Well, it’s official. Barack Obama has been sworn in for his second term as president, and the news media has parsed all the important issues: eye rolling, lip syncing, and age-appropriate hair. Finally it feels appropriate to share an observation out of Mormon history when it should have none of the sourness of political partisanship (which I try so desperately to avoid).
In the Winter of 1855, with full blown war with the federal government on the not-so-distant horizon, Brigham Young, governor of the Utah Territory and leader of the Latter Day Saints, envisioned a time when America would fall into such a state of disrepair that the people would call on a Mormon to save them:
If the LDS church’s loudest public voice is to be believed, America has reached that precipice. Then why the monumental failure of Mitt Romney to secure the presidency and save America? Could it be that Glenn Beck is wrong and ACORN, radical Islamic militants, and Reform Jews didn’t conspire to put a socialist race-warrior into office? Or could he perhaps be right and Satan still holds the world in his thrall, leaving the saints to wait for the nation to get just a little bit worse before their final vindication? Is it possible that the Mormons in general and Brigham Young in particular were not actually gifted with any special ongoing revelation from God?
Brethren and sisters, our friends wish to know our feelings towards the government. I answer, they are first rate, and we will prove it too, as you will see if you only live long enough, for that we shall live to prove it is certain; and when the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the “Mormon” Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it.
Let’s table all those wonderfully provocative suggestions for the moment and consider another. One year earlier, Brigham Young had delivered a Fourth of July address as part of a series of speeches by prominent Mormons taking America to task for its partisanship and its failure to realize the lofty goals of the American Revolution. Young had his own observations about failures of the US in its highest office and proposed a different set of qualifications for the highest office. Maybe Romney failed to be the great Mormon savior of America because, it turns out, he’s not the kind of man Mormon’s thought the nation needed and the people deserved:
The people should concentrate their feelings, their influence, and their faith to select the best man they can find to be their President, if he has nothing more to eat than potatoes and salt–a man who will not aspire to become greater than the people who appoint him but be contented to live as they live, be clothed as they are clothed, and in every good thing be one with them.
[A man] capable of communicating to the the understanding of the people according to their capacity, information upon all points pertaining to the just administration of the Government. He should understand what administrative policy would be most beneficial to the nation. He should also have the knowledge and disposition to wisely exercise the appointing power, so far as it is constitutionally within his control, and select only good and capable men for the office. He should not only carry out the legal and just wishes of his constituents, but should be able to enlighten their understanding and correct their judgment. And all good officers in a truly republican administration will constantly labor for the security of the rights of all, irrespective of sect or party.