Too much religion coverage?

So candidates for the Republican presidential nomination had a debate at 9 a.m. Sunday. I could be completely wrong about this, but I can’t help but think that if Democratic candidates held their debate on a Sunday morning during the middle of worship for a vast group of Americans, people would snipe about how it was further evidence of their godlessness. But maybe Sunday mornings are officially just like any other day.

Anyway, the day before the debate, a very interesting video started spreading across the intertubes. WHO 1040 (Iowa) conservative talk radio host Jan Mickelson harshly grilled Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney about his adherence to Mormonism. You can watch it here:

ABC News’ Jake Tapper has a fantastic write up of the debate, if you don’t want to watch the full 20 minutes. Here’s how he ends the piece:

Romney argued that the church does not teach that Mormons cannot allow choice in society “and therefore there are Mormon Democrats. There is a Democratic party in Utah filled with Mormons, and the church doesn’t say, ‘They’re wrong. They’re being excommunicated,’” Romney continued.

The position of the LDS Church is, ‘We are vehemently opposed to abortion, ourselves and for ourselves, but we allow other people to make their own choice,’” he said.

Mickelson expressed interest in having Romney return to spend more “quality time” on the air.

“No, I don’t like coming on the air and having you go after my church and me,” Romney answered. “I’m not running as a Mormon, and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon.”

“See, I don’t mind it being about that,” said Mickelson.

“Yeah, I do, I do,” Romney replied. “You’re trying to tell me that I’m not a faithful Mormon. I’m not running to talk about Mormonism.”

Tapper edited a lengthy interview down to a very readable article. He also provided some perspective on where the radio host was coming from. Now, I think that discussion of Romney’s religion in the mainstream media is fine in so long as it’s relevant. And with how many people (30 percent, according to a Pew survey) have said they consider Romney’s religion to be a major barrier to their support, it should be covered by the media.

But Romney is running for the Republican nomination for president. The level of attention being paid to his Mormonism — and critical nature of same — can be (and frequently is) over the top. On the other hand, the lack of quality journalism about the differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity and evangelical Christianity is also of concern.

When Romney paid a visit to Evangelical Ground Zero (Colorado Springs, Colorado) last month, The Denver Post ran a lengthy and informative feature all about Romney’s Mormonism. And hey, if you can’t discuss Romney’s Mormonism on a visit to Dobsonville, when can you? The article, written by Chuck Plunkett, is both good and bad. At times it does one of the better jobs I’ve seen of explaining theological problems traditional Christians have with Mormonism. But it doesn’t really explain why those differences are cause for political concern among some Christian voters. For instance:

when it comes to Mormon and conservative Christian beliefs, [Focus on the Family Senior Vice President Tom] Minnery said: “There are deep theological differences.”

No less subtle are the origins of the two faiths — which both claim to be God’s “true” religion. Christianity has centuries-old roots. Although Mormons also believe in the Bible, their added sacred texts came from a 19th-century American who translated gold tablets that have since disappeared.

After Jesus was resurrected, he came to America, said this original Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith Jr.

Jesus, Smith said, came to visit a Jewish tribe that had settled here ages ago.

Ultimately, Smith said, God found that Christianity had fallen into a state of confusion, or apostasy, and he spoke through the angel Moroni to Smith in order to recalibrate the faith for the new age.

Such conflicting beliefs underlie the Focus on the Family officials’ observations — which experts say aren’t at all idle.

Centuries, eh? Almost enough centuries to make a millennium or two! Anyway, while the theological differences between Mormons and evangelical Christians are admitted by both groups, the article doesn’t quite explain why the differences are a political problem. I’d vote for a Zarathustran, Mormon or even a Methodist who shared my politics, so forgive my perspective — but what I find really curious about the whole Romney Religion debate is Why. It. Matters. In a lengthy article like the three-pager the Post ran, couldn’t we explain that a bit more?

askmittanythingBut the article goes much, much deeper on Mormon theology. It delves into aspects that average Mormons might not even know are part of their faith. Plunkett discusses Mormon belief in God’s spirit children, who become human. If they are faithful and obedient, they can go to heaven where they might become perfect, he explains. Plunkett is absolutely correct that orthodox Christians views this as heresy and polytheism.

