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November 17, 2011

The U.S.‘s first Mormon president?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/the_uss_first_mormon_president_20111117/

If you have been following the GOP presidential nomination race, then you know that Mitt Romney has gone from frontrunner to an afterthought to frontrunner again after letting all the other interlopers implode.

Now Harold Bloom, the Yale professor of English, asks: “Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough?” An excerpt from his cynical op-ed:

I recall prophesying in 1992 that by 2020 Mormonism could become the dominant religion of the western United States. But we are not going to see that large a transformation. I went wrong because the last two decades have witnessed the deliberate dwindling of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into just one more Protestant sect. Without the changes, Mitt Romney and Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a fellow Mormon, would not seem plausible candidates.

Our political satirists, with Mr. Romney evidently imminent, delight in describing the apparent weirdness of Mormon cosmology and allied speculations, but they forget the equal strangeness of Christian mythology, now worn familiar by repetition. Jorge Luis Borges shrewdly classified all theology as fantastic literature, and Joseph Smith’s adventures in the spiritual realm are at least refreshingly original, and were even in 19th-century America, when homegrown systems of belief sprouted prodigiously. Smith was not a good writer, except for one or two of his sermons, as reported in transcriptions by his auditors, but his mythmaking faculty was fecund.

The accurate critique of Mormonism is that Smith’s religion is not even monotheistic, let alone democratic. Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer openly describes their innermost beliefs, they clearly hold on to the notion of a plurality of gods. Indeed, they themselves expect to become gods, following the path of Joseph Smith.

When the campaign season began, I didn’t think Romney had a chance. But now I find myself wondering whether that’s true. Romney seems destined to get the GOP nomination and I don’t see Republicans or even right-leaning independents withholding their vote from Romney simply because he is Mormon and not a Protestant Christian.

(For a critical look at Bloom’s op-ed, check out this post from Mark Paredes at the Jews and Mormons blog.)

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