Give Me Liberty or Give Me Romney

Mitt Romney has been invited to give the commencement address at Liberty University, an evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell. The announcement has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. I have to admit that the news left me in a bit of quagmire of thoughts.

I attended an Evangelical college and I’ve presumed that all of our graduation speakers have been men or women who could agree to the university’s statement of belief. Liberty University is quite a bit more conservative than the school I attended, so I was surprised to hear that they’ve previously had Jewish and Catholic speakers. But then I recalled that Michael Medved, a Jew, spoke once in University Chapel and I don’t remember anyone expressing anything negative about it.

I’m completely resolved to the idea that it’s okay for an Evangelical to vote for a Mormon. I would probably throw a fit of one shape or another if a Mormon were invited to speak from the pulpit of my church. A graduation speech at a Christian university is not a sermon, but the expectation is that spiritual themes will be affirmed and encouraged. So I can appreciate the concerns being expressed in opposition to the invitation.

I’m interested to hear what others think. Is it appropriate for a Mormon to give the commencement address at an Evangelical school?

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123 thoughts on “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Romney

  1. One major news journal I follow noted (correctly I think), that the suspicion conservatives (cough-Christian Right-cough) have about Romney will actually probably cost him the presidential election.

    Because he’ll have to spend a good half of his presidential campaign pandering to hardliner conservatives and reassuring them that he’s conservative enough, and fending off continuing attacks on his candidacy from the right wing. Bob Dole had this problem (although being a war hero insulated him a bit) – he was always handicapped in his candidacy by the ongoing need to reassure the extreme right.

    As a result, Mitt will not be able to swing hard to the center and court the voters he absolutely NEEDS to win against Obama. Instead of appealing to “moderate middle class moms” or whatever moderate demographic – he’ll have to constantly swing hard right instead to protect against attacks from his own camp. This will alienate moderates and probably cost him the election – barring a big stumblingblock for Obama in the next few months.

    Look at it this way – is courting Jerry Falwell and his demographic going to impress moderate voters?

    It won’t. It will make Mitt just look like a dangerous agent of the right-wing agenda. Ever since Mitt sewed up the Primary, he’s been increasingly upping his right wing rhetoric. These are not the actions of a man who is secure in his Republican backing – it’s a sign of weakness. And instead of doing what any successful presidential campaign does at this stage in the game – swing hard to center (something George W. Bush had the security to be able to do with his “compassionate conservativism”) – Mitt is instead running the opposite direction to prevent getting backstabbed by his own party.

    I hate to say it guys, but unless there’s a big change, I think the Christian Right has cost Mitt yet another election. They’ve put him in the middle of a campaign with one arm tied behind his back to ward off what should have been his secure allies.

    Not that this addresses Tim’s question, but anyway….

  2. Honestly, I think even if Romney did work the moderate angle hard and not have to tango with the far right from now till November, he still wouldn’t be able to pry enough of the center away from the status quo, barring a severe stumble in the economy between now and election day.

    The American electorate has settled into a pretty intense pattern of re-electing the incumbent (for my entire life, actually), which has generally not been the case for the rest of our national history. The only president since Carter to only serve one term was G.H.W.Bush, and I credit that entirely to an election immediately on the heels of a recession.

    Things of course are not great right now economically, but they’re way better than they were two and threre years ago. I just don’t think without some other big event coming into play that American voters are going to react to that by bucking the status quo.

  3. Is it appropriate for a Mormon to give the commencement address at an Evangelical school?

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it. This controversy would be a lot more controversial if the school hadn’t already invited one non-Christian speaker (Medved).

    Now, I would find it a little weird for an evangelical divinity school to invite a non-Christian commencement speaker, since EV divinity schools specifically aim to gear students for evangelical ministry. But Liberty University does aim to prepare students for broader career paths, so non-religious speakers can be appropriate for that reason.

    I thought that the real story here was that LU had invited Romney at all. I kind of rolled my eyes that the media chose to focus on protests to his invitation rather than the invitation itself. Typical.

    LU is cozying up to Romney and Robert Jeffers is already singing a different tune. If Romney loses in November, I don’t think it will be because politically conservative evangelicals stayed home in indignation at having to vote for a Mormon.

  4. Kullervo said:

    The only president since Carter to only serve one term was G.H.W.Bush, and I credit that entirely to an election immediately on the heels of a recession.

    I would say that Ross Perot’s role as a 3rd party spoiler was also a factor.

    The electorate came pretty close to giving Bush the shove in 2004. 120,000 more votes in Ohio and Kerry-Edwards would have had it.

    If it doesn’t happen with Obama this year, then yeah, I just might be blaming the incumbent factor.

  5. Seth, there must be polls telling Romney’s camp to cozy up to the Christian Right, but I don’t see it. Who else are they going to vote for?

  6. What an intriguing question. Good one. From a sociological point of view–putting aside theological differences–there is likely no group closer to evangelicals than Mormons. Their views are virtually identical on gay marriage, abortion, centrality of the family, sex out of marriage, conservatism, capital punishment and the list could go on and on. I frankly can’t think of a sociopolitical plank that both groups don’t share. Mormons are sociologically and politically far closer to evangelicals than many “approved” denominations. Even closer than most Catholics. All polls have shown that the two most aligned far right demographics in America, are first the Mormons, and second the Evangelicals. So from that standpoint, of course an invitation to their “cousin” Mitt Romney should be manifestly kosher. (Yes, pun intended.) And if one is looking for a motivational “success” story to inspire new grads, Romney also fills the bill without any possible objection.

    It also must be admitted that if one were to truly exclude any commencement speaker who is not a “creedal-based” post-Catholic trinitarian believer, then you’d need to exclude Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, any Pope, Mother Theresa, Elie Wiesel, Benjamin Netanyahu, (oh heck–any Jew) and a long list of amazing and exemplary people. Yet you COULD have invited Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff, Ted Haggard, Robert Tilton and a host of others–prior to their scandals.

    And lastly, Christ was known for his inclusion, not his exclusion. Eating with harlots, publicans and sinners went against the “purity” of his day, though he warned the pious that the sinners “would enter heaven before you!” So heck yeah–inviting any Mormon, Jew or whatever, simply to speak (not preach) is fine. Romney’s religious views, in America at least, should not be a litmus test unless you’re hiring him as your pastor. The irony is also not lost on me that if religious bigotry against Mormons does tilt the election to Obama, then they will have again brought us 4 more years of Obama. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! So rather than an aligned, social conservative who agrees with 99% of evangelicals views, they would rather have Obama who agrees with nearly 0% of evangelical views? Wow! Mind-boggling logic! And, not to be too pointed, but let’s face it–the single most evangelical president in the white house to date was…(drum roll)…Jimmy Carter. If THAT’S an example of what evangelicals bring to politics, shouldn’t conservatives be more afraid of an evangelical in the white house, than a Mormon?

  7. Mitt Romney is a politican. As long as the students are expecting a political speech I don’t really think it’s a problem. On the other hand, I became a Lutheran Christian because my college commencement speech was given by a Lutheran. I am so thankful it was not an atheist or neo-pagan who spoke. Just kidding (of course).
    I can think of a lot of other politicians I would rather hear speak though. Romney seems to be warming up to Marco Rubio – wouldn’t mind hearing him. Or Chris Christie – a pro-life politican in the North East who is really being pro-life when it counts (unlike some other politicians from states like Mass).

  8. Liberty University inviting Mitt Romney to speak makes more sense than Brigham Young University inviting Dick Cheney.

  9. Cheney was protested by a very small smattering of anti-war kids at the Y on ’07, found on any campus where young minds are whipped up to the Cumbayah anti-war messages. Cheney actually is adored by most Mormons. Cheney’s LDS fans were probably disappointed to hear he just got a heart transplant as I’m sure there’s some earnest temple submitter anxiously waiting to be baptized immediately for him when he dies! (Kidding!)

  10. found on any campus where young minds are whipped up to the Cumbayah anti-war messages.

    …like campuses that read from the Bible?

  11. Tim said, “I’m completely resolved to the idea that it’s okay for an Evangelical to vote for a Mormon.”

    Good for you.

    James Robison, a respected charismatic leader, recently had Glenn Beck on his show. He apparently knew he was going to catch flak for it because he looked into the camera and with a bit of irritation announced that he was not a compromiser.

  12. Taft was actually the “most” Evangelical president to date. Carter and W. Bush aren’t far behind. None of them will be added to Mount Rushmore. Just a small point of clarification.

  13. I understand that there will be a temptation to jump into politics every time Romney’s name is mentioned on this blog. I expect it and will offer latitude for it, but do your best to stick to the (religious) topic.

  14. By a curious coincidence, on this date in 1870:

    “It is therefore very desirable to us, whenever ministers of standing in their own denominations visit us, to have them set forth their doctrines and sentiments before us, that the young persons among us may understand all other religions as well as ours, and be able to compare the doctrines that are taught or held in Christendom with those which we have been introducing under the revelations given to Joseph Smith. It was on this and other grounds that the general spiritual liberty, so marked among us in the days of Joseph Smith, had been constantly continued. We all remember, who lived in the days of Joseph, that every clergyman of any prominence who visited Nauvoo was invited to preach to our congregations. This has ever been our course. It was so at Kirtland. They preached in our Temple and in other localities, and it has been continued up to the present time. During the long years that we were in a manner isolated from the rest of the world, ministers passing across the continent by stage or in emigrant companies have spoken in our tabernacles.”

    George A. Smith
    President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    Speech Delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle April 24, 1870
    “Bearing False Witness” Journal of Discourses 13:332-33

    Of course, evangelical ministers Ravi Zacharias and Richard Mouw spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in November 2004, with the latter gentlemen causing some annoyance to fellow Evangelicals, but they were hardly the first. Apparently a Protestant clergyman, D.L. Moody, made an impression with a sermon “Salvation for All” that he gave in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1871 such that he made a return appearance sermon there in 1899. i have not seen the text of either of his sermons.

    I do not know why Tim would throw a fit if a Mormon spoke over the pulpit of his church. It sounds like Tim is considerably less secure about his faith than Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Georg A. Smith and the 21st Century leadership of the Church. and, of course, that makes perfect sense.

  15. BTW Just two years ago, on May 15, 2010, Glenn Beck, a Mormon, gave the commencement address at Liberty University.

  16. No problem with it, at all.

    But no sermon.
    In our Lutheran congregation, we’d (some of us anyway) have a problem with most brands of ‘Christianism’ speaking from our pulpit. Just because so many don’t have a clue how to use the law, and wouldn’t recognize the gospel if it hit them in the face.

  17. Just two years ago, on May 15, 2010, Glenn Beck, a Mormon, gave the commencement address at Liberty University.

    I looked this up and see that it is true.

    So yeah, this non-controversy just got even more non-controversial. Romney is the second Mormon to speak at an LU commencement, not the first.

  18. Seth, there must be polls telling Romney’s camp to cozy up to the Christian Right, but I don’t see it. Who else are they going to vote for?

    Obama. There was prior to 2009 a fairly substantial group of Americans that are social conservative and economically liberal. Prior to 2009:
    social conservatives / economic liberal, social moderate / economic liberal, social conservative / economically moderate was 49% of the country. This is the pre 1964 Democratic coalition back when Alabama was the most Democratic state and Vermont the most Republican state. Those are the “Blue Dog Democrats”, “Reagan Democrats”, “White Working Class”…. and evangelicals are/were in huge numbers in that group.

