Romney goes to Regent

mitt romneyIn a New York Times op-ed, veteran religion writer Kenneth Woodward says Mitt Romney should use a May speech at Pat Robertson’s Regent University to dispel the challenges he faces in convincing evangelical Christians to vote for him.

Now before you race to the end of this post to comment on what a terrible person I am for even suggesting that there are some Americans out there who wouldn’t vote for a candidate because of his religious beliefs, read the rest of the post knowing that I am commenting on the media’s coverage, not the issue itself. Comments that do not relate to the media’s coverage will be zapped.

I raise this now because my previous post on Romney seemed to have touched a nerve among some Romney supporters who believe the former Massachusetts governor is not getting a fair shake from the media (and by me). Let’s make another thing clear: anyone who attempts to become the leader of the free world deserves a thorough vetting. That means asking difficult questions and exploring tough subjects that are not always directly related to the job of leading the free world, but matter because those making the selection (the voters) have deemed them relevant. Reporters who fail to ask those questions are falling down on the job.

Here’s Woodward:

As a Mormon, Mr. Romney faces ignorance as well as fear of his church and its political influence. More Americans, polls show, are willing to accept a woman or an African-American as president than a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It isn’t just evangelical Christians in the Republican base who find Mr. Romney’s religion a stumbling block. Among those who identify themselves as liberal, almost half say they would not support a Mormon for president. Although with 5.6 million adherents Mormonism is the nation’s fourth-largest denomination, 57 percent of respondents to a recent CBS poll said they know little or nothing about Mormon beliefs and practices. Mr. Romney needs to be their teacher, whether he likes that role or not.

Do reporters bear responsibility in changing American’s impressions of Mormons? No, a reporter’s job is to report the news. If the news of the day happens to involve hunting histories or previous policy positions, then reporters are obliged to cover those issue. If Romney wants people’s impressions of his faith to change, then he should get out in front of the issue and make reporters write about it by talking about it.

Reporters should keep from fueling ignorance and fear of Mormons in covering Romney. An example of crossing the “fear” line is The Washington Post‘s Alec MacGillis using a description of Mormons as “dry kindling” when they’re politically mobilized. Since MacGillis didn’t cite any specific instances of this characteristic, its inclusion in the article was unnecessarily inflammatory.

This is why Woodward’s call for Romney to educate Americans on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so compelling:

But Mr. Romney must be sure to express himself in a way that will be properly understood. Any journalist who has covered the church knows that Mormons speak one way among themselves, another among outsiders. This is not duplicity but a consequence of the very different meanings Mormon doctrine attaches to words it shares with historic Christianity.

For example, Mormons speak of God, but they refer to a being who was once a man of “flesh and bone,” like us. They speak of salvation, but to them that means admittance to a “celestial kingdom” where a worthy couple can eventually become “gods” themselves. The Heavenly Father of whom they speak is married to a Heavenly Mother. And when they emphasize the importance of the family, they may be referring to their belief that marriage in a Mormon temple binds families together for all eternity.

Thus, when Mr. Romney told South Carolina Republicans a few months ago that Jesus was his “personal savior,” he used Southern Baptist language to affirm a relationship to Christ that is quite different in Mormon belief. (For Southern Baptists, “personal savior” implies a specific born-again experience that is not required or expected of Mormons.) This is not a winning strategy for Mr. Romney, whose handlers should be aware that Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals know Mormon doctrine better than most other Americans do — if only because they study Mormonism in order to rebut its claims.

Especially at Regent University, Mr. Romney should avoid using language that blurs fundamental differences among religious traditions. Rather, he should acknowledge those differences and insist that no candidate for public office should have to apologize for his or her religious faith.

Should reporters attempt to call Romney out for translating Mormon religious lingo into evangelical lingo for the purpose of winning votes? Yes, of course. If there is a legitimate case to be made that Romney’s language — saying he is born again, for example — fails to line up with Mormon theology, reporters should report on it. The big question is whether reporters covering Romney know Mormon and evangelical doctrine well enough to come up with educated questions for him and for those potential voters.

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  • Cicero

    “If there is a legitimate case to be made that Romney’s language — saying he is born again, for example — fails to line up with Mormon theology, reporters should report on it. The big question is whether reporters covering Romney know Mormon and evangelical doctrine well enough to come up with educated questions for him and for those potential voters.”

    This is the problem- they don’t.

    For example, the Book of Mormon is filled with references to being “born again”. Furthermore, this experience is described as “having my sins washed away”. It is also filled with references to “the Lamb of God” and how we are “washed clean in the blood of Christ.” But I remember talking to a Baptist once who asked me about the title to a Mormon video about the Passion week (“The Lamb of God”), he wanted to know what it meant to us. I said, well, Jesus is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice that washes us clean from sin in his blood. He responded- “Oh, Mormons didn’t used to believe that- I’m glad your church is coming around.”

    I was just confused. What Book of Mormon was he reading? This wasn’t new. This imagery had been used since I was a boy in Sunday School- and the quotes they used were from all different prophets of the Church at different times- including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, David O’McKay, Ezra Taft Benson… as well as the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

    Was he confusing us with the JW’s? (I don’t know what they believe so I can’t be sure.) Some other religion? Most disturbing was that he refused to believe me when I said we had always believed in Jesus as the Lamb of God.

