SALT LAKE CITY – While Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practice by his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate’s great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12.
Polygamy was not just a historical footnote, but a prominent element in the family tree of the former Massachusetts governor now seeking to become the first Mormon president.
Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, married his fifth wife in 1897. That was more than six years after Mormon leaders banned polygamy and more than three decades after a federal law barred the practice.
Romney’s great-grandmother, Hannah Hood Hill, was the daughter of polygamists. She wrote vividly in her autobiography about how she “used to walk the floor and shed tears of sorrow” over her own husband’s multiple marriages.
Romney’s great-great grandfather, Parley Pratt, an apostle in the church, had 12 wives. In an 1852 sermon, Parley Pratt’s brother and fellow apostle, Orson Pratt, became the first church official to publicly proclaim and defend polygamy as a direct revelation from God.
Romney’s father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, where Mormons fled in the 1800s to escape religious persecution and U.S. laws forbidding polygamy. He and his family did not return to the United States until 1912, more than two decades after the church issued “The Manifesto” banning polygamy.
“When you read the family’s history, you realize how important polygamy was to them,” said Todd Compton, a Mormon and independent historian who wrote a book about the polygamous life of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith. “They left America and started again as pioneers, after they had done it over and over again previously.”
Does anyone really find any of this all that important? I understand that people are concerned about the personal habits and morals of their leaders. It is a legitimate factor to take into consideration whenc choosing a leader, but has Mitt Romney himself ever expressed any support for polygamy? Has he ever had more than one wife? The answer to both of those is “no,” so why even bring this up?
What if Romney’s great-great-grandfather was a rapist. Would it be right to tar-and-feather Romney with that? How about if his grandfather had been a Satan worshiper? Or an atheist? Are those Romney’s responsibilities as well?
Romney is a Mormon, and his faith repudiated one of it’s early practices long before he was born. Just as a lot of religions have repudiated certain other practices over the years. If there were some evidence to suggest that Romney is a supporter of polygamy or sympathetic to that practice this would be a different matter, but outside of that this simply doesn’t matter.
And I have hard time believing that this would even be an issue were Romney a Democrat.