Romney, Obamacare and Mormonism

AP Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves a fundraiser that included Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., on Monday, … Continued


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves a fundraiser that included Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., on Monday, July 16, 2012 in Baton Rouge, La.

In this strange moment in which people still wonder what a Mormon president will do to the country, we have Mitt Romney’s political history, campaign conduct, and avowed policy to scrutinize. All of these things together tell us quite plainly that no matter who wins in November, we aren’t about to elect a Mormon president. We are about to elect another politician.

The anxiety that the Christian right and the liberal left and everyone in between has felt about the possibility that an immeasurable, religious weirdness will soon occupy the Oval Office in the form of Romney ought to be assuaged for good by the way that Romney reacted to the Supreme Court’s support of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Romney’s rejection of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Obamacare’s mandate was eminently predictable. Tucking the speech he had expected to give into his back pocket, Romney stood before Washington, D.C., microphones to declare his intent to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to appeal to voters to vote him into a position to do it. This reaction to the court’s decision was predictable particularly because of the political gains to be made by it. Moments after the speech, dreadsters of media programs and political public relations entities were characterizing Obamacare as the “largest tax hike ever” — language sure to bond libertarians and independents to the right. Like a corporate-size magnet, Romney’s speech attracted $4.3 million during the following twenty-four hours.

Which is to say, Romney’s response to the Supreme Court was not a Mormon response. It was a political response.

Had Romney responded as a Mormon, rather than as a presidential candidate, he would have warmly embraced Obamacare as a sign that the country is finally, after a century and a half, catching the Mormon vision. Everyone in the United States has some sense of the mythic collectivism embedded in Mormon culture. Mormons, go the legends, can travel, willy-nilly, throughout the country and find their needs met everywhere. Mormons need only ask their local bishops to get money to pay mortgages and car loans, to buy food, to fill prescriptions, to remodel bathrooms, to cover gambling debts, and to get their bass guitars out of hock. Mormons keep giant warehouses of food out of which any Mormon can walk with armfuls of staples and luxuries, string-free.

View Photo Gallery: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney continues his campaign to unseat President Obama.

The mechanism that makes such collective strength possible is the tax or mandate or what-have-you called tithes and offerings. Not only do Mormons kick 10 percent of their ongoing income towards Salt Lake City to ensure the fiscal health of the LDS church, they each drop $10, $20, $50 and more additional dollars a month into their local congregations to ensure that none of their own faces either insolvency or discomfort.

Mormons figured out the basic principles of Obamacare in the nineteenth century. Joseph Smith himself developed a collectivist system in which all were to have everything in common so that no one would be poor. The early Mormons weren’t very good at having everything in common, so Smith’s ideal didn’t stick very well. But the Mormon migration to the desert wonderland of Utah was as successful as it was because the fear that they would all die, otherwise, moved the early Mormons to pool their resources in a radical way. And what we might now deride as Big Brother social programs kept those early Mormons alive against the perpetual water crisis, monster crickets, harsh winters, and the sabre rattling of a paranoid federal government. Brigham Young even revived Smith’s collectivist ideal in some of the western settlements the Mormons established around the west.

Mormonism survived, and Mormons like Romney are here nowadays, partly as a consequence of the fundamentally Mormon drive to collect resources for everyone’s good.

But, Romney’s not that Mormon. The first thing that Romney is is Romney, confirmed conservative and political chameleon willing to become even more conservative on any serviceable issue. We can all breathe easy now that Romney has finally settled the role that Mormonism will play in his presidency. Like the Presbyterianism, Methodism, and Catholicism, etc., of most presidents, Romney’s Mormonism will be an innocuous Sunday excursion.

What Romney does and does not as president (should he get there) will surely be pushed more by politics than by his faith.

Those of us who are Mormons will yet have to await the moment in which a Mormon brings our immeasurable weirdness to the White House and drives the whole country toward a collectivist utopia.

David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike.”