    I think it’s crazy for non-religious journalists to think they can divide religious termonology into what gets to used by Mormons and what gets to be used by evengelicals. Romney has sometimes used terms that are more commonly used by evangelicals, but this is because he wants to make sure that they understand what he is saying. Using the meaning that evangelicals attach to certain terms, Romney’s statements are completely consistent with Mormon doctrine. No Mormon is astonished at Romney using the term “personal Savior”. Usually Mormons just say “he’s my Savior”, because the personal part is assumed.

    A Mormon is perfectly accurate in calling himself “born again” because this experience is a vital part of our salvation. It’s just so frustrating when a small difference in emphasis gets blown up into accusations that words don’t mean the same thing. Accusations that we believe in “a different Jesus” for example. We believe in the Jesus of Nazareth, born of virgin, died on the cross, and rose the third day. Just because we think that Jesus and God the Father are different persons- somehow that means we aren’t Christian?

  • Eric G.

    I have to agree fully with what Cicero said. I grew up in the evangelical world and know its lingo, and I know LDS lingo because of more recent experience. And in my opinion, when Mormons say they believe that Jesus is their savior, they mean substantially the same thing as evangelicals do when they say Jesus is their Savior.

    The standard evangelical formula I’ve heard for being saved involves 1) believing that God raised Jesus from the dead and 2)confessing Jesus as Lord and/or savior. Every active LDS person I know has done and/or is doing exactly those things. And there may be something in there about confessing our sins and repentance, but we believe in those too.

    I am not trying to downplay the differences between evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism. They are substantial. But I don’t think the statements in Woodward’s article do a very good job of characterizing those differences.

    (Mormons as a rule aren’t more knowledgeable about non-LDS faith than in reverse. But ask LDS what the big differences are, and they’d most likely say that we believe in a living prophet and in scripture that’s in addition to the Bible.)

    When someone tells me I believe in a different Jesus, or a different God, my reply is something like this: I believe in the God of the Bible, the maker of heaven and Earth and the one who has prepared an eternal home for all who believe in him. I believe in the Jesus that was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified, buried and resurrected. Which Jesus do you believe in?

    And, for the record, being “born again” is required of faithful Mormons. The big difference is that we see being born again (and salvation, for that matter) as a process, not a one-time event as many evangelicals do.

    I’d also like some substantiation of the statement that LDS speak differently to outsiders than they do to themselves. I’m not saying it’s not true (although I haven’t experienced it). I just don’t see like seeing a charge like that sitting there without any evidence or examples of what is meant.

    I remember spending Easter Sunday sitting in church during what was called a “testimony meeting” where members of the church share their personal testimonies (evangelicals often use the same term). I would say that fully 90 percent, maybe more, of what I heard would not have sounded out of place at an evangelical church — people tesified of their gratitude for Jesus’ suffering and dying for us, for the willingness of God to give up his Son, for the glory of the Resurrection that stands as a powerful symbol of eternal life, and so on. I heard nothing about God being “flesh and bone,” nothing about “becoming Gods,” nothing about Heavenly Mother. Nothing, nothing at ll.

    I’m not denying those doctrines in any way (although the second and third ones are poorly developed doctrines that are seldom taught). But when writers such as Woodward spend so much time emphasizing such “oddities” of our faith, they are distorting the Mormon experience immensely.

  • Tracy Hall Jr

    Woodward managed to cough up every rancid anti-Mormon complaint in the guise of what the man-in-the-street/gutter thinks about Mormonism. He can’t even get his pure mind off “child marriage” and “polygamy,” neither of which has anything to do with Mitt Romney or his religion.

    Hugh Hewitt of TownHall.com got it right, ranking Woodward right up there with leftist bigots Jacob Weisberg and Damon Linker.

    Substitute “Jew” for ‘Mormon. Ask yourself if the Times would have published such a piece even if it ended with a ringing declaration against the idea of refusing to vote for a Jew for president. I am amazed the editors missed the obvious title for the piece “Protocols of the Elders of New Zion.”

    http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/g/05304605-c01a-4eb1-a13f-10d07c03e166

    Imagine reading, in the Times, “Among the reasons Americans distrust Jews is Jewish clannishness.” Or how about, “Moreover, Jews are perceived to be unusually secretive.” Can Woodward spell d-e-f-a-m-a-t-i-o-n?

    Ed Morrisey of Captain’s Quarters got it right: “Appalling Bigotry”

    Woodward couches this wretched laundry list of Mormophobia as advice to Romney on how he can assuage the fears of bigots. My advice to Romney is to ignore it altogether and refrain from enabling that kind of debate. He won’t convince the bigots anyway, and the rest of us are astute enough to understand that his religion presents no more bar to meeting Presidential responsibilities than did the Deism of our founders, or the Catholicism of John F Kennedy. Maybe if he shows that the people obsessed with his faith mostly consist of journalists looking for a cheap shot at him, the Times and other publications will stop offering their inane “advice.”

    Thomas Lifson, editor of American Thinker got it right.

    While I am dismayed at the level of anti-Mormon bigotry alive in America, at least the bigots are flushing themselves out of the weeds.

    Why can’t Daniel Pulliam of “Get Religion” seem to get it right?

