Happy America day.
General Andrew Jackson, a National Icon in Joseph Smith’s America
The Mormon relationship with the nation-state (particularly, the United States) is a classic example of how the guy/capitalists with the guns/government wins. The earliest Mormons harbored neutral feelings towards the United States at best, recognizing that the United States would collapse soon enough anyway. Mormon newsman W.W. Phelps warned that the United States could “well fall to the dust, with the other crumbling nations of the earth.” Though Phelps appreciated the freedom America provided, he reminded the Saints that the Savior “asked no aid of the governments of the earth to spread the gospel.” While the world chattered on about America’s experiment in free government, the Lord was “setting up his kingdom upon this choice land above all others.”
The Huffington Post recently took a stab this morning at how Mormonism would influence his views on war and peace. I’ve seen it done worse. Ask a Mormon how Mormonism see war. If they gush on about Captain Moroni without mentioning the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, just smile. You’re talking to a Mormon who has embraced American nationalism. As Patrick Mason has argued, Mormonism offers “no consistent message” on matters of war and peace. The broader question, of course, is: how patriotic is Mormonism? On July 24th, 2011, the Latter-day Saints celebrated Pioneer Day with a tribute to veterans of the armed services. That Brigham Young had spoken (in typical Brigham Young fashion–with tremendous hyperbole) of cutting American soldiers’ throats only a block away shows how dramatic the Saints’ embrace of American nationalism has been.
David Mason wrote a prominently featured piece in the Washington Post in which he argues that if Romney followed his gut (at least his Mormon gut), he would have wholeheartedly supported the Affordable Care Act for “finally catching up with the Mormon vision.” Mason then takes his readers through a quick and dirty history of Mormon collectivism from Joseph Smith through Brigham Young. As Mason would have it, Brigham Young read the scriptures with one hand and Marx with the other.
When Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, politics were far from his mind. His settlement had been on the frontier. Politicians didn’t visit Joseph’s Manchester settlement much. Nor did its settlers care if they did.
Even still, Joseph’s movements had grand designs. In a little log cabin in Fayette, New York, Joseph promised a small number of newly-ordinaed Melchizedek priesthood holders that Mormonism would eventually become a world religion. Most of the men had received the right to vote only a few years prior. Joseph’s religious movement was to be a populist revolution against a world order gone awry.