Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Mormons Against Romney" Analyze Romney's Promise to "Sustain" Roe v. Wade

Mitt Romney promised to "sustain and support" Roe v. Wade in his 1994 campaign (against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate). We just found this analysis of what "sustain" means within the Mormon faith, on the "Mormons against Romney" blog. (Not being of the Mormon faith, we have no idea if this is an orthodox interpretation. Apparently a left-leaning group, it includes links to "LDS Liberation Front" and "LDS-Left" -- as well as linking to a site peddling "Romney thongs"!) Here is their analysis, for what it's worth:

On Sustaining the Law (12-16-06)

The following statement, which has been
widely reported, by Willard Mitt Romney has been rattling around in my head a fair amount recently:

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time when my Mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice."
-Mitt Romney in a 1994 Senatorial debate

In the LDS context "sustain" has a very special meaning. Whenever someone in a congregation gets a new responsibility (a calling), their names are presented in our sacrament meeting along with what they are being asked to do. This is usually presented to the congregation by a member of the local leadership as follows: "Brother Jones has been asked to serve as the 15 and 16 year-old Sunday School teacher. All that can sustain him in this calling please show by the uplifted hand." At this point members of the congregation who sustain the calling raise their right hand. The leader than says "any opposed may manifest it", and anyone who opposes the calling may raise their hand.

To me this is one of the greatest things about the Mormon experience, that when we are asked to do something in our local congregation, we can look around us and see that the people around us know what we are being asked to do, and are showing a willingness to help and support us. It is an exceptional sense of community, especially considering that at the local and regional levels there is no paid clergy. Since as a rule everyone has some responsibility in the congregation, and those responsibilities change sometimes every 2-3 years, sometimes more frequently, there is a very egalitarian aspect to how local congregations are run.

We are also taught that once we sustain someone we should do all we can to help someone in their calling, and not needlessly tear them down.... Everyone in the Church from the highest ranked ecclesiastical official on down, is supported by a sustaining. This reflection of early Mormon principles of communitarianism might surprise outside observers of Mormonism, especially when one learns how all-pervasive it is.

Current president of the Church Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“The procedure of
sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected”
-Ensign, May 1995, p. 51 ...

We take the same approach to sustaining other things, such as the law of the land. Our 12th Article of Faith says that we are to sustain the law. What does this mean? The best explanation I have found is when past President of the LDS Church David O. McKay said:
“To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective”

-Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28

When we sustain someone or something, and especially when we make that sustaining an overt public act, we take on very specific responsibilities. Support, strength, assistance even when we might personally disagree with something in the person or thing, are all things required of us in "sustaining".

When Mitt Romney was an LDS bishop he was in charge of the sustaining process every Sunday. On Sundays he didn't officiate in the process, the process was still done under his very close oversight. The LDS concept of "sustaining" can't be far from his mind when he makes statements saying he "sustains" a law. I think that in his 1994 statement quoted above he was completely on solid ground politically and spiritually. He might not love the idea of abortion personally, but it is provided for in the law and we sustain the law. If Romney ever really supported Roe v. Wade (and I know that this is in doubt in spite of his words above) then he should have had in his head the following adaptation of President McKay's counsel:
To sustain Roe v. Wade, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective.

I am not certain which is worse, that he once felt this way and turned has back on it, or that he lied in the first place and the true Romney is just now coming through. In either case, it seems to be a slap in the face for the important role sustaining plays in the Mormon experience.

[italics added]