    This group of voters is not well served by having a socially liberal / economically liberal party running against a socially conservative / economically conservative party. Getting specific to evangelicals, Romney’s economic policies are not popular with evangelicals especially evangelical women. If they believe he is insincere on the social issues they do care about they could easily “make this election about economics” and vote for the Democrat. 30% of evangelicals did just that in 2008.

    We don’t know the political / idealogical realignment that occurred in 2009 is short or long term (i.e. if the 2009 depression acted like the great depression in permanently changing people’s view or not). If we assume it did and look at the post 2009 polling the situation is complex in a different way for Romney:
    there are 8 major idealogical groups of voters in the United States.
    2 are Republican and 3 Democratic. Of the remaining 3: 2 lean Republican and 1 leans Democratic. However the 2 leaning Republican: libertarians and disaffected voters (which includes a large number of evangelicals) have opposite opinions on government support like food stamps, medicaid mainly because the Disaffecteds use these programs in large numbers. When Republicans talk about “budget cutting” these are the programs they want to focus on. Both groups already disagree with the Republicans on foreign policy matters. It is not hard to see how targeted advertising could pull a few hundred thousand key votes in key states.

  19. I understand that there will be a temptation to jump into politics every time Romney’s name is mentioned on this blog. I expect it and will offer latitude for it, but do your best to stick to the (religious) topic.

    Tim if you want to focus on religion Romney strikes me as just about the worst Mormon in the country to talk about. It would be like a blogger trying to discuss issues of the United Church of Christ by focusing on various reactions people have to President Obama. Romney is not a religious leader he is a political leader.

    Without the “presumptive Republican nominee” before his name this story about Liberty University would be something like Liberty University inviting a well known business and public interest organizer who had a mixed political record in state office. Most people wouldn’t know he was Mormon, and those that did likely wouldn’t see it as terribly relevant to his talk topic (whatever that was).

  20. I frankly can’t think of a sociopolitical plank that both groups don’t share.

    1) Wife working outside the home. Mormons are much more negative about this than evangelicals.

    2) Importance of having all or most friendships within the church. Mormons are much more socially insular. This is a socio economic plank because lots of government policies are designed to encourage intermixing of people.

    3) Belief in yoga as both a spiritual and exercise practice. Mormons are picking up lots of liberal attitudes on agricultural issues from the yoga / new age community.

    4) Having been abroad and thus substantially lower fear of foreigners

  21. Seth R. said:

    As a result, Mitt will not be able to swing hard to the center and court the voters he absolutely NEEDS to win against Obama.

    I think that Romney is already beginning his move to the center. In the past few days he has supported continuation of subsidized low-interest college loans, backpedaled on immigration and appointed an openly gay man as a top adviser. Those are not actions designed to shore up the hard-right wing of his party (in fact, quite the opposite). As a campaigner, Romney has a record of telling people what they want to hear, and the people he needs to persuade now are those in the moderate middle.

    Murdock said:

    It sounds like Tim is considerably less secure about his faith than Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Georg A. Smith and the 21st Century leadership of the Church.

    Do you think your bishop is secure enough in his faith that he would invite Tim to give a talk in your next sacrament meeting if Tim were visiting your area?

  22. When I was at Brigham Young University, I had a calling in my LDS student ward serving on the activities committee. At one of our meetings, we were discussing potential guest speakers for a fireside, and I suggested that we ought to invite my pastor to speak (this pastor here). My pastor had an extremely good relationship with the LDS church and had met with the First Presidency and Dallin Oaks in the past, and we were the only non-LDS church that had any kind of a display on the walls of the Joseph Smith Building (the religion building).

    So I suggested my pastor, and everyone got really quiet for a moment as if I had said something terribly stupid and everyone was too embarrassed to say so. Finally the group just kept going and said nothing about my suggestion.

    There was a counselor in the bishopric sitting in on the meeting, so I asked him afterward what the hell that was all about. He said that fireside speakers had to be members of the church.

    I talked with my pastor later. He said that he’d been invited to speak at several firesides. (I think that the LDS church technically calls them something other than “firesides” when it’s a non-LDS speaker, but it’s the same type of event). We’d also invited LDS speakers to events at our church.

    I guess the counselor and the other students on the activities committee just weren’t secure enough in their faith.

    (Disclaimer: I actually liked the counselor in this bishopric very much. One of the best bishopric members I’ve ever worked with.)

  23. 3) Belief in yoga as both a spiritual and exercise practice. Mormons are picking up lots of liberal attitudes on agricultural issues from the yoga / new age community.

    What?

  24. FWIW, a few years ago I attended a ward fireside where one of the main speakers was not LDS, although he was sympathetic to the church. He said he was considering getting baptized, although I later found out that he didn’t.

  25. 3) Belief in yoga as both a spiritual and exercise practice. Mormons are picking up lots of liberal attitudes on agricultural issues from the yoga / new age community.

    What?

    Exactly what it sounds like I’m saying. Mormons have numbers of yoga participation as high or higher than liberals. Among Mormons 27% cross over to yoga spiritual practices as well which is higher than the percentage among liberals who practice yoga. A belief in spiritual yoga and reincarnation are a good proxy (i.e. statistical measure) for other eastern beliefs and philosophies which is why the question gets asked. This gets asked along with things like astrology, belief in psychic powers and reincarnation. Mormons scoring very high on yoga but around the same as evangelicals when it comes to reincarnation: 11% belief for both Mormons and evangelicals, 24% for the population as a whole. They score high in whether objects (like trees or mountains) can have souls, but that isn’t surprising since it is a semi-supported religious tenant or Mormonism but not orthodox Christianity (in the last two centuries).

    Here is a general survey which contains more of a “why” the question gets asked the data on Mormonism is in the Mormons in America survey:
    http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedfiles/Topics/Beliefs_and_Practices/Other_Beliefs_and_Practices/multiplefaiths.pdf

  26. Huh. Well, what about the bit about “picking up lots of liberal attitudes on agricultural issues from the yoga / new age community?”

  27. The percentage of self-identifying Mormons who also believe in spiritual yoga doesn’t surprise me that much: Mormonism is still kind of a fringe religion and there are (at least in my experience) a whole lot of self-identifying Mormons who believe a lot of stuff that is unorthodox (from a Correlation Committee perspective) at best.

  28. Murdock said

    I do not know why Tim would throw a fit if a Mormon spoke over the pulpit of his church. It sounds like Tim is considerably less secure about his faith than Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Georg A. Smith and the 21st Century leadership of the Church. and, of course, that makes perfect sense.

    I register this somewhere in the territory of the Mormon practice of speaking in tongues.

    There are plenty of venues in which I be interested hearing a Mormon speak at my church. The Sunday morning sermon is not one of them. If that makes me a xenophobic, weak-faithed bigot I’ll live with it. Meanwhile, I won’t hold my breath for a non-Mormon to be invited to speak at a Sacrament meeting much less General Conference.

    FWIW, the Ravi Zacharias event was a non-mormon event that was merely allowed to use the Tabernacle.

  29. Jack said

    So yeah, this non-controversy just got even more non-controversial. Romney is the second Mormon to speak at an LU commencement, not the first.

    yep, getting pretty weak.

  30. CD-host said

    Tim if you want to focus on religion Romney strikes me as just about the worst Mormon in the country to talk about. . . . .Romney is not a religious leader he is a political leader.

    The Romney campaign quite regularly sparks controversy where Evangelicalism and Mormonism intersect. When I mention Romney it’s an excuse to talk about religion where it rises to mainstream cultural interest. If Harry Reid were running for President I’m sure we’d be talking about him just as often as we will discuss Romney over the next 9 months. The issues really aren’t about Romney, they’re about the things that follow in the wake of Romney.

  31. On some level, Romney is paradigmatic of “elite” Mormons. As a Mormon, he is utterly familiar to me. He is not an outlier in any way. General authorities, stake presidents, mission presidents are chosen from the ranks of guys like Romney. He is not representative of all Mormon leaders, but he is really no different than Thomas S. Monson on many levels.

  32. I’ve tried to find a list of past commencement speakers at Liberty University, and the closest I could find what this incomplete list. Most, but not all, are/were evangelical Christians (there’s at least one non-Christian, Ben Stein), but in every case as far as I can tell they are/were political conservatives. (Last year’s speaker was film director Randall Wallace, known best for Braveheart and various films that are strong on family values. I don’t know about his politics.) In the choice of commencement speaker, political orthodoxy seems to matter more than theological orthodoxy.

  33. On some level, Romney is paradigmatic of “elite” Mormons. As a Mormon, he is utterly familiar to me. He is not an outlier in any way. General authorities, stake presidents, mission presidents are chosen from the ranks of guys like Romney. He is not representative of all Mormon leaders, but he is really no different than Thomas S. Monson on many levels.

    Amen. This is why I would have supported nearly any other Republican candidate for the nomination over Romney. None of them were, in my opinion, great choices, but I know Romney, in that I have known dozens if not hundreds of Mormon elites who are exactly like Romney, and they absolutely make my skin crawl.

    I do not loathe Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. I love many Mormons dearly, and I wouldn’t be deterred from voting for one of them just because of their religion. I loathe Mitt Romney because he is a specific type of Mormon. I didn’t like his ilk when I was varying shades of True Believer, and I like it even less now.

  34. Kullervo said: “Amen. This is why I would have supported nearly any other Republican candidate for the nomination over Romney. None of them were, in my opinion, great choices, but I know Romney, in that I have known dozens if not hundreds of Mormon elites who are exactly like Romney, and they absolutely make my skin crawl. I do not loathe Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. I love many Mormons dearly, and I wouldn’t be deterred from voting for one of them just because of their religion. I loathe Mitt Romney because he is a specific type of Mormon. I didn’t like his ilk when I was varying shades of True Believer, and I like it even less now.”

    Interesting. “make my skin crawl?”…”loathe MR because he is a specific type of Mormon”…”his ilk”… That’s a lot of invective. Sounds a little judgmental there, since you obviously don’t really “know” the man. Are you describing a neo-nazi, or islaamic terrorist here, or a guy who by most objective standards would probably not epitomize the description you ascribe? It is ironic that we label folks to this degree. Is he too rich? Too white? Too self-assured? Too devout? Too elite? or is it that there’s something he is not enough of? Whatever it is or isn’t, I just hope you realize your reasons seem pretty subjective. You have that right, but at least recognize it for no more than just that. It’s just I’ve heard people claim they’re not racially prejudice against “all” blacks of course–just the ones that deserve their disdain. Isn’t the definition of bias when we categorize someone by their type, or ilk, or social milieu, instead of for who they, in and of themselves are?

  35. Historically, Mormon leaders close to the top (like the Romneys) manifest a disturbing tendency to treat people like sheep. They tell us “what we need to know” rather than what they actually think about what is really going on. Read D. Michael Quinn’s chapter on shadow governments in the Utah territory (and even thereafter) in The Mormon Hierarchy, and you find an impressive historical pedigree for the kind of two-facedness that President Hinckley manifested when he told Larry King, “I don’t know that we preach that” and then announced in the Priesthood session of General Conference, “I know very well what the doctrine of the church is.” Some leaders are really good people. Some are not. Since they always close ranks and project a unified front, pretending that violent or sudden change never really happens to them or the church around them, it is really hard to tell the difference. The good leaders become enablers for the bad ones. The system creates prevaricators (who lie best when they think they tell the truth).

