So, if George Wills, or rather his student, is to be believed, Mormons believe that the founding documents of the United States are, quite literally, holy writ. While I would never urge people to discriminate against candidates based on religion, this is an aspect of Mitt Romney’s views that bears scrutiny. Moreover, this idea offers an interesting insight into the ways we read sacred writ.
Second, here is a counterpoint take asserting that Wills is botching Mormonism.
But, on the other hand, there are prominent Mormons of popular media stature proclaiming the essence of what Wills declares. See Glenn Beck channeling Cleon Skousen.
What has Beck been pushing on his legions? “Leap,” first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah’s George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year’s annual fundraiser).
But shiracoffee shares some thoughts on holy writ and founding documents, and I encourage you to examine the Tumblr output over there:
I love the Hebrew Bible, but I deeply regret the ossification it underwent from history and literature to holy writ. This is not a fate I would wish on the founding documents of my nation.
I do not suppose I’ll ever get the chance to ask Mitt Romney whether he believes that the Constitution is divinely inspired, and what that means to him. I don’t suppose anyone will ask him, because it’s not a made-for-TV discussion. But I think it’s an important thing for all Americans to know.