Mitt, Moochers, and Mormonism’s Other Legacy
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The choices were stark; no less than between “God and liberty” or “atheism and slavery” (Conference, 1965). Benson even urged Mormons to precipitate Church leadership in the struggle, thereby proving their “valiance.” The devil had succeeded in “neutralizing much of the priesthood” (Mormon men), he argued. “To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the war in heaven meant eternal damnation,” and nothing less hangs in the balance today. The “choice spirits” take the lead, he cajoled; they don’t wait “to be commanded in all things.” After all, the prophecy did not say that the Church would save the Constitution, but rather that the “elders of Israel” would. “What are you waiting for?” he wondered.
In the style of Beck, he claimed that to remain on the sidelines was akin to collaboration with Hitler. “There has never been a greater time to stand up against entrenched evil.” What counted as evil? “No matter what you call it—communism, socialism, or the welfare state—our freedom is sacrificed,” He went on to mention both the minimum wage and foreign aid.
Individual welfare initiatives, he warned in 1966, though seemingly innocuous, nevertheless represented the small doses of Satan’s piecemeal advance. Once again the rallying cry goes out: “Are you prepared to see some of your loved ones murdered, your remaining liberties abridged… and your eternal reward jeopardized?”
If this all sounds eerily like Tea Party madness, then you’ll understand why Utah is awash in it, but End Times talk isn’t just about communism and its supposed cousin, the welfare state. Big Conspiracies are on the move. Any large, powerful organization of global reach (except the US military) is suspect.
La Verkin, Utah, for example, passed an ordinance in 2001 making it a “United Nations-free zone” (the UN being a “sign of the times” and a horrendous mistake that Skousen thought we should rectify). The law banned the UN from La Verkin and required anyone collaborating with it to file an annual report and post a sign in the window stating, “United Nations Work Conducted Here.” It also protected native La Verkin soldiers against UN “involuntary servitude.”
The Cold War is over; both Benson and Skousen are dead; but End Times influence lives on. Even those who might squirm at the more brazen scenarios may nevertheless have absorbed some of the assumptions; namely that the good works of outsiders prove nothing about their intentions; we can only trust our own (if Eisenhower is suspect, how much more so a Muslim Kenyan); and we must turn back the tide of welfare encroachment.
End Times talk is all about division—it’s us versus them. Ironically, Mormons are so trusting of us that Utah has become the scam capital of America, and the them is so politically skewed that no amount of good works on the part of the political left frees it of suspicion, nor does any scandal or plunder detract from the right’s “elect” status.
Despite his profligate past (as the pro-choice governor of Massachusetts and author of Romneycare), Mitt is one of the Mormon us. My mom tells a Romney redemption story that illustrates this us-them divide. She did not vote for Senator Kerry in the 2004 presidential election because, as she explained it, he “flip-flopped.” So when the next election rolled around, I teased her about her support for Romney, pointing out that he, too, had “flip-flopped”—and on issues important to the faith. “That’s not called flip-flopping,” she replied, “That’s called repentance.”
When I first cut my teeth on politics as a young adult, my dad and I had an argument in which he said (hyberbolically, and for effect) that he wished that he could resurrect FDR just in order to shoot him. So intertwined is Mormonism with the socioeconomic status quo that its Utah members often take the Republican Party to be God’s Party.