Elie Wiesel, for some inscrutable reason, believes that Mitt Romney owes America and the world an explanation of the posthumous baptism of Jews carried out by some elements of the Mormon church:
“How come that he hasn’t spoken up after all? It’s not, I’m sure he’s not involved in that. But nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up, because he is running for the presidency of the United States, which means it’s too serious of an issue for him not to speak up,” he added.
Issuing a statement on an obscure Mormon religious practice—one with which the candidate has no established connection whatsoever—would be unnecessary and unhelpful. Unless Romney is running to defend and vindicate every detail of LDS faith and practice (including its possibly illegitimate excesses) there’s just no reason for him to take this up.
That would all change, though, if Romney began invoking the doctrine of posthumous baptism on the stump. This is exactly what has happened with another little-known aspect of LDS belief—the view that U.S. Constitution is actually divine. Most of this Mormon belief appears to me to be a wholly mainstream and orthodox view that God in his providence sustains all history and reality, including the founding of our nation. But this belief also appears to go much further. As LDS President Ezra Taft Benson wrote in 1988:
I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed His stamp of approval upon it.
This, I think, is a step too far in civic religion. As Politico’s Reid Epstein reported (apparently not grasping the doctrinal significance of the statement), earlier this week in Arizona, Romney invoked this Mormon belief, saying of the Constitution and Declaration “They’re either inspired by God or written by brilliant people or perhaps a combination of both.”
To ask what he means by this is a very fair question indeed. Many of the commenters in James Rogers’ article on Romney’s statement have claimed that by “divine inspiration” Mormons mean something very different from what Christians mean. Fair enough. But what, exactly, does presidential candidate Mitt Romney mean when he uses such theologically freighted language during campaign events?