A move towards a Mormon president

romney in grayMassachusetts Governor Mitt Romney didn’t exactly announce that he was running for president last week, but he certainly made as forward a move as any major candidate so far. What’s interesting about this announcement is that it’s before the 2006 elections.

Sure, Romney was forced to decide before then — he has said he is “testing the waters” for a presidential run — but most candidates have the luxury of waiting to make so a bold move until after the 2006 elections. Positioning before this day means little as the 2006 elections will lay the landscape for 2008. Look for all major candidates to make bold moves sometime in January/February 2007.

But enough of the speculation and onto the news. The first thing we over at GetReligion think of when we hear the name “Romney” is “Mormon.” And most assuredly this factor will get more play in the future than at the end of this same-day Boston Globe story.

There has also been an undercurrent of concern among Christian conservatives, particularly in the vital South, rooted in his Mormon faith. One political operative in South Carolina branded the religion a “cult.”

The Romney-Mormon story first broke last June and the line was that “He’s been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly.” And then in August, The Atlantic jumped ahead of the story on “the Latter-day Saint who serves as the governor of Massachusetts.” And finally, Romney’s “Evangelic Problem” was laid out in detail in the Washington Monthly in September.

Most of the news stories surrounding the Romney-not-running-for-governor announcement made little mention of the Mormon factor, but look for a variety of interesting stories exploring this issue as primary season draws closer and how it’ll impact the 2008 GOP primary where for the first time in decades neither side will have an “incumbent” running as a sitting president or a VP.

A bevy of interesting politics-religion stories are waiting to unfold on Romney’s Mormonism, what exactly Mormons, or Later Day Saints, believe and whether or not evangelicals will accept Romney who is outside the fold religiously but could fill in nicely politically. And what exactly is an evangelical politician these days anyway? As Romney runs for president, the term will receive a level of scrutiny matching if not exceeding any it received in past elections.

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  • Vigilius

    Dr. Mark Smith from Cedarville University had a similar post on his blog site, “The Society of Serpents and Doves.” I have found his insights to be of value.


  • David Buckna

    Correct me if I’m mistaken, but has _any_ religion writer in the mainstream press ever listed point-by-point the central beliefs of Mormons?

    If not, why not?

    For example, Mormons believe:

    * Jesus and Lucifer are brothers
    * Man evolved into a god/God
    * Man’s “fall” in the Garden of Eden was a good thing eg. a fall _upward_
    * Mary had sexual relations with “God” (while in the form of a man) so that she could give birth to Jesus
    * “God” (Heavenly Father) only refers to the god/God of planet Earth
    * Mormons have the hope of becoming gods/Gods of _their_ own planets and produce “spirit children”, who will then be born physically on that planet
    * There are millions/billions? of planets in the universe, each with their own god/God [polytheism]
    * There are three levels of eternal existence
    * After the death of a Mormon couple, the woman will only be resurrected if her husband calls her forth by her “secret name”

    Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man:



    God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible. Say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form, like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.

    In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 345)

    LDS President Hinckley’s response:


    Assistant to the Twelve Apostles Sterling W. Sill spoke of Adam’s fall: “Adam fell, but he fell in the right direction. He fell toward the goal…. Adam fell, but he fell upward” (Deseret News, Church Section, 31 July 1965, p. 7).


    This has got to be the MOST UNDER-REPORTED religion story of the last 50 years.

    If Barna, CNN, or Gallup did a nation-wide poll, I’d bet the majority of respondents would say Mormons are Christians who believe in the Triune God, just as Catholics and Protestants do.

    David Buckna

  • Brad

    I get nervous when I see the beliefs of a group such as the Mormons on the web, but they’re listed on another group’s website (such as an apologetics site).

    Is there any kind of list or comparison chart or anything like that that anyone has seen on a site that’s actually done by Mormons? That would be interesting to see.


  • tmatt

    For reporters there is, of course, a major problem here.

    The definitive statement of many, if not most, of these Mormon doctrines takes place in Temple rites that are — by strict oath — private and secret. If you discuss them, you are thrown out of the church.

