The Rise of Mormonism
Author Stephen Mansfield examines how Mormons, including Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have become a force in America.
BY: Stephen Mansfield
engine #4—patriotism: the Calling of the United states and the free Market
Then there is the fiery patriotism inherent in Mormonism, which springs from the LDS certainty that the United States is divinely ordained. They draw this, first, from the Book of Mormon assertion that at least some of the ancient tribes in the New World were members of God’s chosen people, the Jews of Israel. That Jesus Christ appeared in America after his resurrection from the dead is confirmation of a special destiny. That the Book of Mormon was revealed in New York not long after the nation was born strengthens this view, as does the fact that the Garden of Eden, the spot upon which Jesus Christ will return to earth, and the headquarters of the true Church of Jesus Christ are all in the United States. Even the US Consti- tution is believed to be of divine origin. A treasured scripture finds Heavenly Father proclaiming, “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men who I raised up unto this very purpose.” Then, after Jesus Christ returns to earth, the world will be ruled from two Temples, one in Jerusalem and another in—Jackson County, Missouri.
Mormonism has spiritually riveted itself to the United States, so it is no surprise that Mormons have become super- patriots as a result. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has sung at the inauguration of five presidents. Their Constitutional scholars, historians, and jurists have been among the most influential in the nation, particularly in recent decades. They, along with patriotic evangelicals, have tended the flame that illuminates a distinctly spiritual vision for the United States.
In recent years, this religious devotion to the United States has included a near-religious commitment to the free market system. It was not always so. Though in their early years Mormons were as devoted to free enterprise as they are today, they also esteemed economic equality, often embraced communal living, and strove for what one LDS historian described as “socialization of surplus incomes.” They observed a stern Law of Consecration and Stewardship in which the faithful deeded— “consecrated” all their property to the Church and were granted a smaller “stewardship” in return. The first generation of Latter Day Saints was so convinced of its social obligations that it was used as an argument for the controversial practice of polygamy. The uncared-for woman would have a home. The impoverished widow would be welcomed into the largesse of a loving family. Even Joseph Smith, founder of the faith, married two elderly women merely to provide them care.
By contrast, the Latter-day Saints of today have been called “free-market apostles.” It was likely only a matter of time before this occurred, since free-market principles grow organi- cally from Mormon soil. Their experience and their doctrines give them a fear of overreaching government, a devotion to volunteerism, an abhorrence of debt, a love of “hard” money, an admiration for thrift, a religious commitment to storing goods against the day of trouble, and, of course, a devotion to unfettered progress. There is also in LDS theology the guar- anteed spiritual exchange that many Americans associate with the prosperity gospel of television preachers: that to serve God is to be rewarded, that righteous living draws divine blessing. It is little surprise, then, that Mormons run many of the nation’s largest corporations. It is no surprise that Brigham Young University is becoming the Harvard of libertarian economics.
It is even less surprise that Mormons might supply most of the ground troops for free-market, multilevel enterprises like Amway and Mary Kay. And it is certainly no surprise that an LDS economist would insist that “Mormonism is the Protes- tant ethic on steroids.”
All of these—the ideal of progress, the power of family, the priority of education, and devotion to a divinely ordained America with its free-market heritage—have helped to fashion the engine of the Mormon advance in American society, the aid of their spiritual claims aside. They have each helped to create the celebrated “Mormon Moment.”