Présidentielle américaine/2012: Mormonisation ou simple désobamisation? (Mormon moment or anything to get rid of Obama?)

Un sondage Quinnipiac indique que 36 % des citoyens se sentiraient « mal à l’aise » devant un président mormon. Contre 13 à 15 % seulement dans l’hypothèse d’un président catholique ou juif.
Les mormons ont finalement été acceptés en tant que citoyens « normaux » et présidentiables, au delà ou en dépit de leurs particularités. Rejoignant les catholiques, qui avaient attendu jusqu’en 1960 pour qu’un des leurs – John Kennedy – devienne président, les juifs, définitivement banalisés avec la candidature du sénateur Joe Liebermann à la vice-présidence, en 2000, ou les Noirs, adoubés avec Obama en 2008. La clé de cette normalisation ? Le comportement dans la vie quotidienne et dans la vie publique. En tant que mormons, les mormons sont « bizarres » : mais vu de l’extérieur, c’est le cas de toutes les religions. En tant que voisins, collègues, patrons, employés, électeurs, élus, ils ont en revanche appris, tout au long du XXe siècle, à être des Américains comme les autres. Et même un peu plus que les autres. Michel Gurfinkiel
Le mormonisme, comme d’autres églises nées lors du « Grand réveil chrétien », est un mouvement austère. En règle générale les mormons ne fument pas, ne prennent pas de drogue, ne boivent pas d’alcool, ni de caféine -et donc pas de sodas caféinés. On ne danse pas non plus sur les derniers tubes de hip-hop ou de rock and roll. Bref la vie dans l’Utah peut apparaitre austère pour le reste de la population américaine. (…) Néanmoins, le fait que la candidature de Mitt Romney soit viable prouve une certaine tolérance du peuple américain à l’égard du fait religieux. Elle renforce aussi l’image de l’église mormone comme faisant désormais partie de la norme des paysages religieux et politique du pays. S’il s’installe à la Maison-Blanche, ce serait un événement novateur sur le plan religieux, même s’il n’aurait pas pour autant tout à fait la même importance que l’élection de John Fitzgerald Kennedy, premier catholique à être élu président des Etats-Unis en 1960. Olivier Richomme
Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies—a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time. Stephen Mansfield
If Americans understood Mormonism a little better, they might begin to think of Romney’s faith as a feature, not a bug, in the Romney candidacy. If anything, Romney’s religion may be the best offset to the isolation from ordinary people imposed by his wealth. It was Romney’s faith that sent him knocking on doors as a missionary—even as his governor father campaigned for the presidency of the United States. It was Romney’s position as a Mormon lay leader that had him sitting at kitchen tables doing family budgets during weekends away from Bain Capital. It was Romney’s faith that led him and his sons to do chores together at home while his colleagues in the firm were buying themselves ostentatious toys. Maybe the most isolating thing about being rich in today’s America is the feeling of entitlement. Not since the 19th century have the wealthiest expressed so much certainty that they deserve what they have, even as their fellow citizens have less and less. To be a Mormon, on the other hand, is to feel perpetually uncertain of your place in America. It’s been a long time since the U.S. government waged war on the Mormons of the Utah Territory. Still, even today, Mormons are America’s most mockable minority. It’s hard to imagine a Broadway musical satirizing Jews, blacks, or gays. There is no Napoleon Dynamite about American Muslims. David Frum

Book of Mormon, Big love, Sister wives, Angels in America

A quand une comédie musicale vantant la promiscuité ou la paresse légendaires des noirs?

A la veille d’un nouveau débat crucial qui pourrait lui aussi puissamment contribuer à l’arrivée du premier président mormon à la Maison Blanche …

Mais après, pour les membres d’une religion à la fois méconnue mais intrinsèquement américaine, une longue histoire de discrimination (chasses à l’homme de l’Ohio et du Missouri, massacres d’Illinois, exil dans le désert de l’Utah, ou, plus politiquement correctement, les moqueries actuelles) avant, tout récemment, l’émergence politique (direction de la majorité démocrate au Sénat avec Harry Reid), médiatique, littéraire ou artistique (avec Glenn Beck, Stephen Covey, Stephenie Meyer ou Katherine Heigl) …

Retour, avec Michel Gurfinkiel, sur cette normalisation que représente l’entrée d »un des leurs …

Dans le club très fermé non seulement des  « présidentiables » mais désormais – qui peut encore en douter? – des « éligibles » …

Présidentialisation qui en dit cependant tout aussi long sur l’incroyable rejet ou déception que suscite de plus en plus un président qui, avec les dérives que l’on sait, nous avait été vendu comme un véritable messie …

USA/ Un mormon à la Maison Blanche ?

La religion mormone est « bizarre ». Mais les mormons sont bons voisins, bons collègues, bons citoyens. Ceci compense cela.

Michel Gurfinkiel

September 20 2012

Il y a désormais une chance sur deux pour que le prochain président des Etats-Unis soit un mormon : Mitt Romney, le candidat républicain, est à la fois un « mormon historique », issu d’une famille acquise à « l’Eglise des Saints des Derniers Jours » dès le XIXe siècle, et un « mormon engagé », qui a mis sans cesse ses talents au service de sa communauté. Il a même exercé les fonctions d’évêque, c’est-à-dire de dirigeant régional.

La plupart des Américains assurent qu’ils ne tiendront pas compte de cette appartenance religieuse au moment de voter. De même qu’ils n’ont pas tenu compte de la race d’Obama en 2008. Mais que valent ces affirmations « politiquement correctes » ? D’après un sondage Gallup, 5 % des Américains ne voteront en aucun cas pour un Noir ; le rejet atteint 6 % pour une femme, 7% pour un catholique, 9 % pour un juif, 10 % pour un Hispanique ; mais dans le cas d’un mormon, il atteint 22 %. Une enquête Pew donne un chiffre plus élevé encore : 25 %. Et un sondage Quinnipiac indique que 36 % des citoyens se sentiraient « mal à l’aise » devant un président mormon. Contre 13 à 15 % seulement dans l’hypothèse d’un président catholique ou juif.

