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Everything You Need to Know About Mormonism

Pundits still haven't figured out how to talk about Romney's Mormon religion. Here's everything you need to know.

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“[My church's] opposition to liberal alcohol laws, however, had nothing to do with a desire to impose the religion on others. In fact, the Church’s members abstain from coffee and tobacco, as well as alcohol and the Church actually serves coffee in the hotel it owns … No, their issue with liberalizing alcohol regulations derives from the same social consequences recognized in other nations and communities: concern about drunk driving and alcoholism.”

That’s the church’s line, almost to the letter, and Romney’s endorsement of it I’m sure means that he has a similarly tolerant understanding of Saudi Arabian laws banning women drivers. (It’s a public safety thing! They’re such bad drivers!)

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Unlike a lot of other Mormons in the 1960s and 1970s, Romney never challenged his church on its positions on its racist doctrines, which essentially banned blacks from membership in the church.

From David Kirkpatrick, in the Times:

“I hoped that the time would come when the leaders of the church would receive the inspiration to change the policy,” Mr. Romney said. When he heard over a car radio in 1978 that the church would offer blacks full membership, he said, he pulled over and cried.

But until then, he deferred to church leaders, he said. “The way things are achieved in my church, as I believe in other great faiths, is through inspiration from God and not through protests and letters to the editor.”

Of course, Romney doesn’t always hew to the church line. Mitt broke with his church’s teachings and the position of most of his fellow Mormons when he … decided to oppose stem cell research in order to position himself for a Republican presidential run back when that was the most pressing national issue for religious conservatives.

The church is generally pro–­stem cell research — it believes that the “soul” enters the body some time after conception, and that no souls are involved in the cultivation of embryos in a lab. Romney was initially strongly pro–­stem cell research, purposefully staking out a position to the left of President Bush while running for governor of Massachusetts. But according to Romney in 2007, a 2004 conversation with a stem cell researcher led him to change his position on the research and even on abortion. This Romney says the scientist told him that he “kills” embryos after 14 days (the scientist in question obviously disputes using the word “kill”) and that so horrified Romney (“it hit me very hard that we had so cheapened the value of human life in a Roe v. Wade environment”) that he moved to criminalize research he’d strongly supported two years earlier, and vetoed a bill allowing for research on human eggs.

“I applaud medical discovery and the pursuit of cures for debilitating diseases,” Romney writes in the 2007 prologue to the paperback edition of his 2004 book on turning around the Olympics, “but I saw clearly where this legislation would take the nation: to the ‘brave new world’ that Aldous Huxley warned about, with rows upon rows of test tubes containing human embryos grown and harvested for science.”

The bill passed despite his veto, and now Massachusetts is a dystopian drug-­addled nightmare state keeping its populace cowed with the superficial satisfactions of sex and consumption.

 

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

 
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