  • Jerry

    57 percent of respondents to a recent CBS poll said they know little or nothing about Mormon beliefs and practices.

    Do reporters bear responsibility in changing American’s impressions of Mormons? No, a reporter’s job is to report the news.

    That’s true as far as you go, but incomplete in my opinion. A reporter should also present not just the news, but to help put it in context whenever possible. So a reporter should not try to change people’s impressions, to be sure, but should include facts that help educate the ignorant.

  • V. Lundquist

    I disagree with the premise of any media source that any candidate has the “responsibility” to educate or even discuss their faith. Nobody is asking Obama to discuss the mission statement of his parish that many believe is clearly racist in substance and tone in many expressed ways. Obama gets a pass precisely because the MSM considers him “worthy” of candidacy. Romney’s more mundane religion by comparison gets enormous scrutiny and coverage simply because his credentials and qualifications are a threat to the liberal media overall and their agenda. That and they can’t find anything negative to write about Romney. Bias only begins to define what they are all about.

    Contrast your piece above with this one by clicking here —-> New York Times Condescening Directives to Governor Mitt Romney

  • http://hiveperfect.blogspot.com/ HiveRadical

    A reporter has a responsibility to accuracy. Mr. Woodward’s claims that Mormons don’t believe in a born again experience is patently false. As has been pointed out by others in this commentary section LDS/Mormon doctrine is repleate with the event of being “born again” as being VITAL to LDS views of salvation and exaltation. What Woodward has done is the equivilant to saying that Sunni’s don’t believe in the same Muhamed as the Shi’a because they don’t agree with proper lines of succession. Mormons don’t view being “born again” as exactly the same thing as evangelicals. But to claim, as Woodward does, that we it’s viewed as less than vital is patently false.

    And last I checked accuracy was pretty high up on the list of things expected from reporters of just about any stripe.

  • Barbie McConnell

    It has been my experience that people who attack the Latter-day Saints were either former members who won’t allow anyone to live the faith they weren’t capable of, or individuals who sell religion and do not want to lose members of their own paying congregations. A rare third type is Woodward, who wants to pick a fight and deliberately prints an outline of beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, and lifestyle that are not accurately attributable to the Church, and that ignor the reality that Mormons are people too, as different one from the next as in any community. Not one characterization met the mark. If he is going to write a book, he better check his libel laws, and find an appropriate hate-group to join. If he wants to know what Mormons beleive, he might want to ask a Mormon.

  • http://hiveperfect.blogspot.com/ HiveRadical

    I find it it fascinating to see this butting up of doctrinal specificity and the journalistic tendancy to bring things to the lowest common denomenator for the semi-informed masses. They take their own simplistic views (suprisingly simplistic for those, such as Woodward, who claim some degree of enlightenment on these specific realms) and then find the pretended discrepancies to point out and prove their erroneous theories as to what the issue(s) is/are. They have to appear to have the answer and this is the simplist course. No need to fact check, no need to run statements, like those regarding what is and isn’t viewed as vital to salvation for a particular faith, past someone in that faith in a position to know. No no no, just shoot it out of that word processor and “that’s the way it is.” The actual doctrines and tenants of any particular faith be damned. If evangelicals say Mormons aren’t Christian then the Mormons “clearly” don’t really believe in the vitality or irreplacability of being “born again” who’s shouting they’re born again all the time? Everyone knows it’s the evangelicals. Woodward clearly hadn’t seen a Mormon proclaiming to the world that he’d been born again. Yet there in the very BOOK OF MORMON are a multiplicity of instances of MORMON prophets proclaiming the inescapable necesity of being “born again.”

    Can we have someone at least try to read the book before they try and claim to know what we do and don’t believe? I know y’all just got through the Quran finally since 9-11. And now there’s this other emergent religion and for some reason those silly Mormons seem to want their faith portrayed as accurately as possible.

    Picky picky picky.

    Yes. Context is needed. And in the instances when an error of this grandure is made it becomes apparent that those who are suppose to at least provide some sort of context for the ‘facts’ they are issuing forth should actually make some effort to learn both the facts and the context beyond their mere personal experience of recolected claims of various adherents to a label such as “born again.”

    If you want to ask why we don’t have any missionaries going around proclaiming they are “born again Mormons” that’s because being “Mormon” and “born again” are inherently tied. By claiming to be “Mormon” you are inplicitly claiming to having been “born again.”

  • http://hiveperfect.blogspot.com/ HiveRadical

    To Barbie McConnell.

    Might I suggest that Mr. Woodward falls into the profeteering category of the second group. That group is split into two. Those seeking to avoid loss and those seeking to make a gain from the currents of bigotry. Woodward has his own ‘sheep’ to ‘feed’ and so he escapes from standards of journalistic integrity and stoops to the easy pickings of the lazy psuedo expert. Knowing sufficient to sound like they know what they’re saying but not exerting enough effort to actually know the reality of anything they say. It’s irrelevant to them as the focus is creating controversy rather than discovering truth. He can just claim “I didn’t know” or he can ignore it all together. He does, after all, have all many in society ask out of people for a reason to believe them, namely ‘credentials.’ He’s got the paper work, and that gets him out of the real work of actually double checking his assertions. He’s just playing the role of cherry picking psuedo academic. I fear for the misinformation the uninformed may derive from his upcoming ‘authoritative’ work.