    Many of us Mormons and former Mormons who are wary of Romney are reacting to his “priesthood leader” persona, which we have found to be an ambiguous thing — a dangerous corporate substitute for genuine, individual authenticity. I am not saying that Romney is necessarily inauthentic, but his misfortune is to come from a long line of people who cultivate inauthenticity as a virtue (something too sacred to speak candidly about: rather than tell you exactly what he thinks, he tells you what management wants you to know). He is a corporate manager, whether we are talking politics or religion. His public persona is that of a robot who does whatever he thinks will make the most money for management, and then attempts to sell it to the public using “righteous” rhetoric whose relationship to what he does is really hard to pin down. As far as I can tell, this is not something he does with any devious intent, and he is certainly not the only one to do it. (Politicians perfected this art long before the advent of Mormonism. Do what you have to do, and then make people think they want it — and you.)

    For the record, I am not personally angry with Mitt in any way. I wish him well. I don’t know that the country wouldn’t be better off with him (or somebody like him) in charge. But I am done believing in leaders who cannot say what they actually think — leaders whose leadership depends on pandering to this or that faction in order to carry out their own, unexamined projects (however noble or right-minded these may be). And it was studying Mormonism that led me to this realization — specifically, studying the history of the priesthood leadership that Romney exemplifies (better than many have done before him, as far as I can tell).

  36. That’s a lot of invective.

    Indeed.

    Sounds a little judgmental there,

    Making judgments is the heart of the process of evaluation, which is not only the highest form of critical thinking, but is absolutely essential to the democratic process.

    If we are not making judgments, our brains are not fully engaged. The issue is whether we are making good judgments, or judgments that are based on good information.

    since you obviously don’t really “know” the man.

    Did you even read what I wrote, or the comment of Jared’s that I was responding to?

    Of course i do not know Mitt Romney eprsonally as an individual. I am not climing that I have. what I have met, over and over in 28 years as active Mormon in a variety of stakes and wards throughout the country (and even some throughout the world!), is a particular type of Mormon elite. As Jared said, all available indicators seem to show that Mitt Romney is very representative of that type.

    Are you describing a neo-nazi, or islaamic terrorist here, or a guy who by most objective standards would probably not epitomize the description you ascribe?

    (1) SOmeone doesn’t have to be a Neo-Nazi or Islamic terrorist to deserve loathing.

    (2) The second half of your question makes me think you are overusing the thesaurus without a really solid understanding of what those words mean. Pray tell, what “description” am I “ascribing” to Mitt Romney that he does not “epitomize?”

    It is ironic that we label folks to this degree.

    This makes me think you do not know what irony is.

    Is he too rich? Too white? Too self-assured? Too devout? Too elite? or is it that there’s something he is not enough of?

    No. Again, did you not read what Jared wote and what I responded to? He’s too much like a certain kind of Mormon elite that I can’t stand, because my personal interactions with representatives of the type have been loathsome. They are cutthroat power-abusers who obscure their ugly worldviews and bad behavior by interweaving their nastiness with a false show of deep spirituality and a “Holy Spirit voice.” Not only do they act bad, but they insist that their bad actions are noble and righteous, and the fact that you don’t agree with them is becauase you yourself are not oble and righteous enough. Its abusive and nasty, but it works really well in hierarchical environments like the LDS Church, business corporations, and, unfortunately, government. I would not vote for anyone who even reminded me of this kind of interpersonal stance.

    Whatever it is or isn’t, I just hope you realize your reasons seem pretty subjective. You have that right, but at least recognize it for no more than just that.

    Every judgment a human being makes is subjective.

    It’s just I’ve heard people claim they’re not racially prejudice against “all” blacks of course–just the ones that deserve their disdain.

    Except that skin color and genetic ancestry are not indicators of behavior. Behavior is an indicator of behavior. I’m not talking about “Mormons.” I’m talking about a certain kind of personality that I have often enocutnered among Mormon elites, but the issue is not with their Mormonism, except to the extent that Mormonism facilitates the kind of bad behavior that I am talking about

    Isn’t the definition of bias when we categorize someone by their type, or ilk, or social milieu, instead of for who they, in and of themselves are?

    No, that’s stereotyping. Bias is when you have a pre-formed judgment regarding something. I am certainly biased against the kind of Mormon elite of which I believe Mitt Romney is a clear representative, but I believe my bias is justified based on my experiences with people who act like Mitt Romney appears to act.

    Take not of that–the “type” I am using to categorize Mitt Romney “and his ilk” is a behavioral one. I am putting Mitt Romney into a category of people who behave a certain way based on his behavior, as I perceive it. That’s not a stereotype. it would be a stereotype if I assumed Mitt Romney behaves a certain way because he is Mormon, or because he is rich, or because he is white, or because of anything other than his actual perceived behavior.

    Instead, I am evaluating Romney’s likely behavior based on (1) his behavior that I have perceived and (2) the behavior of similarly-situated people who behave the same way. You are free to assert that my data are wrong or inaccurate, but the process is solid critical thinking, and I don’t apologize for it.

  37. Many of us Mormons and former Mormons who are wary of Romney are reacting to his “priesthood leader” persona, which we have found to be an ambiguous thing — a dangerous corporate substitute for genuine, individual authenticity. I am not saying that Romney is necessarily inauthentic, but his misfortune is to come from a long line of people who cultivate inauthenticity as a virtue (something too sacred to speak candidly about: rather than tell you exactly what he thinks, he tells you what management wants you to know). He is a corporate manager, whether we are talking politics or religion. His public persona is that of a robot who does whatever he thinks will make the most money for management, and then attempts to sell it to the public using “righteous” rhetoric whose relationship to what he does is really hard to pin down. As far as I can tell, this is not something he does with any devious intent, and he is certainly not the only one to do it. (Politicians perfected this art long before the advent of Mormonism. Do what you have to do, and then make people think they want it — and you.)

    Yes. This is what I am talking about. This is “Romney and his ilk.” This is why I did not want him to be the Republican candidate.

  38. One of you guys needs to write up a full blog post on that issue. It’s something outsiders can’t see or perceive.

  39. Outsiders perceive it. . . that is why they don’t like Romney, or trust him as a conservative. Mormon leaders like Romney are a particular kind of politician. I actually trust him not to screw things up too much, and to be relatively conscientious in some areas, but I don’t like his politics. I don’t find him particularly better or worse than other political types. I just happen to have a lot more experience with that particular kind.

  40. For the record, IMHO, Santorum and Gingrich (also particular political types) seem more deserving of loathing than Romney. Santorum is more authentic, but more wrong headed. You can trust a Mormon leader not to rock the boat too much, be practical rather than ideological, and generally tolerant of differing opinions. Romney’s faults are run-of-the-mill for any politician.

  41. For the record, IMHO, Santorum and Gingrich (also particular political types) seem more deserving of loathing than Romney. Santorum is more authentic, but more wrong headed. You can trust a Mormon leader not to rock the boat too much, be practical rather than ideological, and generally tolerant of differing opinions. Romney’s faults are run-of-the-mill for any politician.

    Pretty much all politicians deserve loathing. Romney gets it from me double though, because he’s a politician and a Mormon Douche Elite.

  42. Tim — I can see it and perceive it to some extent. The type kind of reminds me of those I went to college with (a college much like yours) who had ambitions of being a pastor of a major church.

  43. I’m well aware of individuals who seek for power so they can hold their authority over people, but I wouldn’t say that they were typical for future pastors while I was in college. That description was more in line with the individuals hired by Campus Safety.

  44. Tim —

    Well done 2 points.

    ________

    . His public persona is that of a robot who does whatever he thinks will make the most money for management, and then attempts to sell it to the public using “righteous” rhetoric whose relationship to what he does is really hard to pin down. As far as I can tell, this is not something he does with any devious intent

    This is a great conversation, but the point above about “selling it to the public” sounds like the very definition of devious intent. If I am telling people things I know to be false to get them to take actions which benefit me / my group that is the very definition of fraud.

    Moreover at a time when America needs to make fundamental choices and the parties are becoming more polarized misinformation is incredibly damaging. Americans all agree we are having a terribly tough time communicating across party lines. It is hard to imagine a worse time to have someone who is a bad liar as president. Mitt Romney is a guy almost every politician thinks is beyond the pale in the pandering / dishonesty department, which is saying something.

  45. Mitt Romney is a guy almost every politician thinks is beyond the pale in the pandering / dishonesty department, which is saying something.

    Romney is precisely the same as Obama in all of these regards. Obama is just a whole lot better communicator.

  46. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jan/30/chain-email/viral-internet-story-says-mitt-romney-helped-locat/

    Frankly, a man who does this, and never blows his own horn (it was blown by others, but not by Romney), we could use more of. No man is perfect, and especially no politician. (It takes a certain mind set to think you can run the free world. Maybe the arrogance of wanting the job should be enough to disqualify anyone.) I’m also impressed that Romney gave away his inheritance from his father’s estate, having made his own way and choosing to give his father’s estate to BYU as an endowment. No question that his Cranbrook and Harvard educations were built on his priveleged upbringing, but that’s hardly an indictment against the man. Most of our President’s have come from similar backgrounds.

    Maybe Romney’s just a dishonest panderer, a fake, an elitist self-aggrandizer. But if so, he has a funny way of showing it, given the self-discipline, sacrifice, and genuine goodness that he seems to display in his personal life and deportment. And he never even inhaled! I don’t have a horse in this race since he’s not having dinner at my house any time soon. Though many of the “foibles” some of you point out are the exact things that are also assets, If Romney took on a mission, served as a bishop and stake president (no easy burden that), is pretty universally loved and respected by those who know him and have worked with him, then I rather suspect his character is molded about where I’d like it to be. While Kullervo says he’s judging based on “the behavior I have seen”, I’m looking at the same facts and thinking, dang–what’s a guy got to do to catch a break from some of you guys!! I almost get the impression you just don’t believe anyone that genuine can be…that…genuine. Hence the “robotic” accusations, as if anybody who plays the game that well, simply must be cheating. Whatever. It might be kinda fun though to have a president that isn’t a recovered alcoholic, a womanizer, a drug user, a mediocre student, or a community organizer for a change.

  47. Romney is precisely the same as Obama in all of these regards. Obama is just a whole lot better communicator.

    I don’t think so at all. Obama has consistently been willing to tell the American people hard truths about his policies goal and objectives. The wikileaks incident where the internal memos of the State Department leaked and we discovered the Obama told the truth about all the foreign policy issues with the exception of Yemen, was electric. It was delightful to see a government that was lying to me far less than I had ever anticipated after the Bush years.

    On economic policy similarly Austan Goolsbee (until he resigned) and Tim Geitner were honest about the goals and assessments of the administration. I have yet to see 3 years into his term a single economic act that wasn’t explicated publicly. I haven’t agreed with all the policies and economic choices but I’ve been well informed about both the what and the why.

    Afghanistan is another example where the shifts in the counter insurgency approach were done in public. We don’t have public nonsense declarations like “weapons of mass destruction”.

