Is Glenn Beck preaching Mormon ‘restoration’ theology?

“Does God speak through Glenn Beck?” While secularists at MSNBC smirk and some on the “permanent left” deride this question, … Continued

“Does God speak through Glenn Beck?” While secularists at MSNBC smirk and some on the “permanent left” deride this question, believers understand that God chooses special messengers. Catholic theology says you don’t have to be a saint for God to speak through you. So does God speak through the Fox News man?

Knowing that Beckian revelation could happen raises the question if it did happen. In the light of Beck’s August 2010 rally at the Lincoln Memorial, when Beck attributed his words to God’s power, a Catholic theological test helps decide if his was truly a “God moment.”

Let us exclude here the notion that everything is a result of God’s providence. According to this shallow theology, God willed the Holocaust, Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish New Orleans for tolerating homosexuals, etc. In contrast, Catholic theology avoids this mechanical understanding of Divine causality using this test: Does the new “revelation” contradict Christ’s teaching in the Gospel?

Most Catholic private revelations are of a pious nature, like those to Bernadette at Lourdes and to St. Margaret Mary about the Sacred Heart. There have been political revelations, especially from St. Joan of Arc telling the French soldiers God was on their side, or the three secrets of Fatima against Communist Russia. But the content of these politicized messages had already been voiced by other people. These are “private revelations” meant to encourage and edify believers, but they never substitute for the Gospel.

While Catholics may filter Mr. Beck’s words through such tests, Mr. Beck does not. He is, after all, a former Catholic. (I hesitate to call him an “apostate,” since his rejection of Catholicism seems more like therapy after his substance abuse.) He has embraced the Church of Latter Day Saints, which teaches there is new revelation beyond the New and Old Testaments. This makes the Book of Mormon somewhat like the Muslim Qur’an.

I think Mr. Beck is preaching the Mormon doctrine of “restoration.” The first Mormon, Joseph Smith, was both head of the LDS Church and a likely candidate for President of the United States. His idea was to restore America to Christianity by rewriting the laws of the nation according to what God told him. In sum, “restoration theology” is “theocracy.”

Catholicism has had its own love affair with theocracy, but at least since the pontificate of Leo XIII, theocracy has not been Catholic doctrine. We are to evangelize culture – change its premises – but we know how to live in a nation that permits divorce without seeking divorces ourselves. Theocracy, on the other hand, makes everything declared as sinful to be illegal as well. Was not Prohibition the imposition of a Protestant teetotaler norm as supreme law of the land?

Mr. Beck may doubt the authenticity of Mr. Obama’s Christianity, but he does so from a peculiar theological perch of his own. Beck said God chose the United States to be a Christian Nation and “inspired” the US Constitution. Restoration will sweep away all perversions in God’s chosen nation by returning to constitutional principles. While it is unclear if Beck’s restoration will repeal the 14th and 17th Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, etc., it will take the country to a different place. He has a right to his beliefs, of course, but Catholics have the right to dissent from the idea that U.S. law should be governed by private revelations.

Even if every Beckian enthusiast is not a Mormon, most belong to churches that teach individual interpretation of the scriptures. For Catholics, this is heresy: but many Evangelicals believe that God’s word is known without mediation of the Church or scholarly understanding of scripture. Thus, Beck’s expectation that he is somehow a chosen vessel of God is amplified by individuals able to interpret revelation on their own and conclude that Glenn Beck is the One, anointed by God as Messiah to America. Catholic teaching is that such titles do not belong to Glenn Beck or anyone else. Amen.

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • dani71

    This seems to be a very irrelevant and somewhat offensive article. Can you not come up with any other angle for a very successful movement that is happening in our country? We are ready to recognize god…and no we don’t believe that glenn is “Him”.

