The Book of Mormon, when it is not “chloroform in print” as Mark Twain unkindly phrased it, is full of vicious ingenuity. From it you can learn of the ancient battle of Cumorah, which occurred at a site conveniently near Joseph Smith’s home in upstate New York. In this legendary engagement, the Nephites, described as fair-skinned and “handsome,” fought against the outcast Lamanites, whose punishment for turning away from God was to be afflicted with dark skin. Later, in antebellum Missouri and preaching against abolition, Smith and his cronies announced that there had been a third group in heaven during the battle between God and Lucifer. This group had made the mistake of trying to remain neutral but, following Lucifer’s defeat, had been forced into the world and compelled to “take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro or African race.” Until 1978, no black American was permitted to hold even the lowly position of deacon in the Mormon Church, and nor were any (not that there were many applicants) admitted to the sacred rites of the temple. The Mormon elders then had a “revelation” and changed the rules, thus more or less belatedly coming into compliance with the dominant civil rights statutes. The timing (as with the revelation abandoning polygamy, which occurred just in time to prevent Utah from being denied membership of the Union) permits one to be cynical about its sincerity. However that may be, it certainly makes nonsense of Romney’s moaning about any criticism or questioning being “un-American.” The Mormons have already had to choose—twice—between their beliefs and American values.