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Mitt Romney“At this late stage it’s time to remind ourselves of a salient fact. There is only one principle on which Romney has never wavered, and that is his religion.

He is a crystallized and not an accidental believer. You can see it in his lineless face. Awareness of mortality is in itself ageing (it creases the orbits of the eyes, it torments the brow); and Romney has the look of someone who seriously thinks that he will live forever. He is a Mormon—though he doesn’t like talking about it. And if I were a Mormon, I wouldn’t like talking about it either. Whatever you may feel about their doctrines, the great monotheisms are sanctioned by the continuities of time: Islam has 15 centuries behind it, Christianity has 20, Judaism at least 40. One of the dozens of quackeries that sprang up during the Great Revival, Mormonism was founded on April 6, 1830. The vulgarity and venality—the tar and feathers—of its origins are typical of the era. But there are aspects of its history that might still give us pause.

The first Prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had 87 wives, of whom the youngest was 14. Brigham Young, the second Prophet, was husband to 70; he also incited a series of murders (to quell intra-church rivalries). Mormons suffered persecution, and they retaliated—in 1857, for example, they killed 120 men, women, and children (the Mountain Meadows massacre). During the Civil War, the Mormons’ sympathies lay with the South, and unavoidably so, for they too dealt in human chattels; as one historian, Hugh Brogan, puts it, “Lincoln might as well have said of polygamy what he said of slavery, that if it was not wrong, nothing was wrong.” Not until 1890 did the church renounce the practice (though it persisted well into living memory); not until 1978 did a further “revelation” disclose that black people were the equals of whites—by which time Mitt Romney was 31 years old.”

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From Martin Amis’s coverage of the election for The Daily Beast.