Le mormonisme peut être considéré, à bien des égards, comme la religion américaine par excellence. Il est né aux Etats-Unis, voici près de deux cents ans. Ses livres saints – le Livre de Mormon, publié en 1830, censé être un « Troisième Testament » , mais aussi de nombreux autres textes mystiques publiés par la suite – ont été rédigés en anglais. Ses prophètes, Joseph Smith Jr. et Brigham Young, étaient américains. Sa ville sainte, Salt Lake City, se situe aux Etats-Unis. Et l’Utah, un Etat du Far West, constitue sa terre sainte.

Mais par ailleurs, le mormonisme a quelque chose de bizarre, sinon même de subversif. Il a longtemps pratiqué la polygamie. Jusqu’en 1890, il tentait de faire de l’Utat un Etat théocratique indépendant, en marge de l’Union américaine. Certaines de ses cérémonies religieuses se déroulent dans des temples majestueux – reconnaissables des flèches culminant à plus de cent mètres – mais fermés aux non-adeptes. L’Eglise est organisée de façon pyramidale ; les membres lui versent en principe 10 % de leurs revenus et lui doivent, à l’âge de vingt ans, deux années de « service religieux », d’apostolat, aux quatre coins du monde. Enfin, les mormons pratiquants s’abstiennent de toute substance excitante : drogue, ce qui ne saurait être blâmé, mais aussi alcool ou tabac …

Leur théologie ne suscite pas moins de questions. Les mormons se réclament de la Bible et de Jésus. Mais leurs livres saints prêchent une religion radicalement nouvelle, selon laquelle chaque être humain est appelé à devenir Dieu. Pour la plupart des prêtres et pasteurs américains, ils ne sont pas vraiment des chrétiens.

L’un dans l’autre, cependant, le parti républicain a fait de l’ « évêque » Romney son candidat. Dans la mesure où ses caciques ont les yeux fixés sur les simulations de vote, cela signifie que les mormons ont finalement été acceptés en tant que citoyens « normaux » et présidentiables, au delà ou en dépit de leurs particularités. Rejoignant les catholiques, qui avaient attendu jusqu’en 1960 pour qu’un des leurs – John Kennedy – devienne président, les juifs, définitivement banalisés avec la candidature du sénateur Joe Liebermann à la vice-présidence, en 2000, ou les Noirs, adoubés avec Obama en 2008.

La clé de cette normalisation ? Le comportement dans la vie quotidienne et dans la vie publique. En tant que mormons, les mormons sont « bizarres » : mais vu de l’extérieur, c’est le cas de toutes les religions. En tant que voisins, collègues, patrons, employés, électeurs, élus, ils ont en revanche appris, tout au long du XXe siècle, à être des Américains comme les autres. Et même un peu plus que les autres. L’une des raisons pour lesquelles, en ce début du XXIe siècle, Romney a été investi par le parti républicain, c’est que 74 % des mormons votent républicain.

Voir aussi:

EXTRAITS DE «LES MORMONS» D’ALAIN GILLETTE

La place de la question mormone dans l’élection américaine

Candidat dans la course à la Maison Blanche, Mitt Romney n’a jamais caché ses convictions et son attachement à sa religion : le mormonisme. Alain Gillette, dans « Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet » (Desclée de Brouwer) nous éclaire sur une religion peu connue en Europe mais qui touche de plus en plus de personnes aux États-Unis. (Extraits 2/2).

Les mormons développent dans 185 pays leur Église de Jésus-Christ des saints du dernier jour, avec quelque 300 000 conversions annuelles. Leur prosélytisme très actif, la campagne de Mitt Romney dans la course à la Maison Blanche en 2012 et la construction de leur premier temple en France métropolitaine, réservé aux sacrements les plus élevés, traduisent ce dynamisme.

Des tables d’or que Dieu aurait confiées près de New York en 1820 à un jeune paysan, Joseph Smith, les mormons ont tiré une prodigieuse puissance financière et politique. La conquête théocratique de l’Ouest, la polygamie, une colossale entreprise généalogique pour baptiser les défunts, de vives controverses et l’impact profond d’Internet sur la stratégie de cette singulière Église comptent parmi les épisodes retracés ici, d’une incarnation religieuse et totalitaire du rêve américain.

Dans ce livre, sans parti pris ni complaisance, Alain Gillette nous aide à mieux connaître les mormons, notamment ceux des pays francophones, leur religion et leur impact sur la société américaine.

Extraits de Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet d’Alain Gillette

Un sondage réalisé par PEW en novembre 2011[1] a conclu que :

– le facteur mormon allait jouer dans les élections primaires contre Romney, à l’époque talonné par Herman Cain et Newt Gingrich ; il l’a néanmoins emporté ;

– mais ce facteur ne devait pas jouer pour l’élection présidentielle elle-même, le clivage démocrate-républicain à propos de Barack Obama étant jugé si brutal qu’il estompe la question mormone ;

– 50 % des électeurs à travers les États-Unis disaient alors ne pas savoir grand-chose, voire rien du tout, du mormonisme, une baisse peu significative par rapport à 2007 (52 %) compte tenu de la marge d’erreur; 51 % (inchangé) considéraient que c’est une religion chrétienne, mais très différente de leur propre religion pour 65 % d’entre eux;

– sur ces bases, le facteur mormon jouerait aux primaires mais pas perceptiblement à l’élection présidentielle elle-même.

Pour ne pas être taxé d’anti-américanisme primaire, on peut citer deux universitaires américains, dont un mormon, pour qui « l’ironie est que les suspicions que le public américain continue à entretenir à propos des mormons – leur intolérance, leur homogénéité sociale, leur religion fondée sur des révélations continues – correspondent en réalité à l’intolérance religieuse et au manque de respect pour la diversité sociale aux États-Unis[2]».