David Mason
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  • RKohutek

    David Mason, you are full of horse____. As a political scholar, demographer, and life long Latter-day Saint I call B.S. Utahans HATE Obamacare, and nearly 70% of Utahn are LDS. “The United Order” of which you lied about is nothing like Obama’s socialist agenda because it was completely voluntary. (Yes, Latter-day Saints contributed to a communal pot voluntarily but each individual determined for him or herself how much to take back out for their own personal needs. It acted more like a husband and wife joint-checking account then the garbage you describe). Obamacare is a tax and a tax is nothing less than coercion.
    Perhaps if you bothered to educate your readers on 42 USC1395dd Emergency Medical Treatment and active Labor Act of 1986 you’d know that Romneycare was an elegant solution to Massachusetts’ budget crisis, a crisis exacerbated by the federal government’s EMTALA.

  • pangrakid

    David Mason, you are talking like Obama now. The problem with writers who are one sided is that they tend to tell those little lies. Fact 1# This is so far from the truth in regards to what the Mormon church does with funds that come into the Local areas. If you want to write a truthful article, then ask a Mormon. This whole article is pack of lies and untruths. Is this article against the Church or Romney?
    What would a Mormon President look like? He would lead the country in a positive light and not divide it like Obama. A mormon president would be a President for the wealthy and the poor and everything in between.
    What would a Pagan Socialist President look like? Look to the White House, you have one.
    Romney will be amazing for job creation and not so good on entitlements.

  • Enrique Romero

    WaPo continues to fail to understand the subject matter before reporting on it.

    Voluntarily looking after one another, which is what the Christian community does, is very different than an ill-conceived compulsory government program.

  • tapirrider1

    Pagan socialist? I didn’t vote for Obama but I’m getting tired of smears on him.

    Romney’s rejection of the Supreme Court decision reminded me of a little piece of history. President Andrew Jackson rejected a Supreme Court decision too. The Trail of Tears was the result. Oh, and Joseph Smith said that the Indian Removal Act was all part of God’s plan.

    Then I thought about Utah’s Arthur V. Watkins misguided Indian Termination Policy. Half of Utah’s Paiute’s died between the 1950s and 1980. They died from malnurishment and lack of medical care. Watkins wanted their relationship with the Federal government ended but Utah did not step up to fill the void. They just died while Mormons claimed that they loved the “Lamanites”.

    How will Romney treat American Indians? In 2003 he tried to extort casino money from tribes outside of his state. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution does not grant states the power to regulate commerce with Indian tribes. That is reserved for the U.S. Congress, not State Governors.

    Ignoring the Constitution and ignoring the Supreme Court has left a trail of blood. That is much more serious than villifying the current President by calling him a Pagan Socialist.

  • Beaker3

    I can only hope and assume that the “mythic collectivism” examples cited are done tongue-in-cheek. The very idea that an LDS member can run to some fanciful open piggy bank is absurd to the extreme. Funds donated for welfare purposes are carefully controlled and accounted for, with their distribution granted only after careful counseling and consideration by local ecclesiastical authority. I know this from personal experience, being one who has signed the checks given to help those truly in need. Only basic expenses are taken care of, such as food, shelter and medical concerns. Even then, principles of self-reliance, thrift and personal responsibility are taught and emphasized. Note that these are not taught by the government dole. This article, whether intended or not, does little more than trivialize the God-given principles that have made the LDS Church a monumental force for good in American and world society, a concept mainly overlooked by the world at large due to sloppy reporting and naked bias.

  • ksmike

    What Mr Mason is missing is the concept of agency–the freedom to choose. The reason so many LDS bristle at the continued government encroachment Obamacare thrusts upon us it because it little by little takes away our ability to choose for ourselves, it chips away at our freedoms.

    In LDS theology, this all started before this world was formed in what is called the Council in Heaven. There Satan wanted to force everybody back to heaven with him receiving all the glory. Jesus supported God’s plan, allowing us to choose to follow him or not. Jesus won and Satan lost.

    Since then, Satan has been seen as the driving force behind all these attempts to control our lives, in particular the evils of Communism and its little brother, Socialism. Those idealogies, while promising salvation for all, are nothing more than a power grab for those in authority while not awarding salvation but slavery.

