Mitt Romney is talking about his faith and values this morning. I’ve found myself working very closely with some splendid people in Utah for the last several months, so this is of more than casual interest to me.
My friend and partner, Steve Urquhart, who is Chairman of the Rules Committee of the Utah State Legislature, says that Mitt Romney is one of those "perfect" people – the kind who does what his inner guide tells him to do. You know: all those words and deeds that you and I know we should get it together to conceive, plan, do and follow up with. I’ll take Steve’s word for it. They are characteristics that remind me of John Palfrey, Director of the Berkman Center. I wonder if those two fellas from Massachussetts would realize that. I feel lucky to perform that way for an entire morning.
Doc Searls and I were introduced to Steve by Phil Windley, a Utahn who is admired deeply and warmly by scores of East and West coast liberal types who can’t remember the last time they set foot in a flyover state except Colorado. With Doc and Kaliya Hamlin, Phil is just concluding their bi-annual Internet Identity Workshop. Kaliya is an Identity Geek (the "Identity Woman") from Berkeley who’s as liberal as they get, with a passion for non-conferences that most males still regard as airy-fairy, but not Phil and Doc and anyone who’s attended one, having seen how much better they work than the old format. Many of us became aware of Phil in 2001-2 when, as CIO of the state of Utah, he was blogging every day about what it was like to be the CIO of the state of Utah. In June, 2003, Doc Searls and Phil and I attended the O’Reilly Open Source Conference, just as the Howard Dean campaign was the hot topic on the Internet. It was at that conference that we started discussing the idea that grew into the O’Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-in at Etech the following February. Much of my life since then was shaped by that seminal meeting. Our little ORGware band, of which Phil and Doc are key members, is trying to build what was obviouly needed 4-1/2 years ago, and that still is not available.
Last month, I was impressed with Phil Windley’s personal statement, My Faith, where he tells his family background:
[in the first half of the 19th century,] Members of the Church, referred to as Latter-day Saints or Saints, were driven from town to town and state to state. In spite of this persecution and the murder of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Church has flourished and now has over 12 million members around the world in over 160 countries.
My own ancestors joined the church in England and Scandinavia in the mid 1800’s, emigrated to America, and crossed the plains in wagon companies as pioneers. These people were part of the great colonization effort made by the pioneers of the Rocky Mountains, settling in Southeastern Idaho where I was raised. When I read their stories, I’m constantly amazed at the trials they endured.
Mormons are Christians. Christ is the center of my religious life. One of the core beliefs of the Mormon Church is that after the death of Christ’s apostles the church fell into apostasy and the authority to act in God’s name was lost. We believe that the Church is Christ’s restored church on earth.
… the Mormon Church believes in, and is founded upon, the idea that God still speaks to men in the form of visions and revelations to His prophets. Most of Mormon scripture has come through modern revelation. Such revelations continue to guide the church today.
For most of the people I deal with every day, the vocabulary of divine faith and revelation are hard to listen to. Some of them have a hard time with the notion of the invisible hand of the marketplace, so we’re talking about a kind of extremism here. But what if we parse Phil’s description as we would a new Internet protocol? What does the LDSTP (The Latter Day Saint Transport Protocol) really describe? Yeah. I know. "Conestoga Wagon". Enough with the one-liners.
The Latter Day Saint Transport Protocol "LDSTP"
So some people in the US, a couple of hundred years ago, lived in communities which were dominated by the local church, and usually just one. Each of those town churches was run by a guy who was a full-time Religious Authority whose job it was to tell everyone else what sinners they were and to appear better than they were. We must assume that these guys were as fond of money and boys and girls in the same ratios as their counterparts today, perhaps even worse in that repressed society. Some of those devout churchgoers looked on this hypocrisy and decided that it’s better to download their spiritual code base directly from God to each person, rather than through the intermediaries who probably made "The Office" look like a model of competence and sincerity. They used the word "revelation" to describe those downloads. Presumably, they kept the insights that worked and abandoned the ones that didn’t.
It looks a lot like disintermediation to me, and the established clergy surely greeted this independence with the affection that the telecoms feel for David Isenberg and Susan Crawford. The persecuted believers in this new LDSTP protocol for a Spiritual Operating System ("SOS"), had to get out of town, so they headed west, and stopped on the other side of the mountains where it was most beautiful and where the local residents talked funny but were a lot more neighborly than the white folks back home. Life was good.
Forbidden from paying their clergy, every man was allowed to share his insights. Since life was so demanding, I assume they were forced to keep embracing what worked and let go of what didn’t. It sounds like the practicality of the team behind the Linux kernel. By any objective measure, they prospered more than the rest of America. It’s no wonder that their beliefs and vocabulary retain much of their beginnings, since what they kept worked so well.
If Mitt says it as well as Phil does, he’ll comfort the rest of the country.