Confronté à l’intolérance il y a un demi-siècle, John Kennedy a prouvé qu’il ne prenait pas d’ordres de l’autrement puissante Église catholique américaine (distance que sa vie privée confirmait…) ni ne soutenait le réseau diplomatique du Vatican ; et pourtant, la crainte perdure face à l’hypothèse d’un président Romney qui serait sous influence politique des Saints des derniers jours, et qui apporterait le soutien du Département d’État à leur œuvre missionnaire.

La peur de la différence demeure à l’œuvre. Des responsables et des sites évangélistes américains, dont certains proclament que « Joseph Smith était sans doute un cas psychiatrique ou un menteur », écrivent pourtant que le dialogue avec l’Église est devenu très souhaitable. Les sondages donnent à penser qu’ils sont minoritaires, une majorité de ces confessions demeurant sur ses gardes, voire doutant de surcroît que Mitt Romney soit un mormon parfaitement orthodoxe et rassurant en matière idéologique. Ses résultats aux élections primaires en auraient souffert dans les États où les Églises évangéliques sont influentes et où les attaques de ses adversaires républicains ont fait flèche de tous bois antimormons.

[1] . Sondage réalisé du 9 au 14 novembre 2011, 2001 adultes (marge d’erreur globale: 3%), Romney’s Mormon Faith Likely a Factor in Primaries, Not in a General Election,Washington, DC; PEW Research Center.

[2] Lee Trepanier et Lynita K. Newswander, op. cit., page 51.

Ancien journaliste à Europe 1, Alain Gillette, qui a vécu dans l’Utah, est un spécialiste de l’audit des politiques et des organisations publiques et internationales.

Les mormons : De la théocratie à Internet d’Alain Gillette, Desclée de Brouwer (27 septembre 2012)

Voir encore:

« Si Romney, mormon, est élu, ce serait novateur sur le plan religieux »

Primaires républicaines : Romney reprend la main

INTERVIEW – Mitt Romney, le favori à l’investiture républicaine, est mormon. Quelle est la place de cette église aux Etats-Unis ? Quelles en sont les valeurs ? Est-ce un handicap d’être mormon dans la campagne électorale ? Les réponses de TF1 News avec Olivier Richomme, professeur de civilisation américaine.

Olivier Richomme est maître de conférences en civilisation américaine à l’Université Lyon II. Il a écrit plusieurs livres sur les Etats-Unis. A paraître : Obama, président : quel bilan ? (Presses de Sciences Po).

TF1 News : Comment définir aujourd’hui les mormons américains ?

Olivier Richomme : Le nom complet de leur église étant l’Église de Jésus-Christ des saints des derniers jours, cela traduit un positionnement complexe vis-a-vis des églises chrétiennes. C’est une église un peu à la marge. De leur côté, ils se définissent comme des chrétiens issus du protestantisme. Mais les chrétiens les considèrent à part.

TF1 News : Pourquoi ?

O.R. : A l’instar de certains mouvements évangéliques apparus au 19e siècle lors du « Grand réveil chrétien », les mormons ont leur propre prophète, leur propre livre, en l’occurrence le « livre des mormons » au lieu de la bible. Même s’ils partagent la foi dans le Christ et des valeurs communes avec les autres chrétiens, certaines de leurs positions les placent en périphérie des groupes traditionnels. Ceux-ci les perçoivent donc essentiellement comme une « secte » -le mot n’ayant pas la même signification négative qu’en France- réfugiée dans l’Utah.

TF1 News : Quels sont les raisons de ce fossé ?

O.R. : Tout d’abord, comme nous venons de le voir, le fait qu’ils ne se basent pas sur la bible. Ensuite, vient le problème de la polygamie. Certes, après avoir été autorisée au début du mouvement, elle a été interdite dès la fin du 19e siècle -il est possible néanmoins qu’eller reste encore présente, de manière très marginale, dans les secteurs les plus reculés de l’Utah. Mais, surtout, dans la représentation que se font les chrétiens de l’Eglise mormone, ils gardent en tête qu’elle a été tolérée, voire encouragée, par le passé. A leurs yeux, les mormons d’aujourd’hui ne peuvent donc pas être de bons chrétiens. La croyance mormone que les Amérindiens sont les descendants des tribus perdues d’Israël n’arrange rien. Toutes ces petites choses différencient les mormons et expliquent l’anathème dont ils sont en partie victimes aux Etats-Unis de la part des chrétiens.

TF1 News : Quelles sont leurs principales valeurs ?

O.R. : Ils partagent les mêmes valeurs morales que les évangéliques, avec notamment l’opposition à l’avortement et au mariage homosexuel. Mais ils sont néanmoins soupçonnés d’être moins fermes, moins sincères en ce qui concerne l’adultère. Les évangéliques noirs les critiquent de leur côté en raison de la longue ségrégation de leur clergé.

Plus globalement, le mormonisme, comme d’autres églises nées lors du « Grand réveil chrétien », est un mouvement austère. En règle générale les mormons ne fument pas, ne prennent pas de drogue, ne boivent pas d’alcool, ni de caféine -et donc pas de sodas caféinés. On ne danse pas non plus sur les derniers tubes de hip-hop ou de rock and roll. Bref la vie dans l’Utah peut apparaitre austère pour le reste de la population américaine.

Enfin, selon l’interprétation de l’histoire d’Abraham qui aurait donné à Dieu 10% de son cheptel, les mormons donnent au moins 10% de leurs revenus à leur église. Selon eux, ce que l’on reçoit provient de Dieu, et il faut donc lui redonner. L’Eglise mormone (ndlr : six millions de membres aux Etats-Unis) est ainsi très riche.

TF1 News : Sur le plan politique, être mormon a-t-il un impact sur Mitt Romney dans la bataille présidentielle ?

