With a Mormon now anointed for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination, it’s worth reflecting on just what orthodox Mormons believe with regard to the faith’s role in the politics “of the last days.”
In my political thriller By A Thread, the young protagonist, a Mormon missionary, gets caught up in intense political intrigue, during which he is schooled in the convergence of Mormon doctrine, its attendant folklore, and the US Constitution. Recruited as a CIA operative, Elder Kevin “Red” Davis is reminded by a church leader of a Mormon scriptural passage that reads:
And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.
This, ostensibly, is God speaking. Mormons believe God “established the Constitution” of the United States. This, one might surmise, could imbue candidate Mitt Romney with a sense of “divine right” or “providential inevitability” in his quest for the Presidency. Yes, he’s lost before. But that doesn’t preclude a belief that such a destiny is at some point inevitable. Such speculation is further underscored by an apocryphal pronouncement by the LDS Church’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith.
In order to persuade the hesitant Elder Davis that his CIA mission is divinely inspired, the Mormon leader in By A Thread has the young missionary read aloud the founding prophet’s purported declaration, as stated by Harold B. Lee, a later prophet in the LDS line of succession:
Joseph Smith said that the time would come when the Constitution would hang as by a thread and at that time when it was thus in jeopardy, the elders of this Church would step forth and save it from destruction.
Does Romney also believe this? Who knows. We do know that fellow Mormon Glenn Beck certainly believes it. Beck was very vocal on his recently canceled TV show about his belief that the time referred to in this quote is now. That this is the day of which Joseph Smith spoke, when the Constitution “hang[s] as by a thread.” It is no leap at all for other, similarly inclined Mormons to conclude that Mitt Romney is one of the “elders” (an office to which Romney has been ordained) destined to “save it from destruction.” Romney himself might even believe this.
Now, it depends on your political and religious inclinations to determine whether you see this as a good thing or a bad thing. Fearmongers at both ends of the political spectrum have been declaring the Constitution in jeopardy for at least a decade now. Those on the left cite the Patriot Act and George Bush’s disregard for habeus corpus (enshrined in the Magna Carta centuries before the US Consitution) as evidence; on the right it’s the supposed Muslim and Communist training of Barack Obama that has them convinced. In both cases, the present political campaign is seen as a life and death effort to save the Consititution.
If you’re on the left, Romney is most certainly not your savior. Yet even if you’re on the right, unless you’re a devout Mormon, you might still have trouble seeing a Mormon as divinely inspired to save anything, let alone something as important as your country. For most Mormons however, there will be little doubt who they should vote for. Even those who may have heretofore viewed the “by a thread” prophecy with some skepticism must be asking themselves now whether there might not be a thread of truth in it.