Step Into the Light

Unless we end up with one of the most entertaining RNC conventions in decades, it’s pretty certain Mitt Romney will face President Obama in the 2012 battle for the White House. And when he does, expect Mormons across the country to take a keener interest in bolstering their food supplies.

The White Horse Prophecy (WHP) has long been a source of debate and consideration among Mormons, resurrected regularly anytime a prominent member of the LDS church throws his hat in the ring for the ultimate race. It came up when Romney’s father, George, tried to secure the GOP nomination in the 60s. And again in 2000 when Orrin Hatch wanted Republicans to choose him over Junior. So far, the threat of a Mormon president hasn’t been very real, but with Romney facing Obama, the idea that a Latter-day Saint might occupy the White House has suddenly become…thinkable. And out comes the prophecy.

Image via Creative Commons of Joseph Smith, Jr.

The WHP is attributed to Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, but wasn’t made public until after his death. While there are various accounts of Smith’s “prophecy,” the most commonly related version is that the Mormons would head to the Rocky Mountains (which ended up happening) and become the “White Horse” described in the book of “Revelation” in the Bible. According to Smith, during a time of great tribulation the Constitution will “hang by a thread” as a result of Satan and his minions. The faithful Mormons will ride in and rescue the United States (a land Mormons believe their god created in order to restore his true church to the Earth), which is largely interpreted as meaning a Mormon has been elected President. While the LDS church neither officially confirms nor denies this prophecy as doctrine, the fact is many (maybe even most) Mormons put some stock in it. They see the election of a Mormon President as the beginning of the end. This is an entire faith built around the end of the world. Members are instructed to prepare with up to two years of food storage to tide them over for the period of time the world is ending and before Jesus returns to reign over a newly restored paradise. A lot of homes in Salt Lake City come equipped with bomb shelters that are not a product of the 1950s fears of Russia. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

The prophecy’s origins happen to be pretty interesting in terms of timing. Believed to have been “received” around 1840, the prophecy falls after Smith trekked to Washington D.C. to avail the U.S. government of relief from his persecutors. When he was rebuffed, Smith made it clear he believed Mormons were the last “true Americans” and would be called upon to rescue the nation. The prophecy also coincidentally preceded Smith’s own candidacy for President in 1844 (he was assassinated the same year), perhaps setting the stage for him to become the “White Horse.” Never mind other Smith prophecies of the time fell flat, such as the building of a Mormon temple in Jackson County, Missouri (where Mormons believe Jesus will reign when he returns) during his lifetime. This still hasn’t happened.

To his credit, Romney has stated the WHP is not LDS church doctrine, and he’s also emphasized he doesn’t really believe he’s in the spot he’s in to prevent the Antichrist (a.k.a. President Obama) from triggering the end of the world. But the fact is, a big group of people who want to be considered “normal Christians” wholeheartedly believe this crap. And if you don’t think it’s going to get talked about more as the race progresses, you’re kidding yourself.  Mormonism is going to be thrust into a spotlight more intense than any its ever seen…even brighter than the light of the Olympics…as this race gets rolling in earnest.

I’m trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad one.