    So journalists who write about Mormon doctrine are committing a hostile act. You have to start with transcripts from what Mormons consider illegal tapes and — big issue — there is no way to confirm the accuracy of the tapes or transcripts. It’s all secret.

    This is catnip for evangelical apologists. The MSM tends to just ignore it. Who wants the thousand angry telephone calls? It’s just doctrines and nobody cares except (wait for it) fundamentalists.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    They could report it with the same sort of language used for anonymous sourcing in the political news. “A highly-placed elder in the church heirarchy said….”

    Imagine the trouble if we get a Scientologist running for President. They bring copyright suits against people who reveal their doctrines.

  • David Buckna

    Forget tapes and transcripts.

    But if a reporter is quoting directly from official Mormon publications such as their Journal of Discourses, the Doctrines & Covenants, and the Book of Mormon (which Mormons encourage non-Mormons to read) how is that committing a hostile act?

  • Not Really Stephen A.

    By committing a “hostile act,” I suppose you mean the church may simply not look favorably on the reporter exposing the sacred secrets, right?

    Certainly, they aren’t like the Scientologists, who literally destroy the lives of those who expose them. Some reporters have gone after this response mechanism, but not enough of them have. Is there a history of violence or hostility against reporters reporting Mormon secrets?

    BTW, I heard Mitt speak in Manchester, NH recently. Oh, he’s running. Religion never came up in his speech, however, nor did anyone mention it in the GOP crowd before or afterwards.

  • Tom R

    If Romney does get the GOP nomination, does he get to appoint up to twelve running-mates for VP?? That’d really balance the ticket.

  • elynnor

    In the recent years it seems like we (and by “we” I mean contemporary US culture) have really been producing a lot of religious (and sexually orientated, but that’s another topic for another day) stereotypes that fill in gaps left by the old racial ones. It’s like Muslim is the new black, and I don’t mean that offensively. I just mean that as a culture we have begun to jump to conclusions and brand people religiously (“Harriet Meiers/George Bush/whoever is a conservative Christian, so that must mean they believe and practice the same way as every other fundamentalist, and we all know what crazies those fundamentalists can be”). It really reminds me of ignorant racial stereotypes and I just don’t see how such a limited view of the world is helpful at all.

    On a personal note, I don’t care much about politics. I’m not a big fan of Romney, and while anyone can run for president, I don’t see him having much chance of being elected.

    I just really dislike encountering all of the inaccuracies that exist about Mormons and what we believe and why we are “so weird,” etc. Yeah, every church has beliefs that conflict with every other religion out there. But I really think that Mormons and Scientologists are worlds apart. In many religions there are a few intense adherants who foster the reputation of crazy zealots, and if the religion is not as well known as, say, the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, etc., then everybody is branded as a crazy zealot. Even Catholics have “weird beliefs” that are out of the mainstream.

    Just wanted to clear up some inaccuracies. For the record, I am “Mormon” although I really don’t go to church that much anymore (past 2 yrs.) for personal reasons. I was raised a Mormon (outside of Utah) and was a missionary. I also taught Mormon missionaries at the Missionary Training Center, so I do know what official Mormon doctrines are. I think for the sake of discussion, that it’s only fair that people have accurate information on which to base their opinions. So for those who are interested, read on:

    * Jesus and Lucifer are brothers

    We do believe this, and it is a central part of Mormon doctrine. We believe that everyone born on this earth are spiritually brothers and sisters, and Jesus and Satan are included in this list (even though Satan was not born on this earth). Mormon doctrine states that we all lived with God, our Heavenly Father before we were born, and that both Jesus and Satan, and Mitt Romney and pretty much everyone else are all spiritual siblings.
    Many Christian denominations believe this.

    * Man evolved into a god/God

    We believe that we all have the potential to become like God, very literally. It is the central purpose of the “Mormon” faith is to become as God-like as possible, so that in the afterlife, one may hope to attain the status of Godhood, and have worlds and families and children to govern. Our Heavenly Father will always be our “God.” Attaining the status of godhood does not mean that we become our own God or stop worshipping the God we worship now.

