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Does Mitt Romney Think He Is a Son of Abraham and That the Land of Zion Will Be his Inheritance?

Exploring the deeper tenets of Mormon theology.

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The triangle is one of the most potent forms in magic, and the 1835 revelation provided numbering of priesthood offices which added to 180 (the number of degrees in a triangle). The revelation specified that in ascending order the deacon’s president presided over 12 deacons, the teacher’s president over 24 teachers, and the elder’s president over 98 elders....There were three men in the first presidency, 12 men in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 70 men in the 70....

Like Christianity, though, the number 12 remains chief among the numbers assigned special powers and significance. We humans are storytellers at heart, and at the heart of every story is a protagonist, whether an individual or collective, who matters more than the rest. Because of this, two ideas – bloodlines with special rights and numbers with special powers have maintained their appeal for millennia. They can be found all around us –in Harry Potter, or New Age spirituality, or faded tabloids about the British monarchy. Ironically, we frequently fuse our ancient superstitions with modern scholarship methods and technologies. Hence the lack of a 13th floor in many modern hospitals. Hence, too, the microfilm archive in Granite Mountain.

Our quest to bend nature’s or society’s rules to stack the odds in our favor, means that we are constantly vying for a little more status. For that reason, it would come as no surprise to a scholar of sacred stories that a preponderance of Mormons are said to descend from the  lineage of Joseph. The 12 sons of Jacob and their offspring may comprise the Chosen People according to the biblical chronicle, but not all of the 12 are equally favored by either God or their earthly father. In fact, tales of the Hebrew patriarchs are often stories about paternal favoritism and its consequences, both positive and negative.

Within the broader narrative of Chosen People are stories of chosen sons and mothers who compete viciously to ensure their sons receive extra standing or privilege. Father Abraham and Yehovah both favor Isaac over Ishmael, Abraham’s son born of the slave woman, Hagar. Isaac and Yehovah favor his son Jacob over his son Esau. Jacob and Yehovah favor the sons of his wife Rachel over those of her ugly older sister Leah. They favor Joseph most of all, which is why his brothers throw him into a pit and sell him to an Egyptian slave trader where he becomes a confidant of the Pharaoh, ultimately ruling over them all. Among those in the know, announcing that someone is the heir of Joseph is indeed a patriarchal blessing—a pronouncement that he has the most favored bloodline out of the favored 12.

The belief that our ancestry matters to God has drawn the LDS Church into several kinds of awkward or ugly dogmas. Officially sanctioned racism was prominent in theology and church practice for a century and a half after Smith founded the religion.  According to  the story, a tribe of Israelites traveled to the Americas around 600 BCE, but split into two warring factions. The evil faction, the Lamanites, eventually killed off their righteous brethren and were punished with brown skins, becoming the forebears of Native Americans. Offspring of Adam’s son Cain (who murdered his brother)  were cursed with even darker skin, became the forebears of Africans. Anyone with African blood was banned from the full privileges of Mormon membership until 1978 and Utah refused to celebrate MLK Day until 2000.  Recent DNA research showing Native Americans to have Asian ancestry has caused consternation and even defections among science-minded Mormons.

Mormon Church leaders like Mitt Romney appear to have moved beyond the divinely sanctified racism of church history – at least when it comes to matters of skin color. But the issue of privileged bloodlines remains. In the Mormon version of the end times, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob will be gathered together into the land promised so long ago by Yehovah to a wandering band of Semites. The tribe of Judah will return to the land surrounding Jerusalem, but the tribe of Joseph (divided between Ephraim and Manasseh) as part of “10 lost tribes” will be gathered together in Zion, also called the New Jerusalem, centered in Jackson County, Missouri. 

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