It's Mormon lore, a story passed along by some old-timers about the importance of their faith and their country.
In the latter days, the story goes, the U.S. Constitution will hang by a thread and a Mormon will ride in on a metaphorical white horse to save it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not accept the legend - commonly referred to as the "White Horse Prophecy" - as doctrine. The issue, however, has been raised on those occasions when Mormons have sought the Oval Office: George Romney was asked about it during his bid in 1968, Sen. Orrin Hatch discussed it when he ran in 2000, and now Mitt Romney. "It is being raised," says Phil Barlow, a professor of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University. "I've heard it a bit lately."
Romney says he doesn't believe in the supposed prophecy, nor did his father when he ran.
"I haven't heard my name associated with it or anything of that nature," Mitt Romney told The Salt Lake Tribune during an interview earlier this year. "That's not official church doctrine. There are a lot of things that are speculation and discussion by church members and even church leaders that aren't official church doctrine. I don't put that at the heart of my religious belief." The disputed prophecy was recorded in a diary entry of a Mormon who had heard the tale from two men who were with Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Ill. when he supposedly declared the prophecy. "You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed," the diary entry quotes Smith as saying. "It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber."
Not only will the Mormons save the Constitution, under the prediction, but the prophecy goes further, insinuating that Mormons will control the government. "Power will be given to the White Horse to rebuke the nations afar off, and you obey it, for the laws go forth from Zion," the prophecy says. The LDS Church denounces the premonition, which was recorded 10 years after Smith's death. A church spokesman pointed to a quote from the faith's sixth president, Joseph F. Smith, who called the prophecy "ridiculous."
"It is simply false; that is all there is to it," the church prophet was quoted saying. Joseph Smith, who Mormons believe found ancient gold plates and transcribed them into the Book of Mormon, ran for president in 1844, a year after he supposedly told of the White Horse Prophecy. Smith was murdered by a mob shortly thereafter.
So far, it hasn't been overtly discussed in reference to Romney's bid, but he told The Tribune previously that it was raised in the 1968 presidential run of his father, George Romney. "It came up in the race, but he didn't believe in it," the younger Romney said in 1999. In fact, George Romney said there are different interpretations of what Smith and Brigham Young, another Mormon prophet, were saying, according to a 1967 edition of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought:
"I have always felt that they meant that sometime the question of whether we are going to proceed on the basis of the Constitution would arise and at this point government leaders who were Mormons would be involved in answering that question," George Romney was quoted as saying.
In the 2000 presidential race, the prophecy again made news during Hatch's failed bid for the White House. The Utah Republican and Mormon commented on the Constitution hanging by a thread during a radio interview, fanning thoughts of whether he was referring to the prophecy. Hatch says he was not referencing the premonition.
Mitt Romney has faced a barrage of questions about his religion from the news media but few in public from voters. One man in New Hampshire last week told Romney he wouldn't vote for him because Romney's a Mormon. But the guy added that he was a liberal and voting for Hillary Clinton.
On the trail, Romney talks generally about his belief in God but does not engage in doctrinal debate over details of his faith. He declines often to go into the specific tenets of the Mormon religion, saying that he is not a spokesperson for his church.
Ann Marie Curling, a Mormon in Kentucky who backs Romney, knows of the prophecy but puts no stock in it. "It's definitely not playing into why I support him," says Curling, who runs a pro-Romney blog. She says the few who believe in the prophecy are in the "extreme" fringes of the faith. "I don't see it being the reason everyday LDS persons are supporting him."
While the LDS Church does not accept the White Horse Prophecy as doctrine, several former leaders of the faith have spoken of the threat to the Constitution at various times, according to research by George Cobabe, who studied the prophecy's origins for the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research. The group's mission is to defend the church and correct misunderstandings.
He says the concept of religious people saving the Constitution in the last days is a common theme for many faiths, but adds the White Horse Prophecy is bunk. "I don't think the White Horse Prophecy is fair to bring up at all," he says. "It's been rejected by every church leader that has talked about it. It has nothing to do with anything."
Barlow, the Utah State University professor, says probably 10 percent to 20 percent of Mormons in America have heard of the prophecy by name but that many more have likely heard bits and pieces of it. "It's dubious whether this originated with Joseph Smith but it seems to have a life of its own," Barlow says. "While most Mormons may not have heard of it, there are some themes that have some currency."
The main theme is the apocalyptic end of the world and the phrase that the Constitution - which Mormons believe was divinely inspired - will "hang by a thread."
Still, Barlow says it's doubtful the so-called prophecy will make a big splash during the campaign. "It's too esoteric than bigger things like polygamy that will get brought up," he says, referring to the practice of marrying multiple wives that the church officially denounced in 1890 (16).Mitt Romney is a scion of one of one of the fourteen or so families that run the Mormon Church, and his second cousin was President Marion G. Romney. Further, Romney’s Father, George, was born in the polygamous community of Colonia Juarez, Mexico, where Mormon polygamists in Utah escaped to during the “1890 Manifesto” which banned polygamy outright. It is virtually impossible that Romney does not know the truth behind this prophecy. Consequently, he may either be complicit with its meaning and doesn’t want to be associated with it, or he’s too fearful to speak out against it. Either way, this attitude doesn’t bode well for someone who wants to be President of the United States. At the same time, the Church continually persecutes those who dare to reveal the truth about the Mormon religion. And, those who make an honest effort to study Mormon history know the Church largely bastardizes or attempts to hide any history that is available. Dallin Oaks, a former professor of law at the University of Chicago, former president of BYU and former justice of the Utah Supreme Court speaks eloquently about criticizing the Church and the altering of Church history:
"Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward church authorities, general or local…It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true…Our individual, personal testimonies are based on the witness of the spirit, not on any combination or accumulation of historical facts. If we are so grounded, no alteration of historical facts can shake our testimonies." – Dallin H. Oaks, "Elder Decries Criticism of LDS Leaders," quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday August 18, 1985, p. 2B.
In this case, altering Church history would entail negating the false, incomplete and inaccurate history that is knowingly and strategically propagated by the Mormon religion, bringing to cessation the false and misleading propaganda strategically disseminated by the Mormon media machine, openly disclosing the real theology and history of the Mormon religion and assuming responsibility for the myriad of atrocious acts that the Mormon religion has perpetrated against “Gentile America”, which are hypocritically and fallaciously referred to as “religious persecution” and the “intolerance of the gentile”. Such a policy of openness and honesty may finally result in a true awakening that maybe Mormonism really is a great world religion after all. Think of the cost savings in propaganda, and the elimination of the ridiculous “doublespeak”. Most Mormon subjects are decent hard-working Americans who are completely unaware of Mormonism’s dark side, and they’re also tired of being lied to and subjugated; perhaps that’s what the Mormon hierarchy is really worried about. Wait until these subjects realize the Constitution of the United States already grants them the freedoms and rights that are not actually granted by the Mormon religion. As Dallin Oaks stated so eloquently, “Our individual, personal testimonies are based on the witness of the spirit, not on any combination or accumulation of historical facts. If we are so grounded, no alteration of historical facts can shake our testimonies", or was that doublespeak?