    When the truth has been inconvenient we’ve gotten more or less the full story. A great example is Solyndra there wasn’t a coverup of the fact that the administration intervened nor why.

    No, Obama is not the same as Mitt Romney. Obama is far better than average and Mitt Romney so far has proven himself far worse. I have every reason to believe that a man like Romney who says obvious lies that he must know he’ll get caught in, on a regular and daily basis would be precedent setting in his dishonesty.

  48. having made his own way

    This is a perfect example of the magnitude of Romney lies. Mitt Romney never in his life “made his own way”. He grew up rich and had every advantage through school. He did quite well at Harvard and deserves credit as someone who took his advantages and built on them, but he was not self made in his 20s.

    And while he did well at Harvard his ties to Boston Consulting came from Lenore Romney. Bain and Company picked him up from Boston and advanced him in position because they wanted closer ties to George Romney. Bill Bain not Mitt Romney founded Bain Capital (hence the name). Mitt seemed to have been a glorified mailboy picking up checks in Latin America for Bill. Mitt Romney was Bill Bain’s front man and was in charge of day to day operations. A COO who landed the job based on his family and his talent.

    The people at Bain were excellent and I’m sure that Mitt Romney is a well above average LBO guy. Anyone with Mitt Romney’s history going around calling himself a self made man is a first class liar. And that is precisely the problem.

  49. Oh please CD host…Which daily lies is Romney telling? And as for Solyndra as “honest”, do you know a way to hide $500 million lost dollars? Honesty would have been on the front end of that deal, instead of letting ideology overcome wisdom. The rest you cite is just political opinion, where good people can disagree. I personally was a bit worried when Obama got caught on an open mike telling Russia that they should play nice for awhile as he would have “more flexibility” on our missile defenses after the 2012 election when he’d no longer have any constraints upon him. Debating who is more honest, seems largely a function of ones political point of view so it’s nothing but subjective. For you and me both. Beauty and ugliness are in the eye of the beholder is my point. As a conservative, I could cite dozens of what I think were Obama’s disingenuous moments (like the redistribute wealth “accidental honesty” with Joe the Plumber), and if one is liberal, they could probably cite dozens of what they think were Bush/Cheney charges (Bush lied! People died!) Political opinion based on point of view, not fact. But your point seems very hyperbolic when you say Romney lies daily and so stupidly as “he must know he’ll get caught”. Really? He’s that dumb?…he lies in spite of obviously knowing he’s lying?? My critical radar goes up at that since Romney has hardly shown massive stupidity–being charged even in this thread–with being TOO careful and scripted and measured. Yet he’s so busy “lying” knowingly and openly that you charge massive dishonesty? Counter intuitive rhetoric. Rather I suspect you’re simply proving William F. Buckley right when he said “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” Is Romney lying? Or just telling his views, which you don’t accept as “your” truth? I suspect the latter.

  50. You’re redefining “self-made man.” Of course we are all the aggregate of our choices, influences, personality, etc. To say that someone achieved X or Y without merit because the path they were on was predisposed or advantageous to that achievement is shallow. If you think “making” ones life path must be done in a vacuum, untouched by any exterior influence, then your definition would apply. But that’s a false definition. Of course no one says Romney was Oliver Twist begging for a bowl of gruel. Nor does anyone claim that connections and schooling advantages did not place opportunities that a trailer-trash illiterate would never encounter. But to jump through the hoops you do to find fault, just seems to show a personal political bias. You’re entitled to that, but at least admit to it. Don’t want to make this blog a pro/con Romney blog, but neither do I think its fair to drop opinions as facts.

  51. If Romney took on a mission, served as a bishop and stake president (no easy burden that), is pretty universally loved and respected by those who know him and have worked with him, then I rather suspect his character is molded about where I’d like it to be.

    And this is precisely where we differ. And again, I suspect you are not actually reading or responding to what Jared, Hermes and I are writing at all. The criticisms you are accusing us of leveling might be the criticisms that some people are leveling against Romney, but they’re not the ones I am leveling.

    Also, to be honest with you, given I am skeptical as to whether very many faithful, true-believing Mormons will be able or willing to acknowledge that the problematic personality type that I am pointing out either exists or is problematic. We are talking about a leadership personality that is pretty well institutionalized in the LDS Church, and there are strong social, organizational/ecclesiastical and theological pressures inside Mormonism to view and acknowledge these kinds of Mormon elites as praiseworthy men of God, not abusive douches.

    The long and short of it is, (1) Romney is a clear product of the leadership school of the Mormon Priesthood, (2) I think that the characteristic leadership style of the Mormon Priesthood is awful and so (3) I do not want the leader of my country to have learned leadership from Mormonism.

  52. The definition of a self made man is a poor person who becomes middle class or better or a middle class person who becomes wealthy. What Romney is is a guy who was born to wealth and privilege and exceeded his father’s accomplishments. Much more like HW Bush exceeding Prescott Bush or John F Kennedy exceeding Joseph Kennedy. As an aside neither HW nor John Kennedy ever used self made to describe themselves. I’m not changing the definition of anything.

    Which gets us to the issue of lying. The reason you got caught in that little discussion about Bain that you didn’t know about Bill Bain and Bain & Co because of Mitt Romney misleading you about his biography. He lied to you about his accomplishments and rather

    1) His close ties with Planned Parenthood while in Massachusetts. While Republicans are well aware he used to be pro-choice they generally aren’t aware he was actively pro-choice and he constantly works to diminish this.

    2) His supposed lifetime membership in the NRA. This after having been a prominent supporter of gun control who denounced the NRA.

    3) Running on his record of job creation when Bain under his management net destroyed American jobs. A truthful statement about his record would have been something like “I was an LBO guy not a business guy. I helped to take companies that were going under and turn them around and often saved 30% of the jobs at those companies. Probably over the course of my tenure at Bain I eliminated 120k jobs and saved about 50k jobs.” Running as a business creator who created American jobs is a lie.

    4) “Obama took office the economy was in recession and he made the recession worse”. Any chart of economic activity or job activity during Obama’s tenure shows an economy in virtual free fall that lost a massive number of jobs and that their was substantial economic improvement immediately upon the recovery act passing. He made it better. You could charge him with not doing enough “making it worse” is a lie.

    4a) When called on this by reporters he denies he said that things are worse.

    5) “After being governor I left the world of politics and went back into business” a total lie. One month after leaving the governor’s office he started his 2008 run for the presidency.

    6) His repeated lies about his role in the Patient Protection Act.

    I could literally list hundreds but rather than do that. Here is a link to an entire blog which does nothing more than try and work through Romney repeated lies: http://romneytheliar.blogspot.com/

    ____

    No it is not a matter of political opinion and both candidates are equally dishonest. Romney really and truly is far worse than the average politician when it comes to honesty.

  53. I have read all the thread, but of course I’m not confining what I say solely to just past comments. Hitchhike on them, yes, but conversation is fluid isn’t it? And you’re right Kullervo, that if you’re a disaffected ex-member, (no offense in the presumption intended as I don’t know) you may well have a negative view of LDS Priesthood that I don’t share. I think the vast majority of Mormon leaders I’ve met are honest, sincere, devoted and worthy of my admiration. I’ve never met a perfect leader in or out of the Mormon church, but neither have I had your apparently negative impressions. Most of the bishops, Stake Presidents, and GA I’ve met have been wonderful and dedicated people. Cream of the crop. I heard Romney was genuine and compassionate in his church leadership roles, though you only can discern Mormon leadership as presumably “awful”. And even granting that some of his leadership acumen must certainly have evolved from those Mormon life-experiences, I hardly think it’s logical to discount all the non-Mormon cumulative experience Romney surely acquired to this point. If we are the sum of ALL our exposures and experiences, how would that apply to all human beings EXCEPT Mitt Romney? I’m not sure a son of a governor, business leader, CEO, Harvard-educated, former MA governor, political leader is somehow immune to all that experience in leadership so he’s ONLY, or even primarily, just a product of “awful” Mormon Priesthood. I also frankly don’t agree that Mormons fall in, or perceive, only the two categories you describe; “Praiseworthy men of God” or “abusive douches”. There’s a lot more shades in the Mormon experience than two polar extremes.

  54. And as for Solyndra as “honest”, do you know a way to hide $500 million lost dollars?

    Sure in failed companies whose technologies didn’t turn out. Heck I’ve been personally responsible for technological innovations that have lost money. Some investments work out, most don’t. That’s the nature of investment. Solyndra was workiing on a technique to produce solar panels more cheaply. Had it worked out and had fraking for natural gas not worked out Solyndra could have been a $100b company. As it was we got about $2b in extra subsidized solar panels for $500m, which still isn’t a bad policy.

    I personally was a bit worried when Obama got caught on an open mike telling Russia that they should play nice for awhile as he would have “more flexibility” on our missile defenses after the 2012 election when he’d no longer have any constraints upon him.

    Senator Obama and President Obama have consistently opposed John Kyl’s views on nuclear defense. His opposition to current US policy is well known, well understood and well documented. What Obama said in private is exactly what he’s been saying in public for 8 years. What’s dishonest about that?

    Beauty and ugliness are in the eye of the beholder is my point.

    I understand that’s your point. And if we talking about how destructive Romney’s positions are I would agree that’s based on political opinion. But whether Romney is on a regular and repeated base saying objectively false things for political effect is not opinion, those are matters of fact.

    Obama’s disingenuous moments (like the redistribute wealth “accidental honesty” with Joe the Plumber)

    What’s disingenuous about that? The Democratic party since its founding has been opposed to concentrations of wealth and in favor of using government power to redistribute wealth to the broader population. The debate in the democratic party for almost 200 years has been between populist means and progressive means, there never has been any debate about the goal. Heck, you could argue that is the central principle of the Democratic party. Obama in particular has given well over 100 speeches bemoaning the concentration of wealth and advocating for policies to de-concentrate wealth.

    Where he has been disingenuous is when he has failed to redistribute wealth so as to protect interests aligned with the Democratic party.

    Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views

    Bull. Romney doesn’t face charges of being a liar for places he disagrees with Obama, he faces charges of lying for places he disagrees with other statements he made or objective fact. For example Rick Santorum gave a speech outlining the importance of only having negative rights, and why policies like a “right to health care” are fundamentally at odds with American values. Liberals might disagree, and think he was wrong, but they didn’t consider him dishonest in that speech.

    John Boehner got lavish praise on MSNBC all day Sunday and Monday for being as honest as he was about NRCC strategy and the 32 freshmen in orphan districts (districts in states that don’t have a senate campaign nor are competitive in the presidential election). Show after show the hosts expressed admiration for his outlining the strategy honestly rather than using the traditional political pap about “we are going to win seats … the American people support…”, and incidentally while disagreeing with his particulars thought it opened up the possibility of real dialogue and discussion.

  55. CD and Garth, ALL of that is the kind of political discussion I’d prefer not to see here. I will delete comments from this point forward. If you’re upset about not getting the last word, too bad.

  56. I also frankly don’t agree that Mormons fall in, or perceive, only the two categories you describe; “Praiseworthy men of God” or “abusive douches”. There’s a lot more shades in the Mormon experience than two polar extremes.

