(Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will appear on CBS News' 60 Minutes this evening. What has been previewed are some questions on polygamy and Romney's premarital sex life. But I think there is an uglier skeleton in Romney's closet.)
Mitt Romney has some additional "splaining" to do. No, it's not about the Mormon Church's problem with polygamy. That pales in comparison to what I'm talking about. After all, what's a few wives between friends? No, the bigger problem is the Mormon Church's racist doctrine.
You see, Mormons believe(d) that people with non-white skin were cursed by God and inferior to white-skinned people. I'm not sure of their true current stance on the subject since they changed their minds in 1978 when the ban on black men in the Mormon priesthood was lifted by "divine revelation" simultaneously to the then church president Spencer W. Kimball and the Twelve other white guys in the room with him at the time.
Prior to 1978, folks who had even one drop of the "seed of Cain" -- the so-called Lamanites -- were considered cursed by God. These "mud people" were considered inferior and wouldn't be allowed into the pearly gates of heaven. "Lamanites" refers to all peoples who are not pale white.That includes Polynesians, Hispanics, Africans, Asians with dark complexions, to name just a few. Certain categories of "Lamanites" like Native American Indians, could become Nephites (white) if they embraced the Mormon culture sufficiently. [Author's note: no, I'm not kidding. According to Mormon doctirine, their skin would change from brown to white.]
A few outtakes from Mormon scripture (easily found on the internet). [Author's note: the boldface added for clarity]:
2 Nephi 5:21
And the Lord had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Alma 3: 6 "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."
3 Nephi 2:14-15
14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;
15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;
Or how about these items from various other Mormon instructional publications and official documents:
"The Book of Abraham is rich both in doctrine and in historical incidents. Of the latter the fact of the large influence (if not identity) of Egyptian religious ideas in Chaldea in the days of Abraham is established; the descent of the black race, Negro, from Cain, the first murderer; the preservation of that race through the flood by the wife of Ham--"Egyptus," which in the Chaldean signifies "Egypt," "which signifies that which is forbidden"--the descendants of "Egyptus" were cursed as pertaining to the priesthood--that is, they were barred from holding that divine power; the origin also of the Egyptians--these things, together with the account of Abraham migrating from Chaldea to Egypt, constitute the chief historical items that are contained in the book."
- Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.47, Pg.128
"From this it is very clear that the mark which was set upon the descendants of Cain was a skin of blackness, and there can be no doubt that this was the mark that Cain himself received; in fact, it has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the spirit of the Lord, and from whom His blessings have been withdrawn, have turned dark to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them."
- Juvenile Instructor, vol. 26, page 635
"We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the negro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness. We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race....every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun."
- The Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157
"For instance, the descendants of Cain cannot cast off their skin of blackness, at once, and immediately, although every soul of them should repent,... Cain and his posterity must wear the mark which God put upon them; and his white friends may wash the race of Cain with fuller's soap every day, they cannot wash away God's mark;..."
- LDS Publication, The Millennial Star, vol. 14, page 418
"Their skin is quite black, their hair woolly and black, their intelligence stunted, and they appear never to have arisen from the most savage state of barbarism."
- The Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157
Brigham Young: Death to inter-racial couples:
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the AFRICAN RACE? If the WHITE man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the PENALTY, under the LAW OF GOD, IS DEATH ON THE SPOT. THIS WILL ALWAYS BE SO." Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, page 110
That is just the tip of the iceberg; there is much more.
Even though the Book of Mormon teaches that African Americans are inferior and loathsome, -- uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind according to Mark E. Peterson -- it does state that they may eventually be saved. However, even in Heaven, they will be servants to others. - Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds_race.htm)
Gee, it really makes you want to convert.
The problem for Mitt Romney is at least two-fold. Given his age, Romney grew up in the church during the time in which this doctrine was official and enforced. That is, from the time he first set foot, or was carried by his father (former Michigan governor George Romney) and his mother into their local ward, this was his indoctrination. So what are Romney's deeply held beliefs about those who don't share his pale, Cain seed-free complexion? (And by the way, shouldn't tanning oneself -- which makes you dark-skinned, albeit artificially, be against Mormon ethics? Wouldn't you be emulating those you profess are inferior to you?) How has Romney -- if he has -- shed the racist beliefs held for so long, so dearly by his church?
If Romney holds true to the teachings of his religion, how does he govern fairly over a land where the Lamanites are multiplying rapidly to soon take over the Nephites? How are those who are not Mormon and are not Nephites trust him? How does Romney explain his conversion to a more "mainstream" view of contemporary race relations (equality, color-blind society, inclusion, integration, intermarriage) which may be flying in the face of the teachings of his church?
This is not a problem that Romney or other Mormons (including Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV)) can sweep under the rug or hide in a closet. The difference for Reid is that he is not running for President, an office which demands greater scrutiny of its aspirants by the whole of the populace, by whose mandate the winner of the office will govern.
Part of this historical "transformation" of the Mormon church came about with an unusual linkage between the Church, Brigham Young University, Bob Jones University and the Internal Revenue Service. In 1970, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because of its segregationist policies. To remedy the problem, Bob Jones U. changed its policies and allowed blacks to enroll if they promised to not to date white students, or marry whites, or if already married, were married to other black persons. However, the case filed against Bob Jones was still winding its way through the court system all the way to the Supreme Court. When it finally reached the High Court in 1982, Rex Lee, who later became BYU president was the U.S. Solicitor General -- the "supreme lawyer," the person who argues the government side of the case before the Court. Lee recused himself because he had once represented the Mormon Church on in a similar cause of action, and wanted to avoid a conflict of interest. It has been suggested that the 1978 "revelation" regarding black men and Mormon priesthood, was arrived at to avoid a fate like Bob Jones U.
Others from inside the Church suggest that because of the Church expansion into South America -- particularly Brazil -- the Mormons found themselves in a difficult spot. They had raised millions of dollars to build a temple and other church facilities in Brazil from donations from persons whose "Nephite" purity could not be determined. The quandary was that it was the same Brazilians -- who had intermarried through the generations with the native peoples and African slaves -- who had so generously donated to fund this expansion would be excluded by Mormon doctrine. That would make the Church exceedingly unpopular and threaten future expansion. What to do? Change the rules. Pretty convenient, huh?
Now, I'm sure someone will point out that there are African-Americans and other persons of color who are Mormon. I would ask whether they are fully aware of the repugnant history of this Church?
Mitt Romney may not like that he has to answer for the sins of his Church, or explain their teachings today. Nor will he like being quizzed about the depths of his beliefs. There is a lot to answer for. And he, as a lifelong member, seeking the highest office of this land, should start talking.