Skip to comments.Harold Bloom's Anxiety of (Mormon) Influence
Posted on 11/15/2011 5:25:40 AM PST by Colofornian
One odd feature of this bizarre Republican primary season is what we haven't seen yet: a full-bore re-litigation of Mitt Romney's Mormonism. There was a one-day tizzy last month over the anti-Mormon comments by Southern Baptist Convention leader Rev. Robert Jeffers, a Rick Perry supporter, but that's pretty much been it, which is all the more notable given that Romney's not the only Mormon in the race.
Instead, the only ones to really contend with the implications of Romney's Mormonism have been a few voices about as far from GOP circles as one can get. First, there was Chris Lehmann's recent cover story in Harper's, which did not address Romney's candidacy directly but which posed an intriguing theory for why the country may be more open to Mormons these days: because the country has increasingly embraced a Mormon-style form of prosperity theology fusing morality, materialism and financial success, with a strong helping of gold fetishism. Mormons, Lehmann suggests, need not worry about making themselves acceptable to other Americans because Americans are becoming them.
Yesterday came a more surprising entrant in the small camp of 2011 Mormon skeptics: Harold Bloom, the legendary Shakespeare scholar at Yale best known for "Anxiety of Influence," (1973), which argued that poets and writers are engaged above all in a struggle with their great precursors. I knew that Bloom had strong side interests in the mystic traditions of Gnosticism and the Kabbalah but I would not have expected him to be weighing in as heavily on the matter of Romney's Mormonism as he did in the Times' Sunday Review. In his characteristically ornate prose, Bloom delivers the bluntest warning against electing a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I have seen this season. He does so by contrasting Mormon founder Joseph Smith, whom Bloom finds quite compelling, with the current leaders of the church, whom he views as hardly distinguishable from the more self-interested members of the 1 percent now being targeted by the Occupy Movement:
...Should Mr. Romney be elected president, Smiths dream of a Mormon Kingdom of God in America would not be fulfilled, since the 21st-century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has little resemblance to its 19th-century precursor. The current head of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson, known to his followers as prophet, seer and revelator, is indistinguishable from the secular plutocratic oligarchs who exercise power in our supposed democracy. The Salt Lake City empire of corporate greed has little enough in common with the visions of Joseph Smith. The oligarchs of Salt Lake City, who sponsor Mr. Romney, betray what ought to have been their own religious heritage.
Though I read Christopher Hitchens with pleasure, his characterization of Joseph Smith as a fraud and conjuror is inadequate. A superb trickster and protean personality, Smith was a religious genius, uniquely able to craft a story capable of turning a self-invented faith into a people now as numerous as the Jews, in America and abroad...Joseph Smith continues to be regarded by many Mormons as a final authority on issues of belief, though so much of his legacy, including plural marriage, had to be compromised in the grand bargain by which the moguls of Salt Lake City became plutocrats defining the Republican party.
At the same time as he sees today's Mormonism as having become indistinguishable from the rest of the plutocracy, Bloom directly challenges the notion that the faith must be accepted on the same terms as other religions.
A Mormon presidency is not quite the same as an ostensibly Catholic or Protestant one, since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints insists on a religious sanction for its moralistic platitudes. The 19th-century Mormon theologian Orson Pratt, who was close both to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, stated a principle the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never repudiated: Any people attempting to govern themselves by laws of their own making, and by officers of their own appointment, are in direct rebellion against the kingdom of God.
Mormons earn godhead though their own efforts, hoping to join the plurality of gods, even as they insist they are not polytheists. ... The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead, with a planet all his own separate from the earth and nation where he now dwells. From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney? How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?
Bloom concludes on an ominous note.
Mormonisms best inheritance from Joseph Smith was his passion for education, hardly evident in the anti-intellectual and semi-literate Southern Baptist Convention. I wonder though which is more dangerous, a knowledge-hungry religious zealotry or a proudly stupid one? Either way we are condemned to remain a plutocracy and oligarchy. I can be forgiven for dreading a further strengthening of theocracy in that powerful brew.
Granted, Harold Bloom's ruminations on Mormonism deep in the Sunday Times are likely not to register much in the South Carolina GOP primary. But the piece is worth reading in full.
From the article: Mormons earn godhead though their own efforts, hoping to join the plurality of gods, even as they insist they are not polytheists. ... The Mormon patriarch, secure in his marriage and large family, is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhead, with a planet all his own separate from the earth and nation where he now dwells. From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney? How would he represent the other 98 percent of his citizens?
Bloom also references Joseph Smith as "a superb trickster."
Delacoert posted the Bloom article: Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough?