    I absolutely did not say that Mormons fall into one of these “two categories.” I said that the Mormon priesthood leadership has an infestation of abusive douches, but that strong social, organizational/ecclesiastical and theological pressures inside Mormonism cause faithful members to insist that they are praiseworthy men of God.

    This is why I keep saying that it sounds like you are not reading what people here are actually writing. You consistently are responding to what you think Romney’s critics are saying instead of what anyone here is actually saying, and you are shoehorning/distorting anything said here in order to make it match your preconceived notions of what a Romney-critic thinks.

    If you are unwilling or unable to acknowledge that there are a number of extreme dysfunctions that are common among Mormon priesthood leaders, then you will certainly disagree with my characterization of Romney, because I am accusing him of fitting a negative profile that you do not believe exists, or that you do not believe is negative. That is of course your prerogative. Essentially, what you are calling a feature, I (along with Jared and Hermes) am calling a bug.

  57. No politician has integrity. The fundamental problem with electoral democracy is that the skill set that gets a person elected is not the same skill set that makes a person a good leader.

  58. Tim responded to my analogy by saying:

    I’m well aware of individuals who seek for power so they can hold their authority over people, but I wouldn’t say that they were typical for future pastors while I was in college. That description was more in line with the individuals hired by Campus Safety.

    Not quite the same thing.

    My analogy may not have been a good one for you. And that’s not because of you, but because of changes in evangelical culture (more heterogeneous than LDS culture, but still there). I would say that the evangelical culture of the 1960s and 1970s was much more like LDS culture today than it was to today’s evangelical culture.

    It’s not the same as those who worked with campus security (although to some extent, evangelical pastors in those days saw themselves as more of “morality police” than they do today). I wish I could put my finger on it — I’m pretty sure I know what Kullervo is trying to communicate. But Kullervo is right — it’s extremely easy to imagine Romney as a stake president or general authority in a way that doesn’t fit for Obama or any of the other Republican contenders this year. (Ironically, though, perhaps Bill Clinton fit the mold somewhat; he had a remarkable ability to compartmentalize the vilest of actions and not see the consequences of his behavior on other people, and his personal image was all-important.) I would like to see Kullervo write a guest post on the issue, because I think he’s onto something. I don’t think all who reach levels of leadership in the Church are of that “type,” but I do think it’s a significant number.

    Just to be clear, I don’t have the negative visceral reaction to Romney that Kullervo has. Although I differ with him politically, I think Romney has the potential to be a decent president, if his record in Massachusetts (the record he tries to run away from) is any indication. I certainly find him politically less scary than the likes of Perry, Santorum and Gingrich.

    But that doesn’t mean I like Mitt Romney. And it’s more than the fact that I can’t relate to him. There’s a certain arrogance, a certain cockiness; I think he really believes that he is here to save the country.

    This may seem trivial, but here’s where I started seeing his “type” during the debates (as a political junkie I watched at least half of them): his insistence that the rules of the debate be followed to his advantage. It struck me as extremely odd: Here’s a guy who could become the leader of the free world and when he complains to the moderators he’s sounding like someone who goes to a teacher and starts tattling on his classmates. And then there’s the smirk he would make (it drove my wife batty) after scoring points in the debate. It all seemed to point to some vague sense of entitlement.

    To get back a little bit to Mormonism, he reminds me of someone I used to know, someone steeped in Mormon culture, who felt that he must have been doing something wrong in life if he weren’t a bishop by the time he turned 35. He knew not only what was best for him in the way he lived his life, but what was best for everyone else as well. Sure enough, he became a bishop by the time he turned 35. He also was a financial bigwig in his industry. He’s probably a stake president by now.

    I don’t think Kullervo would have liked him either.

  59. So, now I’ve taken it too far Kullervo? You certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity to play the contrarian.

    If all politicians lacks integrity (a point I can agree with), Romney is the king. That’s all.

  60. You certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity to play the contrarian.

    Amen to that, my friend.

    And even granting that some of his leadership acumen must certainly have evolved from those Mormon life-experiences, I hardly think it’s logical to discount all the non-Mormon cumulative experience Romney surely acquired to this point. If we are the sum of ALL our exposures and experiences, how would that apply to all human beings EXCEPT Mitt Romney? I’m not sure a son of a governor, business leader, CEO, Harvard-educated, former MA governor, political leader is somehow immune to all that experience in leadership so he’s ONLY, or even primarily, just a product of “awful” Mormon Priesthood.

    Sure, a person is the sum of all of their experiences. At the same time, I think many Mormons learn their first, most fundamental, and most powerful leadership lessons in the school of Mormonism. And this is, again, the point I am trying to make: Romney’s expressed attitudes and displayed behaviors lead me to conclude that his primary leadership style was learned from his experiences in Mormon priesthood leadership.

    The thing that distinguishes Mormon corporate leadership from other kinds of corporate/institutional leadership (as Hermes pointed out, the cultivation of inauthentic authenticity is not unique to and did not originate with Mormonism) is that the Mormon priesthood leader is able to wield (even tacitly or incidentally) extremely strong spiritual authority in order to enforce (1) non-spiritual decisions, i.e., purely corporate/institutional policy matters, and (2) incompetent spiritual decisions, i.e., decisions that the Mormon priesthood leader is not actually trained or qualified to make. That’s a whole lot of mundane power that can be cloaked in some awfully coervive moral and spiritual authority. Mitt Romney, like any Mormon elite, is used to being able to rely on his spiritual authority as a leader, whether or not he is making leadership decisions that are at all spiritual or that are within his spiritual competence. The result is a kind of dangerous pride and moral self-assurance as a leader that I am not comfortable with.

  61. . And that’s not because of you, but because of changes in evangelical culture (more heterogeneous than LDS culture, but still there). I would say that the evangelical culture of the 1960s and 1970s was much more like LDS culture today than it was to today’s evangelical culture.

    Eric could you expand on that?

  62. Eric said

    My analogy may not have been a good one for you. And that’s not because of you, but because of changes in evangelical culture (more heterogeneous than LDS culture, but still there). I would say that the evangelical culture of the 1960s and 1970s was much more like LDS culture today than it was to today’s evangelical culture.

    I can agree with that. Particularly in the Protestant tradition you were in at that point. But I was also raised in the home of a pastor from that era and if there was ever someone uninterested in lording authority over people it would be my dad. (which I acknowledge only points to a possible exception to the rule)

    The campus safety bit was merely a quip.

    My friends and I were recently discussing the leadership structure used by Mark Driscoll and a number of other churches. Chuck Smith (founder of the Calvary Chapel movement) called it the Moses model. The pastor is the leader and everyone is supposed to follow his guiding and dictates. Follow the pastor and everything will be okay. Don’t follow the pastor and you aren’t submitting to authority and are in spiritual rebellion. Cutting to the chase we all agree that it’s the least accountable form of leadership and church structure and the one most likely open to abuse. I think Joel Osteen runs his church the same way. By way of comparison, you can see a stark personality difference between Osteen and Driscoll,but I think the excesses are still manifesting themselves in both churches.

  63. Did Maddow get my comment deleted? Even though she’s exposing Romney’s lies?

  64. CD-Host: I’m thinking I might write a guest blog post sometime on the topic. It’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit, but I haven’t organized my thoughts much.

    But I’ll just make a couple brief comments now: My adolescence was spent in a church with historical connections to Wesley and Methodism and I attended an evangelical college affiliated with that church; you may be aware that at one time Joseph Smith spoke fondly of Methodism. Anyway, a lot of what I grew up with similar to LDS practices today: We used the King James Version (only mainline denominations were using modern translations), we had a chorister, leadership with almost exclusively male, people dressed up to go to church, practices such as short skirts on women and long hair on guys was condemned, hymns were sung to an organ and/or piano, persons not in a traditional family couldn’t fit in, and so on. We even had testimony meetings.

    Not all of evangelicalism was like that, but much of it was.

    Sometime in the 1960s or 1970s things started changing. There was the “Jesus people” movement that started having influences on evangelicalism, as did the general culture. Over a period of 20 years, evangelicals all but abandoned the KJV. They brought rock music into church, and in some evangelical churches today there are no traditional hymns or hymnbooks. Many evangelicals started accepting women into leadership. Traditional orders of service were abandoned. It became OK to dress like your neighbors, and gone was the expectation of dressing up on Sundays (or even, in some cases, observing Sundays). The changes were rapid. A Rip Van Winkle who attended my church in, say, 1970, and woke up today and went to the same church (I’m speaking figuratively, as the actual church no longer exists) wouldn’t recognize the worship service in either form or tone. An LDS sacrament meeting would seem more familiar.

    But comparable change did not come to the LDS church. We send out missionaries dressed in 1960s business style and expect male leadership to do the same. We still sing traditional hymns to piano and/or organ. Rock music is verboten in the chapel. Women still don’t wear pants to church, no matter how dressy they may be. Despite nods toward accepting people in nontraditional families, we don’t really make a place for them. And the list goes on.

    These may seem like minor things (OK, most of them are), but they are symptomatic of something (I’m not sure what). Of course, evangelicalism is quite diverse and there’s more than one evangelical culture, but I’d say that the cultural core of Mormonism (more than the outside appearance) has been more resistant to change than the cultural core of evangelism. (That has both positive and negative aspects, and there are certainly areas where parts of evangelicalism have accommodated to culture in negative ways.) What all that means, and what that even has to do with Romney, I’m not sure. But I do find it interesting.

  65. Did Maddow get my comment deleted? Even though she’s exposing Romney’s lies?

    it would have been deleted with or without Rachel.

  66. I’d say that the cultural core of Mormonism (more than the outside appearance) has been more resistant to change than the cultural core of evangelism. (That has both positive and negative aspects, and there are certainly areas where parts of evangelicalism have accommodated to culture in negative ways.)

    Mormonism has made cultural adaptations. It just stopped making them after the 1960’s.

  67. Mormon leaders like Romney often take on the same qualities you see in judges. They know they are rarely seriously questioned, and everybody shows respect. If a person doesn’t regularly take a strong dose of humility they become, as kullervo mentions, destructively morally self-assured. Because Mormons don’t have a professional clergy, the leaders are often chosen from those who have drive and ego to perform well enough in their careers to afford to spend a lot of time with church callings. Most general authorities are high performing businessmen/attorneys/professionals, with all the faults that come with that sort of person. Romney has these same faults.

    I can’t imagine that Romney is not an above-average person in most all respects. The problem comes when you mandate spiritual authority to those lack the humility to maintain real spiritual authority.

  68. But I’ll just make a couple brief comments now: My adolescence was spent in a church with historical connections to Wesley and Methodism and I attended an evangelical college affiliated with that church; you may be aware that at one time Joseph Smith spoke fondly of Methodism. Anyway, a lot of what I grew up with similar to LDS practices today: We used the King James Version (only mainline denominations were using modern translations), we had a chorister, leadership with almost exclusively male, people dressed up to go to church, practices such as short skirts on women and long hair on guys was condemned, hymns were sung to an organ and/or piano, persons not in a traditional family couldn’t fit in, and so on. We even had testimony meetings.

    Nazarene?

  69. Tim said:

    Mormonism has made cultural adaptations. It just stopped making them after the 1960′s.

