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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Is LDS polygamy history relevant to 2012 campaign?

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 1:58 p.m. MST

A Washington Post editorial writer believes the history of conflict between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United States of America over the issue of polygamy is relevant more than 100 years later because of the presidential possibilities of Mitt Romney.

"If he wins the presidency, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Mormon bishop, would not be the first president to confess a historically disfavored faith," writes Charles Lane on the Post's PostPartisan blog site. "But Romney would be the first who belongs to a church that the U.S. government actually tried to crush."

Lane reviews the history of conflict on the issue, noting that "only a minority (of Mormons) actually practiced" plural marriage before it was officially discontinued by the LDS Church in 1890 (it should be noted that last week's Pew Research Center survey, "Mormons in America," showed that only 2 percent of those who currently identify themselves as Mormons see polygamy as "morally acceptable").

"This long-ago struggle, in which Mormons and non-Mormons shed blood, is complicated even in hindsight," Lane writes. "Anti-Mormonism was not a pure case of intolerance; polygamy did threaten women's equality. Yet the Supreme Court's assertion of a 'Christian' basis to constitutional law and federal punishment of all Mormons for the actions of a minority are hard to justify by modern standards."

Lane notes that "contrary to foes' predictions that the LDS would wither without polygamy, Mormonism flourished in the 20th century … Yet many Americans still do not know quite what to make of them."

He cites recent public opinion polls, documentaries and political statements suggesting confusion within the ranks of the general public about how to perceive Mormonism and whether or not they can in good conscience support a Mormon politician.

"Americans are products but not prisoners of our history," Lane concludes. "Like Mormonism, U.S. democracy was invented in the New World, and it's still being reinvented. Hence the prospect of a presidential contest between an incumbent whose race would have made him an outcast 125 years ago — and a challenger whose creed would have done the same."

In South Carolina, where Romney currently has a significant lead over his Republican presidential rivals heading into the state's important primary on Saturday, the polygamy discussion hasn't come to the surface. In fact, religious and political leaders are saying that Mormonism won't be a factor in the voting like it was in 2008, according to the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein.

"Unlike last time, when Romney made a historic speech about his faith, this time he's halting all talk of religion, and church officials are halting all talk of him," Boorstein wrote.

For the Mormon perspective she spoke to Terryl Givens, a Latter-day Saint who is a professor of religion at the University of Richmond.

"In the South especially, there's this resistance to highlighting our 'otherness,'" Givens said. "There is this ambiguity for Mormons when they picture a Mormon president. Do we really want to be mainstreamed? People have said to me, 'Do we really want the entire image of Mormonism to depend on the performance of one guy?'"

According to Boorstein, "Romney's campaign is making a calculation in 2012."

"This time," she writes, "his advisers say that he isn't even meeting with faith groups directly and they have no outreach staff specifically for faith groups. A campaign flyer making its rounds last week in South Carolina focused on Romney's 'deep and abiding faith' but never named it."

Boorstein also quoted Marie Cornwall, an LDS sociologist at BYU, said that while Romney's reluctance to talk about his religion may be based on campaign strategy, it is also cultural.

"Mormons are very averse to conflict," Cornwall said. "You have those kinds of conversations around the table, but only with like-minded people. It's a politeness thing."

Source http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700216622/Is-LDS-polygamy-history-relevant-to-2012-campaign.html


  1. The thing is, that a lot of people call themselves Mormon, but they have differing faiths. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the religion Mitt Romney belongs to. If he were to become a polygamist, he'd be excommunicated from the church.

  2. Most people don't know anything about the LDS faith. Through this blog I have learned a LOT. But I would not vote for a person just because they were LDS. There are plenty of other issues to worry about.

  3. Here we have a Utah university professor, politicos, newspaper writers from the eastern establishment telling everybody things about what people in different regions of the country think. As usual, opinions come from the eastern seaboard. They actually know nothing about the whole middle of the country or the south. They think they do because they think they know everything. They opine on religion at the same time as they scorn it. Thanks.

  4. I have a problem with a mormon president because of their ridiculous beliefs...IMO one that believes in magic underwear and becoming a god of his own universe where he will bear spirit children with his goddess wife(wives), someone who believes Jesus and Satan are brothers, Kolob, things about history that have been refuted.....someone like Romney who believes all that does not have the ability to think for himself, to use critical thinking. And we need a president who can think.

    1. Sounds ridiculous to me, too, Watching Now. But so does a literal interpretation of the old testament. Most literal interpretations of beliefs sound ridiculous, which is why they depend on belief, not fact. Fortunately my religious teaching found a way around that.

  5. Glad Lane realizes that "polygamy did threaten women's equality." It still does. This article however, really doesn't grasp the historical significance of the conflict between the US government and Brigham Young's theocracy. Back then the LDS church had political aspirations for ruling not only the US, but also the world under the auspices of the "Kingdom of God" This was an actual political, (though secret ) entity, composed of 50 men including 2 non members. Polygamy wan't entirely the issue -the setting up of a territory within the United States, that was proposing to live under a different set of laws, was at the crux of the matter. This is not, I believe, the intention of the modern-day LDS church.

  6. Politicians are about corporatism not religion.

    1. But Mormons (and I live in a state that has a high percentage of LDS members) take 'corporatism' and combine it with a zealous religious ideology that is borderline fairy tale. Wait, let me rephrase that - it IS a fairy tale.

      Mix that with politics, and you have a politician who will most definitely place LDS concerns(and making money for his and LDS coffers) over and above any man-made law of the land.

      Putting a Mormon in the oval office will widen the gap between the haves and have nots in this country!

    2. I totally agree with your comment but still feel that whomever ends up in power be it donkey or elephant will not help close the gap between poor and rich they're all too invested in their own interests.

  7. To me, Mormonism, as most religions, relagates women to a lesser status. Honestly, I find almost all religious beliefs "absurd" from an evidentiary and scientific perspective. They are all about magical thinking in some respect. Strangely, in this country, one cannot get elected to office without espousing some type of religious belief, but I digress.

    I grew up Catholic and that religion, as Mormonism, restricts the priesthood to men. Mormonism though, basically elevates ALL men to the "priesthood" and thus all women to a lesser and subservient position.

    From what I have read, polygamy is still a basic tenant of Mormonism. It was only given up in 1890 to attain statehood and up to the 1940's at least it was still practiced by many of the church elders.Even today, it is generally accepted that plural marriage will be practiced in the celestial kingdom where those priesthood holders get to rule over their own planets full of wives.

    My overarching gripe with religion is the linking of a life lived in conformity with principles men made up with your ability to be admitted to heaven. Those who say the Sister Wives are living the life they chose are ignoring the effect of duress in one's ability to make a truly free and independent decision. All of those women, by their own words, say they do this because of their religion, not because they enjoy it or prefer it or think it's better for them or their children. No,only because the only way to get to heaven, especially the highest form of Mormon heaven is to live the Principle, to overcome their jealousy and share their husband and teach their children the same. It seems all of their families at one point or another bought into this. How free are you if you believe you can only go to heaven if you live the "lifestyle"? Especially when that is reinforced by your families and by the tight knit communities that necessarily accompany an illegal and abnormal life.

    Women will never be truly equal until they break their bonds with religions that dictate their lesser status. It doesn't help when we are forced to elect leaders who share those beliefs. Men have a lot vested in perpetuating religion as a means to keep their superior status. Whether it's Muslims, Mormons, fundamentalist Christians, or orthodox Jews, strange how they all elevate men and keep women to narrow and clearly defined roles as helpmates to men.