Heaven opened, and behold a white horse

Randy Wright | Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:54 pm

Smith-HatchSen. Orrin Hatch is speaking Mormon code again to conservatives in Southern Utah. Rolly reports that Hatch told a breakfast gathering in St. George on Saturday that “I would be letting down my Father in Heaven if I didn’t run again.” I understand. The Ayatollah Khomeini felt exactly the same way.

This mixing of church and state is found a lot in Utah. Perhaps there's something in the water. In 1993, Michael J.S. Thompson, running for Orem City Council, told residents that their support for his opponents thwarted God's plans. In 2006 Eagle Mountain businessman John Jacob (running against Rep. Chris Cannon) told a group of journalists that the devil was trying to keep him out of office. Bennion Spencer, a Democrat running against Jason Chaffetz, said that Jesus would vote for him if he had the chance.

It's always risky to drag deity directly into politics. Perhaps a higher power has been at work in America's history, but individual claims of knowing the mind of God are always dubious. It's reasonable to assume, for instance, that Satan's interference with Jacob's campaign meant that God didn't want him in Washington.

All this is loosely connected to a supposed utterance by Mormon prophet Joseph Smith known as the "White Horse Prophecy." Legend holds that Smith predicted the Constitution would one day "hang by a thread" and would be rescued by Mormon elders. Ever since, various Mormon elders have been styling themselves as the men for the job. Hatch used the "hang by a thread" language in a meeting with the Herald editorial board some years back, and in fact, the phrase crops up regularly in Mormondom. Glenn Beck, for instance, sent out the code in an interview with Bill O'Reilly in 2008: "We are at the place where the Constitution hangs in the balance. I feel the Constitution is hanging in the balance right now, hanging by a thread unless the good Americans wake up."

Never mind that the Constitution has been hanging by a thread ever since the nation's birth. Ever hear of Andrew Jackson and the nullification crisis? Every hear of the Civil War? Conservative politics is getting radical these days, with a generous dose of religion everywhere you turn -- so much so that it ought to be asked whether one can be a good Mormon and a Republican.