    I wouldn’t dispute that. I want to know why (because I honestly don’t know). Why the 1960s? If you don’t mind, I’ll prepare a guest blog post on the topic in the next week or two.

  70. Mormonism has made cultural adaptations. It just stopped making them after the 1960′s.

    I actually think the 50’s were when Mormonism started making cultural adaptations. It certainly didn;t stop in the 60’s.

  71. Kullervo asked:

    Nazarene?

    Good guess, but wrong. Free Methodist. The two denominations were/are extremely close in theology (I went to college with many Nazarenes, and much of my family attends a Nazarene church today), although at least in the 1960s the Nazarenes were a bit more conservative in behavioral standards.

  72. Mitt Romney, like any Mormon elite, is used to being able to rely on his spiritual authority as a leader, whether or not he is making leadership decisions that are at all spiritual or that are within his spiritual competence. The result is a kind of dangerous pride and moral self-assurance as a leader that I am not comfortable with.

    Kullervo sorry to disagree but… I don’t see that in Mitt Romney’s bio. As governor and senate candiate he had to work with a hostile legislature and a population that mostly disagreed with his moral / political positions. As a candidate for the nomination he has had to work with a party which mostly dislikes and distrusts him. And as a nominee he is going to have to work with a population which overwhelming disagrees with his policies.

    The early LDS leadership has a governing situation where dissenters in the membership have little recourse to effectuate change. A better analogy to the LDS would be someone like Rick Perry or Herman Cain who until their presidential run was able to operate on the basis of widely shared assumptions. Facing genuine opposition was a new position for both of them.

    Arguably Mitt Romney is a liar because of this lack of moral authority. He had to convince a Massachusetts electorate tired of Democratic Party machine corruption but appalled by the national Republican party that he was an old fashioned New England Republican and not one of this new breed of southern inspired Republicans. Then as soon as he won, rose to national prominence on the basis of his victory to head the RGA (2004) and thus was being mentioned as a good 2008 candidate he had to start shifting right to eventually convince the 2012 Republican electorate that even though he had been the governor of a New England state he was at heart a southern Republican. If he had actual unquestionable moral authority from accomplishments like an Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson or HW Bush he might feel free to run as Mitt Romney and either win or lose. The way John Huntsman, also a Mormon, did.

  73. I think Huntsman’s Mormonism always deserves an asterisks beside it. [after all CD, he married a Protestant 😉 ]

  74. Tim, I thought political comments were getting deleted. Anyway, I’ll ask a question related to the OP. Know any Republican Evangelicals who are voting for Obama in the Fall? In your view, does the LU invite (or the up coming election) do absolutely anything to Mormon/Evangelical relations?

  75. There is a loosely defined line in my head. Discussing Romney’s leadership skills as formed by the LDS church is okay. Discussing who is a bigger liar, Romney or Obama, no good. If it’s a discussion of campaign strategy or polling, not allowed. If it’s a discussion of Mormonism’s alleged racist past and how that impacts voters, it’s okay.

    You’ve got to somehow wrangle Mormonism or Evangelicalism into the discussion. Romney’s political past is not enough.

    I know several Evangelicals who are voting for Obama, none of them are Republicans.

    I don’t think Romney’s invitation to Liberty does anything for EV/LDS relations. It’s a political invitation. If a non-political Evangelical were invited to BYU’s graduation it would probably be a big move. Likewise if an LDS apostle were invited to Liberty, it would change how Evangelicals were viewed by Mormons.

  76. Eric —

    Hmmm interesting. Let me throw a slight alternative at you.

    Both Free Methodist and Mormon churches came out of the second great awakening. Their parent churches were John Edwards / Whitefield style churches and they were trying to recast Finney’s ideas in ways appropriate to their religious community. What are called evangelicals today are generally communities that came out of the mainline denominations as part of the fourth great awakening. They already had the casual dress, the gospel music (rock) and newer bible versions before they became evangelical, they brought it with them.

    In other words:
    A has two children B and N.
    B has two children C (Methodist) and D
    C has a child F (Free Methodist)
    D has a child G (Mormon)
    meanwhile N has a child O
    O has P
    P has Q

    you are saying “wow Q is so much different than his ancestor B”, while B isn’t an ancestor of Q at all. I think seeing this as resistance / accommodation to change is oversimplifying the history of American Christianity. Mormons haven’t gone through the fundamentalist / modernist wars, while evangelical Christianity as it exists today is 3 generations after. I suspect Mormons might be about to over the next generation if the LDS leadership keeps moving in the direction of accommodating neo-orthodoxy.

  77. Eric, Check this article. Bowman is a Mormon.
    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/faithbased/2012/04/mormon_correlation_the_bureaucratic_reform_policy_that_redefined_mormon_culture.single.html

    Mormons haven’t gone through the fundamentalist / modernist wars, while evangelical Christianity as it exists today is 3 generations after. I suspect Mormons might be about to over the next generation if the LDS leadership keeps moving in the direction of accommodating neo-orthodoxy.

    I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything you’ve said as much as this. The CofC went through this transition about 1.5 generations ago. How the Brighamites differ will be interesting.

  78. You don’t think that the continuing rise of postmodernism might make those wars obsolete by the time Mormons get around to it?

  79. Thanks all for the interesting comments on what I call the Mormon time warp. Rather than watch this topic drift even further from Mitt Romney, I give whatever responses I have as part of a future guest blog post.

  80. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything you’ve said as much as this. The CofC went through this transition about 1.5 generations ago. How the Brighamites differ will be interesting.

    Glad we agree on the why of the difference and that the move towards neo-orthodoxy might create a backlash. And my thinking on how the LDS will differ from CofC will be who wins. Joseph Smith up till about 1837 seems to have still been within the realm of an odd (heretical) Protestant sect rather than simply not remotely Protestant. In particular the Book of Mormon teaches more of less the American Christianity of the the 1820s. The CofC essentially dropped the last 7 years of his life early on in the sect, so they faced a problem similar to what the Adventists faced in merging back into the Protestant fold.

    But those 7 years were fundamental to Brigham Young’s theology. And for that reason LDS style Mormonism could drop the Book of Mormon tomorrow without much ill effect, but is going to have a very hard time dropping King Follet. And the point of that sort of wrenching change is to be accepted by Protestants. Today Mormons reject all 5 of the solas. If they were to accept them then how could they then believe that a temple provides meaningful spiritual benefits?

    My 50 year outlook is that Neo-orthodoxy Mormonism dies. The Liberal / Cultural Mormon desire for union with Protestantism is IMHO mainly cultural and political not religious. And I think it is this group’s desire to be both traditional Mormon and evangelical Protestant that gives Neo-orthodoxy its internal credibility as anything more than a pathway to apostasy. So the path of least resistance is for this group to sees its alliance with evangelical Christianity in purely political terms the way Catholics or Orthodox Jews do. Mainstream Judaism in the 1930s worked hard to portray itself as not much different than a Protestant sect. Judaism in the 1980s proudly asserted they were closer religiously to Muslims than Christians.

    So in other words, the fundamentalist / modernist (neo-orthodox mormons) controversy happens and it plays out like the 1890s version where the fundamentalists easily won and it was the modernists (neo-orthodox) who end up being expelled.

    After that it gets more cloudy. As I’ve said before the Christians Mormons are most like Hermetic Christians, who with their 1000+ year history of sexual and political radicalism are likely to be seen as repulsive by Mormons not a model to follow. IMHO this is what drove Mormons of the 1880s off the path they were on. They saw where the road was leading and lost their nerve. IMHO Mormonism is not just a theology it is all about crazy contradictions and this amazing tension; KJVonlyists who don’t know what coffee tastes like, pulling in beliefs from radical feminist critiques of Christianity. And so I think this creates this tension creates another round of Neo-orthodoxy driving them back towards the political right ….

  81. Are LDS Mormons going to ultimately have to make a choice between the Book of Mormon and their other ‘inspired’ writings, if neo-orthodoxy remains a force within the LDS Church?

  82. With regard to focus, they already have. However, probably to a lesser extant than Protestants, who chose the Paul’s epistles over the other inspired writings.

  83. “…Protestants, who chose the Paul’s epistles over the other inspired writings.”

    Really?

    But on topic I would have preferred Huntsman.

    Christian J asked about any Republican Evangelicals who are voting for Obama in the Fall? I don’t call myself an evangelical but I’m generally conservative in politics and I will probably have to vote for President Obama on purely political grounds. Like I said I probably could have voted for huntsman so this has nothing to do with religion.

  84. Are LDS Mormons going to ultimately have to make a choice between the Book of Mormon and their other ‘inspired’ writings, if neo-orthodoxy remains a force within the LDS Church?

    Daniel (not Mormon) —

    I’d agree with Jared it is already happening within the neo-orthodox. Take the Joseph Smith translation. Joseph Smith essentially argues that Paul’s understanding of justification is dead wrong. Neo-orthodoxy argues that Mormonism properly understood agrees with Paul and the traditional Pauline theory of justification. Over the long haul this can only be accomplished by downplaying Joseph Smith’s actual theories.

  85. Really?

    I can’t see how this isn’t the case. In Protestantism, the Gospels and the entire Old Testament are viewed primarily through Paul’s lens. His conclusions are generally given primary weight in interpreting all scripture, even the words of Jesus.

  86. I’m not sure what CD means by Mormon neo-orthodox but neo-orthodoxy is a distinct school of Protestant Reformed theology that rose by rejecting liberal Protestant theology in Europe after WWI. Barth is the best known neo-orthodox theologian. I think the Niebuhr brothers are important, especially with respect to the church and culture. Donald Bloesch is an American evangelical who has called for engagement with neo-orthodoxy. Cornelius Van Til was one of the first critics in the United States. The Main Line Presbyterian PC(USA) Confession of 1967 is regarded as a neo-orthodox statement of Faith.

  87. Katie said:

    CD, what do you mean when you say neo-Orthodox? I always hear this term tossed around and it always confuses me.

    And I was going to ask the same thing of you about postmodernism. It seems that both terms have multiple meanings depending on context and who’s using them.

  88. Hi Katie and Eric —

    Let me agree with Gundek’s excellent definition for Presbyterianism and say that it provides a good context. Mormon Neo-Orthodox are using the term as a tribute to the Protestant variety attempting to do the same thing for the LDS church. This is a new school of thought popular at BYU, sort of a Protestant/Mormon cross breed. On doctrine, they attempt to redefine / refocus Mormonism to be in alignment more or less with Protestantism and the bible by focusing on shifting from:
    1) Finite God to a Sovereign God
    2) Goodness of human nature to a belief in the depravity of human nature
    3) Exaltation by merit to salvation by grace.

    online book on neo-orthodoxy from the 1980s.

    For them Joseph Smith should be seen as additional revelation, alternate reading, midrash, harmonization… not as direct revelation. So they frequently have support for the supremacy of the bible, Book of Mormon as being local (Lamanites are not ancestors of American indians). And they apply the same limitations to other prophets including the current ones as applied to Joseph Smith.

    Stephen Robinson is the most direct, but Robert Millet, Mangum, Yorgason… are usually included.

  89. Got it, CD. Hmmm. I have to say, I’ve benefited a lot from works by Robinson and Millet. I think their emphasis on grace is pretty important for Mormonism, and could be, as Jack put it, what saves Mormonism. In fact, I believe this is the only long-term solution for us.

