By Kendal Sheets
Less than a month out from the presidential election, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have done countless interviews. They’ve debated. They’ve given many speeches. And yet, says Kendal Sheets, Mitt Romney has never really addressed one very important issue: his Mormon faith and how it would influence a Romney presidency.
As in any presidential election year, we’ve all been flooded with information about the candidates. Many questions have been asked. Many issues have been danced around. Both candidates have their share of explaining to do. President Obama must answer to the unemployment rate. Mitt Romney must answer to his missing tax returns and his flip-flops on key issues. But there is something else Mitt Romney should be explaining, says author Kendal Sheets, and that’s his Mormon faith.
“Interest in Mormonism has certainly grown since Romney became the Republican nominee,” says Sheets, coauthor along with Meredith Ray Sheets of Book of Mormon, Book of Lies. “There have been many articles written about it. But few interviewers have asked Romney point-blank to explain where he falls on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ more controversial issues and how those beliefs would influence how he would run the nation as president.”
In Book of Mormon, Book of Lies, Meredith Sheets, a retired petroleum industry executive, and Kendal Sheets, whose experience as an intellectual property and patent attorney makes him uniquely qualified to uncover plagiarism and fraud, compare content from historic books with the content of The Book of Mormon. The results are astonishing.
Through careful analysis, the authors show that The Book of Mormon, written by Joseph Smith and published in 1830, is nothing more than a cleverly disguised plagiarism of The Travels of Marco Polo, the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World as recorded by his son, histories of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, and travel journals. Book of Mormon, Book of Lies puts a magnifying glass on a secretive organization with the money and power to have a deep impact on American religion, finance, and politics today.
“Conservatives and liberals alike will argue and have argued that a candidate’s religion shouldn’t matter,” says Sheets. “But in Romney’s case, it does matter. It matters that the Mormon faith has a history of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It matters that the Church has a net worth estimated at $40 billion and has used those funds to affect the outcomes of political contests. It matters that while the LDS Church has for decades remained—or at least claimed to remain—politically neutral, in this election they’re pushing voter registration in the key swing state of Nevada.”
Of course, Sheets notes, many religions have histories of problems when it comes to these key social issues, but in Mormonism they continue to be handled poorly and secretively.
“Racism is still rampant,” notes Sheets. “Women cannot hold leadership positions, and on and on. It is not a church of inclusion, and the possibility of having a president who supports those beliefs is worrisome. Also, I think it’s important to note that Romney hasn’t just been an innocent bystander in his religion. He’s held many leadership positions within the Church, which would make it hard for him to distance himself from many of these beliefs.”
Read on for a look at some of the aspects of the Mormon faith that Sheets says should raise concerns about a Romney presidency:
The Mormon Church suppresses the truth about the religion’s origins. “How did Joseph Smith Jr. write The Book of Mormon?” This has been a question troubling Mormon critics since before the book’s publication in 1830. Writing The Book of Mormon from scratch would have required some kind of literary ability and at least a basic knowledge about the subject matter. Though Joseph Smith did not have a higher education, he possessed an extraordinary writing ability—or did he?
“In Book of Lies, we reveal the source material for The Book of Mormon and other writings from Joseph Smith,” says Sheets. “He plagiarized material from history and geography books, and books written about personal travels in the Middle East, Asia, and America that were published in English in the early 1800s. He did not write the book based on golden plates he found, though the LDS Church still promotes this story.”
The Mormon Church has a history of racism. Not until June of 1978 did the Church of Latter-day Saints lift its ban on allowing African American males to become priests or leaders within the Church. As recently as a February 2012 Washington Post article, the ban was supported by Professor Randy Bott, a popular professor at Brigham Young University.
The article says Bott explained the ban as follows: “…Until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.” And as an April 2012 article in the Salt Lake City Messenger points out, though the LDS Church released a press release condemning Bott’s remarks, it has never put forth statements condemning the Church’s past discrimination. In Book of Lies, the authors explain that this racism is written into The Book of Mormon itself.
“In The Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith refers to blackness as a ‘curse from God,’” says Sheets. “In The Book of Mormon’s Book of Nephi, the Nephites’ God cursed a rebellious faction of Lamanites by turning their skin black and making them ‘loathsome.’ We can only guess as to whether or not this section of The Book of Mormon and the others that refer to blackness as a curse led to the ban of African Americans, because leaders in the LDS have remained largely mum on the issue. And the same can be said of Mitt Romney. In a 2007 interview with Tim Russert, he offered his parents’ achievements during the Civil Rights era as proof that he never supported the Church’s stance on race, but he stopped short of condemning the practice.”
The Mormon Church does not tolerate dissent. The LDS Church has a history of excommunicating Church members who question the Church publicly. Most famously the September Six, a group of individual scholars and feminists, were either excommunicated or disfellowshipped in a 10-day span in September of 1993. A Los Angeles Times article at the time stated, “All contend the wave of hearings amounts to a purge of members who publicly differ from Church leaders on matters of doctrine, history, women’s roles, and intimidation by authoritarian Church leaders.” And, “The actions came months after Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified feminists, homosexuals, and intellectuals as the three dangers facing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Eventually three members of the September Six regained membership in the Church.
“That was in 1993,” says Sheets. “But this sort of thing still goes on a lot. Most recently, a story went viral about MormonThink Managing Editor David Twede being threatened with excommunication by LDS Church leaders. Originally Twede said he believed they did so because he published articles via the online magazine that were critical of Romney, the LDS Church, and its stances on contemporary issues. Twede has since backed away from his original claims that his articles criticizing Romney, specifically, were what led to his trouble with the Church. However, that still leaves his other writings, which were apparently unwelcome enough on their own.”
The Mormon Church has a history of sexism. When the Smiths organized their new church, they created an ecclesiastical structure with distinct purposes and privileges for Church members. They called the privileges “priesthoods,” and only male Church members could receive such honors. Even today, Mormon women cannot join the priesthood. The Church famously opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, excommunicating outspoken member of the Church Sonia Johnson for speaking out in support of the amendment.
“It’s certainly true that many religions have questionable histories when it comes to women’s rights,” notes Sheets. “Those who think Romney’s religion shouldn’t be called into question ask why we aren’t asking President Obama about Christianity’s history of discriminating against women. But we know where President Obama stands with women, don’t we? We know he’s pro-choice. We know he believes in equal pay. It’s difficult to achieve that same clarity when you start examining Mitt Romney’s past statements and constantly changing views on women’s issues.”
The Mormon Church has a history of homophobia. In 2008, California’s Proposition 8 passed, providing “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” According to a September 2012 Huffington Post article, Mormons reportedly donated 50 percent of the money used in the campaign to pass Prop 8 in California (The article also notes that Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC donated $10,000). According to the article, “The First Presidency of the Church issued a written statement asking members to do all they could ‘to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.’”
“For a church that claims to be politically neutral, that’s a lot of money in clear support of a political issue,” says Sheets. “It’s another classic case of the LDS Church claiming one thing while doing the exact opposite.”
“Not asking Mitt Romney about how his Mormon faith would inform his presidency is a mistake,” says Sheets. “It may be okay for the leaders of a church with 12 million members and billions upon billions of dollars at their disposal to keep quiet, but it isn’t okay for a potential leader of the free world to keep so many secrets. It’s time for Romney to answer to his faith. The American people deserve to know where he stands.”