The Republican presidential nomination is still very much up for grabs, but the winner may be Mitt Romney, a Mormon, member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter referred to as LDS).
This is not the first time a Mormon has been a candidate. The group's founder Joseph Smith (regarded by the LDS church as a prophet) ran for president in 1844, but his campaign was cut short by his death at the hands of a mob. In more recent times, two other candidates have run—Orrin Hatch in 2000 and Mitt's own dad George in 1968. But this is the first time a Mormon has gotten so close to the presidency.
And that brings up the Mormon Question. According to a Gallup Poll , taken in December of 2007, 22% of those polled saw Mormonism as an undesirable characteristic for a president and 17% would not vote for a Mormon. Broken down by party lines, 18% of Republicans, 18% of Democrats, and 14% of Independents said they would not vote for a Mormon.
(In the same poll, 4% would not vote for a Catholic, 5% for a black, 12% for a woman, 12% for a Hispanic, 41% for a homosexual and 48% for an atheist.)
Some say the Mormon question shouldn't even be brought up. For example, talkshow host Hugh Hewitt, a long-time Bush booster who can't bring himself to mention Ron Paul (for example look at the table on his website here) says it's a taboo subject that shouldn't be discussed. Of course, Hugh is stumping for Romney and wrote a book called A Mormon in the White House? so it's too late for him to complain about it.
Here at VDARE.COM collective, we're interested in the National Question. Since Romney is the first Mormon this close to the White House, there's nothing illegitimate about looking at his religion to see how that might affect his presidency.
And from a Republican standpoint, what's wrong with exploring the Mormon Question now, before the general election?
After all, if Mitt makes it to the general election, the Democratic Party operatives might not obey Hugh Hewitt's gag order. They could bring up all these issues, maybe more.
Nor is it a violation of the religious test prohibition in Article VI Section 3 of the Constitution, which only limits the government. An individual voter can apply any sort of test for the candidates he likes. In fact, we all do do that, don't we?
The LDS church was founded in New York State in 1830 by Joseph Smith, regarded by Mormons as a prophet who received his doctrine by revelation. Throughout most of the rest of the 19th century, Mormonism was in constant conflict with mainstream American society, a conflict which sometimes erupted in violence. There was the "Missouri Mormon War" of 1838, the Missouri Extermination Order against Mormons of 1838, the Illinois Mormon War of 1844, the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 and the Utah War of 1857-58.
The reason the Mormons moved west and settled Utah was to get away from the U.S. But by a strange twist of fate, the Mormons arrived not long before the region was annexed in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo so they wound up back in U.S. territory. As it turned out, Mormons played an important role in the American settlement of the vast Southwest.
The real turning point in Mormon-American relations was the church's official renunciation of polygamy in 1890. Slowly but surely it began to move Mormons into the American mainstream, without their losing their distinct Mormon identity.
Nowadays Mormons are patriotic Americans and overwhelmingly vote Republican. Their social values (though not their doctrine) are almost identical with those of evangelical Protestants.
The LDS church has shown a remarkable ability to activate its laity. In that respect they put most Protestant denominations to shame. In fact, local Mormon churches are led by laymen (Mitt Romney has served as a Mormon bishop). It's only in the upper levels of the hierarchy that church officials work full-time.
Nearly every Mormon man serves two years as a missionary, Mitt Romney, for example served as a missionary in France. This missionary experience is formative for individual Mormons—it makes them active participants in their church, not just spectators. The experience helps lock them into the LDS church for life.
From the LDS' beginning in 1830 in upper New York State, it has grown to embrace over 13 million members worldwide, half of them outside the United States.
Here in Mexico, the Mormons have had phenomenal growth. There are now over 1 million Mormons in Mexico . Mexico has 12 Mormon temples and the Mexico City Temple is the largest outside the U.S., which is not surprising, as Mexico has the second-largest Mormon population in the world. In the metropolitan area in which I reside, I have had Mormon co-workers and it's not at all uncommon to see Mormon missionaries on the streets. Mormons are also starting to get into politics.