  • DLounsbury

    As I previously pointed out in a response to another blog on this site, the mainstream media brings up everything about Romney (religion, hunting, alleged flip flops) except his actual resume and political record, which are absolutely impressive. References to his family are almost always jaded (implying he is talking about his family only to make a political contrast to rivals). The mainstream media would be having a love fest with Obama if he had done half the things Romney has done.

    I am once again calling for someone to do a catalog of all stories about Romney in the mainstream media to determine percentages about his religion vs. politics, accomplishments vs. flip flops, negative vs. positive, etc. I am sure my perception Romney is being slammed is correct.

  • Jacosta

    I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and have been a member for a very long time. I remember just before my baptism into the LDS religion an interview I had with one of the missionaries who asked a series of questions as prerequisites (requirements) for my joining the LDS faith – did I smoke, drink, use drugs or alcohol? Did I abuse or neglect my wife or children in any degree (I was not married at the time, but this is one of the questions asked to those who want to join the Church); am I honest with my fellow man; am I morally clean – abstaining from fornication, homosexuality, pornography, and even masterbation? Do I live the laws of the land? And yes, they did ask if I believed that the Bible and the Book of Mormon were testaments of the divinity of Christ, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if the current president of the LDS Church was a living prophet like unto Moses, Isaiah, Abraham, etc. (at the time of my baptism)?

    However, they asked this last question with a comment that they placed paramount importance, saying that above all else, even if I didn’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, did I believe, accept, and know that Jesus is the Christ, and accept Him as my Savior and Redeemer, and the only One through whom I can gain my eternal salvation, and through Whose atoning sacrifice made it possible for me to repent and be saved? That, they said, was the most important question – and if I didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I could not be baptized.

    Yes! Latter-day Saints do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God…the ONLY name under Heaven through whom all mankind can be saved (not Joseph Smith or any other LDS Prophet as anti-Mormons would have you believe)…that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins in Gethsemane by feeling the pains of sin that all mankind has suffered, to the point that he sweat great drops of blood….that Jesus Christ then suffered the cruel agony of the cross on Golgotha’s hill…that he was then buried but then rose miraculously from Arimathaea’s tomb 3 days later – the resurrection. Letter-day Saints believe that following Jesus Christ – accepting Him as Lord of Lords, Kings of Kings, being spiritualy born of Him, and keeping His commandments – is paramount and is our only link to God, the Father of us all. Latter-day Saints believe that ALL good Christians will be here to partake of Christ’s second coming – NOT just Mormons, but ALL true Christians!

    Look at those questions once again…morally clean, honesty, abstaining from alcohol / drugs / tobacco, abusing spouse or children, following the laws of the land – I wish that EVERY person could answer those same questions in the right! And to think that they would not baptize me if I couldn’t also answer those questions – makes one think that they’re some of the same questions we’ll be asked at Judgment day!

    Yes! Jesus is the Christ! My Savior and Redeemer! The Only name under Heaven through Whom I gain my salvation if I believe and follow Him! NOT Joseph Smith or Gordon B. Hinckley! Jesus is my Friend, my God, my King!

    As for Mitt Romney – I am NOT supporting him because he happens to be of the same Faith as I am…several months ago I was supporting McCain, and didn’t take Romney seriously. However, I was truly ignorant of Romney’s background…that was then, and this is now. I am supporting Romney because he is honest, competent, and a true Conservative! He is against gay marriage and abortion! He is fiscally conservative! He’s the best candidate for 2008!

  • bjalder26

    Wait a minute this line is wholly inaccurate, “(For Southern Baptists, “personal savior” implies a specific born-again experience that is not required or expected of Mormons.)” Being “born again” is huge part of LDS theology. It’s a Biblical term which means Latter-Day Saints believe in it but it is also part of LDS scriptures and ordinances. Every member of the LDS Church is expected through study, fasting and, prayer to seek out a spiritual confirmation regarding the truthfulness of the Gospel to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ as their Savior. Most frequently members prefer to refer to this as their “testimony” of Jesus Christ but it is very similar to Southern Baptists belief in being born-again. LDS members also enter into the church through Baptism by immersion which is symbolic of being born again (which I believe holds the same symbolism in the Baptist Church). There are many other born again themes in the LDS theology but I would say were the difference lies between Latter-Day Saints and Baptists is that Latter-Day Saints view gaining their testimony of Jesus Christ as less of a one time event (although many members will frequently speak of when they first gained their testimony) and more of a process where they maintain and grow their testimony through study, prayer, church attendance, and adherence to God’s Laws.

    Alma Ch 5 is a good example of the LDS doctrine of being Born Again and maintaining your Testimony of Christ.

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/5/22,26#22

  • Mark H

    What would happen if Mitt Romney followed the advice of Woodward or Pulliam and tried to “educate” people about his faith?

    Do you remember what happened last February when George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney’s about some obscure tenet of his faith? It was whether or not Mormons believe that Christ will appear in Jerusalem at his second coming. Mitt replied that his church did believe that. Well, George seeking a ‘gotcha’ had some staffer call up a “Mormon spokesman” (they never said who exactly or what position he held) who seemed to contradict what Romney said. Well, Good Morning America played it up for all it was worth.

    As it turned out, the “Mormon spokesman” had misspoke. It was easily shown that Mormons DO believe that Christ will appear in Jerusalem at his second coming. A search of just a minute or two at their website reveals all sorts of information on the subject.

    Reporters are not looking for “education”. If they wanted education, they could ask a Mormon Missionary. No, what they want is conflict, ‘gotchas’. Also, I think some reporters get an ego kick out making politican jump through hoops for them. “See what we can make you do? Aren’t we powerful?” The experience with Stephanopoulos proves Romney has no business attempting to educate people on the finer points of LDS doctrine?

    There are innumerable people far better qualified than he to do the job. If you wish to educated about the church, then approach one of them. Romney is running for President, not Pastor. It simply would not be appropriate for him to go beyond what he has already done.

  • Harold

    Some journalists’ personal opposition to a Mormon president is evident by their unfair treatment of Romney’s record on campaign issues. These journalists may claim to be tolerant, but their super-critical articles on Romney may be evidence of their anti-Mormon bigotry.

    Last week, an AP report cited a Romney campaign staff member who mentioned two hunting trips that Romney had been on. However, the AP reporter unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) presumed that these two hunting trips were the only two trips Romney had ever been on, appearing to
    contradict Romney’s prior claim of being a “life-long hunter.” Subsequently, several other media organizations cited the inaccurate AP report in order to accuse Romney of exaggerating the truth in order to win over voters. But on Friday, Romney stated without equivocation, “The report
    that I only hunted twice is incorrect. I’ve hunted small game numerous times, as a young man and as an adult.”

    I am amazed that the Associated Press can get away with this! The AP reporter was, at best, sloppy, and at worst, untruthful. Of course, the left-leaning media continues to focus on this AP report days after it was shown to be inaccurate. Someone needs to hold this reporter and the Associated Press accountable. The media has an enormous influence on presidential politics. The media’s role in American democracy can be positive, as long as the media is careful and objective in its reporting.

  • Eric G.

    Since my original comment, I have read through original post again, and I’d like to add a few remarks:

    1. As I reread the original article referenced by the post, I was struck by its arrogance. Its message seems to be this: “I don’t understand your religion and neither does most of America. However, it’s not my responsibillity to get my questions answered, it’s yours.” While Romney (and any other candidate) certainly needs to let us know what makes him tick if he wants to be elected president, it hardly seems the job of a politician to become the country’s theologian in chief.

    2. Unlike many of my fellow Saints here, I don’t see much bigotry here. But I do see ignorance and a certain degree of intellectual laziness that seems to be more comfortable with asking non-Mormons what Mormons believe than in asking Mormons what they themselves believe (and often not believing their answers when they don’t fit the stereotype).

    3. A major premise of the original article is all wrong. Evangelical concepts such as being born again or believing in Jesus as a personal savior are not foreign at all to the LDS experience. I direct you to this 1998 talk by Apostle Dallin Oaks in which he affirms that faithful Mormons are indeed “saved” and “born again.”

    What do we say when someone asks us, “Have you been saved?” … As I understand what is meant by the good Christians who speak in these terms, we are “saved” when we sincerely declare or confess that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. … Every sincere Latter-day Saint is “saved” according to this meaning. …

    The question of whether a person has been saved is sometimes phrased in terms of whether that person has been “born again.” Being “born again” is a familiar reference in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. … As we understand these scriptures, our answer to whether we have been born again is clearly “yes.”

    If Mr. Woodward had done a little bit of research he may have found out that LDS church leaders have affirmed that it is indeed consistent with our faith to say that we believe in Jesus as our personal savior and that we are born again. Elder Oaks’ talk has been referenced many times in church publications and at church presentations. Mr. Romney’s use of such terms was perfectly consistent with what his church teaches him; while Mr. Romney may be guilty of pandering in many cases, I see no evidence this is one of them.

  • Andy

    To Tracy Hall Jr…

    I am highly agitated by your thought that those who question Mormonism are doing so in a bigotted fashion.

    This character assasination of those who draw legitimate concern over the religion’s foundation, controversial practices is appalling.

    Yes, those who draw these questions disagree with the faith. But, this in no way makes these persons bigots.

    What people of your character are trying to do is to equate those brave souls to the Nazi’s.

    You quote several writers who want us to replace the word “Mormon” with “Jew”. In turn forcing the reader to also liken the writer’s view point from critic or Christian or evangelical to a Nazi.

    How is this fair? Do the research (into the Mormon church) and see which side of this issue holds the racist history. Do the research and see which side of this issue claims that all other religions are an abomination. Do the research and see which side of the issue holds sacred temple rituals and has leadership positions which are oppressive and exclusionary to an entire gender.

    Why is it that those who question this faith, and those who appropriately pose these questions in regarding to a presidential candidate who is attempting to be the leader of the free world, are the ones who are the bigots?

    If David Koresch were to run for president, would we have the right to ask questions of his faith? Would we be wrong for questioning the core tenants of his faith? Or what about David Duke? Was the press wrong for questioning his involvment with a group who practiced racism in the name of God? If a member of the Heaven’s Gate religious group wanted to run for president, could we not question the candidate for his involvement? And it doesn’t stop here… When JFK was running for president, the press and the citizens of this great nation were more than justified in questioning JFK’s allegiance as well. The difference here is that JFK addressed the issue head on. To date, Romney has not.

    The fact is that Mitt Romney is a presidential candidate, is a Mormon, and is asking for your vote. He may not be an official mouthpiece of his church. But, he is a man who has grew up in the church his entire life, he went thru seminary classes to educate himself on the faith, he went on missionary trips promoting and converting others to the faith, he has held high ranking church positions on a regional and national level. He has raised his children up within the religion. His entire family and livelihood are wrapped up in this chuch. Without question, he should be able to address the concerns others have about his religion, regardless if he is an official mouthpiece or not.

    For people to try to smear the character of those who draw question to this religion and the presidential candidate who’s entire life fabric is composed by this church is mind boggling. The topic and each of the questions are legitimate. Not addressing it, and pointing fingers elsewhere will simply continue the veil of secrecy and white-washing that the chuch has so well succeeded at doing for the last 150 years.

  • Eric W

    I suspect that were Romney running as the Democratic candidate and the foreordained “Hillary Rodham Clinton” was not also running, the questions about his religion would be few and far between.

    He may still get the vote (if he’s the nominee) of many Nicene Christians because of his personal morality – assuming he has not been doing flip-flops on, e.g., abortion. And even then, he may still get the ABH (Anybody But Hillary) vote from them, regardless of what kind of undies he wears.

  • Eric G.

    Andy asked:

    Why is it that those who question this faith, and those who appropriately pose these questions in regarding to a presidential candidate who is attempting to be the leader of the free world, are the ones who are the bigots?

    Some are bigots, many, probably most, are not.

    It is perfectly legitimate to ask a candidate how his/her faith and/or philosophical outlook will affect what he/she does in office. It is legitimate to look at a candidate’s character, and the person’s religious background is often part of that.

    Part of the problem, though, is that among some raising those questions there is an unspoken assumption that a person who is a member of a particular religion is a unthinking robot or something along that line. There can be an unspoken assumption that the church is some sort of conspiratorial network. There is some sort of an assumption that people are who members of the church are somehow not normal. Bigotry? Perhaps.

    I also find there is also a sort of double standard. Does the LDS church have a racist past? One can certainly make a case for that. But the Methodist church, of which Hillary Clinton is a member, once supported slavery in the United States, something the Mormons never did (in his brief run for president, Joseph Smith actually had a progressive platform for the time). But do we hold Clinton’s religion against her because of her church’s racist past? No, and neither should we. Barack Obama’s church has a mission statement that could be viewed as racist. But how many complaints have you heard about that? (I’m not disparaging Obama here, by the way. And if he ends up running against Romney, I’m voting for Obama.) So the LDS church is sexist because all of the apostles are women? I can understand the argument. But Giuliani also is from a church that has sex-specific roles, and I don’t hear questions raised about his allegedly being sexist.

    So perhaps the problem that many of Romney’s defenders and some other Mormons have isn’t that the questions are being asked, it’s how they’re being asked.

    When JFK was running for president, the press and the citizens of this great nation were more than justified in questioning JFK’s allegiance as well. The difference here is that JFK addressed the issue head on. To date, Romney has not.

    In your view, what question specifically do you feel Romney hasn’t answered that he should? Thanks.

  • Tracy Hall Jr

    Andy wrote, with astonishing chutzpa, in the same paragraph,

    [A] For people to try to smear the character of those who draw question to this religion and the presidential candidate who’s entire life fabric is composed by this church is mind boggling.

    [B] The topic and each of the questions are legitimate. Not addressing it, and pointing fingers elsewhere will simply continue the veil of secrecy and white-washing that the church has so well succeeded at doing for the last 150 years.

    Please help me out here. According to [A] Who has smeared the character of Woodward? I quoted his exact words, taking Hewitt’s suggestion to substitute the “J” word for the “M” word:

    Among the reasons Americans distrust Jews is Jewish clannishness.

    Moreover, Jews are perceived to be unusually secretive.

    Does not Woodward in fact smear himself with his own bigotry? By thus tagging Woodward’s polemic, we discover that Anti-Mormons and Anti-Semites indeed wear the same jack boots, polished with the same Shinola(R).

    Finally, Andy, in [B] do you not obviously smear yourself with the “B” word?

    Since you’re so determined to impeach Romney, on the basis of his religion alone, long before the election, you might as well demand that he disclose, under oath, when he stopped beating his wives!

  • Edwin

    Eric G,

    One inaccuracy in your post: the Methodist Church as a whole never supported slavery. Initially the Methodist Episcopal Church was not going to allow slaveowners to be members, but they quickly backed off from this. However, they did not allow slaveowners to be bishops, and this led to the North-South split in the 1840s. The Southern Methodists did support slavery. The non-episcopal Methodist churches that split away during the early 19th century were uniformly more antislavery than the MEC.

    In short, while the MEC did soften its initial antislavery stance, this amounted to a less resolute opposition and at no point to anything that could remotely be called support.

    That being said, I agree with the general point of your post–all churches have dirty linen of one sort or another, and the smear campaign being conducted against Romney and his church is shameful.