    Yes, early Christianity promoted a collectivism and it was attempted later by Brigham Young, but all had the power to choose whether to live in those societies or not. Much like tithes and offerings in the church today, it is issued as a commandment but we have the choice of whether to live it or not.

    Because of this, it is totally consistent for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to believe there will ultimately be a perfect collectivist society when run by Christ at his second coming while at the same time rejecting the efforts of politboros who want to force their brand of salvation, or health care, on us.

    Now, for those who are uninformed about what the eventual single payer system will do to you, let me just give you an example:

    A few years ago a new type of lens was developed that would allow those with presbyopia to have their eye lens replaced with a multi-focus lens that would allow the patient to see close up, medium range, and far. It is a miracle. Except, if you were a Medicare patient, you could not get it. Even if you wanted to pay extra, you c

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘have made the LDS Church a monumental force for good in American and world society’

    Only in a world this backwards could the spread of an abjectly idiotic delusion be considered a force for good. Only people who are nakedly biased towards intellectual honesty seem to understand this.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘As a political scholar, demographer, and life long Latter-day Saint’

    In other words: As an educated person who believes that the first man and woman were born in Jackson County, MO…

  • RKohutek

    Hit and run much? Only a moron would use the genetic fallacy in an ad hominem attack. The genetic fallacy is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. The fallacy therefore fails to assess the claim on its merit. The first criterion of a good argument that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may help illuminate the reasons why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are irrelevant to its merits.

  • llhale

    I must admit I laughed in amazement at the inaccurate description of the LDS welfare program in this media piece. I’m not sure what involvement David Mason as a professed Mormon has actually had with his church but in this article he has obviously traded truth for intellectual cleverness. Too bad because he could have made a valid point that Mormon scripture does give caring for the poor very high priority. He lost his chance to genuinely promote care for the poor if that was his real goal which I doubt.

  • RKohutek

    My aren’t we a paradox XVIIHailSkins. You extol rationality but promulgate your own bias. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

  • Beaker3

    XVIIHailSkins: Although there is a lot more to religious faith than to mythology in general, consider this: Throughout the history of man the art of storytelling and myth, such as fairy tales for example, have been a effective teaching tool for good. The “Kleine Ausgabe” of the Brothers Grimm is a prime example of delusion and allegory for the sake of teachings admirable and enduring principles to children. But then, “Only people who are nakedly biased towards intellectual honesty seem to understand this.”

  • Kathryn L. Blose

    Unfortunately, David Mason has misrepresented what the LDS Church does to assist its members in need. No way does the Church cover gambling debts, get musical instruments out of hock, or pay car loans of its members. It is rare for the Church to cover rent or mortgages also.

    Having had to go a few times myself to my bishop for financial assistance, I have shown him all of our income, developed a plan for how to better meet our own responsibilities, and only asked for assistance for certain (not all) utilities. If we received food, we went to the bishop’s storehouse to work there for what food we were given. The LDS Church fosters self reliance and not handouts.
    The LDS church has the best program for helping its own members than any other in the world. They are also first to come forward when there is a natural disaster, and without any reservations, give aid and material to those suffering from earthquake, flood, hurricane, etc, no matter what the religion is of those whom they give relief to.

  • TArkay1

    As a Mormon, I agree totally with Professor Mason. Romney has a lot more in common with his Wall Street friends and his right-wing cronies than with any Mormon I know personally. But at least he’s single-handedly keeping the California construction business in business. An elevator for his cars? What will he need next?

