Since she left 13 years ago, [Sue] Emmett [granddaughter of Brigham Young, the founder of Salt Lake City, first governor of Utah, and president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)] has become a leader of the ex-Mormon movement, which she says is not about bashing her former church but about helping former members make the difficult adjustment. “It’s such an insular world, and for some people it is really hard to make it on the ‘outside,’ so to speak,” she says.
Emmett has watched Mitt Romney very closely throughout his public life and has strong opinions about what shaped his personality and his character. “Mitt is a product not only of his wealth, but of an organization that gives men power when they are 12 years old,” she says. “That is when boys are ordained with the priesthood. It is a big moment in a Mormon male’s childhood.”
As for what pundits say is Romney's difficulty connecting with people, Emmett blames it largely on what she calls “the entitled Mormon male syndrome, where the leadership professes compassion and concern but leaves the manifestations of that to the drones. All male leadership is not this way; there are some wonderful men who do their best to exercise their power compassionately, but many do not.”
Emmett says Romney was a bishop, “a position where everyone defers to you. What a bishop says goes. People come to them to receive blessings.” He then became a stake president, she says, which means he presided over several congregations, and at that point bishops deferred to him.
“Mitt has had people defer to him and not challenge him his entire life,” says Emmett. “In the Mormon church if you challenge your priesthood leaders it’s a very bad thing to do, especially for women. As the world can now see, Mitt has a very hard time with being questioned and criticized; he’s had so little of this in his life."
Will he be more beholden to his church than to the American people? Emmett recalls that when Romney was stake president in the church, he was pro-life. But when he was running for governor he changed his position to pro-choice. A woman in the church who was a good friend of Emmett’s went to see Romney and thanked him for changing his position. “He told her that he had talked to church leaders in Salt Lake,” Emmett says, “and that they gave him permission to change his position.”
The Romney campaign did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Emmett says she doesn’t think Romney has the ability to separate what leaders of the church want from what the country needs.
“Mitt has been groomed to become president from a very young age,” says Emmett. “The thing is, I think his father [George Romney, who ran for president in 1968] would have made a much better president. In many ways the church was more benign then than it is now.”
Regarding Romney and the presidency, Emmett cites a bit of Mormon lore called the White Horse Prophecy that has floated around since the time of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. It suggests that Mormons believe a time will come when the U.S. Constitution is eroding and Mormon leaders will save it and usher in a new theocracy with Mormons in charge. Emmett’s great-great-grandfather talked about it. In a discourse from 1855, Young wrote that "when the Constitution hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the 'Mormon' Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it."
Romney has said that he considers the White Horse Prophecy just a matter of speculation by church members. "I haven't heard my name associated with it or anything of that nature," he told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2007. "That's not official church doctrine…I don't put that at the heart of my religious belief."
But Emmett begs to differ. “I can guarantee you that there are millions of Mormons who believe this prophecy and see Romney as potential fulfillment of it,” she says. “As a Mormon, you grow up hearing about this prophecy. I think Mitt believes he has a mandate from God to become president so he can help move this along. I don’t know if it’s a conscious thought, but it's in his subconscious.”
Emmett says she thinks Romney’s biggest fault is that he has a “serious problem telling the truth. There is flip-flopping, which he has done more than any politician in modern history, and then there is out and out lying,” she says. “This kind of thing has sadly been a part of the church from the very beginning. Some modern apostles actually taught that it is not always the best thing to tell the truth if it interferes with preaching gospel.”
Emmett says the notion of “Lying for the Lord,” as it has been called, implies that teaching the whole truth about the church should be avoided. At a presentation on Lying for the Lord at the 2008 Exmormon Foundation conference, Ken Clark addressed the issue. Clark, who worked as a teacher for the LDS Church Education System (CES) for 27 years and also served as a bishop before leaving the church in 2003, tells The Daily Beast, “Lying has become an institutionalized method of administrative control with the church.”
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment