Is a Mormon the top candidate for the religious right?

mitt romneyLet’s get the ball rolling on picking the religious right’s candidate for the 2008 presidential campaign. The Economist, a no-slouch publication when it comes to American politics, has anointed Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on the basis that both Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and George Allen, R-Va., have taken themselves out of contention. Frist is out for poor Senate leadership and Allen for, well, you know.

It’s an interesting hypothesis, and it will be interesting whether the Romney for President campaign gains momentum on the religious right. My guess is that we are going to have to wait till after Nov. 7, which seems like an eternity right now.

The big hiccup in Romney’s path is of course his Mormon faith, which was delightfully depicted by The Economist in a cartoon that I won’t reproduce on this blog because I don’t need the magazine’s art editor breathing down my neck. The Economist does not demur from highlighting the difficulties Romney will face in receiving acceptance among conservative evangelicals, but presents a compelling case for why it is possible:

Yet Mr Romney is a devoted Mormon — a former bishop, no less — at a time when religion is playing a growing role in American politics. Opinion polls suggest that anti-Mormon feeling is one of the most enduring religious prejudices in America. An LATimes/Bloomberg poll in June found that 37% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate; other polls put the figure at 17%.

Anti-Mormon feeling is particularly strong among Bible-believing Christians, a vital part of the Republican base. Many evangelicals regard Mormonism as nothing more than a cult: and a cult, moreover, that is based not only on a false theology but also on a willingness to tamper with the inerrant word of God that is the Bible.

mitt romney2Oh the joys political reporters will encounter in covering a Romney candidacy. First of all, as Doug pointed out in an e-mail to me, being a bishop in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not quite like being a bishop in, say, the Church of England. One should not expect to see any photos of a President Romney in the Oval Office dressed like the CofE’s Bishop of London. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is a former Mormon bishop and he has also run for president.

What The Economist did get right is the bigger picture — the evangelical right is flexible and far from monolithic. While some are still upset over President Reagan’s divorce and, how should I put it, unusual theological views, a huge majority were OK with it. Even George W. Bush was not the religious right’s ideal choice. Britons may fuss over Cherie Blair’s Catholicism, but Americans are less inclined to think of their political leaders as also being religious leaders. Those in the religious right care more about issues when it comes to their politicians.

The potential harshness that religious conservatives could show to a Romney candidacy should not be underestimated, though. Doctrinally, some mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians consider the group a cult. But for whom will this matter when it comes to issues like abortion and same-sex marriage? What will Pat Robertson and James Dobson say? What will mainline Protestant denominations say?

Will Romney be up-front about these issues? Will he publicly affirm all of the beliefs of Mormonism? Or will he downplay them and hope nobody notices?

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is interesting how many Catholic votes Romney got to get elected here in Mass. when running against a super liberal Democrat Irish Catholic. One week before the election there was a debate and the issue of parental consent for a minor to get an abortion came up. The Dem candidate did the usual pro-abort tap dance trashing the idea of there being any such thing as parental rights when it comes to minors. Romney wisely saw that even in the nutty radical liberal state of Mass. parents don’t like the idea of seeing their rights trashed and turned over to state bureaucrats and the abortion industry–so he stuck up for parental rights. I know this was the talk of my Catholic parish and helped Romney to squeak through. He is a smart politician and in Mass. he seems to have used his smarts to be a fairly conservative governor in a fruity left state. He would probably make a good candidate, but the right had better pin him down on issues.

  • Rathje

    Touchstone Magazine’s “Mere Comments” blog posts on this topic here:

    http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2006/09/whos_afraid_of_.html

    And “Article VI blog” is a combined effort of an Evangelical and a Mormon to track the progress of the Romney Candidacy:

    http://www.article6blog.com/

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    [Tongue planted firmly in cheek.]

    The gay rights movement could support a Romney bid, hoping he would legalize polygamy. Then they would have an opening to push for gay marriage.

    [Tongue pried from cheek.]

    I believe in today’s political climate religion isn’t the factor it once was. JFK broke the Catholic stigma. Richard Nixon–was he a Quaker?

    A real issue for debate is if a Muslim could be elected. Didn’t a Muslim run for Congress in Minnesota recently?

  • http://www.RadicalLiberation.com/ Stephen W. Carson

    “Doctrinally, some mainline Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians consider the group a cult.” Some? My understanding is that all Christians even remotely orthodox in their doctrine would consider the Mormons to be a cult. I know my non-mainline Protestant church certainly does.

  • Larry Rasczak

    ” Many evangelicals regard Mormonism as nothing more than a cult: and a cult, moreover, that is based not only on a false theology but also on a willingness to tamper with the inerrant word of God that is the Bible.”

    And this makes them different from the ECUSA how?

  • Rathje

    Ah, but you see… It the MORMONS who are the “real Christians.” It’s everyone ELSE who is apostate.

    That’s what our theology says anyway. In practice, Mormons generally tend to be a little more generous in their terminology than a few of their neighbors.

  • http://www.christianitytoday.com/ctmag/ Ted Olsen

    So, is there a reason nobody is quoting Dobson’s remarks on this?

    From The New York Sun:

    “I don’t believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess,” Mr. Dobson said on a syndicated radio program hosted by a conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham.

    Not that Dobson is the last word on evangleical attitudes toward a Romney candidacy, or even that these comments represent his own “last word” on the subject (surely not), but it’s still an important part of the story in early Oct 06, don’t you think?

  • http://www.avemaria.edu Tom Harmon

    Interesting question: would Dobson support Romney the same way he would an evangelical, or even a Catholic GOP nominee?

  • Steve

    Since the election of any political office is part of the Left Hand Kingdom, the religion of the various candidates should not be a issue unless the candidate makes it an issue. If one agrees with Gov. Romney on the issues and views him as the best candidate, then vote for him. Since the US is not nor never has been a “Christian” nation, the religous beliefs of the candidate should not be an issue as long as it does not adversely impact their ability to fullfill the obligations of the office to which they are elected.

  • Hans Fiene

    I don’t believe that one needs to be a Christian in order to properly govern a society. While faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, I don’t see any Biblical support in the idea that one must have faith in Christ in order to understand issues of national security, balancing a budget or the legality of murdering unborn babies–just to name a few. As Steve pointed out, we are dealing with Left Hand vs Right Hand issues here.

    Therefore, my problem with voting for a Mormon comes about not because they are not Christians. I certainly would have no problem voting for a Jew or Secular Humanist, for that matter, if he or she were the right candidate. My problem with voting for a Mormon is that the LDS have historically established ZERO separation of Church and State whenever they have been given the chance. Their very theology, like Islam, is dependant upon smooshing the two kingdoms together into a veritable theocracy with no regard for religious freedom.

    Granted, I don’t know how devout a Mormon Romney is and whether he personally adheres to traditional mormon beliefs on this issue. He very well may not. Nor can I see what specific damage one singular Mormon in power could do. But, quite frankly, to think that the cult of Mormonism could have a direct pipeline to the most powerful man in the world terrifies me. And though it’s entirely possible that Romney could be perfectly uninfluenced by the latter day mafia as president, the opposite is also possible. I, personally, do not want to play those odds.

  • Nathan

    Hans Fiene said
    “My problem with voting for a Mormon is that the LDS have historically established ZERO separation of Church and State whenever they have been given the chance. Their very theology, like Islam, is dependant upon smooshing the two kingdoms together into a veritable theocracy with no regard for religious freedom”

    Could you please give an example of where this has happened? The LDS church will never tell a person who to vote for, and teach unfailingly that all of us should uphold and sustain the law. Harry Reid is an active member of the LDS church, but I have not seen that in his position as minority leader where the democratic party has been trying to blur the lines between church and state.

    As governor of Mass did Romney do anything that would demonstrate this tendency?

  • RJ

    Since Ted neglected to post the final paragraph from the New York Sun article cited above let me do so here:

    “If he’s pro-life, pro-family, I don’t think he’ll have any problem getting the support of evangelical Christians,” a founder of the Moral Majority, Rev. Jerry Falwell, told the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mo. earlier this year.

    Yes, there will be a few people here and there who simply can’t stomach the thought of voting for a Mormon, but by and large Evangelical Christians don’t want to be painted with the Bigot’s Brush. When Romney announces, Mormonism will certainly be put under the Microscope. However, the liberal media will be licking their chops waiting to write about any hint of religious bigotry directed toward Romney. Individual’s with the “Hans Fiene Mentality-see 2 posts above” might just get Romney elected with the Liberal Press being one of his biggest allies.

    One final note: Romney has publicly declared, “I believe that Jesus Christ is my Saviour.” For those who say that Romney is not a Christian–sure sounds like one to me.