Ping mention in post #1
|Lds Leader||Chronological 'Prophet' or Fundamental # (or Other Title)||Overlap Areas: Could the President of the U.S. become a 'puppet' to an Lds 'Prophet?' (The Lds Prophets -- in their own words)|
|John Taylor||Lds 'Prophet' #3||The Almighty has established this kingdom with order and laws and every thing pertaining thereto [so] that when the nations shall be convulsed, we may stand forth as saviours and finally redeem a ruined world, not only in a religious but in a political point of view. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 342, April 13, 1862)|
|Orson Hyde||President of the Lds Quorum of the 12 Apostles for 28 years (1847-1875)||What the world calls Mormonism will rule every nation...God has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it. This will make the heathen rage. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 53)|
|Heber J. Grant||Lds 'Prophet' #7||"Elder Marion G. Romney recalled the counsel of President Heber J. Grant: 'My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray'" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78)." Cited in Official Lds publication Search the Commandments: Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide, p. 209 (1984)|
|Harold B. Lee||Lds 'Prophet' #11||...President Harold B. Lee said: 'We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, '...as if from mine own mouth...(D&C 21:4-5)...You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself..." Cited in official Lds publication Remember Me: Relief Society Personal Study Guide I, p. 27 (1989)|
|Spencer Kimball||Lds 'Prophet' #12||"President Spencer W. Kimball said: '...We deal with many things which are thought to be not so spiritual; but all things are spiritual with the Lord, and he expects us to listen, and to obey..." (In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 8; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 7) Cited in official Lds publication Come, Follow Me: Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide 1983, p.12 (1983)|
|What about Marion G. Romney, cousin to Mitt's father?||Who was he in Lds hierarchy? (Title: 'President' - Top 3 of church as 2nd counselor to both #11 & #12 Lds 'prophets')||"Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said: 'Following the living prophets is something that must be done in all seasons and circumstances. We must be like President Marion G. Romney, who humbly said, '..I have never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, and political life' (Conference Report, April 1941, p. 123). There are, or will be moments when prophetic declarations collide with our pride or our seeming personal interests...Do I believe in the living prophet even when he speaks on matters affecting me and my specialty directly? Or do I stop sustaining the prophet when his words fall in my territory? if the latter, the prophet is without honor in our country! (Things As They Really Are, p. 73). Cited in official Lds publication, Search the Commandments: Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide, pp. 275-276 (1984)|
|Ezra Taft Benson||Lds 'Prophet' #13||Benson speech given 2/26/80 @BYU. Summary: remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet (See excerpts re: 3 of 14 'fundamentals' below) Source: Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet|
|Benson (cont'd)||Fundamental #5||5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time. (My Q: Ya hear that Mitt Romney? Ya hear that Jon Huntsman?)|
|Benson (cont'd)||Fundamental #9||9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual. (My Q: Still listening, Mitt? Still listening, Jon?)|
|Benson (cont'd)||Fundamental #10||10. The prophet may advise on civic matters. (My Q: What say ye Mitt? What say ye Jon?)|
|Mitt Romney as POTUS???||Aside from above prophetic impositions, why would Mitt not only honor what these 'prophets' have spoken, but what a future Lds 'prophet' may tell him to do?||The Law of Consecration Oath Mitt Romney has sworn in the Mormon temple (done before marriage/sealing in temple): "You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the law of consecration as contained in this, the book of Doctrine and Covenants [he displays the book], in that you do 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." Source: What is an LDS Church/Mormon temple marriage/sealing? [Q: Please define 'Zion': The LDS PR Web site (lds.org) defines its primary meaning: "membership in the [LDS] church."]|
As I have said before, it will be the conservative Christians who will DECIDE the next GOP canidiate.
Naomi Wolf references Harold Bloom as a dirty old man groper.
What a crock. Mormons were monolithically Democrat until the 70s. The 1970s. Almost 100 years ofter the repudiation of plural marriage. Dude, I know you have a giant axe to grind against the Mormon church, but at least try, for crying out loud, to get stuff that can’t be trivially dismissed.
Let's start with your 100-year ago assumption:
Early 1960s: Author Carmon Hardy cites a poll taken of mainstream Mormons: 40% say they would engage in polygamy if told to by their "prophet."
Then, LDS apostle Bruce McConkies book, Mormon Doctrine (pp. 577-579 of 1966 edition, republished 1979 which was approved by the LDS First Presidency unlike the initial late 1950s version which was not) says that polygamy will return to the Saints before Jesus returns.
"...the holy practice" [of plural marriage]
"will commence again after the Second Coming of the"
[Mormon] "Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium."
Source: Mormon Doctrine, Lds "apostle" Bruce R. McConkie, Bookcraft, republished, 1979, p. 578 Now we're down to the last 30-50 years...
