Mormon: Anniversary of Joseph Smith & Brother Hyrum

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, night view. Photo in public domainWEDNESDAY, JUNE 27: Every year in our Holidays column, we include a news item on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844. Usually, the date is only marked by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who regard remembrance of their deaths as a solemn milestone. However, in 2012, suddenly everything “Mormon” takes on wider significance. Newsweek has called this year’s political crossroads “the Mormon Moment,” and best-selling author Stephen Mansfield just penned a book titled, “The Mormonizing of America.” (The LA Times has an interview with Mansfield.) Although Mansfield’s previous two presidential books were titled “The Faith of George Bush” and “The Faith of Barack Obama,” the author claims that the story of the LDS church’s growth in mainstream America is much bigger than the specific Mitt Romney “story” this year—so he shifted the title of his 2012 book.

Mansfield is among the writers on this subject who argue that LDS theology shapes Romney’s world view in major ways. In the LA Times interview, Mansfield says there is no question that Romney’s “worldview or his system of ethics, what he believes about the Constitution, what he believes about abortion, what he believes about American history—I think all that grows organically out of his Mormonism. I think that his leadership is a product of his training and his gifts, but he does lead out of a sense of it being part of him qualifying, being found worthy, him passing the test of this life—that’s standard Mormon theology.”

Why haven’t we heard more from Romney about these connections with his faith? That’s because there’s so much bias against Mormons in American culture that advisors have cautioned him against talking too much about his church. Mansfield explains it this way: “I know that we want to believe that we’re beyond any kind of religious bigotry in politics, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Gallup says the only group with worse numbers that they poll in terms of politics are gays and Muslims.” (And the LA Times writer added that the Gallup reports also show atheists are in the “worst numbers” group in recent polling. There’s obviously a lot of bias still operating in American culture.)

That brings us back to the mob that murdered Mormon leader Joseph Smith, Jr., and his brother Hyrum in 1844. Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the killings, which were hate crimes fueled by Smith’s decision to try running for president of the United States. For another perspective, learn more from the Mormonism Research Ministry. For yet another perspective on Romney’s Mormon faith—and its affect on the campaign—read this week’s OurValues column in the pages of ReadTheSpirit.

Want more context on this challenging issue? For a good, strong commentary on this theme, read religion newswriter Bill Tammeus’ column today. He criticizes “the shameful anti-Mormonism than infects almost one in five Americans.” But Bill continues with a list of other related acts, some helpful links and he recommends an insightful book on the overall issue.

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