    The Bible that I read instructs me not to judge my fellow man. Far be it for me to tell another man that he is not a Christian! I don’t think that’s my decision to make!

  • Hans Fiene

    Nathan–

    Mormon public school teachers leading their students in the singing of Mormon worship songs during school hours would be one example of the smooshing of church and state.

    Mormons convening together before various county and state elections where they are told which candidates to vote for–evidenced by the block voting found in these areas–certainly indicates to me that the LDS telling people for whom to vote.

    City councils refusing to continue hearing arguments from a fireworks-laws-lobbyist once they realize that he is not a Mormon indicates a lack of appreciation for religious freedom.

    These are just a few examples from my personal experience as well as that of a few members of my family during our time in Utah.

    I don’t see how anyone who knows the history of Mormonism–a la Independance, MO, Nauvoo, IL and whatnot–could argue that Smith and Young sought to establish anything other than theocracies. There very well may be countless Mormons who don’t think in such terms when it comes to election day, but that doesn’t change the fact that when Mormons hold concentrated-enough political power in an area, their theology is put into legislation. After all, have you ever tried to buy booze in Utah?

    As for Romney, I don’t know how he has or has not been guided by the LDS. They very well may have no influence over him at all. My fear of voting for him is based solely off of what he identifies as his church. If someone tells me that he is a catholic, I can only assume that he believes in the Trinity. He very well may not, but unless I am told otherwise, I can only assume that he holds the view confessed by Roman Catholicism. In the same way, Romney may very well not personally hold to LDS beliefs regarding church and state. But I haven’t talked to him personally on the matter, I can’t see into his heart and therefore I can only assume that he confesses the established Mormon teaching regarding this. Unless he publicly announces otherwise, which I doubt would ever happen, I could not vote for him, personally.

  • Amy

    My problem with voting for a Mormon is that the LDS have historically established ZERO separation of Church and State whenever they have been given the chance. Their very theology, like Islam, is dependant upon smooshing the two kingdoms together into a veritable theocracy with no regard for religious freedom.

    This seemed like an odd statement to me too, considering the fact that one of the “Aticles of Faith” which are accepted as scripture by the LDS includes a clause about religious freedom for all.

    11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    And unlike many Christian churches the LDS church does not endorse specific candidates or allow its buildings to be used for campaign purposes. (They do, however, occasionally encourage members to take a position on specific legislation that has direct bearing to core LDS values–such as gay marriage. But this does not seem to happen very often.)

    Perhaps Hans is referring all the way back to when Brigham Young was both president of the LDS church and Territorial governor?

  • RJ

    Hans,

    The mid-term elections are 5 weeks away. I encourage you or anyone else considering the validity of your statements to attend any LDS sacrament meeting in the the United States the Sunday before the elections.

    From the pulpit, a statement will be read from the First Presidency of the LDS Church.
    Paraphrasing: The LDS Church encourages its members to fulfill our civic obligations and to vote for those candidates who best represent “YOUR” idea of good goverment. The LDS Church does not endorse candidates or Political parties.

    Every election cycle this same same general statment is read.

  • Chrisc

    Hans Fiene,

    I grew up in Utah and in the 26 years that I lived there I was nevery told who to vote for by anyone in the church. Nor did I every see school teachers leading mormon hymns in class.

    I concede that some mormons in Utah exhibit a degree of cynicism toward non-mormons, but such behavior has been repeatedly condemned by Mormon leaders.

    Smith and Young were just trying to protect they people from persecution and violence and genocide (see Boggs extermination order) heaped upon them by the very democracy they were proud to be a part of (see Mormon involvement in war with Mexico). If Evangelicals lived together as a majority in any state, I’m confident they would exhibit similar voting patterns.

    You’re premise that Mormons don’t believe in separation of church & state does not hold any water.

  • Nathan

    Hans,

    Mormon public school teachers leading their students in the singing of Mormon worship songs during school hours would be one example of the smooshing of church and state.

    I went to public schools in Utah my whole life and never once did I see this. I don’t doubt that some high school choirs have sung the occasional LDS hymn…so what? And if a teacher did do this, and perhaps they have, I would disagree with them doing it. But do you think the teacher got a call from the church headquarters demanding, or even recommending that she do it? A single (or more) teachers doing something inappropriate (though far from horrible) cannot be tagged as a melding of church and state. The church does not teach us to try and force songs, prayers, or anything else into the schools. I see this happen in many strong Christian and Baptist areas in the south, but in Utah it is not really an issue.

