After Mitt Romney invidiously distinguished Israeli accomplishment from Palestinian lack thereof by pointing to the "hand of providence," ReligionDispatches' Sarah Posner piled on by claiming that he was "was hardly reading from a Mormon script." I'm not so sure.
To make her case, Posner relies on an interview with Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young and author of a book on LDS views of the Middle East. Here's the guts of Peterson's position:
While “a Latter-day Saint would find it very hard to be fundamentally critical of the Zionist project because our scriptures talk about the return of Jews to the Holy Land,” said Peterson, “there’s certainly room to disagree about the form that it’s taken or specific policies of the Israeli government. Some are going to be very sympathetic. You take someone like Glenn Beck who's obviously very closely aligned with the government of Israel but others who are extremely critical and embarrassed that Glenn Beck is a Mormon.” Peterson described Beck as “much more in line with certain militant evangelicals.”
I'd say that a scriptural commitment to the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is sufficient grounds for a Mormon to consider the hand of Providence at work in Israel. What's more, however, I'd say that Peterson is implying that Beck (the LDS convert) is more outside the Mormon mainstream than he really is.
As Matthew Bowman points out in The Mormon People, from the 1950s through the 1980s such influential LDS figures as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce McConkie adopted dispensationalist theology from Protestant fundamentalism and wove it into into Mormon ideas of the End Times. Their approach was adopted by W. Cleon Skousen, a sometime teacher at BYU, in a series of popular books, the last of which, The Cleansing of America, includes a Holy Land End Times scenario as wild and specific as anything by Hal Lindsey or Tim LeHaye.
In line with Mormon doctrine, Skousen also sketches out how United States' own future "Zion Society" would be providentially walled off from the coming Tribulation. Under the circumstances, perhaps we should take a closer look at the relevant passage from the AP report on Romney's remarks.
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between other neighboring countries, including Mexico and the United States.
It wouldn't exactly be off Mormon script to see that U.S.-Mexico disparity as also invidiously providential.