts of their religions rather than the damaging practices that have devolved.

    •  Thank you for this :). Not too long at all! (0+ / 0-)

      I've had an enormously difficult time trying to figure out where the "laity" ends and the ordained begins.  The noise over Romney as a Bishop has unfortunately clouded the matter - I understand that the LDS church has title creep such that an LDS Bishop is by no means the same as a Catholic Bishop, but that's about all I can figure out.

      I've actually been reading your comment a few times to digest it all :).

      "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

      by auron renouille on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 02:25:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the kind words! (0+ / 0-)

        I'm flattered that you found my comment useful. Yes, I do think the fact that Romney served as bishop has been over-exaggerated; bishops (who are leaders of local congregations) are called from the membership of the congregation and generally serve for five years before someone else is called to do it. A good portion of active men in the Church take a turn at one point or another, and it's really a foregone conclusion that someone of Romney's age and level of church activity has served as bishop at one time or another.

        It's worth mentioning, too, that these lay callings are not full-time positions: my current bishop is a practicing pediatrician. In fact, I have never known a bishop who did not have a full-time job in addition to his calling.

        The only truly full-time positions in the Church are those in the worldwide leadership: the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Quorums of the Seventies. These positions are far and away held by retirees, and pay very small salaries.

        I've had an enormously difficult time trying to figure out where the "laity" ends and the ordained begins.
        That's understandable, because in the LDS Church the terms "laity" and "ordained" are not mutually exclusive; as a rule, all men are ordained to the priesthood and serve many of the functions (giving blessings, administering the sacrament, giving sermons in church meetings) that in other churches are reserved for the full-time ministry.

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