    My wife taught school for 10 years, and if anything, she and others went out of their way to the extreme to be sure there was no inkling of anything slighlty related to anything LDS making into class – even to the point of not really talking much about the history of the founding Utah and the role the church played in it. Some people were so sensitive to it, that they couldn’t really teach the kids good and real history. I think that is really sad.

    Mormons convening together before various county and state elections where they are told which candidates to vote for—evidenced by the block voting found in these areas—certainly indicates to me that the LDS telling people for whom to vote.

    I have been a member of the LDS church for almost 33 years, and never in that time have I ever been told who to vote for in any election. Surely there are lay members who will voice their own opinions among friends and neighbors, especially those who are actively campaigning for their favorite candidate. But the church leadership will never, and they have stated it emphatically over the years, endorse any political candidate nor tell anyone how they should vote. They go as far as to remind us with letters read to all the congregations that they do not endorse candidates, and they we should all be actively involved in learning about all the candidates and making their own decisions regarding the matter. I honestly think there are some members who would much rather the church tell them who to vote for – some can be that way about a lot of things. No such luck for them, though. The church teaches that we need to study and learn and make wise decisions. The church, surprisingly, stays out of ALOT of things in our lives.

    Thanks for being very civil, by they way. Issues and discussions such as these seem to easily turn to hateful name calling and low-blows. I enjoy good, honest discussion like this.

    The only thing close to that that I have seen is when they church actively supports the passage of things such as gay marriage ammendments and the like, urging their members to vote for them or call their representatives on grounds that they are truly moral and spiritual issues which have been thrust into the political realm.

    City councils refusing to continue hearing arguments from a fireworks-laws-lobbyist once they realize that he is not a Mormon indicates a lack of appreciation for religious freedom.

    This one is pretty obscure for me, but again, did the church itself have any involvement in this? How do you know they council made such a decision based on the person’s religious belief? I am assuming this example is about you or someone you know. The thing is, you cannot equate the actions of dumb people to one group they may associate with. Maybe all the council members are also Elks Club members, or just all had some really bad pork, or maybe they are just lousy people. I don’t know. But do you honestly think that Mitt Romney, in all the years he has been in business and politics, would do something that dumb? I would have to look very deeply into his history and actions, but I have seen or heard anything about him that would make me believe that he has that poor of judgement.

    I do some dumb things sometimes, but should Mitt Romney be judged a poor presidential candidiate because we share the same religion (along with 12.5 million others)?

    I don’t see how anyone who knows the history of Mormonism—a la Independance, MO, Nauvoo, IL and whatnot—could argue that Smith and Young sought to establish anything other than theocracies. There very well may be countless Mormons who don’t think in such terms when it comes to election day, but that doesn’t change the fact that when Mormons hold concentrated-enough political power in an area, their theology is put into legislation. After all, have you ever tried to buy booze in Utah?

    Besides the fact that this was about 150 years ago and was based much on the fact that people in multiple states were trying to kill every last Mormon, don’t most people usually vote for people of agendas that coincide with their own beliefs? You have a strange dynamic in Utah in that many Mormons tend to vote for Mormons because they share their beliefs, or they know them well. There are many candidates for office (Mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson, for instance) who make no bones about being just about anti-everything the church stands for. Why would LDS folks vote for someone who pretty much seems to hate them, and in the very least not represent them very well. Still, Rocky Anderson is the mayor of Salt Lake City…not what I would call a Mormon theocracy.

    As far as alcohol laws, that is one of the silliest things I hear about Utah. If you look around the country, there are many states and counties that have much stranger alcohol laws that Utah. It’s just that Utah/Mormons always equated with not drinking, so people love to talk about the strange Utah alcohol laws. Yes, they are much more strict that most of the country, but so are most of the people who live there. I will admit, I think they could be more relaxed about them…but it is what it is.

    I think the issue of Romney and his beliefs about church and state will come to the open very soon after he announces he will run, if not before. I can understand your concerns. I would probably feel similar if a Muslim or Scientologist was running for president. They believe differently than I do, and to me those beliefs are strange. But all I can say is, give Romney a chance and listen to him speak. Read up on him, look at what he has done in the past. I found him to be a very smart, articulate and moral man who is a great leader who gets things done. If I did not know he was a Mormon, I would still feel the same about him.