O.R. : Pour les primaires, c’est gênant puisqu’il a du mal à gagner la confiance des évangéliques. Or il est déjà boudé par les conservateurs sociaux qui le jugent trop centriste puisqu’il a été gouverneur du Massachusetts, l’Etat probablement le plus à gauche du pays. Tout ceci pèse au niveau politique. Au Congrès, il ne peut par exemple compter sur l’appui que de quelques élus de l’Utah. Mais le choix étant limité, il devrait néanmoins l’emporter. Ensuite, cela devrait moins peser contre Barack Obama, même s’il aura toujours du mal à mobiliser la base des conservateurs sociaux et des évangéliques. Ils donneront moins, s’impliqueront moins dans la campagne et pourraient s’abstenir le jour de l’élection.

Néanmoins, le fait que la candidature de Mitt Romney soit viable prouve une certaine tolérance du peuple américain à l’égard du fait religieux. Elle renforce aussi l’image de l’église mormone comme faisant désormais partie de la norme des paysages religieux et politique du pays. S’il s’installe à la Maison-Blanche, ce serait un événement novateur sur le plan religieux, même s’il n’aurait pas pour autant tout à fait la même importance que l’élection de John Fitzgerald Kennedy, premier catholique à être élu président des Etats-Unis en 1960.

Avant le Nevada, Donald Trump rejoint Romney

Le magnat milliardaire du BTP et animateur de télé-réalité Donald Trump a affiché jeudi son soutien à Mitt Romney. « Mitt est coriace, il est intelligent, il est mordant. Il neva plus laisser toutes ces mauvaises choses se passer dans ce pays », a-t-il expliqué. Ce ralliement est considéré comme un soutien de poids pour l’ancien gouverneur du Massachusetts dans la course à l’investiture.

Celui-ci devrait confirmer son statut de favori avec la primaire du Nevada, qui aura lieu samedi. Déjà vainqueur dans cet Etat en 2008, il y devance largement dans les sondages son principal concurrent, Newt Gingrich.

Voir de plus:

It’s Mormon In America

Romney’s religion just might be his greatest asset.

David Frum

The Daily Beast

June 11, 2012

Voters are likely to know two things about Mitt Romney: that he’s rich and that he’s a Mormon. At the same time, more than one fifth of Americans tell pollsters they won’t vote for a Mormon for president. Yet if Americans understood Mormonism a little better, they might begin to think of Romney’s faith as a feature, not a bug, in the Romney candidacy. If anything, Romney’s religion may be the best offset to the isolation from ordinary people imposed by his wealth.

It was Romney’s faith that sent him knocking on doors as a missionary—even as his governor father campaigned for the presidency of the United States. It was Romney’s position as a Mormon lay leader that had him sitting at kitchen tables doing family budgets during weekends away from Bain Capital. It was Romney’s faith that led him and his sons to do chores together at home while his colleagues in the firm were buying themselves ostentatious toys.

Maybe the most isolating thing about being rich in today’s America is the feeling of entitlement. Not since the 19th century have the wealthiest expressed so much certainty that they deserve what they have, even as their fellow citizens have less and less.

To be a Mormon, on the other hand, is to feel perpetually uncertain of your place in America. It’s been a long time since the U.S. government waged war on the Mormons of the Utah Territory. Still, even today, Mormons are America’s most mockable minority. It’s hard to imagine a Broadway musical satirizing Jews, blacks, or gays. There is no Napoleon Dynamite about American Muslims.

This uncertainty about Mormonism’s status in America no doubt contributes to the ferocious work ethic typical of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons are taught to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause,” in the words of Mormon scripture. Stephen Mansfield, the (non-Mormon) author of The Mormonizing of America, explains: “Mormons believe they are in life to pass tests set for them.” The passage of repeated tests leads to self-improvement, ultimately to the point of perfection. In the words of early Mormon leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” From the point of view of Christian orthodoxy, that idea may be unsettling; as a spur to effort, it’s unrivaled.

Like their Calvinist forebears, Mormons are inclined to interpret economic success as an indicator of divine approval, a fulfillment of the Book of Mormon’s promise that the faithful will “prosper in the land.” This prosperity gospel may explain some of Romney’s defiant pride in his material success. Yet Romney’s attitude toward money seems also to have been shaped by the LDS church’s emphatic hostility to conspicuous consumption and lavish display.

According to his biographers Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Romney was horrified when one of his Bain partners purchased himself a private plane. Yes, Romney bought a $55,000 car elevator. But for every story of a rich man’s extravagance, there are many more of Romney’s frugality: patched gloves, dented cars, and $25 haircuts.

If Romney’s attitude toward money is influenced by his church, so is his outlook on how money should be used to help those in need. Mitt and Ann Romney have donated millions to the LDS church, a substantial portion of which has gone to its own internal welfare state for members in need. Unlike government aid, those who receive LDS welfare are expected to “give back”; they contributed almost 900,000 person-days in 2011. Here may originate some of Romney’s skepticism about federal welfare programs.

Of course voters may also want to weigh some of Mormonism’s more worrisome features. Just as 19th-century Mormons found themselves in profound conflict with the United States over the issue of polygamy, so could the theologically grounded commitment of today’s LDS church to one-man-one-woman marriage place its members on a collision course with the 21st-century American mainstream, which increasingly accepts same-sex marriage.

And then there is the uniquely problematic character of Mormon scripture, which makes claims about people, events, and even whole civilizations for which there is no external evidence at all. Many Mormons maintain their faith by insisting that the best evidence of ultimate truth is found in a personal feeling that one’s beliefs are correct. As a businessman, Mitt Romney was a brutally realistic analyst. But on the most important questions in his life, he may have closed his mind to unwelcome facts.

Yet, all told, the influence of Mormonism on Mitt Romney’s attitude and outlook is far more positive than negative—and far more positive than millions of anti-Mormon voters seem to understand.

