Saturday, September 22, 2012

Two Book of Mormon-based Questions for Mitt Romney

Last night I dreamed I was on vacation with my family in eastern Finland, at my Uncle Vate's cabin.  My parents had invited Mitt Romney to join us there, and he had accepted.  (This part of the dream was not too far beyond the realm of possibility, as my parents actually know Governor Romney from when he was their Stake President in eastern Massachusetts.)

Göran and I were having an enjoyable time, relaxing with my Finnish cousins in sauna.  There were next door neighbors who had come over for sauna as well, and I was conversing with them in Finnish.  That was when Romney arrived.

He seemed relaxed and at home with my family.  He and my dad had been chatting in a friendly manner.  I felt this was a great opportunity to have a heart-to-heart talk with the presidential candidate, so I asked him if I might ask his thoughts on two questions that had been weighing on me of late.

Now, Mitt Romney and I definitely find ourselves on different parts of the political spectrum.  I plan to vote for his opponent in November.  But in my dream I felt no political animus toward him at all.  The questions I had for him were more motivated by the common faith that we share as Latter-day Saints.  They were real questions I have for myself, that I was interested in hearing what Mitt Romney's take on them might be, since as a political leader he might have particular insight into them.

My questions were actually questions posed in the Book of Mormon related to the moral challenges of wealth and power.

The Book of Mormon narrative presents a particular problem of human nature.  When human beings face adversity, it typically humbles us.  We recognize our limits and our weaknesses and our common humanity.  We recognize our need for God, and we repent.  When we repent, we then build our lives and our societies on righteous principles of restraint and compassion.  And as we do this, we begin to prosper.  Unfortunately, just as adversity has the effect of humbling us, prosperity has the effect of hardening us.  We begin to emphasize invidious differences -- on the basis of race or ancestry, religion or wealth.  Our society begins to disintegrate into factions, and we descend into pride, hatred and warfare.  This in turn results in adversity that humbles us, and the cycle begins again.  The Book of Mormon poses the question: how can human beings break this cycle?  How can we both prosper and remain committed to principles of humility and righteousness?

(Of course, LDS scripture insists that breaking the cycle is possible!  Book of Mormon peoples established two centuries of perfect peace and unity after the coming of Christ.  In the Book of Moses, the city of Enoch ascended to Heaven after establishing Zion -- a society based on perfect unity and compassion.)

My first question for Romney related to a specific case of the pride-humility cycle: "How do you think you would deal with the temptations of presidential power?"

This specific question is explored in the Book of Mormon in the Book of Mosiah, in the stories of the second Mosiah, a wise and righteous king who abdicated the throne in order to give his people a republic, and in the story of Noah, a wicked king who abused his power to personal advantage, and brought down his entire society as a result.

My second question for Romney was also drawn from the Book of Mosiah: "As president, how would you apply the principles of the sermon of King Benjamin?" I woke up from my dream sitting next to Governor Romney, flipping through my Book of Mormon to Mosiah chapter 4, to the section of King Benjamin's sermon where he discusses our treatment of the poorest among us -- the "beggars" (and where King Benjamin insists that we are all, in fact, "beggars" in relation to God, and that we therefore are particularly culpable if we withhold our substance from those who are less fortunate than ourselves).

(In my dream, my edition of the Book of Mormon was gorgeously illuminated, with key texts written in calligraphy, and with illustrations in the margins around the text!)

Unfortunately, I woke up before the Romney in my dream could answer my questions...


M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Hirsch said...

Interesting (although I know nothing about the Book of Mormon) but I've seen Romney when he is confronted with questions from people that challenge him and he tends to say something trite and walk away. I think Obama would at least be willing to discuss it with you over a beer (in your case root beer).

J G-W said...

I would love to hear Obama answer these questions as well. I would love to hear both of them talk about what the temptations of presidential power are, and how they deal with them

Anonymous said...

It sure would be nice to be able to vote for someone who was truly pro-life... someone against abortion and euthanasia as well as against war, poverty, and one for health care for everyone.

speaking of being beggars...

“We are beggars. This is true.” Scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, these are reportedly the last words Martin Luther would write before his death on February 18, 1546.

J G-W said...

Martin Luther was a wise man.

I think I'd actually read that somewhere!

Neal said...

Ooh! This is an interesting one! I think I would also want to ask him under what circumstances he felt the accumulation of wealth was justified. It says in the scriptures that if we have a true testimony we will only seek for riches to help the poor and needy (Jacob 2) - which implies redistribution, not accumulation.

J G-W said...

Neal - Anyone familiar with Book of Mormon teaching on wealth and poverty, or anyone familiar with the history of the early Saints (this dispensation or the last dispensation) can't fail to be struck by the disconnect between that and the currently expressed views of the Republican party, including the attacks on Obama on the grounds that he favors "redistribution" of wealth. (I'm not sure Obama actually DOES favor redistribution of wealth. He is NOT a closet Socialist. So... maybe the rhetoric of the Democratic party fares better against the values of the Book of Mormon, but not the behavior.)

Knight of Nothing said...

Interesting post, and it actually came in handy in an unexpected way: Lacey is excited about The Book of Mormon (Broadway Show) coming to Minneapolis (we have tickets!), and she wrote about it. In response to her post, she received a snarky note about voting for Romney from a conservative friend. So I looked up the passage in Mosiah that you alluded to and quoted it as a reply to him. It's quite a powerful entreaty to give assistance to the helpless.

J G-W said...

We have tickets for the Book of Mormon the Musical too!

Duck said...

Hi, John. I am wondering how you are? Have not seen you blogging for a while. I hope all is good with your health and that your family is enjoying having a new son. ;)

Love, always. Duck