Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, has been reaching out to conservative Christians. In doing so, some conservative Mormons think he is compromising his faith. From an article in The New Republic:
specially irksome to some Mormons are Romney’s efforts to minimize the differences between their religion and traditional Christianity–differences that, in some cases, define the very essence of the Mormon faith. In a cover story last month in Newsweek, Romney was asked whether he had ever performed baptisms for the dead, a Mormon ritual in which the deceased of all faiths are posthumously baptized as Mormons in order to permit them to enter heaven. Romney, according to Newsweek, “looked slightly startled and answered, ‘I have in mylife, but I haven’t recently.’” This is not surprising–baptisms for the dead tend to be performed mostly by younger church members–but Romney’s response made it seem as though he was embarrassed by an important church practice, one in which many Mormons have personally participated. “Baptism for the dead isreally a fundamental Mormon doctrine, and for Romney to downplay it like that did alienate people,” says Boyd Petersen, coordinator of Mormon studies at Utah Valley State College.
Even the religious language Romney has adopted on the campaign trail sounds alien to some Mormons. For instance, he refers to Jesus, as evangelical Protestants often do, as his “personal savior.” The phrase is not directly at odds with LDS theology, but Mormons almost never use it among themselves–both because it implies a born-again experience not central to Mormonism andbecause church doctrine, like Catholicism but unlike evangelical Protestantism, maintains that faith in Christ must be matched with good works in order to attain salvation. “I think most Mormons would be a bit puzzled to hear him use language like that,” says Peck.
Romney has also alienated Mormons when speaking about their history. In a “60 Minutes” interview in May, he told Mike Wallace, “I can’t imagine anything more awful than polygamy.” Polygamy was banned by the church in 1890, and the few splinter groups that still practice it today have been excommunicated. But many Mormons hold a more nuanced view of poly-gamy as practiced by their ancestors in the nineteenth century. “With polygamy, you’re talking about people’s families,” says Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, an LDS advocacy group. “Some Mormons, though certainly not all, have been offended by what he’s said. He should probably be more careful recognizing the historical context of the practice.” Historian Audrey Godfrey was more blunt. “If I were one of his relatives,” she said, “I would be upset with him.”