Voir aussi:

Mormons Rock!

They’ve conquered Broadway, talk radio, the U.S. Senate-and they may win the White House. Why Mitt Romney and 6 million Mormons have the secret to success.

Walter Kirn

Newsweek

June 5, 2011

« If you want to get the Mormon view of the extended Mormon moment… » The New York Times declared in an article Thursday, « there are few better places than this combination of a white-shirt pilgrimage to Mecca and a G-rated version of Bonnaroo. »

The setting described by the Times’ Peter Applebome is the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a big-budget production put on annually by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that tells the story of its sacred text, the Book of Mormon. The show, which is staged at the foot of the hill where Joseph Smith says he found ancient prophetic writings recorded on golden plates, draws thousands of Latter-day Saint viewers from across the world each summer. The show is drawing national attention this year partly because of another popular – albeit significantly less G-rated – Mormon-themed musical on Broadway. That production’s success, along with the presidential campaigns of two LDS candidates, have shed an unusually bright spotlight on the Mormon community, a phenomenon Newsweek examined in its June 13-20 cover story, below.

Say what you will about him, but Mitt Romney doesn’t do, or not do, anything by accident. Take June 2, when the former Massachusetts governor traveled to a quaint farm in Stratham, N.H., to “announce” his foregone conclusion of a 2012 presidential campaign. Romney has to overcome several mountainous challenges before capturing the Republican nomination, and so he spent most of the day trying to reduce them to molehills. To thaw his icy persona, Romney passed out his “famous” family chili and surrounded himself with bales of hay. To account for his moderate governing record, he reminded listeners that the Bay State legislature was “over 85 percent Democrat.” And to soften concerns about “Romneycare,” he admitted it was “not perfect,” then repeated his mantra about it being “a state solution for a state problem.”

But there was one challenge—a challenge that could alienate the kind of Republicans who vote in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina—that Romney didn’t address: his Mormon faith.

No question the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “having a moment.” Not only is Romney running again—this time, he’s likely to be competing against his distant Mormon cousin Jon Huntsman Jr. The Senate, meanwhile, is led by Mormon Harry Reid. Beyond the Beltway, the Twilight vampire novels of Mormon Stephenie Meyer sell tens of millions of copies, Mormon convert Glenn Beck inspires daily devotion and outrage with his radio show, and HBO generated lots of attention with the Big Love finale. Even Broadway has gotten in on the act, giving us The Book of Mormon, a big-budget musical about Mormon missionaries by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q writer Robert Lopez that, with 14 nominations, is expected to clean up at the Tony Awards on June 12.

But despite the sudden proliferation of Mormons in the mainstream, Mormonism itself isn’t any closer to gaining mainstream acceptance. And nowhere is the gap between increased exposure and actual progress more pronounced than in politics. In recent weeks NEWSWEEK called every one of the 15 Mormons currently serving in the U.S. Congress to ask if they would be willing to discuss their faith; the only politicians who agreed to speak on the record were the four who represent districts with substantial Mormon populations. The rest were “private about their faith,” or “politicians first and Mormons second,” according to their spokespeople.

The evasiveness extends even to presidential candidates. In late 2007 Romney traveled to Texas A&M to soothe evangelicals with a speech that downplayed the distinctiveness of Mormonism. “It’s important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America,” he said, “we share a common creed of moral convictions.” Since then, Romney has rarely commented on the subject.

The more moderate Huntsman, meanwhile, has repeatedly deflected attention from his Mormon roots, telling NEWSWEEK in December that religious issues “don’t matter” and that the LDS church doesn’t have a monopoly on his spiritual life. He and his wife “draw from a lot of sources for inspiration,” he said. “I was raised a Mormon, Mary Kaye was raised Episcopalian, our kids have gone to Catholic school, I went to a Lutheran school growing up in Los Angeles. I have [an adopted] daughter from India who has a very distinct Hindu tradition, one that we would celebrate during Diwali. So you kind of bind all this together.”

One could argue that Romney and Huntsman, like their Mormon colleagues in Congress, are right to take religion off the table; after all, many politicians are all too eager to exploit it. But ignoring voters’ concerns about the Mormon faith won’t make them go away—and by trying, Romney and Huntsman may miss an unprecedented opportunity to dispel misconceptions, blunt biases, and make real progress. A new Pew poll finds that nearly a quarter of respondents would be less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. And then there’s the independent anti-Mormon ad mentioning polygamy that helped sink Matt Salmon’s bid for the Arizona governorship in 2002. “A lot of people still don’t completely understand what we [Mormons] believe,” Salmon tells NEWSWEEK. “In the voting booth, they will use whatever factor they can.”

In a vacuum, some people will inevitably conclude that Mormonism is too weird for mainstream America. But just because Romney and Huntsman aren’t making the case for their faith doesn’t mean there isn’t a case to be made. The pro-Mormon argument doesn’t have anything to do with the quirkier aspects of the sect’s history and practices (special underpants, magic spectacles); the accouterments of any religion can seem wacky when scrutinized in the public square. Instead, it centers on the distinctive values and characteristics that have come to define Mormons outside the church walls—in their communities, in their careers, and in the culture at large. Those inclined to think of Mormons as a band of zealots bent on amending the Constitution to outlaw cappuccino may never be convinced. But the rest of us might benefit from hearing the country’s most prominent and influential Mormons tell the truth about their faith: that the distinctiveness of the Mormons is actually the secret of their success.

Mormonism’s astonishing growth from its founding 181 years ago in upstate New York to its current status as the fourth-largest religious denomination in America, with just over 6 million members domestically and about 14 million worldwide, has been fueled by a ferocious underdog energy derived from an experience of brutal persecution. The hostility was largely a reaction to the new religion’s long list of unusual beliefs and practices. Mormonism’s founder, the self-declared prophet Joseph Smith, claimed to have translated a new work of scripture (the Book of Mormon) from text written on golden plates he found buried in the ground. The book told the story of an ancient Israelite civilization in the Americas, including a post-resurrection visit from Jesus Christ. Many other revelations followed, including the most notorious of all: the one advocating “plural marriage,” or polygamy.

