Is Mitt Romney's Candidacy Part of 'The Eternal Plan' of the Mormon Church?
Photo Credit: AFP
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When Mitt Romney received his patriarchal blessing as a Michigan teenager, he was told that the Lord expected great things from him. All young Mormon men — the “worthy males” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is officially known — receive such a blessing as they embark on their requisite journeys as religious missionaries. But at 19 years of age, the youngest son of the most prominent Mormon in American politics — a seventh-generation direct descendant of one of the faith’s founding 12 apostles—Mitt Romney had been singled out as a destined leader.
From the time of his birth — March 13, 1947 — through adolescence and into manhood, the meshing of religion and politics was paramount in Mitt Romney’s life. Called “my miracle baby” by his mother, who had been told by her physician that it was impossible for her to bear a fourth child, Romney was christened Willard Mitt Romney in honor of close family friend and one of the richest Mormons in history, J. Willard Marriott.
In 1962, when Mitt — as they decided to call him — was a sophomore in high school, his father, George W. Romney, was elected governor of Michigan. Throughout the early 1960s, Mitt collected petition signatures, campaigned at his father’s side, attended strategy sessions with his father’s political advisors, and interned at his father’s office during all three of his gubernatorial terms. He attended the 1964 Republican National Convention where his father led a challenge of moderates against the right-wing Barry Goldwater. Although he was fulfilling his spiritual obligation as a Mormon missionary in France in 1968 while his father was the front-running GOP presidential candidate, Mitt was kept apprised of the political developments back in the U.S.
Upon completion of his foreign mission, he immersed himself in the 1970 senatorial campaign of his mother, Lenore Romney, who was running against Phillip Hart in the Michigan general election. That same year, the Cougar Club — the all male, all white social club at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City (blacks were excluded from full membership in the Mormon church until 1978) — was humming with talk that its president, Mitt Romney, would become the first Mormon president of the United States. “If not Mitt, then who?” was the ubiquitous slogan within the elite organization. The pious world of BYU was expected to spawn the man who would lead the Mormons into the White House and fulfill the prophecies of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr., which Romney has avidly sought to realize.
Romney avoids mentioning it, but Smith ran for president in 1844 as an independent commander in chief of an “army of God” advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government in favor of a Mormon-ruled theocracy. Challenging Democrat James Polk and Whig Henry Clay, Smith prophesied that if the U.S. Congress did not accede to his demands that “they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them.” Smith viewed capturing the presidency as part of the mission of the church. He had predicted the emergence of “the one Mighty and Strong” — a leader who would “set in order the house of God” — and became the first of many prominent Mormon men to claim the mantle.
Smith’s insertion of religion into politics and his call for a “theodemocracy where God and people hold the power to conduct the affairs of men in righteous matters” created a sensation and drew hostility from the outside world. But his candidacy was cut short when he was shot to death by an anti-Mormon vigilante mob. Out of Smith’s national political ambitions grew what would become known in Mormon circles as the “White Horse Prophecy” — a belief ingrained in Mormon culture and passed down through generations by church leaders that the day would come when the U.S. Constitution would “hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber” and the Mormon priesthood would save it.