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...