  • WmarkW

    Here’s what Glenn Beck (et al) is afraid of — current demographic trends will not just make whites a minority in four decades, but the non-white population will consist primarily of groups less educated and well-off than whites who will vote themselves a universal welfare state.What began in the 60s as affirmative action and a war on poverty, primarily to help blacks, has expanded to the doctrines of diversity and economic oppression that holds that every demographic except white men are victims with legitimate claims to benefits either from government or private enterprise. For this doctrine to win politically, blacks, hispanics and women have been included in the beneficiaries group.”Democracies perish when the people realize they can vote themselves money.” Beck et al fear that a liberal alliance has expanded to the point that the claimants can outvote the workers.

  • chorpophone

    Why bother using any rational thought or logic to determine religious belief? As soon as you do that, you realize very quickly that god was made up by human beings, not very long ago. And it’s certainly a fool’s quest to try and rationalize anything Beck or his fans do or say or think or believe. Unless, one can accept that they really are just cynical racists who want to create a justification for their pseudo-beliefs.

  • aacurtis

    As a practicing Mormon, I’m concerned with a few conclusions the reader may take from this article: The author makes it sound like Joseph Smith’s presidential bid was an effort to change the American republic into a totalitarian theocratic state in which Mormon standards and doctrines would be enforced by law. My takeaway from reading of the writings of Joseph Smith was that the presidential bid was the result of an effort to bring assurances of religious tolerance and freedom to a minority religious group (the Mormons) whose unique faith, new england traditions, and anti-slavery politics, peppered with some common self-aggrandizement / pride had set them at odds with their frontier midwestern neighbors. Smith’s political efforts were intended to bring political redress to the loss of property / lives that resulted from the conflicts between the mormons and their frontier neighbors. But his platform was based on a fundamental right of religious expression (and not just for the mormons). We could have another column regarding efforts by Christian leaders (Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical) etc. to legislate morality and discuss whether that constitutes theocratic ambition, but I think that’s a separate issue from the central question of this article. Second, I want to point out that not every Mormon is a Beckian enthusiast. Personally, I’ve not read Becks message closely, but I do know a number of practicing Mormons who disagree with his politics. I know others who do agree with him. I just want to caution against the broad brush labeling of all members of a religious group as following a particular political message. Thank you.

  • ucci13

    “Knowing that Beckian revelation could happen”I stopped reading here, and I suggest everyone else do the same. Offer scientific proof as to the claim that “revelations” (in the religious context) actually CAN happen, and only then will the rest of the article be worth reading.

  • IbeTroglodyte

    I am a non-white, Catholic, female, Gen X, from Massachusetts and agree with much of what Glenn Beck stands for. I actually listen to what he is saying and not the talking head on The Evening News who tells me he is a bigot.

  • spraguelt

    Thanks for your piece, Mr. Arroyo-Stevens. You provide an important historical and theological framework through which to understand Beck and Mormonism as steeped in an American “restoration” myth.My own view (as a young atheist convert to Catholicism) is that Beck’s gesture fits within the larger conservative Protestant tendency to make a theo-political cult out of the American Founding Fathers.Please take a look at my own take (sympathetic to yours) at my new blog:

  • spraguelt

    Thanks for your piece, Mr. Arroyo-Stevens. You provide an important historical and theological framework through which to understand Beck and Mormonism as steeped in an American “restoration” myth.My own view (as a young atheist convert to Catholicism) is that Beck’s gesture fits within the larger conservative Protestant tendency to make a theo-political cult out of the American Founding Fathers.Please take a look at my own take (sympathetic to yours) at my new blog:

  • Dh1953

    If you want to see the America that Beck is urging on, you need only read his followers’ comments on this site

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    The Mormon religion was founded on a simple man’s folk religion, and his many followers found satusfaction in this child-like characterizaiton of God, Jesus, Lucifer, and Heaven, and in the many simple and quasi-magical rituals that go along with this type of folk belief. It is what inexperienced unchurched people make of what they think traditional theology should be. That is what it was then, and that is what it is now. That is why it does not appeal to people who are more “grown-up” in their religious quest, and that is why Glen Becks seems like a simple fool.

  • dabble1

    Please know and acknowledge that Beck does NOT represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons.