  • KW

    I think if one is concerned about the Mormon Church exerting influence on politicians they merely need to look at 2 leading Mormon Senators…..Reid and Hatch.
    They are of different parties and politcal personalities. They are on the opposite sides of most issues. Has the Mormon Church rejected the stands of one and not the other? I don’t think so. They have let each one decide how and what they wish most often in opposition to each other. No evidence to me of the contrary.

    The Mormon Church teaches people correct Christian principals (i.e. the 10 commandments), tells them to understand and follow Christ’s example, and then to govern themselves.

    It is too bad so many people are so quick to judge and know the hearts and minds of others. Those are the ones I worry about serving as politicians/leaders.

  • Larry Rasczak

    Quick point.

    When I said “” Many evangelicals regard Mormonism as nothing more than a cult: and a cult, moreover, that is based not only on a false theology but also on a willingness to tamper with the inerrant word of God that is the Bible.”

    And this makes them different from the ECUSA how? ”

    I’m not JUST taking a cheap shot at Spong and Co. but trying to make a serious point.

    The Mormon’s beliefs are far closer to “traditional Christianity” than those of many in the Liberal “Mainline” Denominational Leadership. I don’t agree with anything in the Book of Mormon, but at least the Mormons agree with what is in the KJV. This is more than you can say for much of the Liberal Mainline Leadership.

    So as an Conservative Anglican Republican I’d have a much easier time voting for a good Mormon like Romney than a Catholic/Mainline Protestant who belongs to the liberal wing of their church.

  • Hans Fiene

    To like the past 10 people or so who have written in response to my comments:

    Many contentions have been raised to the examples I have provided. My experiences have clearly not been universal. However, I never really intended to claim that these were entirely common-place in densely Mormon areas. I was merely asked to give examples of poor church-state separation and these are examples that I and others I know personally have experienced. It very well may be that these actions were in no way sanctioned by the official LDS church. But I believe these incidents, isolated as they may or may not be, are symtomatic of the greater issue–which is that there is, in my estimation, an intrinsic desire in Mormon theology to manifest its laws and regulations through civil government. While the LDS church may official deny such a desire, (and I hate to open another can of worms here) there are many who would claim that, considering the information that Mormons do and don’t reveal about their faith when witnessing to non-mormons, that the LDS perhaps speaks a different language into a “gentile” microphone than when preaching to the tabernacle choir. In other words, as a non-mormon, it’s not always easy to believe that you’re getting the straight story.

    As for the disputes about Young and Smith, and the troubles that they faced, I don’t know that GetReligion is necessarly the greatest forum for that debate. I suppose it would suffice for me to say that there are a great number of moments in Mormon history–such as Meadow Mountain–that look entirely different when viewed through the non-mormon lense.

  • Hans Fiene

    Oh, and for the record (as I feel a few of these comments were aimed at me):

    I explicitly denied knowing the heart or mind of Romney–or anyone else for that matter. I also stated that I would vote for a person of a non-Christian faith if so necessary. Therefore, the fact that I don’t believe Mormons to be Christians is irrelevant.

    My reservations about Romney come about not because I think I know his heart or his mind but because he confesses with his mouth that he is a Mormon. If he confesses to believe what Mormons believe, than I am uncomfortable voting for him because I believe that the mormon belief on church and state is flawed–debatable a claim as this may be. But that’s where the argument should be.

    As for his character, his heart, his whatever, I pass no judment on Romney at all. I’m sure he is a very bright, kind, motivated and principled man. And a great kisser too.

  • Marcus

    Hans: “There are many who would claim that, considering the information that Mormons do and don’t reveal about their faith when witnessing to non-mormons, that the LDS perhaps speaks a different language into a “gentile” microphone than when preaching to the tabernacle choir. In other words, as a non-mormon, it’s not always easy to believe that you’re getting the straight story.”

    All our meetings are open to the public. You can go to http://WWW.LDS.ORG and download all the curriculm that is taught in all the classes on Sunday. Nearly all the handbooks describing the procedures and programs found in the church are also freely available. The entire body of Scriptures plus all the topical guides, study aids, and concordances are available in search form there. You can ever go to the anti-Mormon sites and download the sacred temple ceremonies, if you want.