    * Man’s “fall” in the Garden of Eden was a good thing eg. a fall _upward_

    True. The fall introduced choice (i.e., both right and wrong) into the world. We learn by choosing between right and wrong, and progress by our good choices. Although there were a lot of negatives introduced by the fall (having a choice means sometimes we will make the wrong choice and sin), we see it as good in the long run.

    * Mary had sexual relations with “God” (while in the form of a man) so that she could give birth to Jesus

    This is a bunch of crap. Mormons don’t concern themselves with how Mary became pregnant. Mormons don’t discuss the sex life of Mary or anyone else. We generally follow the biblical account that she was “overcome” by the Holy Spirit. I’ve never heard this topic discussed in church, only by people who dislike the Mormon faith and those who try to refute it.

    * “God” (Heavenly Father) only refers to the god/God of planet Earth

    We teach that God is our Heavenly Father, and that Jesus created the earth under the direction of and through the power of Heavenly Father. The analogy that is used all the time is that God our Heavenly Father is like the architect and that Jesus is like the contractor/building crew. Although I don’t know how that distinction matters much to anyone on a practical level.

    * Mormons have the hope of becoming gods/Gods of _their_ own planets and produce “spirit children”, who will then be born physically on that planet

    True. I tried to explain earlier, so I will not go into detail here.

    * There are millions/billions? of planets in the universe, each with their own god/God [polytheism]

    True, we believe that there are countless numbers of planets inhibited by physical humans like you & me, each is governed by its own god. Although we believe that there can be many, many Gods in the universe, we only worship one God, our Heavenly Father, and his son, Jesus. This will never change regardless of whether or not we achieve the status of “godhood.”

    * There are three levels of eternal existence

    Kind of true, we believe that there are infinite levels of eternal existence, but that they are all grouped into three major categories. Mormon doctrine is more complex than heaven vs. hell. We believe that you will go where you feel comfortable, depending on what you have made of/done with your life (i.e., murders would not be in the same place as, say, Mother Teresa). This is not an unusual “Christian” doctrine, just maybe a more developed/complicated view.

    * After the death of a Mormon couple, the woman will only be resurrected if her husband calls her forth by her “secret name”

    Not true. Everyone will be resurrected. Even Hitler, even babies who have died shortly after birth. Everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected, regardless of the life they have lived. Those who made good choices and progressed spiritually will be in a different place than those who made poor choices/didn’t progress much spiritually, but everyone will live forever as a resurrected being. We believe that God (Heavenly Father) is a resurrected being. The purpose of a husband calling forth his wife by her “secret name” (as previous poster put it) is to help organize billions of resurrected beings into the families that were created here on earth.

    *Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man.

    A later prophet/leader of the church is usually credited with the quote “As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become.” We believe that God had to go through mortality, the whole process of learning and progressing before He became God. We believe that we have the same opportunity, and in fact, that is the spiritual purpose of life here on earth.

    Sorry this post takes up so much space and may not be relevant or interesting to everyone. But if anyone has other questions or comments, or would like to contact/praise/attack me directly, my email is elynnor@hotmail.com. Thanks.

  • Joel Duprey

    Elynnor, I feel so sorry for you. You have been so deceived by the lie of Mormonism. You just admitted that eight out of vigilius’ nine points about Mormonism were correct and you yourself believe these eight points to be true. This is exactly why people think Mormonism is non-Christian at best and a cult at worst.

    Not even one of these eight points is even remotely biblical or Christian. In fact, every one of them is almost the exact opposite of what we are taught in the word of God. For instance;

    The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God and that God has revealed himself to us through his son Jesus Christ who has always existed with God as God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” John 1:1-2. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” John 1:14.

    There is only one God and only he is able to save us and Jesus is our only God and Saviour. As Peter declared in Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”. (the name of Jesus)

    Joining the LDS church cannot save you, nor can joining any other Church. Only faith in Jesus Christ and in his blood that was shed for our atonement can save us.

    I would be glad to elaborate on any of the other points if it will help you better understand the differences between Mormon beliefs and Christian beliefs, but in the interest of trying to keep this post short I will sign off for now.

    God bless you.