Romney Slammed 'Bigot' Jeffress, But Forgot To Mention How Mormons Treated Blacks


For a former Republican presidential nominee running for a Senate seat, Mitt Romney’s campaign in Utah has been awfully quiet.

Perhaps that’s because he managed to underperform in the nomination process at the Utah GOP Convention, surprisingly forcing him into a primary race. Or maybe it’s the fact that almost 25 years into his political career, he’s still about as interesting as refrigerated gruel.

So, how to fight back against the tedium? Well, he can’t call corporations people or say that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes; he’s already tried both those things. Instead, he decided to take a very 2018 approach to drumming up some publicity: calling a prominent person a bigot.

In this case, the prominent person was Robert Jeffress, a pro-Donald Trump pastor and the head of Dallas’ First Baptist Church. Jeffress was chosen to deliver the prayer at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem this week, which seemed to be a rather uncontroversial choice. Until, that is, Mittens got involved.

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“Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell,'” Romney tweeted. “He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”

It didn’t take long for Jeffress to respond.

While Jeffress’ colorful language may have been suspect, what he believes is pretty much what evangelical Christians believe as well — namely, that the path to salvation must come through Jesus Christ, not Islam, Mormonism or Judaism.

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However, Jeffress could be given credit for showing admirable restraint. After all, Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a long and storied history of racism, and one that lingered on long after the convenient 1978 “revelation” by church president Spencer W. Kimball that people of color could indeed assume the role of priesthood in the church.

Let’s start from the beginning. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young — two LDS founders with whom almost everyone should be familiar — believed that black skin was part of the Curse of Cain or the Curse of Ham. Young thought the curse made people of color ineligible to vote or marry Caucasians, to say nothing of being able to assume the priesthood.

Both men also figured the curse justified slavery — something Young was instrumental in instituting in the Utah territory.

While this was the 19th century, things changed awfully slowly. As late as 2003, church literature encouraged young people to marry individuals from their own racial background. Mormon-dominated Utah had anti-miscegenation laws on the books until 1963, just four years before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.

It wasn’t just the priesthood that African-Americans couldn’t attain, either. Up until 1978, they were unable to participate in celestial marriages — a covenant ceremony that takes place inside an LDS temple — meaning they were treated the same as unmarried whites in the eyes of the church.

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Of course, it wasn’t like there were a whole lot of African-Americans who had to worry about this. Even if you discount the fact that there wasn’t exactly a line of people willing to sign up to join a faith where they were officially discriminated against, Mormon missionaries tended to avoid black areas and discouraged people of color from inquiring further about the church.

Now, what part did Romney play in this? While he’s defended his role in the church, he was already an adult by the time that many of these changes were made. Furthermore, he came from one of the most prominent Mormon families in the United States, if not the most prominent. His father, George Romney, had been the governor of Michigan and the CEO of American Motors Corporation, in addition to running for president in 1968.

While he’s hemmed and hawed about his thoughts regarding the policies of the church in recent years, Romney hasn’t exactly issued what one might call a complete mea culpa.

This isn’t to suggest that Romney be tarred and feathered for his faith or his dalliance in condemning its racist tendencies. It’s merely to suggest that that when it comes to Robert Jeffress, perhaps the former Republican standard bearer shouldn’t be labeling him a bigot.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture