Is Romney’s Foreign Policy Problem a Product of his Mormonism?

RD: How would you characterize Mormon thought on war, peace, and foreign policy? 

PM: There has not been a systematic body of thought. Over the past 100 years, Mormons have been all over the map from the pacifism of J. Reuben Clark to a not-very-well-thought-out ‘just war’ position held today by a majority of US members. LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) told Mormons that we should trust political leaders as having more information than we do, and defer to their judgment. At the same time, LDS Church leaders have counseled LDS people to live peaceably and harmoniously with their neighbors. This seems to me a classic expression of late 20th century Mormonism in that the level of analysis focuses entirely on individual morality.

Which perhaps might give some context to Romney’s seeming rudderlessness when it comes to navigating these difficult foreign policy situations. He’s used to thinking about individual morality but the rest is all pragmatism.

He’s not just getting this from Mormonism, of course. He’s a more complex figure than just Mormonism can account for. But I’m guessing that his Mormonism—late twentieth-century Mormonism—did not give him systematic tools to think about how to apply personal morality in public sphere. Mormonism in the late twentieth-century does not have a political ethic. There is nothing to compare to, for example, strong Catholic social teachings.

The rest of this insightful interview may be found at Religion Dispatches.

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