1998 LDS Church Handbook of Instructions for LDS: A deceased woman may be sealed to ALL men to whom she was legally married during her life. (Sealed in this case = sealed for all eternity to her multiple husbands, making her a polyandrous woman) [This sounds contemporary doesnt it? If the LDS Church did not want this proxy sealing practice being done in its temples, it has total authoritative say-soas it does in shutting the door on proxy baptisms in the cases of Jewish Holocaust victims]
Also current practice:: The LDS Church, as mentioned above, still allows a husband to be sealed in its temple to multiple wives (but only one "on this earth" wife at a time).
Hence, each time we see the bumper sticker, "Families are forever" -- that includes the Mormon belief that if you take wives in serial fashion -- you get them ALL as your eternal wives...provided you're a Mormon in good standing with a temple recommend, that is.
If the Mormon church was serious about "eradicating" future polygamy, it would ban the temple ritual for eternal sealings for a second wife. It doesn't. It views itself as the polygamous feeder system for eternal life family life.
Mormonism has simply temporarily "colonized" polygamy.
Monolithically Democrat until the 1970s?
They indeed were as a territory up until the 1890s. Then what happened?
Per the 1992 book, Church History: Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. By Daniel H. Ludlow, which is, btw, published by Deseret Book Co. -- owned by the Mormon church, note these Mormon prophet machinations in the 1890s:
To make sure of genuine diversity, the First Presidency asked Joseph F. Smith to join the Republican party, then the less popular of the two parties because of its leading part in the antipolygamy campaign. P. 529 Bruce A. Van Orden, Joseph F. Smith entry
Ah, a mild request, you say?
It was time for Utah politics to mirror the federal, with the Democratic and Republican parties both being strong. This took place with impressive dispatch through determined efforts by John Henry Smith, an apostle, and others. At their urging, local LDS leadersand in some cases entire congregationswere divided along national party lines. (Edward Leo Lyman, p. 599)
Urging? Entire congregations being dictated to, You become Republicans! Urging? How about dictate? How about directed?
So much for the Mormon leaders tossing their supposed cherished doctrine of free agency under the bus! They tell their dupes they are free, all the while controlling even what political party to join!
No wonder 94% of Mormons voted for Romney in 08 campaign in the states of Utah and Nevada!
1894: Utah reinforces move toward Republicanism:
State politics was reorganized after the 1890 Manifesto discontinuing polygamy was announced, and both the Republican and Democratic party emerged in the state. Many assumed that the traditional ties of many LDS Church leaders to the Democratic party philosophy would make Utah a strong Democratic state. In 1894, however, Republican Frank J. Cannon was elected Utah's delegate in Congress and the Republicans elected 60 members to the Constitutional Convention, a 13-vote majority over the Democratic. [Source for this & below quotes: Utah History Encyclopedia]
After Utah statehood, it swung back the Dems' way by 1896. But 'twas balanced again by 1900...and remained that way -- or with Republicans having more reps...until 1914 when Utah Democrats allied with the Progressive Party.
Per the Utah History Encyclopedia: During the 1920s, Utah stayed pretty much in the Republican camp...
So much for your claims of monolithical Dems!
Posts #8 and #9 have dismissed you as any serious candidate of discussing history with any degree of accuracy.
You have shot once and for all your credibility as a historian. (Time for you to move onto another subject...because your "History" trivial pursuit isn't your forte).
Go pound sand and stop writing Epstein notes for Romney.
There is enough wrong with his record that I don’t even have to consider his religion.
It seems people don’t want to hear the truth about Mormonism even when they are presented with the truth, kind of like the students at Penn State who didn’t want to hear about their beloved football coach.
Oops, looks like I’m gonna have to eat some crow here, I was running on my grandparent’s descriptions of political life in Utah. Actual research does indeed indicate that Republican was the flavor from statehood until WW I, then Democratic mostly until the 80s (except the 50s of course)
(I didn't know you liked crow for desert, too. Uh. If you look at my last post, I highlighted how Republicans were in charge of Utah in the 1920s...that came after WW I...)
1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
6. The prophet does not have to say Thus Saith the Lord, to give us scripture.
7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
8. The prophet is not limited by mens reasoning.
9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.
11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidencythe highest quorum in the Church.
14. The prophet and the presidencythe living prophet and the First Presidencyfollow them and be blessedreject them and suffer.
I testify that these fourteen fundamentals in following the living prophet are true. If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captainhow close do our lives harmonize with the Lords anointedthe living ProphetPresident of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency.
Ezra Taft Benson
(Address given Tuesday, February 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University)
I agree 100%!!!
Sorry GOD; but we are going to toss you under the bus.
~ Wilford Woodruff, 4th LDS President
MORMONs (WORTHY [wink-wink] ones at least) finally CAN eat crow; now that the weather has turned cold (12&13)
|The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
© 2006 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
People don’t have a clue about the doctrines of the Latter Day Saints. But if Romney gets the nomination, you can be sure that the press will enlighten us.