Mitt Romney's Ethical Dilemma (II)

IN MY LAST POST, I pointed out that Mitt Romney, as an active, involved member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a liar. The lie was that he "came to" a belief in the wrongness of homosexuality and rightness of the anti-abortion cause. I asserted that no Mormon could possibly climb to the dizzying heights of Church leadership positions as he had and believe that homosexuality was not sinful and that abortion was anything short of murder. The only answer I could deduce from Romney's Mitt-flopping on these important issues is that when he was asked to choose between his private beliefs and his public actions, Mitt choose to lie, and he did it for the pathetic reason of personal and political gain.

Most men would much rather be found on God's right hand at the last day than be elected president of the United States, if it meant denying their faith. This is as it should be. An oath to God certainly trumps prior agreements made between men. And if a man makes an oath to God, and later makes another, conflicting agreement with man, the previous oath to God should take precedence. In the words of Thomas More, a man who would break a solemn oath "needn't hope to find himself again."

Fortunately, such conflicts are rare. In modern life, oaths exist almost exclusively in the church, the legal system, and politics. Occasionally, there are conflicts between man-made agreements and covenants with God. Some Americans were disturbed by the religion of 1960 presidential candidate John Kennedy, which hinted at a conflict between his duties as a Catholic and his duties as president. He responded that if elected, he would be under no obligation to obey the Pope. And of course that was true, for lay Catholics make no such oath of obedience to the Holy See.

But there is such an oath in Mormonism, and it is undertaken in the LDS temple ceremony, commonly called the "endowment," a term used in the sense of valuable knowledge granted to mortals by God. The knowledge is communicated in an allegorical ritual detailing mankind's journey from a pre-earth life with God himself, to mortality here on earth, where we are to be tested to see if we will be obedient to God's laws, thus enabling us to return to His presence after death. At each stage in the endowment, participants are required to make sacred covenants of obedience to such laws, including the Law of Sacrifice (the Mosaic Law), the Law of the Gospel (Christ's teachings), the Law of Chastity, and finally and ultimately, the Law of Consecration.

While much of the endowment is shrouded in mystery due to a covenant to not discuss it outside the temple itself, the covenants themselves are not mysterious; they are simple, straight-forward agreements made with God designed to hold the participant to high standards of moral and ethical behavior. Temple-going Mormons take these covenants very seriously; indeed until recently the endowment covenants were made under penalty of death should they be revealed to the outside world. Though that penalty was excised from the endowment in 1990, participants are still reminded that breaking or revealing those covenants will bring upon them the wrath of God. Yet there is nothing in the endowment covenants that conflicts with the actions of any patriotic American citizen. Most of the covenants originate in the Bible, encouraging Mormons to be "honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous," and to do "good to all men."

A covenant, by definition, is more than an agreement between men; it is a solemn oath made between man and God. In our secular society, such covenants are reserved for the courts, oaths of citizenship, and certain public offices. When a foreign national becomes a U.S. citizen, he makes a sacred covenent:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

A greater obligation is required, and a higher oath is taken, when a person becomes the president of the United States. The president-elect places his left hand on the Bible and raises his right hand and says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The question in this presidential election cycle is whether Mitt Romney can, in good faith, take such an oath. The difficulty arises because Romney has sworn ultimate allegience to something other than the Constitution. In the LDS temple endowment, which Romney undertook over forty years ago, he raised his right arm and covenanted "before God, angels, and these witnesses" to obey the Law of Consecration:

You . . . consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

Romney's oath wasn't made simply to God; it was made specifically to the Mormon church. And it wasn't simply to participate, obey the teachings, or financially support the Church; it was to consecrate ("set apart") everything he has, not to God in general terms, but specifically to the LDS church. The wording of the oath puts it in direct conflict with the presidential oath: his first and last fealty is to the LDS church, not to the Constitution of the United States.

We've already seen the how Mitt Romney lies to protect his personal beliefs. Can there be any doubt that should a real conflict arise, President Romney will choose the Mormon church over the United States of America?

Yet he lied again. In a recent speech, he said, "When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God." (emphasis mine). He continued, "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." He concluded by saying, "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest."

Yet clearly, to temple-going Mormons, the Oath of Office of the President is not their highest promise to God. And while we do not know yet what kind of influence the LDS church will have on a President Romney, still he has made a solemn covenant to obey them and to place the interests of the LDS church above all else. Finally, it is an outright lie that a believing Mormon will separate the affairs of religion and politics. In the early 1970s, the LDS church entered the political sphere in a very public way to oppose the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Though in recent years its public advocacy has been more muted, its philosophy has not materially changed since Joseph Smith ran for president in 1844 on a platform of a "theocratic democracy," with the goal of a U.S. government informed and influenced by Biblical and LDS theology.

Again, Mitt has proven that he will say anything to get elected. In the past he has lied about his views on homosexuality and abortion. And, as if that were not enough, he is now lying about the most serious, sacred oath an American can take, the Oath of Office of the President of the United States.

I hope American voters will not force Mitt Romney to choose between his church and our nation.

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