    All talks in General Conference are published. Most of them are available on-line in both audio and video formats. All of the offical church magazines are available for free right on the Internet. You don’t even have to subscribe. Just go there and click.

    I have to ask, just how is all this secret, private, neferious for-Mormon-ears-only stuff being deciminated?

  • Marcus

    Hans,

    If you go to the site mentioned above (see http://www.lds.org/newsroom/issues/answer/0,19491,6056-1-462-44-462,00.html), you will find the following offical statement from the church:

    “In this election year, we urge Church members to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then vote for those they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good government. Latter-day Saints are under special obligation to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are ‘wise,’ ‘good,’ and ‘honest,’ (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10).

    “While affirming its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues, the Church reaffirms its long-standing policy of neutrality regarding political parties, political platforms, and candidates for political office. Church facilities, directories, and mailing lists are not to be used for political purposes.

    “Candidates for public office should not imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the Church or its leaders, and Church leaders and members should avoid statements or conduct that may be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, political platform, or candidate. In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems.”

    Now how is that developing a theocracy?

  • Robert Rousseau

    I don’t think Mitt Romney’s Mormonism should be an issue in an election any more than John Kennedy’s Catholicism shouldn’t have been in 1960. I firmly believe in separation of religion and government. We shouldn’t be voting religions into office, we should be voting in leaders who will help this country and keep it safe, regardless of their religious affiliations.

  • http://ldspatriot.wordpress.com/ LDS Patriot

    Mormons are have the greatest respect for the US Constitution and Romney would be a great president.

    Indeed, some voters prejudices will be too high a hurdle to overcome, thus preventing them from making the leap of faith in favor of a President who happens to be a faithful Mormon. That’s their problem, not Romney’s.

  • http://mymitt.com chad@mymitt.com

    Hans,
    I don’t mean to be mean spirited, but with all of your expertise on Mormon history, the big Mormon black eye was actually the Mountain Meadows Massacre. And still it begs the question how does the church teach theocracy? Sorry you are getting the brunt of the questioning but you either need to face the counter arguements or concede.
    Would you vote for a Catholic? I would. And yet in their history the church and state were in many areas of Europe one and the same. The fact is, the Vatican doesn’t speak for Catholic candidates. Neither does the LDS church speak for Harry Reid or Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.
    As for James Dobson’s comment. I think it would be counter productive for him to make statements such as the one he made. Mormons and Evangelicals have major disagreements about theology it is true. But why sacrafice your values and the LDS voting block because of theological disagreements? Politics is about building coalitions based on values, not theology. Republicans are suppossed to be part of the party of the big tent.

  • murphy

    Hans,

    The fact that official Mormon teaching forbids inappropriate Church-State interactions has been well detailed above. I doubt you are disputing that. It seems like your examples are more of an individual nature…in other words, how do you know that THIS mormon would respect Church-State boundaries.

    Consider this direct quote from Romney in his interview with Chris Wallace for FOX:

    “America has a political religion and that people who are elected to office subscribe to this political religion, which is to place the oath of office, an oath to abide by a nation of laws and the Constitution, above all others.

    And there’s no question that as I take the oath of office as governor, and have, that I make that my primary responsibility. And you know, I don’t think getting into any particular religion makes any sense for somebody who’s serving the public.

    Does this address your concerns about Romney more directly?

  • Jeremy Wilson

    I am astounded that so many people writing on this site lack a basic understanding of the very topic being discussed. Anyone who thinks that members of the “Mormon” faith are not Christians might want to get their facts straight before debating publicly. The “real” name of the “Mormon” church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”. Christ’s name is in the title of the church. “Mormons” believe Christ to be the savior of the world and believe the Bible to be the word of god. Mormons believe in the Book of Mormon, but consider it to be (as its title states) “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. The book it does not replace, nor contradict the Bible, but it rather gives another account of Christ’s teachings to mankind. The Book of Mormon supports and provides clarity to the Bible (which we all know has been subject to numerous modifications and translations and is interpreted differently by hundreds of different “Christian Religions”).

    From my perspective, Mitt Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a strength not a weakness that should be looked upon favorably by Republicans and value-driven people everywhere. He has good values; he lives them and stands up for them. He has shown his ability to effectively govern among a liberal majority. And most importantly, he would carry out the political agenda of our nation’s conservative majority more effectively than any of the other potential Republican candidates.