  • Eric G

    Edwin — Thanks for the info on the Methodists. That was interesting.

    Andy — I’m wondering if this statement (found here) by Romney is direct enough in terms of making a Kennedyesque pronouncement: “America has a political religion, which is to place the oath of office, an oath to abide by a nation of laws and a constitution, above all others. And there’s no question that I make that my primary responsibility.” What more would you want to hear him say? If that isn’t sufficient, what should news reporters be asking him specifically?

  • Barbie McConnell

    What is the point of belonging to a religion that doesn’t impact your life?

  • Jacosta

    A little education can be dangerous…notice the following ~

    When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in 1830, and continuing on for many years after, ALL black men in the Church were appointed to the LDS preisthood, one of those was ordained to the position of Seventy – a very high ranking in the LDS Church right below that of an apostle. There are also on record several black men who were set apart as missionaries and served their missions valliantly in the Northeastern United States, and one sent to England.

    With the dedication of the first Temple that the Latter-day Saints erected in Kirtland, OH, there were African-Americans in attendance.

    In his writings, LDS Church founder, Joesph Smith mentioned many times that slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God, that it made his blood boil, that blacks did have souls, and that he wanted all slaves to be set free.

    One of the igniting sparks that started the murdering, raping, plundering, and eventual exodus of the Latter-day Saints out of Missouri was that they were against slavery, and that with their voting numbers, could have made Missouri a free state. Joseph Smith had actually helped at least 3 slaves excape from the south, and had taken into his household 2 ex-slave women who became part of his family.

    There were several blacks that were in the same entourage with Brigham Young when the Latter-day Saint pioneers arrived in Utah.

    Brigham Young, as president of the LDS Church and as governor of Utah, rewrote the Utah Constitution to give equal and voting rights to ALL people of color, including blacks.

    Mormon missionaries in the South, as late as 1891, were threatened and warned to leave by the KKK because of the Church’s anti-slavery policies.

    As late as 1934 and 1935, two black men are given the preisthood – one as a preist, the other as an elder.

    In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith, LDS Church President, reaffirms that ALL men and women, regardless of race or color, should have equal rights – especially taking note with the “interference of white men” against blacks.

    In 1962, President David O. McKay sends missionaries to Nigeria – although their visas are denied.

    In 1971, three black men were set apart to organize a new arm of the Church that would be known as the Genesis Group. I am personal and close freinds with one of those founders – Darius Gray.

    Countless statements throughout the history of the LDS Church from its leaders state that God is no respector of persons, that all are equal in His eyes, especially in refering to African Americans.

    Now, although it can not be fully explained as to when an official ban was given that blacks could not have the priesthood for a season – there were MANY black members of the LDS Church during that period that state that they never felt discriminated against in the Church, and that they felt as equal as any other Mormon.

    Many interviews have been done with African-American members of the Church before and after the announcement in 1978 by President Spencer W. Kimball – about their feelings on the matter. Lately, Gladys Knight – world-renowned Soul & Gospel recording artist – has been sharing her experience joining the LDS Church and it is very enlightening.

    I personally have asked several black members of the LDS Church in St. Louis about their experiences joining the Church BEFORE the 1978 announcement – and ALL of them have shared with mje that the LDS Church was never racist…even though they knew (the black men I interviewed) that they couldn’t have the preisthood before 1978. They knew, or expressed their knowledge, that even though they couldn’t have the priesthood before 1978, that that did NOT mean that they had no right to enter the temples or barred their salvation or exaltation.

    If you’d like to learn more – http://www.blacklds.org

    I personally am tired of people’s ignorance of LDS history. There are now countless LDS congregations that are all, or nearly all, black. There are countless black bishops, stake presidents (the equivelant of a Catholic Archbishop), black mission presidents, black general authorities, and black missionaries throughout the world.

    Again, a little knowledge can be dangerous – by changing our perception and attitude.

  • Andy

    Jacosta,

    Your response is almost laughable. I really thought you were going to say next that “I don’t hate black people. I actually have several friends who are black. Black people like me.”

    Does the fact that a few black persons were in attendence during a temple dedication, or any other of your reasons excuse the “white and delightsome” reference in your scriptures.

    Have a look here to see how people of African ancestry really feel of that practice.

  • Eric G.

    I don’t want to get away from the purpose of the blog, so I’ll limit myself pretty much to saying that the media make a mistake if they let statements about the LDS church being racist go unchallenged, but they would also be remiss if (in a context where it’s appropriate) if they ignore troublesome aspects of church history. Indeed, there are some troublesome aspects (which you can find discussed ad nauseam on various LDS blogs); on the other hand, in communities that are fully integrated, so are the LDS congregations, something that can’t be said of many other churches.

    But in the context of a presidential campaign, what difference does this all make? I have never seen any suggestion whatsoever that Romney is a racist, nor that he has been discriminatory (in terms of either race or sex) in terms of his appointments and staff. So why does this matter? It doesn’t, unless you’re taking the position that a candidate is unfit because she/he’s a member of a particular church.

  • Jacosta

    So, YOU are “interpreting” the word ‘white’ in that sentance as a physical color? I like it how people who are not LDS interpret LDS scripture – or how anybody interprets the meanings of anyone else’s religion for that matter.

