Damon Linker's article about Mitt Romney and Mormonism was unworthyof The New Republic's standards of journalism and ethics ("The BigTest," January 1- 15). If Romney's religion is such a concern, whydidn't Linker fret about its impact on Harry Reid, the Senatemajority leader? Reid is an active and believing Mormon, but Linkerfailed even to mention his name or explain why far more than halfof Senate Democrats voted to make him their leader. Religion isonly dangerous in the hands of conservative Republicans, it seems.Linker is also dead wrong on Mormon doctrine. He claims thatMormons worship a finite God, which is patently untrue. The Book ofMormon describes God as "infinite and eternal" in numerouspassages. Linker claims that Mormons believe God is arbitrary andnot subject to any permanent or higher moral law. Yet, again, TheBook of Mormon plainly teaches that God's nature is unchanging andthe perfect embodiment of every moral virtue. Indeed, it teachesthat, if God were to cease to be just, he would "cease to be God."Mormons can appeal to a higher moral law as much as adherents ofany other faith. Finally, Linker portrays the president of theChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an all-powerfulprophet with almost despotic powers and no checks against the abuseof his authority. This is a gross exaggeration. All major decisionstaken by the president of the Church must be ratified unanimouslyby his two counselors and by the Quorum of Twelve Apostles--inother words, by 14 very practical and experienced men fromdifferent backgrounds and political persuasions. There are morechecks and balances in this denomination than in most. But why letfacts get in the way when Mormonism is the issue?
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Linker asserts that "Mormonism lacks the intellectual or spiritualresources to challenge a declaration of the prophet who runs theChurch, regardless of how theologically or morally outrageous thatdeclaration might be." Addressing the issue of Church members whomight say they would follow their Church leaders even if they knewthem to be wrong, Mormon Apostle Charles W. Penrose said, "[S]uchobedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in theextreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself shouldnot claim a rank among intelligent beings." Linker says LDSdoctrine would have us believe that "[e]verything we know-- orcould ever know--about right and wrong comes entirely from divinecommands communicated to humanity by prophets." Hardly. Universityof Richmond Professor Terryl Givens, author of By The Hand ofMormon, notes the fundamental LDS doctrine that "revelation is theprovince of everyman" and that "concepts like revelation, prayer,inspiration" are available to all. Indeed, Givens explains, "The`knowability' of all truth, the openness of mystery, the reality ofpersonal revelation find vivid illustration within [The Book ofMormon] and invite reenactment outside it." Linker's essay needs alittle additional research.
damon linker responds:
Crafting an adequate response to Pamela Hamblin's letter wouldrequire engaging in a fairly elaborate bit of Mormon prooftexting.Out of consideration for tnr's non-LDS readers, I'll limit myselfto suggesting that Hamblin reread Joseph Smith's "King FollettDiscourse" and the entry on "Natural Law" in the Encyclopedia ofMormonism for some evidence that Mormon theology is just a bit moreunorthodox than she seems to believe. As for Hamblin's contentionthat, in my view, "[r]eligion is only dangerous in the hands ofconservative Republicans, " I unapologetically plead guilty, atleast if we limit ourselves to the present moment in U.S. politicalhistory. It is, after all, the religious right that has injectedpiety into the nation's politics in recent years. Having done so,it now wishes to declare the religious views of candidatesoff-limits for public debate, discussion, and scrutiny. Sorry, butthe right can't have it both ways. If believers want to keep theirreligious convictions private, I wholeheartedly encourage them tofollow the lead of such Democrats as John F. Kennedy and Harry Reidin doing so. If, instead, they insist on bringing their faith withthem into the public square, then they would be well-advised todrop their defensiveness and get used to reading articles likemine.
Maurice McBride would have us believe that non-Mormons need notworry about the LDS prophet who acts as "the mouthpiece of God onEarth" because every Mormon is his own prophet, receiving his ownequally authoritative revelation directly from God. Suffice it tosay that this does nothing to allay my concerns about the prospectof the United States electing a Mormon president.