    For those who still have distaste for the “Mormon” church, or consider it to e a “cult”, consider yourself invited to actually learn about it yourself. http://www.lds.org

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    But,John, remember how Santorum’s remarks were greeted by the liberals with “How DARE he equate homosexuality with polygamy?”– a response I still find genuinely puzzling. (“There’s no slippery slope…. There’s no slippery slope.”)

    As for “all our meetings” being open. I can’t say about the LDS (or whether all wards are as open to drop-ins as New York Whichever-I-Visited).. but I was told expressly that I could NOT visit an RLDS (now “Community of Christ”) service until after I was an “investigator”.

  • Jonny

    How Ironic it Is
    In a country that GUARANTEES religious freedom there has only been 1 religion that has ever been denied this (unless they were breaking the law). Case-in-point: in the 1800′s before Joseph Smith was assasinated, the Governor of Illinois issued an “Extermination Order” making it legal to kill Mormons. Think about the constitutionality of that. After this everyone knows about the trek out west to Utah because they were not welcome anywhere else.

    Now today we have a Mormon that’s going to run for president. Tell me any other person, other than a Mormon, that would have all this negative press and opposition around his religion before he even runs, how he can’t win because people won’t vote for a Mormon.

    I guess there would only be 1 example that could even compare, and that would be if a Muslim were running. BUT that’s not a fair comparison because that would be driven from the question of whether he was going to blow up his own country or not.

    It’s disturbing to see that in this free-religion country we still hold prejudices that are as old as dirt.

  • Brian Updike

    Will,

    I appreciate your entry about open services. For clarification, all LDS meetings are open to the public. The RLDS church (“R” is for reorganized)splintered from the LDS church in the 1800′s, and stands as an organization completely seperate from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The point you mentioned is an example of one of the many differences between the two churches.

  • Rathje

    Ironically, the Mormon church was one of those who REJECTED participation in Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiative” program.

    I think you’d have a hard time finding a religion LESS politically involved in America than Mormonism.

  • http://www.waformitt.com George McFlug

    As a person who grew up in the Deep South I find it amazing that people are constantly faulting the Mormons for their political involvement in Utah. I lived in communities where the preachers had no compunction indicating exactly who they preferred for any given office to their congregations. Carl Rove practically made a virtue out of using the church pulpit as a political soapbox for Republicans. We’ve all read quotes from James Dobson pleading with Evangelicals to vote for Bush, “There is no choice, because the alternative is terrible.” Mormons do nothing of the kind in the public arena, yet somehow they are dangerous because of their support for candidates who share their values?

    The bottom line is that many people want to put Mormons is a class of their own without recognizing that almost all religions provide guidance, whether direct or indirect, as to how to vote. One of the great strengths of our county is the freedom to associate in a way that helps guide our civic actions. An electorate that is left to its own devices, like secular Europe, without the powerful influence of value-based instruction, can ends up eroding many of the fundamental tenants of a healthy society (marriage, drug policy, decency standards, etc.). Voters need to spend less time categorizing Mormons as somehow distinct from other beneficial religious traditions in America, and start recognizing their seat at the table. From what I’ve seen they are some of the most devout and well assimilated adherents to a strict moral code and are trying to live a “Christian” existence in every sense of the word.

  • http://-none- manaen

    Re: LDS & freedom of religion, another passage in LDS scripture reads, We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish bguilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. [...] We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy. [...] We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. (D&C 134:4,7,9)

    This complete section, which we LDS consider scripture from God, about religious freedom and human and religious laws is available here.

    A non-LDS friend, having heard some of the same misinformation was anxious about our visit to Utah until she saw the Catholic and Protestant churches built there in the 1800′s — and still operating — not long after the Mormon pioneers arrived.

    Even within the Church, anyone has as much latitude as they want. Another verse in the same section of our scriptures says, We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

    I’ve read in the blogs about Mitt an amusing array of misinformation and conspiracy theories about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, none of them compare in scope and fantasy to this classic. Enjoy!

  • Adam Greenwood

    “Mormons convening together before various county and state elections where they are told which candidates to vote for—evidenced by the block voting found in these areas—certainly indicates to me that the LDS telling people for whom to vote.”

    Bilge. Lived in Utah off and on–was heavily involved with politics–and this is just bilge. I don’t believe it, and I don’t believe Hans Friene really believes it. No doubt he *wants* it to be true.

  • Carl Vehse

    There’re two “M-words” against Romney: Mormon and Massachusetts.


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