  • msmsdrbeck

    I am a retired University Teacher and Administrator (BYU, Ariz. State Univ. Univ. of Montana) where I taught New Testament and World Religions. I also worked in the LDS Church Educational System for 38 years. I wish to confirm the e-mail above by aacurtis. His points about the political views and purposes of Joseph Smith are historically correct. Furthermore, how he views the present response of Mormonism toward Glenn Beck is accurate as well.

  • AllanK2

    “According to this shallow theology, God willed the Holocaust”If God is infinity knowing and raises up leaders in every nation; then we can conclude that He raised Hitler to his position knowing full well what he would do. What Hitler did caused the Jews to do what they did: reestablish the nation of Israel as it states in Scriptures. “Glenn Beck is the One, anointed by God as Messiah to America”I believe Glenn Beck is called by his God, not to be the “Messiah of America” but to lead and inspire those called by God’s name to return to Him. If you don’t heed Beck’s words then you are called to play a different role in the history of mankind.”rewriting the laws of the nation according to what God told him”This isn’t Becks stand nor does he talk such nonsense.

  • sbrian

    Joseph Smith was a seriously flawed man: a man who was convicted of fraudulently taking money from others to find buried treasure; sold swamp land to, and took money and property from, his followers; joined, stole and re-hashed the teachings and handshakes of the Masons; fabricated revelations and translations of ancient writings; and illegally engaged in bigamy/polygamy in the state of Illinois while directing male followers to do the same.Anyone in a position of religious power who uses that power to secretly “marry” the wives and daughters of his followers, as Smith did, lives at a unique level of immorality (for more on Smith see:

  • jpanzal

    The Catholic tendency to theocracy did not end with Leo XIII. The claim that modern Catholicism only seeks cultural change is disingenuous. In America the Catholic church lobbies strongly for laws that prohibit abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, and some treatments for the dying. Not long ago, the church wanted laws to prohibit birth control and to censor books and films. When a religion infiltrates its beliefs into a nation’s laws, that is theocracy.

  • rlgreer1

    As a practicing Mormon,I would correct a couple of errors regarding our beliefs. First, while a small thing to others, it is significant to us that the name of the church is often shortened by those outside the faith to eliminate Christ. The proper name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Second, while we do believe in a future theocracy, it is not one of men, and not one of Glenn Beck. With the Second Coming of Christ a new era will commence under His rule. Third, the church’s official statement (1835)on the role of government ought to stand on its own:

  • therev1

    Mormonism is no more Christian than Buddhism. There actually is a Christian orthodoxy which has been accepted – even since Joseph Smith – and Mormonism doesn’t subscribe to it. Mormonism even denies it by it’s own theology.

  • dougd1

    Does God speak through Glenn Beck?Of course not. The question is stupid and insulting.

  • [email protected]

    A couple of observations:

  • gibsonpolk

    This is arguing about fairy tales. Why does the Washington Post provide a place for such silliness?

  • msgrinnell

    I personally do not believe God speaks at all and if s/he did I cannot possibly imagine that it would be through Glenn Beck.

  • spamlds

    The author demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of Mormonism. “Restoration theology” (a term Mormons don’t use) involves the restoration of knowledge and priesthood authority that was lost with the demise of Christ’s apostles. We simply refer to it as “the Restoration.” Our theology is Christian, just like that of Roman Catholics. Catholics claim they possess this authority. Mormons claim (with good scriptural and historical evidence) that it was lost, thus necessitating a restoration. This is something that required new revelation to accomplish.Likewise the author apparently has no knowledge of the contents of the Book of Mormon. If he had any, he would not compare it with the holy Quran. Without any disrespect intended to our Muslim friends, the Book of Mormon differs from their sacred text in that it testifies very plainly that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In that regard, the Book of Mormon is a book of Christian scripture that witnesses the divinity of Jesus.The author would do well to conduct proper investigative research before writing such articles.