The sect’s unusual beliefs, like the wives of its leaders, multiplied rapidly, provoking opposition everywhere the Mormons turned. First they were chased from Ohio, then from Missouri, where Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, fearing the church’s opposition to slavery as much as its embrace of polygamy, declared that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public good.” The expulsion from Missouri led to Illinois, where Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered at the hands of a mob on June 27, 1844.

The sect might have perished then and there had Brigham Young not stepped in to succeed Smith, leading its members on a grueling 1,300-mile exodus from the boundaries of the United States to the barren desert south of the Great Salt Lake. Even after the church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, opening the door to statehood for Utah, Mormons remained very much on the cultural and religious margins.

Today the legacy of that marginalization continues to mark the Mormon outlook on the world. “As somebody who grew up in Utah,” says Dave Checketts, the Mormon former CEO of Madison Square Garden, “I always felt like there was a little bit of a chip on the shoulder. We feel like we’re really good citizens, good people, and misunderstood.” Social and cultural insecurity has also served as a goad to Mormon productivity and achievement. “If you look back at the church’s longtime history,” notes Checketts, “there’s evidence of a certain level of diligence and hard work and a will to overcome adversity.”

The desire to avoid asking for assistance from non–Mormons has also influenced the church’s structure, which requires nearly every member to contribute to the common cause. Mormons worship together for hours on Sundays, perform spiritual and economic outreach to members of the Mormon community, and pay a tithe (one 10th of their income) to the church. Some spend additional hours performing secretive rituals and sacraments (including vicarious baptism for the non-Mormon dead) in specially consecrated temples. In an age of spiritual consumerism, when many people regard religion as a therapeutic lifestyle aid, faith is often expected to serve the individual. For Mormons, it’s the other way around.

The result is an organization that resembles a sanctified multinational corporation—the General Electric of American religion, with global ambitions and an estimated net worth of $30 billion. The church runs and finances one of the largest private universities in the country (Brigham Young University). Many members serve two-year missions abroad for the church, acquiring fluency in foreign languages (and foreign cultures) along the way. (Mitt Romney learned French on his mission to France, while Jon Huntsman picked up Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan.) More than many other faiths, the Mormon church prepares its members to engage intelligently with the broader culture and the wider world.

But the roots of Mormonism’s distinctiveness go beyond the church’s history and organizational structure. They go all the way down to some of the church’s unique theological doctrines. The Mormons believe, for example, in “eternal progression,” which means both that God himself was once a human being and that we can follow his example to evolve into gods ourselves. This progression toward ever-higher stages of divine perfection extends beyond death, continuing into the afterlife.

For Kim Clark, a Mormon and former dean of the Harvard Business School, this doctrine explains a lot about the church’s drive toward economic and educational achievement. “Your whole eternal identity as a person is defined by eternal progression,” says Clark. “We know that…there will be opportunities to grow and learn and become like our heavenly father, to do what he does. That’s a very powerful thing.”

Theological commitments also influence the way members of the Mormon church engage in politics. Members vote Republican in overwhelming numbers. (The McCain-Palin ticket carried heavily Mormon Utah with 63 percent of the vote.) It’s hardly surprising that support for low taxes and a minimum of government regulation would appeal to a community that once endured severe government-sponsored oppression. Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) sees an even deeper connection between his faith and his economic and political views. According to Mormon tradition, God and Satan fought a “war in heaven” over the question of moral agency, with God on the side of personal liberty and Satan seeking to enslave mankind. Flake acknowledges that the theme of freedom—and the threat of losing it—runs through much of Mormonism, and “that kind of fits my philosophy.” (Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared, “I am a Democrat because I’m a Mormon, not in spite of it,” his is a minority view among members of the faith.)

On social issues, many Mormons enthusiastically take part in what evangelical activist (and former Nixon accomplice) Charles Colson calls the “ecumenism of the trenches”—the practice of conservative Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons toiling side by side as allies in the culture war against secular liberalism. Still, the differences, and tensions, among the groups are real and deep, and not only because Mormons think of their religion as a “restoration” of genuine Christianity after an 1,800-year apostasy that produced both Catholic and Protestant forms of the faith. The church goes far beyond its comrades in the culture war in holding that an ideal marriage—one between a man and a woman, undertaken as a sacrament in a Mormon temple—is forever binding, with marital vows, and procreation, extending into eternity. This view of marriage motivates some of the church’s most controversial public stands—the most recent being its backing of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Taken to an extreme, the peculiarities of Mormon history and belief can lead to the antigovernment conspiracy theorizing of Glenn Beck and the John Birch Society, which enjoyed support in Mormon circles during the 1950s and ’60s. But the same constellation of views can lead toward -consensus-building moderation. Think of Mitt Romney’s stint as governor of liberal Massachusetts, when he championed health-care reform. Jon Huntsman showed similar instincts when he accepted President Obama’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. In the words of Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and a practicing Mormon, Romney and Huntsman are typical of what happens when prominent members of the church spend time “in environments where Mormonism is simply not a part of the everyday equation.” They blend in.

And therein lies the paradox of Mormonism in America today. Consider the TV and Internet ad campaign recently started by the church: a range of people describe their everyday lives and finish up with the phrase “And I’m a Mormon.” Church spokesman Michael Purdy describes the ads as an attempt to downplay Mormon “otherness.” The message: Mormons are just like everyone else.

