A few years ago, I was also involved in the 2002 Olympics held in Salt Lake City. Although not in such an auspicious role as you held, I nonetheless was able to watch your actions and gather certain impressions. Sadly, the primary impression that I had was that you were able to manipulate public relations and that you were a “grandstander.” The 2012 presidential electioneering has done little to alter that impression.
“Grandstanding” is another way to say that your actions were heralded and seen by others for their media attention and not for their inherent goodness. In the LDS Church we generally call that motivation “aspiring to the honors of men” with a person’s “heart set so much on the things of this world” (D&C 121:35) that principles are forsaken. It is that same “grandstanding” that brought you the nickname “Flip-Flop” Romney–earned because of your desire to appeal to everyone rather than demonstrating consistency with principles. You’ve been in favor of abortion and then against it and finally have said that you are neither pro-choice nor pro-life; in favor of auditing the fed but in favor of leaving it as it is; been on both sides of the global warming debate; been on both sides of the proposed same-sex marriage amendment; touted your mandatory healthcare legislation in Massachusetts while backtracking from its primary provisions; declined to sign a “no new taxes pledge” and then said that you had signed and stood behind it; agreed that illegal aliens should be able to seek citizenship but then said that they should not; said that same-sex couples should have the right to adopt children and then said that you were against such adoptions; and while later denying that you supported the stimulus program under George W. Bush, earlier statements of support demonstrate that that you did.
The above “flip-flops” were clear statements made to appease both those for and against the above issues. Obviously, for the person desiring to know you, there is confusion–there always seems to be a quotation to justify any particular Romney belief. When President Gordon B. Hinckley gave his stirring address, “A Testimony Vibrant and True” in August of 2005, he have a synopsis of the Book of Mormon for our time and said that the chronicled events in that book were “as current as the morning newspaper.” He went on to relate the scriptural story that “the people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes [and] who lulled them with hollow promises.” Few can question your “ambition,” but especially because of your ambiguity, many more have come to question your “hollow promises.”
President Hinckley continued his remarks with another observation that is particularly relevant today: “These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.” He was alluding to Moroni’s evaluation of the role of the Gadiantons given in the book of Ether, that “they have caused the destruction of the [Jaredites] and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.” (Ether 8:21) This was, as he said, a definite parallel to our day “as current as the morning newspaper.” That, of course, had specific reference to nonending wars on terror used to justify various aggressive invasions throughout Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, while preparing for further actions in Syria, Iran, and other far-off countries.
In fact, although you were on both sides of the Vietnam War (agreeing with your father at one time and later stating that you had desired to be a part of the fighting forces) your views on war have been consistently hawkish. You supported the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent troop surge; you are on record calling for “blockade, bombardment and surgical military strikes” against Iran; and have recommended an additional 100,000 troops to the United States military. Of current war tactics, you have said that you would double the size of the Guantanamo facility; you have defended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding; and have voiced approval of military leaders continuing the policy of refusing judicial review for terrorist prisoners.
The Lord is quite specific in Section 98 of the Doctrine & Covenants that preemptive warfare (a Bush Doctrine continued through America’s current administration) violates his commandments. Perhaps you recall an address by President Spencer W. Kimball wherein he said that: “Men depend on armaments as on idols. O foolish men who think the protect the world with armaments, battleships, and space equipment when only righteousness is needed!” That almost sounds like a reaction during the GOP debates wherein one of your opponents suggested that continual warfare and militarism breeds problems rather than solves them and then asked, “Were the shoe on the other foot, how would we react to such military invasion and occupation?” President Kimball continued: “We look to foreign programs, summit conferences, land bases. We depend on fortifications, or gods of stone; upon ships and planes and projectiles, our gods of iron–gods which have no ears, no eyes, no hearts. We pray to them for deliverance and depend upon them for protection.… we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism we pervert the Savior’s teachings.”