    I don’t know why the concept of grace has to be all wrapped up in Protestant theology, though. We can have a robust universe of grace without abandoning lovely and uniquely Mormon teachings about human nature and eternal progression.

    And I was going to ask the same thing of you about postmodernism. It seems that both terms have multiple meanings depending on context and who’s using them.

    Eric, yeah, postmodernism is hard to define. 🙂 I think when I use it, I’m speaking of a worldview in which it’s pretty well accepted that “The Truth” is basically impossible for human beings to fully know. (Some postmoderns take that further and say that there is actually no such thing as abstract truth at all — that it’s all entirely constructed — but I don’t believe that personally and don’t think it’s necessary for a basically postmodern worldview.) Of course, this means that any authority that claims ultimate knowledge is highly suspect.

    The implications for religion are revolutionary. Suddenly religion is not about mentally assenting to correct dogmas as laid out by human authorities (the Bible, Priesthood leaders). As far as I can tell, this renders the modernist/fundamentalist wars pretty much obsolete, because questions of submitting to human authority and accepting “the right” truth-claims as the most important salvific issues are gone. Postmodernism asks an entirely different set of questions.

  90. I don’t know why the concept of grace has to be all wrapped up in Protestant theology, though. We can have a robust universe of grace without abandoning lovely and uniquely Mormon teachings about human nature and eternal progression.

    Katie that’s the point no you can’t. And you can see that with the neo-orthodox writers already they have all rejected eternal progression and adapted the doctrines of human depravity. For the evangelical Protestant doctrine to make sense humans have to be larval demons, if humans are fundamentally good then Joseph Smith’s semi-Pelagian theology is sensible. Your will doesn’t need to be destroyed by Christ and replaced with his as to able to improve rather you have a mostly moral will with a few dark spots you can work on. The church can help you learn to break bad habits. This is really a fundamental choice about the nature of humanity: are non-members spiritual sick in need of healing or spiritually dead in need of rebirth?

    Similarly with the nature of God. If you adopt election then you no longer have a God desirous to save all. You no longer have a Heavenly father that loves all his children, however disappointed in some he may be. But rather a God who despises and hates some fraction of his children (and quite often in practice this fraction is seen as very close to 1) while choosing a small group of elect who are in any meaningful sense even worthy of grace. Such a God goes against the entire image of the Mormon Heavenly Father, who while allowing for freedom is desirous of all to walk on his path and tries to help all.

    Then there are later day revelations like baptism for the dead which completely undermine the idea of the Protestant God who casts sinners into hell without any hope of redemption.

    When you talk about grace what you mean is Mormons getting away from a culture of perfectionism and being more willing to tolerate flaws and themselves in others. Grace in Jack’s sense doesn’t solve that problem in a way consistent with Mormonism. There are the elect in whom flaws are irrelevant because they have grace imputed from Jesus and the already damned in whom flaws are irrelevant because whatever flaws they have now will be magnified a thousand fold over the next million years as the constraints of mortality are lifted. I agree with you that Mormon culture is a bit unhealthy. And Mormonism could move away from perfectionism safely. Catholicism might provide a much better model for Mormonism since ideas of penance and Christ’s satisfaction (rather than substitution) would fit with their moral framework. The Mormon view of human / divine relations is the norm, there are only a few religions whose moral theology is totally incompatible with Mormon moral theology and Evangelical Protestantism just happens to be one of them. To agree with them on grace is to state that Joseph Smith’s predecessors were wrong, and cut the branch off before Mormonism even developed.

  91. Kullervo, you made a comment way up there about the “types” of Mormons who get called as Stake Presidents, Bishops, and the like. You said they “make my skin crawl.”

    First off, how many of them have you actually worked with closely? Or were you just another one of the resentful many sitting in the congregation thinking up stereotypes about what these guys must be like personally – with no interaction with them whatsoever until it was Temple Recommend interview time?

    A blogger wrote an article recently on the “Stake President” angle of Mitt Romney. Here’s an excerpt that I think is relevant:

    “The call to serve can come to any priesthood holder in good standing, but it usually comes to a certain personality type. Remember, bishops and stake presidents are confronted with massive organizational challenges accompanied by the most intimate, personal, spiritual struggles imaginable. So they must lead without being authoritarian; they must judge without being judgmental, and they must minister without offending. That means the people who get this assignment are often more even-tempered that exciting, more reassuring than revolutionary, and more competent than colorful.”

    Here’s the link to the whole article:

    http://stallioncornell.com/?p=1449

    A part of me gets where you are coming from Kullervo. Feels like it’s so “phony”, “insincere”, and “inauthentic”, etc. etc.

    But another part of me realizes that people like you and me are also of a certain “type” – and we have our own massive downsides in our personalities and approaches. People like you and me tend to be so darn authentic, that we frankly steamroll the people around us and do them a disservice. Put me in the role of Bishop, Kullervo, and – barring divine intervention – I would end up deeply offending a good third of the ward, hurting people, damaging families, damaging vulnerable confessors in my office, and making it 5 times more difficult to get real work done in the ward.

    My personality is so raw, biting, blunt, and obsessed with personal integrity – even at the expense of others with human needs, that I probably could not do the sensitive and mature work needed to really be a shepherd and protector of my flock.

    We all have our downsides. Maybe Romney looks like something sickening to people who thrive off authenticity, debate, conflict, and ego (which describes a lot of the blogging world). But we need to realize that distaste comes just as much from our own weaknesses as from our strengths.

  92. CD,

    You’re right, I’m operating from a totally different definition of grace than what you’re talking about here. I’d be interested to hear from Jack if that’s the definition she was using? I didn’t really get that from her post.

    When I say grace, I mean forgiveness, genuine kindness, space, acceptance. And I don’t believe you have to do anything to “earn” that. It’s just the way God is. As a result it’s how people whose hearts have been changed by God are, too.

    Is really this not what other Christians mean when they use the term?

  93. First off, how many of them have you actually worked with closely?

    More than enough.

    A part of me gets where you are coming from Kullervo. Feels like it’s so “phony”, “insincere”, and “inauthentic”, etc. etc.

    But another part of me realizes that people like you and me are also of a certain “type” – and we have our own massive downsides in our personalities and approaches. People like you and me tend to be so darn authentic, that we frankly steamroll the people around us and do them a disservice. Put me in the role of Bishop, Kullervo, and – barring divine intervention – I would end up deeply offending a good third of the ward, hurting people, damaging families, damaging vulnerable confessors in my office, and making it 5 times more difficult to get real work done in the ward.

    My personality is so raw, biting, blunt, and obsessed with personal integrity – even at the expense of others with human needs, that I probably could not do the sensitive and mature work needed to really be a shepherd and protector of my flock.

    We all have our downsides. Maybe Romney looks like something sickening to people who thrive off authenticity, debate, conflict, and ego (which describes a lot of the blogging world). But we need to realize that distaste comes just as much from our own weaknesses as from our strengths.

    Ha, sounds familiar. I would make a bad Bishop for all the same reasons. However, (1) that doesn’t mean the “Romney type” makes a good Bishop, and (2) I still won’t vote for the “Romney type” for president.

  94. CD said:

    If you adopt election then you no longer have a God desirous to save all.

    Why not?

    KL said:

    When I say grace, I mean forgiveness, genuine kindness, space, acceptance. And I don’t believe you have to do anything to “earn” that. It’s just the way God is. As a result it’s how people whose hearts have been changed by God are, too.

    Is really this not what other Christians mean when they use the term?

    That sounds like what I mean.

  95. Seth R: Thanks for that link posting to the “Stake President of the United States” blog page which summed up without preaching what I tried to say way up there. That sums up what’s been bugging me for some time in following some (not all) of the contributions in this thread.

    It particularly bugged me to see by some a presumption that the service to the church by a Mormon (in this case Romney) actually can be turned against him. I was confused that Bishops and Stake Presidents are lumped–by mere virtue of that service–into being LESS authentic, or “makes my skin crawl”, or “awful” priesthood leadership (still not sure what terrible stake led someone to such terrible outcomes), by some in this thread. I think the Blog author nailed that concept to the wall pretty well. Being a leader in the Mormon church grants you NO dispensation or privilege. But neither should it assign you a negative classification. Especially by some who’ve not walked in those shoes. I for one appreciate when any human being volunteers to try and help and lift another. Even if imperfectly.

    I am reminded of a conversation I had once with a disaffected member who had a litany of grudges against their past Mormon experience. “So and so said this”. “So and so did that.” “I didn’t agree with this leader.” Every imagined slight or sharp elbow was remembered with relish. And finally capped it off with the comment, “I just decided I couldn’t be associated with such judgmental people.” (Pause…so the oxymoron sinks in.)

    I grant that some contributors point out valid HUMAN flaws within Mormons and Mormonism. Yeah…so? Think evangelicals have less? Or Catholics? Or Atheists? Welcome to humanity. And I grant that politics overlaps into emotions that can turn personal. I think the LDS Church frankly doesn’t need to apologize for a thing in its influence on Mitt Romney, whatever portion of him they may have helped influence. Like him or don’t, but milking his Church’s influences on him to better put him in a “dislike box” get’s a little old a little fast.

  96. Eric —
    CD: If you adopt election then you no longer have a God desirous to save all.
    Why not?

    Because with election you have doing the choosing. Because God is effectual if God chooses then God does not choose and fail. To quote the Synod of Dort

    Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.

    There is a good article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election

  97. Garth —

    And finally capped it off with the comment, “I just decided I couldn’t be associated with such judgmental people.” (Pause…so the oxymoron sinks in.)

    There is a huge difference engaging in repetitive bullying to get less powerful members of a culture to confirm to the wishes of the leadership and someone deciding they don’t want to be subject to that bullying. It is a very asymmetrical situation in terms of actions, there is no oxymoron. Is it really the best you can do to someone who was so wounded by your church that they were still upset is further mock them for their hypocrisy in deciding they didn’t want to take it anymore?

    That being said, I agree with your primary theme. I happen to think being a Bishop is a net plus for Romney in my personal opinion. It is a ton of work and shows a caring about institutions. I also think his taking a position as a Bishop makes him much more responsible for LDS policies since he volunteered to carry them out. And his activities as Bishop are likely going to come out in this election the way it started to against Kennedy, and he’s going to have to answer some uncomfortable questions.

    Ultimately the question Kullervo is asking is why did Romney decide to be a Bishop? Which is really the question why does Romney want to be president. In lots of churches the people who volunteer for leadership do because it gives them the opportunity to bully the weak.

  98. But that’s Calvinism. Jack’s not a Calvinist. And Mormons aren’t either. So we don’t have all that Calvinist baggage when we talk about grace. Right? Or am I missing something?

  99. When I say grace, I mean forgiveness, genuine kindness, space, acceptance. And I don’t believe you have to do anything to “earn” that. It’s just the way God is. As a result it’s how people whose hearts have been changed by God are, too.

    Is really this not what other Christians mean when they use the term?

    That is often what they mean when they use the term. It is not what Evangelical theology means by the term and it is not what neo-Orthodoxy is importing.