Except that they’re not. And it is their distinctiveness that is influencing the broader culture. David Neeleman, the Mormon founder and former CEO of JetBlue Airways, brought lessons from his church to his company, donating most of his salary to a fund for needy employees and regularly shedding his suit and tie for a flight attendant’s uniform. Management guru Stephen Covey has sold millions of books translating core elements of the upstanding, upwardly striving Mormon outlook into a method for becoming a “highly effective” person. Stephenie Meyer’s extraordinarily popular Twilight novels and films give vampires a Mormon makeover, with a lead character, Edward Cullen, serving as a sexy model of moral purity and chastity. And the list goes on

Politics—the field with perhaps the greatest potential to change how most Americans view Mormons—has yet to catch up. But while national figures such as Romney and Huntsman are still reluctant to highlight their Mormon faith, other politicians are starting to see their Mormonism as a selling point. Matt Salmon is one of them. After losing to Janet Napolitano in 2002, partly because of that independent polygamy ad, Salmon, a former congressman, retreated from public life for a while. “They put signs up beneath my signs saying ‘Don’t Vote Mormon,’?” he recalls. “If you did that with any other religion, you’d be crucified.” But now Salmon has decided to run in 2012 for his old congressional seat—and he’s refusing to “hide” from his heritage. “Our Mormonism is fundamental to who we are, whether in business, politics, or our daily activities,” he says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I love to serve and would love to serve again. But if I have to shade over who I am and what I really believe and how I think to be successful, then I don’t want to be successful.”

With McKay Coppins, Andrew Romano, and David A. Graham

Voir enfin:

Excerpt from The Mormonizing of America, by Stephen Mansfield

by TNB Nonfiction

LOS ANGELES

14 August 2012

There are nearly seven million Mormons in America. This is the number the Mormons themselves use. It’s not huge. Seven million is barely 2 percent of the country’s population. It is the number of people who subscribe to Better Homes and Gardens magazine. London boasts seven million people. So does San Francisco. It’s a million more people than live in the state of Washington; a million less than in the state of Virginia. It’s so few, it’s the same number as were watching the January 24, 2012, Republican debate.

In fact, worldwide, there are only about fourteen million Mormons. That’s fourteen million among a global population just reaching seven billion. Fourteen million is the population of Cairo or Mali or Guatemala. It’s approximately the number of people who tune in for the latest hit show on network television every week. Fourteen million Americans ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant in 2011. That’s how few fourteen million is.

Yet in the first decade or so of the new millennium, some members of the American media discovered the Mormons and began covering them as though the Latter-day Saints had just landed from Mars. It was as though Utah was about to invade the rest of the country. It was all because of politics and pop culture, of course. Mitt Romney and John Huntsman were in pursuit of the White House. Glenn Beck was among the nation’s most controversial news commentators. Stephenie Meyer had written the astonishingly popular Twilight series about vampires. Matt Stone and Trey Parker had created the edgy South Park cartoon series—which included a much- discussed episode about Mormons—and then went on to create the blatantly blasphemous and Saint-bashing Broadway play The Book of Mormon. It has become one of the most successful productions in American theater history.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Mormons sat in the US Congress, among them Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. Mormons led JetBlue, American Express, Marriott, Novell, Deloitte and Touche, Diebold, and Eastman Kodak. Management guru Stephen Covey made millions telling them how to lead even better. There were Mormons commanding battalions of US troops and Mormons running major US universities. There were so many famous Mormons, in fact, that huge websites were launched just to keep up with it all. Notables ranged from movie stars like Katherine Heigl to professional athletes to country music stars like Gary Allan to reality television contestants and even to serial killers like Glenn Helzer, whose attorney argued that the Saints made him the monster he was. The media graciously reminded the public that Mormon criminals were nothing new, though: Butch Cassidy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame was also a Mormon, they reported.

Most media coverage treated this “Mormon Moment” as though it was just that: the surprising and unrelated appearance of dozens of Mormons on the national stage—for a moment. More than a few commentators predicted it would all pass quickly. This new Mormon visibility would lead to new scrutiny, they said, and once the nation got reacquainted with tales of “holy underwear” and multiple wives and Jewish Indians and demonized African Americans and a book printed on gold plates buried in upstate New York, it would all go quiet again and stay that way for a generation. In the meantime, reruns of HBO’s Big Love and The Learning Channel’s Sister Wives would make sure Mormon themes didn’t die out completely.

What most commentators did not understand was that their “Mormon Moment” was more than a moment, more than an accident, and more than a matter of pop culture and fame alone. The reality was—and is—that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reached critical mass. It is not simply that a startling number of Mormons have found their way onto America’s flat-screen TVs and so brought visibility to their religion. It is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints has reached sufficient numbers—and has so permeated every level of American society on the strength of its religious value—that prominent politicians, authors, athletes, actors, newscasters, and even murderers are the natural result, in some cases even the intended result. Visible, influential Mormons aren’t outliers or exceptions. They are fruit of the organic growth of their religion.

In 1950, there were just over a million Mormons in the world. Most of these were located in the Intermountain West of the United States, a region of almost lunar landscape between the Rocky Mountains to the East and the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountains to the West. The religion was still thought of as odd by most Americans. There had been famous Mormons like the occasional US Senator or war hero, but these were few and far between. There had even been a 1940 Hollywood movie entitled Brigham Young that told the story of the Saints’ mid-1800s trek from Illinois to the region of the Great Salt Lake. Its producers worked hard to strain out nearly every possible religious theme, a nod to the increasingly secular American public. Though it starred heavyweights like Vincent Price and Tyrone Power, the movie failed miserably, even in Utah. Especially in Utah.

Then, in 1951, a man named David O. McKay became the “First President” of the Latter-day Saints and inaugurated a new era. He was the Colonel Harlan Sanders of Mormonism. He often wore white suits, had an infectious laugh, and under- stood the need to appeal to the world outside the Church. It was refreshing. Most LDS presidents had either been polygamist oddballs or stodgy old men in the eyes of the American public. McKay was more savvy, more media aware. He became so popular that film legend Cecil B. DeMille asked him to consult on the now classic movie The Ten Commandments.