The Mexican government has recognized the size and influence of Mormonism. In President Vicente Fox's visit to Utah in 2006 the Mexican president paid a visit to recently deceased LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley (who was regarded by the church as a living prophet.)
Fox and Hinckley discussed Mexicans in Utah. Afterwards, Fox commented: "We are very pleased at the way they have been treated in this land [Utah]". The Mexican president was referring, of course, to Utah's liberal treatment of illegal aliens, which some attribute to the influence of the LDS church. Some have even accused the church of encouraging Mexicans to migrate to the U.S, though this is denied officially. [Church denies it lures members from Mexico | Statement is response to comment from CNN By Matthew Brown Deseret Morning News, May 24, 2006 9]
What's certain is that Utah has a rather illegal-friendly legal system. It's one of only 4 states to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens . Utah's law not only discriminates against Americans from other states who can't get in-state tuition there, it even discriminates against U.S. citizen residents of Utah—if they leave the state for 3 years they lose their right to in-state tuition, but illegal aliens never lose that right !
Utah also has poor coordination between law enforcement and immigration authorities, resulting in a de facto sanctuary policy. And it has a "driver privilege card" especially designed for illegal aliens.
In a 2006 Denver Post article, Border Issues Moot to Mormons in Utah [May 2, 2006]], Michael Riley linked the state's welcoming attitude to illegal aliens with Mormonism, citing well-known open borders politicos as Chris Cannon and Orrin Hatch, and quoting illegal alien Teresa Campos, who manages a store (not exactly "living in the shadows"): "I've lived in California. I've lived in Las Vegas. No place is like this…they don't think just because we don't have papers we aren't human beings."
In his article, Riley directly linked this illegal alien accommodation to the Mormon doctrine. According to the Book of Mormon, ancient Israelites settled the Western Hemisphere. One group became known as Lamanites. Traditional LDs teaching is that the American Indians are descendents of ancient Israelites. However, in recent years DNA evidence has shown how unlikely that is, and the latest introduction to the Book of Mormon says that Israelites are "among" the ancestors of American Indians. Since Mexicans and other Latin Americans are of majority Indian ancestry, it would be a logical jump that contemporary Latin Americans are Lamanites, and thus their emigration to the U.S. is part of Mormon prophecy.
Some Mormon Latinos have taken up this view. One Venezuelan immigrant put it this way:
"The people who come here to the United States, the people who come to Utah, are the chosen people. They come here looking for the church and they don't know it. I am an example of this."
Arturo de Hoyos, a retired professor of sociology at Brigham Young University stated that "The Latinos are joining the Mormon Church tremendously. We believe that it is because they are beginning to remember who they are."
Maybe some reporter should ask Romney: "Do you intend to increase Lamanite immigration?"
A more recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune estimates there are 100,000 illegal aliens in Utah, and contains more happy talk quotations with Mormons who have no problem with illegal immigration. [LDS Church urges lawmaker compassion in addressing illegal immigration, By Peggy Fletcher Stack, January 24, 2008]
However, not everybody in Utah—and not all Mormons—are happy with the way things are going. A recent poll showed 60% of those questioned in favor of a local role in immigration enforcement, 74% in favor of employer sanctions, and 85% of citizenship verification before receiving government benefits. [Utahns favor local immigration laws, By Deborah Bulkeley, Deseret Morning News, January 16, 2008]
However, LDS church leaders (who meet with legislative leaders of both parties at the beginning of each Utah legislative session) have already exhorted the Utah Legislature to re-introduce the "element of humanity" into the immigration debate.
That kind of rhetoric is usually code for "don't enforce the law".
Nevertheless, the church leaders were careful not to lay down specific legislative prescriptions. Quoth LDS spokesman Rob Howe, "We communicated our policy ... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken no position regarding currently proposed immigration legislation."