I’m no expert on the Church of Latter Day Saints, but I feel pretty confident in saying that their missionary work is pretty central to their whole belief system. For example, “young men between the ages of 18 and 25 who meet standards of worthiness are strongly encouraged to consider a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission.” I don’t think too many Mormons consider this some kind of clever way of avoiding military service, although it obviously can serve that purpose.
Steve Bannon, however, obviously feels differently. At a rally for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in Fairhope, Alabama last night, Bannon attacked Mitt Romney:
“Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinkie finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA,” Bannon said in his 30-minute speech at Oak Hollow Farm. “You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity,” he said, referencing Romney’s Mormon faith.
There’s a lot of heat in those remarks. He accuses Romney not only of being a coward who lacks honor and integrity, but of being an insincere missionary who was proselytizing out of his own convenience instead of any conviction. Bannon’s condemnation is sweeping enough to call into question the LDS’s entire practice of missionary work if it happens to take place in wartime.
There are other religious faiths that would fare poorly by this standard, including the Quakers, but this is a pretty strong attack on a pillar of Mormon faith and religious practice, and I don’t imagine it will be received well.
Amazingly, Bannon thinks he can disparage Mormonism like this and still have standing to talk about who will represent Utah in the Senate.
Bannon has reportedly toyed with the idea of endorsing Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) for reelection, fearful that a Hatch retirement would allow Romney to walk into the Senate in 2018 and become a conservative thorn in Trump’s side.
I’d like to know how Orrin Hatch feels about Bannon’s assertion that young Mormon men on mission are lacking in honor, integrity, courage, or conviction. Does Hatch endorse that view himself? Does he want Bannon’s support? Will he disavow Bannon and defend the honor of Mitt Romney and their religious brethren?
Inquiring minds want to know.