Empowered by his personal popularity and by his sense that an opportune moment had come, McKay began refashioning the Church’s image. He also began sharpening its focus. His famous challenge to his followers was, “Every Member a Missionary!” And the faithful got busy. It only helped that Ezra Taft Benson, a future Church president, was serving as the nation’s secretary of agriculture under President Eisehower. This brought respectability. It also helped that George Romney was the revered CEO of American Motors Corporation and that he would go on to be the governor of Michigan, a candidate for president of the United States, and finally a member of Richard Nixon’s cabinet. This hinted at increasing power. The 1950s were good for Mormons.

Then came the 1960s. Like most religions, the LDS took a beating from the counterculture movement, but by the 1970s they were again on the rise. There was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a symbol of Americana when Americana was under siege. There was Mormon Donny Osmond’s smile and Mormon Marie Osmond’s everything and the three-year run of network television’s Donny and Marie in the late 1970s that made words like family, clean, talented, patriotic, and even cute outshine some of the less-endearing labels laid upon the Saints through the years. New labels joined new symbols. A massive, otherworldly, 160,000-square-foot Temple just north of Washington, DC, was dedicated in the 1970s, a symbol of LDS power and permanence for the nation to behold. Always there was the “Every Member a Missionary!” vision beating in each Saintly heart.

By 1984, the dynamics of LDS growth were so fine-tuned that influential sociologist Rodney Stark made the mind- blowing prediction that the Latter-day Saints would have no fewer than 64 million members and perhaps as many as 267 million by 2080.3 It must have seemed possible in those days. In the following ten years, LDS membership exploded from 4.4 million to 11 million. This may be why in 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The Mormons—a misguided cult in the view of most traditional Christians, most Baptists in particular—had to be stopped.

They weren’t. Four years after the Baptists besieged Temple Square, the Winter Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City. This was in 2002 and it is hard to exaggerate what this meant to the Latter-day Saints. A gifted Mormon leader, Mitt Romney, rescued the games after a disastrous bidding scandal. A sparkling Mormon city hosted the games. Happy, handsome all-American Mormons attended each event, waving constantly to the cameras and appearing to be—in the word repeatedly used by the press at the time—“normal.”

The LDS Church capitalized on it all. It sent volunteers, missionaries, and publicists scurrying to every venue. It hosted grand events for the world press. It made sure that every visitor received a brochure offering an LDS guided tour of the city. Visitors from around the world read these words: “No other place in America has a story to tell like that of Salt Lake City—a sanctuary founded by religious refugees from within the United States’ own borders. And none can tell that story better than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Largely unchallenged, the Mormon narrative prevailed.

What followed was the decade of the new millennium we have already surveyed. Mormons seemed to be everywhere, seemed to be exceptional in nearly every arena, seemed to have moved beyond acceptance by American culture to domination of American culture. At least this was what some feared at the time.

But Mormons did not dominate the country. Far from it. Remember that they were not even 2 percent of the nation’s population as of 2012. True, they were visible and successful, well educated and well spoken, patriotic and ever willing to serve. Yet what they had achieved was not domination. It was not a conspiracy either, as some alleged. It was not anything approaching a takeover or even the hope for a takeove

Few observers seemed to be able to explain how this new level of LDS prominence in American society came about. They reached for the usual answers trotted out to account for such occurrences: birth rates, Ronald Reagan’s deification of traditional values, the economic boom of the late twentieth century, a more liberal and broadminded society, even the dumbing down of America through television and failing schools. Each of these explanations was found wanting.

the Mormon Machine

The truth lay within Mormonism itself. What the Saints had achieved in the United States was what Mormonism, unfettered and well led, will nearly always produce. This was the real story behind the much-touted “Mormon Moment.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had risen to unexpected heights in American society because the Mormon religion creates what can benevolently be called a Mormon Machine— a system of individual empowerment, family investment, local church (ward and stake level) leadership, priesthood government, prophetic enduement, Temple sacraments, and sacrificial financial endowment of the holy Mormon cause.

Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies—a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time.

These hallmark values and behaviors—the habits that distinguish Mormons in the minds of millions of Americans— grow naturally from Mormon doctrine. They are also the values and behaviors of successful people. Observers who think of the religion as a cult—in the Jim Jones sense that a single, dynamic leader controls a larger body of devotees through fear, lies, and manipulation—usually fail to see this. Mormon doctrine is inviting, the community it produces enveloping and elevating, the lifestyle it encourages empowering in nearly every sense. Success, visibility, prosperity, and influence follow. This is the engine of the Mormon ascent. It is what has attracted so many millions, and it is the mechanism of the Latter-day Saints’ impact upon American society and the world.

Mormons make achievement through organizational management a religious virtue. It leads to prosperity, visibility, and power. It should come as no surprise, then, that an American can turn on the evening news after a day of work and find one report about two Mormon presidential candidates, another story about a Mormon finalist on American Idol, an examination of the controversial views of a leading Mormon news commentator, a sports story about what a Mormon lineman does with his “Temple garments” in the NFL, and a celebration of how Mormons respond to crises like Katrina and the BP oil spill, all by a “Where Are They Now?” segment about Gladys Knight, minus the Pips, who has become—of course—a Mormon.

Mormons rise in this life because it is what their religion calls for. Achieving. Progressing. Learning. Forward, upward motion. This is the lifeblood of earthly Mormonism. Management, leadership, and organizing are the essential skills of the faith. It is no wonder that Mormons have grown so rapidly and reached such stellar heights in American culture. And there is much more to come.

The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield, © 2012. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, TN.

_________________________

STEPHEN MANSIFELD is the New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of Barack Obama. He is also a popular lecturer and speaker. His latest book, The Mormonizing of America, has already begun shaping the religious discussion surrounding the 2012 presidential race.

One Response to Présidentielle américaine/2012: Mormonisation ou simple désobamisation? (Mormon moment or anything to get rid of Obama?)

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