From The Grio — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has made no public comment on The Book of Mormon musical that’s been knocking them dead on Broadway. Romney, of course, would be mum on it for two good reasons.
First off the plat taunts, teases, hectors, lampoons and ridicules the Mormons on their holy book, history, practices and doctrinal statements. But most importantly, the play skewers Mormons for the church’s decades of racial prejudice and for their prodigious proselytizing activities in Africa. But the satire could just as easily apply to the long history of Mormons’ long standing purported curse of Ham teachings about blacks. It’s a play no devout, respectable Mormon would have anything good to say about.
The other reason that Romney would be mum on anything that tosses an ugly glare on his Mormon faith is that there’s no way at this stage of the election game to say whether his Mormonism will help or hurt him, or mean nothing to voters. Polls have been mixed.
In a 2006, Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll more than one third of voters said they wouldn’t back a Mormon for president. A June Quinnipiac Poll, which is the most recent poll on voter attitudes toward a Mormon in the White House, found that voter attitudes had softened somewhat. One third of voters didn’t flatly say they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, just that they were “somewhat” or “entirely uncomfortable” with a Mormon as president.
But faith, religious and personal beliefs, and prejudices aside, Romney, and newly declared Republican candidate Jon Huntsman, despite the intense efforts of the church’s ruling elders to make its racial past go away, are still saddled with the heavy burden of the religion’s racial history.
For more than a century the Mormons rigidly enforced their policy that blacks could not be priests, serve on missions or be married in their temples. Some Mormon scholars tried mightily to debunk the curse of Ham teaching about blacks by citing various passages in the Book of Mormon that appeared to condemn color discrimination. But that did nothing to charge the iron clad prohibition against blacks having anything that resembled equal status in the church. The Mormons finally backed away from their ban after church leaders claimed they got a revelation from God in 1978 that declared blacks were now equals.
But the revelation came years after the heyday of the civil rights movement, and when discrimination and racial bigotry had become a legal, political and social taboo in America. The Mormon leaders counter attacked against the claims that despite the revelation on race, they were still closet bigots. They touted their much-publicized genealogical research on African-American families, their aggressive missions in Africa, and the increased number of blacks that serve in the important church body known as the Quorum of the Seventy to prove it.
But Mormon leaders would not relent on one thing. They rebuffed all calls for them to publicly apologize for the church’s long, stubborn, and dogmatic defense of alleged biblical encoded racism.