America's "Divine Founding"


It turns out Mitt Romney has indeed addressed the question of whether he wears sacred Mormon religious garments under his own clothes. This is from an Atlantic Monthly profile in 2005 by Sridhar Pappu:

Mitt Romney is not Rick Santorum, who is evidently incapable of being photographed without a Bible in his hand. But after reading about how deeply committed his father was to the faith (for instance, making the decision to run for governor of Michigan only after discussing it with David O. McKay, the president of the Mormon Church, and spending twenty-four hours fasting and praying), I finally asked Romney, "How Mormon are you?"

"How Mormon am I?" he said. "You know, the principles and values taught to me by faith are values I aspire to live by and are as American as motherhood and apple pie. My faith believes in family, believes in Jesus Christ. It believes in serving one's neighbor and one's community. It believes in military service. It believes in patriotism; it actually believes this nation had an inspired founding. It is in some respects a quintessentially American faith, and those values are values I aspire to live by. And I'm not perfect, but I'm one aspiring to be a good person as defined by the biblical Judeo-Christian standards that our society would recognize."

"Do you wear the temple garments?" I asked uncomfortably, referring to the special undergarments worn by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (The underwear has markings denoting the covenants of the Mormon faith, and is meant to serve as a reminder of the high standards Mormons are expected to uphold. The rules governing its wear and disposal seem as complex as those pertaining to, say, the American flag.)

He answered, "I'll just say those sorts of things I'll keep private."

He may have to say more than that in a national campaign. People will want to know about secret handshakes, secret rituals, tithing, and so on. Would part of his presidential salary go to the LDS church, for example? Does he tithe already?

For my part, I'm uninterested in Romney's personal religious practices. But I am concerned that Romney believes that America had a "divine founding". When? Does he mean the Declaration of Independence? Does he mean the period when Mormons believe Jesus arrived in America and hung out for a while shortly after the resurrection? Or when exactly? A person's private faith is irrelevant to me. But if it means he holds that one country on earth has a special divine founding, then that has serious ramifications for foreign policy, at the very least. Could someone fill me in on what Romney may mean by America's "divine founding"? Obviously Washington and Jefferson weren't gods (although Mormons believe they now could be, right?) So what role did the Mormon God play in founding America? This is an important question for understanding a potential president's political philosophy. And since the theocons believe in bringing religious doctrine into the public square as a basis for political decisions, and Romney is the theocon candidate, how can they object to the dialogue?

(Photo: Paul Sancya/AP.)