Though born-again evangelicals glory in personal life-changing experiences, such openness to change withers when latter-day newcomers defy Protestant sects with truly "born-again," collective do-overs. What's wonderful for individual sinners pales when core Reformation advances are confronted with what the right in other arenas happily elevate as "big ideas."
And since the entire Mormon Trail challenges all that's come before as betrayal of Jesus' original message, no wonder millions of garden-variety fundamentalists dismiss LDS as a cult. How odd since Mormons "out-rightwing" many fundamentalist faithful on gender and gay rights, money and materialistic success, family and church-going, defense spending and America confirmed as God's country. Though Mormons reject the trinity of Christ, downright unchristian to the less tolerant, they're still more conservative and more Republican than any other faith. What was once a passion-driven radical sect now brashly aligns itself to status quo authority and deference to the unfeeling mandates of billionaire capitalists.
Ironies abound, hardly unusual for LDS. Mormons embrace the King James Bible (written, after all, in God's tongue), yet severely recast theology and practices, declaring themselves (big surprise) the purest Christians. Actually, LDS from the get-go went rogue, consecrating polygamy and paternalism, explicitly declaring the superiority of white skin, and that universal baptism anywhere for anyone was A-okay. When or where the historic Jesus, rumored with darkish skin, promoted these notions I leave to partisans to explain.
Yet, say what you will about Mormons, you can't call them un-American: they are the most successful (or conspicuous) modern-era faction wholly "made in America." Spawned in New York State, the Book of Mormon was refined in Missouri (which the Garden of Eden resides), and honed repeatedly in Utah, as new times, leaders and revelations displaced earlier, apparently misguided thunderclaps. Is not reinventing yourself the quintessentially American value -- notably trusting tribal insiders for divine guidance, not suspect authorities abroad, like all those other idolatrous offenders?
Mitt fits the Mormon bill
Indeed, the Church of Latter-Day Saints (old name) is flush with Yankee strengths and weaknesses. Mormons started off in the desert backwaters "doing it their way," the only denomination to pioneer, domesticate and dominate an entire state. Now loaded with holdings and recession-proof income, this organized religion matches top corporations in efficiency and central planning, with authoritarian peer pressure when necessary. While tolerant to outsiders, leadership summarily exiles wayward Mormons, like Romney "firing" losers undeserving of higher blessings. That Mitt commands the world with a similarly black and white, spreadsheet vision -- the CEO slamming different problems with the same hammer -- speaks to the standard image of the perfunctory, striving, never-give-up Mormon.
I don't wish to berate Mormon beliefs or believers, but focus on historical and political ripples. How is it once rogue Christians are virulently patriotic, wholehearted addicts to mythic American Exceptionalism? How did radicals flouting all of established Christianity turn so slavishly chauvinistic, echoing the craziness of "America, right or wrong"? How do hardscrabble, religious crusaders end up consecrating capitalism and limitless material accumulation? Years of want, I suppose, deifies wealth, especially when harboring rigid, defensive stances against hostile treatment.