When it comes to American exceptionalism, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recently said, “Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome.”
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly lauds the crucial role this country has to play in human history.
“I am one of those who believes America is destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the republic,” Romney wrote in his book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” ‘’the brightest hope of the world.”
The Republican nominee-in-waiting asserts the country has declined because President Obama doesn’t share his vaulted view. Alluding to a biblical metaphor, Romney has said, the “light from that shining city (on a hill) has dimmed over the last three years, and I will help restore it.”
Other Mormons caution against linking political perspectives on American exceptionalism to specific theology or teachings.
LDS views run the gamut — from believing that this nation is distinctive to seeing it as better than others, says Brigham Young University political scientist Quin Monson. “I don’t think the church’s position on the divine origins of the U.S. Constitution and teaching that America is a special place have really clear implications for policy.”
Besides, Mormons aren’t the only ones who see a transcendent mission for the United States. Many other politicians, including Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum, see it much the same way.
In political terms, American exceptionalism has come to mean, according to an article in Foreign Policy magazine, that “the United States — and the United States alone — (is meant) to lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.”
That perspective fits some elements of LDS theology, but not others.
The real story of Mormons and the United States is complicated — even contradictory.
This country gave birth to their restored religion, but saw the murder of their prophet amid his presidential campaign. The First Amendment provided shelter for their faith, but couldn’t protect them from wholesale expulsions across the Midwest. Their signature scripture trumpets the promise of America, but is filled with the pain of a fallen nation.
Today, the Utah-based faith is growing more rapidly outside the United States than in it, which makes it essential for the church to play down its Americanness. Zion, the church now teaches, can be anywhere the faithful gather and worship.
Since its founding in 1830, Mormonism has been seen as the quintessential American faith.
After all, it was launched on U.S. soil and its sacred text, the Book of Mormon, tells the story of a band of Israelites who sailed to the New World. After his death in Jerusalem, the scripture says, Jesus brought his redeeming doctrines to the Americas.