    For example I used to attend a church with public confession. There is absolutely nothing that makes you more powerfully aware of grace than seeing people confess things to the church they hadn’t until that moment had the courage to tell their spouse. The level of forgiveness, love and acceptance is beyond anything you can imaging if you haven’t done public confession. Not only that people don’t focus on the sins that church leaders think they should but rather the actual sins they feel guilty for.

    For example I remember a woman standing up who had been a mother for about 15 months and talking about how she wanted to be a mother and now that she was how she resented her child and was constantly angry with her, while pretending to be happy… and she balling the entire time. She had never had the courage to talk about this, because in our society not loving your children is a sin that does draw condemnation, rather than most of the sexual sins where people feel like they have to force themselves to be condemning. And of course as soon as she shared other mothers shared their stories from years back about this very same feeling and she was glowing, if she could floated out of the church she would have. This was divine grace in blinding colors. I’m far too weak of a writer to express how wonderful these kinds of experiences are. I can personally remember saying stuff that probably a few weeks earlier I don’t think I could have been honest enough with myself to admit, guilt and resentments that had been on my heart for decades gone in minutes or hours.

    And there is precisely nothing that would need to change in Mormon theology for Mormons to
    have the kind of grace I experienced in that church. That church was an Arminian church not Reformed. You all already believe that Jesus and his church offers a means of relief from sin. The reason Mormons experience perfectionistic judgementalism and not grace is a matter of culture not theology. Neo-Orthodoxy isn’t about creating that kind of grace it is about creating a doctrine of grace.

    So in short there is theological grace and cultural grace and they weakly correlate with one another. Jack in her essay was asserting that they are more closely connected than I believe them to be. Evangelical Protestantism is very strong on theological grace and depending on the church anywhere from slightly bad to excellent on cultural grace. Mormons are fair-good on theological grace and well below average on cultural grace. Neo-Orthodox theology is trying to fix the theological grace problem. You are trying to fix the cultural grace problem. But those two problems are only slightly related.

  100. Katie L. ~ “Grace” in my essay meant a display of favor and forgiveness that has not been earned. It is not more complicated than that. I proposed a narrative of God showing grace to Mormons and choosing them as his people in spite of their failings and flaws—particularly the failings and flaws of their collective leadership—in contrast to the current narrative, where the church does not have any failings or flaws and God seems to have chosen it because it is righteous enough on its own merits. I believe it is adherence to the latter narrative that has caused the church to work so hard to hide its own history from its members.

    I actually do think that what I proposed bore some resemblance to Calvinism, but that’s only because what the church claims about itself, i.e. that it will never fall away and apostatize again, already bears resemblance to the P in TULIP. The church also believes in its own election as God’s church. The question is, whether that election is conditional or unconditional (the U in TULIP). My essay argued that Mormon history cannot sustain a belief in the conditional election of God’s church.

    My essay wasn’t really meant to address Mormon culture’s tendencies towards perfectionism, though we did discuss this some in the comments. The main sense in which I see the two as related is that I think Mormons have a tendency to translate this expectation of perfection from their leaders into striving for it in their own lives. They could certainly change this without changing their current historical narrative, but that won’t solve the problem of the church’s aversion to its own history.

  101. CD Host: Just to clarify: Clearly you presume the “victimhood” more than the circumstance would merit had you been there. I didn’t say anything about them being “bullied”, much less “repetitive bullying.” Nor were they “wounded”. This same person also believes in the illuminati, the 9/11 conspiracy theory, and that the bird flu scare was a ruse to harvest organs from Christians in FEMA camps. So I don’t think she fits the model you brought to my comments. If anything, she was the “wounder”, not the “wounded.” Interesting you would presume all of that. Disaffected members come in all varieties and are hardly some aggrieved monolithic “victim”. I’ve known ex-evangelicals who hold a grudge too, but that may equally say more about them, as their former church. Every circumstance is different. And yes…they were being judgmental…and yes that was an oxymoronic moment. Trust me on that.

    I don’t recall Kennedy ever being asked, or starting to be asked, to answer for the Catholic church policies. In fact, supporters of Obama point out that he should have no responsibility to answer for the black liberation theology of Reverend Wright, though maybe he gets a pass as he was never a leader, just a follower of Wright.

    Glad to hear you consider LDS service a net plus. But I am frankly surprised when you opine; “Ultimately the question Kullervo is asking is why did Romney decide to be a Bishop? Which is really the question why does Romney want to be president. In lots of churches the people who volunteer for leadership do because it gives them the opportunity to bully the weak.” I was not aware of that. And, bear in mind Romney didn’t volunteer to be a bishop. The absence of rewarded ambition among the Mormons is one of the features I like the most. Career goals are not in the works among the Mormons who look on a bishop with more pity than fear of bullying in my experience. The celebratory moment for a bishop or stake president is the day they are released, not the day they are called.

  102. This same person also believes in the illuminati, the 9/11 conspiracy theory, and that the bird flu scare was a ruse to harvest organs from Christians in FEMA camps. So I don’t think she fits the model you brought to my comments. If anything, she was the “wounder”, not the “wounded.”

    Garth —

    That’s a fundamentally different story. Your original story addressed the person as primarily being disaffected, not mental ill. If I were to tell a story about someone who stopped going to my church after they had been angry and not mention they while they had been angry they had also died it would be misleading about cause and effect. Originally the context was a person with multiple gripes about the church not realizing how their gripes said more about them than objectively about the church. With this new information nothing they say, really means much.

    I don’t recall Kennedy ever being asked, or starting to be asked, to answer for the Catholic church policies.

    First off he frequently was asked to answer for Catholic church policy. But the distinction I was making was that, Kennedy never held position within the Catholic church; he never implemented any Catholic policies. Romney did. Moreover Kennedy held to strong separation of church and state with little support for political religion while Romney heads a party focused on diminishing the secularization of society.

    In fact, supporters of Obama point out that he should have no responsibility to answer for the black liberation theology of Reverend Wright

    Obama did answer for the black liberation theology in quite a bit of detail. He didn’t support Wright’s political views loved the church in other respects and did support him personally. That was his answer, he didn’t care very much what Wright’s politics. Your problem is not that he didn’t answer the question but you either don’t like or don’t believe President Obama’s answer. As an aside, I do. Obama is, like most moderate Democrats, comfortable with the far left. In the same way that moderate Republicans are often comfortable with though not supportive of the far right. I think throughout his presidency he has shown a strong tendency to listen to minority views and consider them, though he most often chooses centrist courses of action.

  103. CD, that church sounds really awesome. I’m glad it was such an amazing experience and that it provided healing for the people involved. I think I understand the distinction you’re making between “theological” and “cultural” grace. It kind of sounds to me like what you’re calling theological grace is mostly a bunch of made-up mumbo-jumbo and cultural grace is the real thing in action, but I could be wrong… 🙂

    Jack, thank you so much for your clarification. That’s what I took from your post. I’m glad I didn’t totally misunderstand it. I still think you’re dead on.

  104. I think I understand the distinction you’re making between “theological” and “cultural” grace. It kind of sounds to me like what you’re calling theological grace is mostly a bunch of made-up mumbo-jumbo and cultural grace is the real thing in action, but I could be wrong…

    Katie that is a perfectly fair way to look at it. And I’m glad you can see the distinction that the two can be separated! The Neo-Orthodox vs. King Follett vs. Cultural debate is between who care deeply about the mumbo-jumbo and they are not focused on the real thing. Which is why the LDS church could easily adopt more of the real thing without having to resolve the theological battle.

    The LDS church itself agrees with this distinction. They use “forgiveness” to mean the cultural practice and Heavenly Father’s acts of no longer seeing a sin after apology, and “grace” to mean the mumbo-jumbo version. They already have a doctrine of cultural grace in their doctrine of forgiveness. But the LDS mumbo-jumbo version of grace, how they use the term “grace”, is semi-hostile to “cultural grace” because their “theological grace” focuses so heavily on obedience, the redeeming and enabling power of the atonement to achieve worthiness.

    And to those Protestants who believe such a thing is impossible I’d point out that the Catholic church maintains cultural grace while holding to a view of theological grace not too different from the LDS view. Catholic grace (theological) includes both the salutary acts and the state of holiness. So as I see it, the Catholic model for the LDS allows for this change towards more cultural grace in a way which is reinforcing of Mormon theology while the Protestant model requires a total war against Mormon theology.

  105. The fact that I have never emotionally browbeat someone because I thought it was my divine duty in no way disqualifies me from judging leaders who do (and/or leadership positions which demand such behavior as a matter of course from those who occupy them).

  106. Which is why the LDS church could easily adopt more of the real thing without having to resolve the theological battle.

    Right. And, frankly, I think the theological battle as it currently exists is unnecessary. It’s obsessively focused on the “mechanics of salvation”: who gets “in.” In my mind, this discussion misses the mark almost entirely. The real point of the gospel is a changed heart and life in Christ. It’s all about becoming the type of being that can dwell in the presence and love of God. That’s the type of person who gets in the Kingdom because, in a very real way, they carry the Kingdom within them.

    But the LDS mumbo-jumbo version of grace, how they use the term “grace”, is semi-hostile to “cultural grace” because their “theological grace” focuses so heavily on obedience, the redeeming and enabling power of the atonement to achieve worthiness.

    This is absolutely true.

  107. Katie, that’s only true to the extent that you are equating grace-salvation to acheiving the Celestial Kingdom.

  108. Seth, not sure I understand your comment. Which part is only true? That the Mormon theological emphasis on obedience is semi-hostile to what we’ve been calling “cultural grace”? Or something else?

  109. The idea that Mormons don’t believe in salvation by grace only works if you equate “salvation” with “the Celestial Kingdom”. Salvation, however, could simply mean resurrection and getting into the kingdom of heaven – in which case, we’re pretty much universalists.

  110. Incidentally, the way I always used the term “neo-orthodoxy” was as a bit of a perjorative referring to the new set of orthodoxy that grew up around the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie, and became firmly entrenched in LDS culture in the 1980s and 90s.

  111. Seth, I see what you’re saying. But I don’t think you get around that what CD and I have been calling “mumbo-jumbo/theological grace” makes it hard for real grace to flourish in our culture.

  112. It particularly bugged me to see by some a presumption that the service to the church by a Mormon (in this case Romney) actually can be turned against him. I was confused that Bishops and Stake Presidents are lumped–by mere virtue of that service–into being LESS authentic, or “makes my skin crawl”, or “awful” priesthood leadership (still not sure what terrible stake led someone to such terrible outcomes), by some in this thread.

    You say it’s a feature, I say it’s a bug. You say I’m offended and bitter, I say you’re engaged in self-brainwashing.

  113. You may be right Kuillervo, but often, I find generalizations are too easily a crutch to avoid the work required for true insight. I’m not saying that ALL Mormon leaders are exemplary people because of their service since individuals vary in all walks of life. But, you seem to be saying that ALL Mormon leaders are NOT-exemplary people BECAUSE of that very service. Hence you feel free to consign Romney to a “type” or a “kind” or an “inauthentic category.” So which one of our points seems like the lazy analysis? You have the right to believe whatever you choose, but I just personally find it poorly reasoned. Agree to disagree.

  114. But, you seem to be saying that ALL Mormon leaders are NOT-exemplary people BECAUSE of that very service. Hence you feel free to consign Romney to a “type” or a “kind” or an “inauthentic category.”

    I’m absolutely not saying that at all.

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