Your stance on war is a particular issue that forms a wedge between you and the teachings you embraced from the Church in which you were raised. Whereas scriptures emphatically declare that we should “Renounce war and proclaim peace,” (D&C 98:16) your various statements have proclaimed otherwise. Our Founding Fathers, of whom LDS scripture explain were raised for the very purpose of pioneering our Constitution and laying the groundwork for a free country, (D&C 101:77–80) were adamantly opposed to warfare. Perhaps James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, said it best: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Can you think of a time during your lifetime when war was not present? Doesn’t our recent history, and your various statements about warfare parallel Mormon’s observation that: “It is impossible for tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people.” (Mormon 5:4)
Many of those who would follow you are concerned about your apparent disregard for the Constitution and its companion, the Bill of Rights. As you know from your reading, the Lord had specific reference to them when he said: “That law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.” He then counseled his followers to “befriend that law which is the constitutional law of the land.” (D&C 98:5–6)
Your Church has looked toward the overriding rationale of the United States Constitution as a document that supports “that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges.” Obviously, anything of a mandatory nature flies in the face of freedom; yet, mandatory healthcare (often referred to as Romneycare) is compulsory and only exists by mandate. All studies apparently agree that as a system of healthcare it is abrasively costly but, even more disconcerting, it violates not only the initial premise of the Constitution, but invades individual rights and desires for free choice of coverage. Yet, you claim authorship and even show pride in its adoption on a national level.
You understand that befriending the Constitution literally means knowing it and becoming friends with it. In a debate, however, you unabashedly admitted that you didn’t know it and deferred a Constitutional question to one of your opponents. What a dangerous precedent when the following verse of scripture unequivocally states that “whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.” You would agree that there is accountability–especially for one chosen to guide the course of a free nation.
Others have written about your disregard for the nation’s Second Amendment–the private ownership of firearms. Although you variously answered questions about your own gun ownership and eventually even joined the NRA and said that you hunted small game; as a political student and leader, you know that the Second Amendment has virtually nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with protection from abusive leaders. Your encouragement of the misnamed “assault weapons” ban and the government-aided determination of what weapons can be owned by whom once having procured government permission cannot be looked upon in any other way than infringement on the right to bear arms.
Most egregious to Constitutional protections have been your support of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). As you know, both significantly veer from Constitutional protections. Whereas our Fourth Amendment ensures Americans against “unlawful search and seizure,” the PATRIOT Act allows homes to be entered and searched without probable cause. Likewise, the PATRIOT Act trumps the Sixth Amendment written to ensure a speedy and public trial by negating the right to trial and allowing indefinite imprisonment. The NDAA reinforces the PATRIOT Act by denying trial and the right of habeus corpus to those accused (not found guilty) of perceived terrorism.
You have spoken often about the U.S Constitution and its lofty beginnings and protections. You, more so than most Latter-day Saints, understand the scriptural warning that “whatsoever is more or less than this cometh of evil.”
Both the “evil schemers” that President Hinckley referred to in the Book of Mormon, and the “awful situation” that Moroni warned modern-day readers about, have direct reference to Gadianton destruction that permeates the scripture. Nowhere do readers find that as prevalent as in the book of Helaman where they were engaged in “all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God.” (Helaman 6:22) Leaders were obviously undermining Constitutional laws with laws that were unjust, thereby “trampling under their feet the commandments of God and turning unto their own ways [to] build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver.” (Helaman 6:31) Little wonder that the Lord would later say that “whatsoever is more or less that this cometh of evil.”
Mormon, in abridging Helaman’s book, warned readers about Gadianton influence today. He explained how they secretly operated by “filling the judgment seats–having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Helaman 7:4) In this way “they did obtain the sole management of the government.” (Helaman 6:39) Thus they were “held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world.” (Helaman 7:5)
Mitt, you know that government wields a two-edged sword. Although none of us are quite certain of the far-reaching consequences of its misuse, all Latter-day Saints know the sacred role of the Constitution and its precepts. To all of us, but particularly to political leaders as yourself, Section 134 of the Doctrine & Covenants recounts that: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good of safety and society.” Such laws “will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” (D&C 134:1–2)
I am deeply concerned about the above cited issues and the directions that you have chosen to respond to them. They are troubling because as a potential president of our country, weighty decisions could be made to significantly curtail our liberties, not only perpetuating but under the guise of conservatism, actually expanding such encroachment.
Dr. Jack Monnett
Jack Monnett is a contemporary historian who particularly writes about educational themes as they intertwine with Latter-day Saint history. Jack holds degrees in education from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in the Historical Foundations of Education from the University of Utah. He has taught in the LDS Church Educational System as well as in public schools, and currently teaches part-time for BYU Continuing Education. Brother Monnett has previously served as a bishop and as a member of a stake presidency.