  • jvmbl

    This article is so full of untruths that it’s almost laughable. If the Bishops of the church paid for things the way this article describes the church would be broke. There are definite qualifications to receiving help from the church. We are taught to be SELF RELIANT first! We don’t seek help from our Bishops without showing him our budget of monthly expenses and income. Also if we have problems when we are away from home in another state or country, the help would be extremely limited. There have been many attempts by people who have gone around the country and tried to persuade bishops to give them money, food or pay for hotel accommidations. Bishop’s have a grave responsibility to care for the needy, yes, but in a very responsible manner. This article makes it seem that anyone can do as they wish and get help. So NOT true.
    The biggest objection to Obamacare is the taking away of freedoms. Some of the things it covers are good, but taking away the freedom of choice is so huge as to out weight the good points.
    Businessweek has lost all creditability with both the general public and the business community. It is now no different than the National Enquirer, Star, or any of the other weird gossip publications. All for the all mighty dollar. Shame on you Businessweek. You now are a representative of the gutter and no longer represent American business at it’s best.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I suppose as a counterpoint I should posit the inquisition, the crusades, witch-burning, jihad, ‘lying for the lord,’ homophobia, tribalism, the notion of vicarious atonement, the desire to fulfill apocalypse prophecies, distrust of intellectualism, suffocating guilt, etc…

    Fairy tales aren’t quite as innocuous as they seem.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    At the risk of committing another hit and run, I have to say that to call the above post incomprehensible would be an insult to anything that has ever been incomprehensible before. The first criterion of a good argument is that it should be at least remotely accessible to an english speaker.

    That being said, you should own up to your beliefs. If you’re tired of them being ridiculed, maybe you should find some beliefs that are not so abjectly ridiculous.

  • sarakei

    David Mason sounds to me like the exmormon that can’t leave the church alone. Funny he can’t just leave…but has to try to destroy by spreading lies and profiting by them.

  • Lynette Lewis

    Obamacare and the way Mormons care for their own is as opposite as black and white. Obamacare uses FORCE. You have to pay in. Any donation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints is strictly voluntary. There is no force at all. They are diametrical opposites.

  • Kent French

    You have got to be kidding! You wrote “Had Romney responded as a Mormon, rather than as a presidential candidate, he would have warmly embraced Obamacare . . . “. From that statement it is easy to see that you know very few Mormons.

    Virtually everyone I have known in the Church during the last 45 years has been a strong supporter of conservative values, and to my knowledge 99% of the active members in my present congregation are in full support of the Tea Party!

  • XVIIHailSkins

    If the mormon church had the power to legislate, the United States would become as overtly totalitarian as the campus of Brigham Young University. Homosexuality would be outlawed. Men with guns would break down doors in order to arrest people for anything from smoking marijuana to drinking coffee. The state would purge the population of all individuals that might dare to question the idea of the first man and woman being born in Jackson County, MO.

    And yet you claim that you just want the government off your back. You have precisely no idea what conservative values are.

  • charminman2

    Rubbibsh. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not seek to legislate . . . , to mandate. Bright Mormons are not required to attend BYU, for instance.

  • Beaker3

    There you go. You have adequately pointed out that you are definitely not naked.

  • EW88

    I am a Mormon. It would be well worth stating here that the LDS Church maintains strict political neutrality though members are encouraged to be engaged in their duties as citizens in the countries in which they reside. It’s also worth clarifying that the “United Order” which some describe as socialism requires individual committments to each other. In short, to love each other as God and Christ love us. In that way each member works their hardest and the system survives. Since that requires a uniform spiritual conversion to keep the system going, of course that system did not last for early members of the LDS Church. Capitalism is more successful in making sure people work hard, so they can see their own profits by their own industry yet still benefit others by the products and services produced.

    The LDS Welfare system is not as easy to access as indicated here. It requires genuine need and interviews with Church leadership. But yes, it is freely given in the sense that the recipients are willing to work and serve as they are able to receive commodities and financial aid from the LDS Church. Thanks for listening.

  • Kent French

    Sorry skins fan,

    Even if the Mormon Church had power to legislate as a church they would not do it. Of course, you know that to be true because you know the Church teaches that the Constitution was divinely inspired. Therefore, the Church would leave the lawmaking to the elected representatives of the people.

  • WorkYerBunsOff

    Don’t most writers for the Washington Post do some accurate research for their articles?! Whew! I was blown away by some of the blown up, half-truths given here

  • WorkYerBunsOff

    I agree to some degree with Mr. Mason that Romney isn’t going to be a Mormon Presideny but a politician! That’s what we want, obviously. Politician=his job title. Mormonism=his faith. Though some of Mr. Mason’s claims about Mormons are very ridiculous