    So, when the Lord says that “though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) – was the Lord saying that all people will turn white? Or, was He refering to a change of heart?

    And please – do NOT put words in my mouth (as by your quotation above as to what you are saying I believe) because you are totally wrong and off base in your assumption!

    Lastly – Latter-day Saints interpret “white and delightsome” as in the example above given in Isaiah…that it’s a change of heart towards the Savior by forsaking our sins, repenting, and following Him – no matter what race or color the person is; it’s not, by your misinterpretation, dealing with physical attributes or the color of ones skin!

    Apparently, you forgot to quote this scripture in 2 Nephi 26:33 –

    “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord(stealing, lying, taking of God’s name in vain, murdering, whoredomes, etc); for he (Christ) doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    If you really want to know what Latter-day Saints believe – go talk to them and/or attend one of our services.

    Andy – you are greatly off base!

  • Adam Greenwood

    Mr. Pulliam wants the press to take sides in a theological dispute. Is the Mormon Jesus a “different” Jesus? Is Mormon belief such that being “born again” has no meaning? Most ridiculous of all, do Mormons have some secret meaning in mind when they talk about families? These are all disputed questions (except for the family one, of course). So is a reporter just reporting when he takes one side as presents it as fact? Not in my mind.

    Mr. Pulliam has a side in these disputes and Woodward agrees with his side. That’s the real reason Woodward is “so compelling.”

  • Adam Greenwood

    Let me follow-up on the Southern Baptist “born-again” issue.

    From what I can tell, the difference between Southern Baptist and the Mormon view of being born-again is that Southern Baptists believe its a one-time event while most Mormons don’t (most Mormons believe either that its a lifelong process or else that it occurs multiple times).

    However, Mormon scripture does descriptions of people who were born again in a single event (the people of King Benjamin and Alma the Younger come to mind), so Mormons can claim to have been born again in much the sense that is meant by Southern Baptists. In fact, its theologically possible for Mormons to believe that being born-again is, by its nature, a one-time and perduring event, and I’ve meant some, though the great majority of Mormons do not in fact believe that. Certainly I don’t.

    While Mormons believe in being born-again, certainly the phrase isn’t as linguistically or culturally important for most Mormons as it is for Southern Baptists. I attribute this to most Mormons believing that being born again in Christ is a lifelong process that isn’t really decided until the judgment bar, instead of a specific, perduring event.

  • Adam Greenwood

    While Mr. Pulliam lauds Woodward, they actually have contradictor complaints.

    Woodward’s real accusation seems to be that Mormons have a different understanding of some concepts and they use this to mislead outsiders. Mr. Pulliam, on the other hand, says that if Romney claims to be born again then Romney is contradicting his own church’s theology. But its either one or the other.

    So why does Mr. Pulliam approve of Woodward even if his own take contradicts Woodward’s? Well, their takes do have a common factor. They both make Romney and Mormons look bad.

  • http://www.simplegloss.com Marc

    Everyone seems to be expecting that all members of the LDS community are equally well prepared to explain the ‘mysteries’ of the LDS faith. (Based on my familiarity with my fellow Catholics, I would be surprised if this were the case.) But if there is any truth to the trope that Mormons as a matter of doctrine speak in one language, as it were, to non-believers, and in another among themselves, then it seems to me that journalists ought to at least report this and its significance; likewise, if Mr Romney uses the phrase ‘to be born again’ to mean something other than what his Southern Baptist audience means by that phrase, then he ought to clarify the difference: but the truth may be that, whatever the formal LDS doctrine is, Mr Romney may in fact talk about ‘being born again’ meaning just what the Southern Baptists mean.

    There is no religious test for public office in the U.S. and rightly so: on the one hand, were I to consider voting for Mr Romney and discover that he says this or that about his religion knowingly using language that misleads me about its actual doctrine, well, that would affect my decision for sure. But it could just as easily be the case that the difference between Mr Romney’s version and the ‘actual’ version would be of no significance at all since it is, at the polling booth, Mr Romney I would be voting or not voting for–not his religious community.

  • Adam Greenwood

    In my comments above, I’ve written as if Mr. Pulliam were making these errors with malice aforethought. I apologize for that.

  • dpulliam

    Adam, I never said I wanted to press to take sides in any theological dispute. I merely want them to flesh out exactly what it says and how it compares to the religion’s theologies. I don’t believe there are sides to be had in this issue.

    As for your claim that I contradict Woodward, I do not say that Woodward is necessarily right, I just ask that reporters explore the issue. Don’t assume that Woodward is right. That doesn’t mean I can’t say that he has a point with his piece.

  • Adam Greenwood

    “Adam, I never said I wanted to press to take sides in any theological dispute. . . . I don’t believe there are sides to be had in this issue. ”

    With due respect, Mr. Pulliam, this is my point. There are, in fact, sides on whether there is Mormon Jesus and a Christian Jesus, or whether they’re the same Jesus with both groups having somewhat different theologies. Same with the other questions you name. You are on one side of that dispute and are so convinced that you’re side is right that you don’t think there is another side.* But this is objectively untrue. Look at the comments here, for example. It would be wrong for reporters to side with you.

    *But even you must be at least a little embarassed at arguing that Mormons mean something secret when they talk about families, surely?


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