  • scientist1

    Actually the great universal Deity Diffalumpior sent his angelic turtle Gifferiz to inspire Glen Beck! Prove I am wrong!Interesting how holy rollers always start by lying about the role of religion in the formation of the Republic, which was primarily informed, of course, by the pagan (i.e. Greek) values of the Enlightenment as well as by Native American government (the Iroquois Confederacy).

  • argo

    It is particularly useless to presume that we may act as instruments of God or that we are implementing His will. To dare presume is to try to justify not the higher calling but the inconceivable–and the misdeeds some of us would rather attribute to God.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    rlgreer1And you believe you are Saints. There is no degree of scorn that people can feel towards Mormans that is not multiplied many times and reflected back.

  • CITIZEN6

    Let’s understand a key point: Religion in politics is simply the political opinion of people who are religious. And such citizen’s opinions have impacted government and legislation in this country for centuries. In fact, when we make it a crime to steal, lie under oath, rape, commit incest and many other such “sins/crimes,” we are legislating morality. Strong civilizations do this. And thank goodness. As for Glenn Beck: I like what he is saying, regardless of what his particular religion might be. If his Mormonism strengthens his Judeo/ Christian values, which clearly seems to be the case, then that is only good – good for him and, since he has broad influence as a major media personality, good for the country.

  • d1carter

    Is this the best WaPo can do? I am offended that this writer thinks your readers are so dumb. WaPo may want to score political points with their faith writers, but this one does not come close. You can do better.

  • monicamabini

    Mr. Stevens-Arroyo, I am a practicing Catholic. I have been for as long as I can remember. I am also a huge fan of Mr. Beck’s. To suggest that he is preaching “Mormon restoration theology” is absurd. All he wants and all that we who listen and watch him want is for America to return to the founding principles that she was founded on. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, or Buddhist, or Mormon, or Muslim, these are the values and principles that all good men should want. It is people like you, Mr. Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, that make me ashamed of being Catholic. I do not believe that Beck is the second coming of Christ, or the Messiah, or even a prophet. I believe that he is a good man and a good Christian and a great American. Amen.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    The LDS took their cue from the supersessionist Christians and their supersessionist NT (sic), which supersedes the Tankah.Indeed, the Christians have the arrogance to rename the Tanakh “Old” and to interpret it for the community for which it was written. This sort of thing, taking another group’s culture, then imposing one’s own interpretation on it and shoving it down the throats of the natives was for Said the hallmark of imperialism.Glen Beck, Anthony, couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people (remorseless)

  • Elohist

    To those who think Joseph Smith had no ideas of theocracy, remember that as Mayor of Navahoo he closed down a newspaper that criticized him. He tried to succeed from the state, claiming nullification of other laws in his city of the restoration. He died turning coat and jumping out a second storey window to avoid being attacked by a mob of investors who had been bilked and were exercising what some have called “second amendment rights.” The self-inflated importance of Glenn Beck comes as close to the example of Joseph Smith as anyone in public life today. (You want to buy some gold so Glenn can get a cut of the exorbitant fees?)Perhaps we are witnessing the rise of the Palin-Beck 2012 Presidential ticket. If so, I wouldn’t want to be Sarah.

  • WmarkW

    Restoration theology?Until an astronomer finds Kolob, I’ll assume Sam Harris is right about the recipe for Mormonism.

  • GregMcMurdie

    Although Joseph Smith did institute a theocracy some refer to as the Kingdom of God shortly before his death, it’s purposes were not “to restore America to Christianity by rewriting the laws of the nation according to what God told him.” On the contrary, one of the primary purposes according to Brigham Young was to “protect every person, every sect and all people upon the face of the whole earth, in their legal rights.” See the quote in context at

  • thuma02

    Let’s look at Glenn Beck’s faith compared to Islam.1. Both believe in Jesus but believe a prophet came later to fully disclose the truthGlenn Beck questioning the Christianity of other people is laughable at best, hypocritical at worst.

  • areyousaying

    Electroshocking gays to “cure” them is all I need to know about Mormonism and hiding pervert priest from civil prosecution is all I need to know about Catholicism.

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