A Mormon President?

Dr. Frank Beckwith discusses the Romney candidacy over at First Things. I’m happy that he has reverted to Catholicism, and he does an excellent job of outlining Mormon theology and its brilliant combination of Magisterium and “Restorationist” thinking.

But, I disagree strongly with his last point:

If one does not support Romney’s candidacy, it should not be because he is a Mormon. It should be because one has good reason to believe he is not the best candidate for the office. That is the message of Hewitt’s book. It is one that would resonate with Martin Luther, who once tersely said, “I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”

As I understand Mormon theology, admittedly not thoroughly, it does away with reason altogether. No amount of reasoned explanation against its tenets matter: Native Americans contain not a whit of Semitic mitochondrial DNA; Joseph Smith was proved a charlatan when he misinterpreted an Egyptian funerary papyrus as the “Book of Abraham”; no solid archaeological evidence for anything in the Book of Mormon has ever been found. But yet, the “burnin’ in the bosom” is the sign that it’s all true. That is exactly what Pope Benedict was arguing against in his Regensburg address–a divorce of faith and reason.

It is for that reason that I disagree with Dr. Beckwith. Luther was wrong: I’d prefer an incompetent Christian to a competent Turk any day, not because of day-to-day governance but long-term consequences. (Islam has similar flaws in its theology to Mormonism.) It is precisely because he is a believing Mormon that I cannot vote for Mitt Romney. I do not trust the governing of our nation to someone who must, by the very nature of his faith, set his reason aside so easily.

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11 Responses to “A Mormon President?”


  1. 1 Tom Jones May 24, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    This one comment of yours gives me pause…

    “I do not trust the governing of our nation to someone who must, by the very nature of his faith, set his reason aside so easily.”

    But I am ready to support Romney because I know, from experience, that Mormons don’t seem to have any trouble making good business decisions, even though they bury their heads in the sand when it comes to defending their faith. I still think Romney can be a good governor and harbor this fantasy of Mormonism in the back of his brain somewhere. You know, Reagan had to deal with and sometimes go along with a wife who was dabbling in new age practices and I don’t think it hurt us as a nation.

    One positive thing that is already happening is that Mormonism has become a hot topic and is already resulting in more education about Mormonism in Evangelical and other churches.

  2. 2 Edmund C. May 24, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Tom,

    I have several Mormon friends and colleagues, and I agree with you on their business acumen. But, I hold the Presidency to a higher standard: moral as well as logistical leadership. My concern is that someone whose faith requires him to hold to irrational (as opposed to arational or suprarational, as in the case of orthodox Christianity) stances may more easily hold to other irrational positions because of sentimental or gullible reasons.

  3. 3 friuliveneto May 25, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    The idea that Mormons bury their heads in the sand is as bogus as the DNA and Egyptian papyrus arguments. Are you as willing to test your belief in the Bible with Southerton’s argument which denies the Bible account of creation and the flood? The problem with the polemic arguments proposed by irr.com is that it is by its nature polemical rather than scholarly. Mormons willingly face their critics head on with rational and logical responses. The fact that you don’t see these responses on irr.com doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Consider, for example, http://www.fairlds.org/Book_of_Mormon/DNA_and_the_Book_of_Mormon_2.html or http://farms.byu.edu/publications/dna/ButlerBofMandDNA_Feb2006.php

    Hopefully, more education about Mormonism means education about what they really believe rather than the typical folklore and facile dismissals.

  4. 4 Edmund C. May 25, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Friuliveneto:

    A few points, as I haven’t the time to delve into these arguments in great detail.

    1. On the Bible. I am no Fundamentalist, nor am I a Biblical literalist. It’s one of the luxuries of being Catholic that my beliefs are not hemmed into a strict reading of a text.

    Creation could have happened, and probably did happen, through evolutionary mechanisms, and the Flood may very well be metaphorical or limited to a specific region (cf. the Black Sea). I simply don’t know and it doesn’t affect my faith one way or the other. So, to suggest that I could fall prey to the same rationalistic criticism as Mormonism falls flat.

    2. On mitochondrial DNA and other scientific evidence. I would rather deal in terms of probabilities than in certainties. Are there flaws in the arguments against the Mormon stance on Native Americans? Certainly. The unique history of the Jewish people makes it rather difficult to reconstruct the past. Maybe I’m too simple to grasp the complexities of this, but here is my take:

    a. There is no evidence–zero–for a Semitic origin of any Native American group. The only positive evidence for this, as I see it, comes from the Book of Mormon, which no one outside the LDS admits as a reliable source.

    b. The negative evidence has some flaws. mtDNA tracing back in history is, admittedly, hypothetical. So is tracing of dog and helicobacter DNA. But, there are simpler observations that, to a rational person, make better sense. The facial structure, skin tone, and any number of other features of Native Americans, are very similar to that of Siberians. Yes, they both could have a common origin, but it is much more likely that said common origin is in Asia, than in the Middle East, especially since there is no Semitic group that shares those traits.

    Ultimately, LDS arguments that I have seen boil down to poking little holes in scientfiic arguments for the sake of lending a little more credibility to a ludicrous fairy tale of Israelites coming to North America.

  5. 5 Wonders for Oyarsa May 26, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Not that I disagree about Mormonism, but this does sound like the sort of thing Evangelical Atheists would say about a Christian candidate. “They believe someone rose from the dead without ANY scientific evidence. How could we possibly have someone in public office with that degree of unreason?”

  6. 6 E. Campion May 26, 2007 at 10:49 am

    WFO,

    You’re right: it does sound like the sort of thing that our Athevangelist friends (I typed “fiends” by mistake–almost left it as an amusing slip) would say. But, there is a huge difference: negative evidence versus the inability to gather any evidence. Not finding any artifacts or any DNA evidence to back up the historical claims of the Book of Mormon is one thing: it casts serious doubt on the truth of the LDS faith. But, Christianity is by definition a historical religion: we can go back and verify all the historical events around which the New Testament was written. We can even go so far as to believe St. Paul when he writes in 1 Corinthians that some of the folks who saw Jesus after the Resurrection were still alive, and could be asked if necessary to prove his point.

    I’ve wondered what would happen if someone proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that bones found in the Holy Land (or in France or in the crypt of Rosslyn Chapel if we are to believe Dan Brown) were those of Jesus.* There would be some who would bury their heads in the sand and continue believing in a now ahistorical faith. But, I, for one, would head right over to the nearest synagogue.

    * but the chances of this happening are exactly nil…

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