But the thing is that these doctrinal views are somewhat hazy in Mormon scriptures. While there are myriad comments from Mormon leaders about the doctrines, it’s such dicey territory that the reporter should have sourced the heck out of anything he wrote up when he got this far into the weeds. That didn’t happen. Had it, it would have provided a better and more objective basis for readers to respond and relate — both Mormon readers who believe the doctrine or feel he explained it incorrectly and non-Mormon readers who are just learning about it or oppose it.

But my whole point in mentioning this article was not to pick nits on the piece so much as highlight an op-ed that ran last week in the same Denver Post. Some young PolySci grad, pointing to this article and previous ones in The New York Times and Boston papers, asks why we’re spending so much time on Romney’s religion anyway.

In light of his visit [to Colorado], The Denver Post ran a feature piece about Romney that would have been a tremendous opportunity to familiarize the public with the GOP’s top fundraiser and his thoughts on key issues. The article was a whopping three pages entirely devoted to the Mormon faith. Romney does, in fact, have an ambitious political agenda, but you wouldn’t know it from the article.

So this was the article the Post ran in place of political coverage and analysis. I’d have rather seen it supplement the political and campaign coverage. To paraphrase Romney, he’s not running as a Mormon. He’s running for president. Media coverage doesn’t need to ignore the religious angle, but when it comes at the expense of the political one, that’s disconcerting.

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  • http://www.rebelliouspastorswife.blogspot.com Lora Horn

    My problem with a Mormon being put into a position such as the office of the presidency is the theology around the 2 year food stores that all good Mormons are required to have.

    They had a prophecy that the U.S. Government would one day fall because of its corruption and immorality, and because the LDS Church would still stand because of its organization and lack of these qualities – the government would plead for them to take over and they could restructure things as they see fit.

    I’ve lived in Utah in a strongly Mormon town, and while I am sure Romney has many qualifications to run our country, I would not vote for him. Given that control of our government is a stated goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I could not vote for him for president, or for any other Mormon for that matter.

  • Jennifer

    Well I will say this: the LDS church runs very well, and they do so much for people all over the world whenever there is any kind of natural disaster. I wouldn’t be worried at all to have a mormon president. Mormons are some of the most decent, honest people I know. Quite frankly,a mormon in office would be like a breath of fresh air.

  • Curtis

    One of my Mormon friends pointed this out to me, and it is the best, most concise argument I have ever heard. To everyone who believes that Mormon theology must dictate a Mormon politician’s actions in office, I have two words: Harry Reid. If people stopped spouting stereotypes and actually looked around, we might be able to get past tiresome religious nonsense and focus on politics. That would be a breath of fresh air.

  • Stephen A.

    In coverage of this video event with Romney, it will be interesting to see if reporters can ‘unpack’ what Jan Mickelson was actually trying to say here.

    Mickelson was apparently trying to say something that I’ve noted before – that many conservative Christians from traditional denominations will find that they agree with Romney on many of the social issues, and that by his campaign stressing these, the theological differences become less pronounced (maybe. for some.)

    My suspicion is that if it comes down to a “cultist” who supports 97% of the conservative agenda, or a Democrat who supports 1 or 2%, if that, the choice will be clear. I’d like to see reporters test those numbers by talking seriously with South Carolina and, for example, Texas, fundamentalist and other conservative Christian voters.

    Watching the video, this point was lost on Romney, partly because Mickelson was inarticulately explaining it, and partly because Mickelson had also delved into the same old nonsense of whether Christ was going to rule the Earth from Missouri or the Mt. of Olives (apparently, it’s both places in Mormon theology, something Mickelson kind of amazingly said he believes, also) and whether Mormons excommunicates pro-choice politician members. Question: Is Harry Ried pro-life, or pro-choice? Are there any pro-choice Mormon politicians, as Romney implied?

    I don’t have to do a survey to know with some certainty that most Iowa GOP voters probably care very little about these issues.

    Is coverage of Romney’s religion overblown? It’s a tough call. Surely, his faith has many ‘distinctives’ that separate it from traditional (‘pre-Restoration’) Christians, and this would in fact be the first Mormon president, so obviously it is of some passing concern. Then again, Mitt’s father ran for president, too, and his faith was apparently of little notice back in 1968, so why is it in 2007? Is it because Christians in early primary and caucus states more fundamentalist?

    Would a President Romney be doing “strange” rites in the D.C. Mormon temple? Would he have a different, and dangerous, view of Armageddon, as the above poster (#1) implied? I suppose these types of questions are relevant, but then again, if so, then the odd black-centric racial elements of Obama’s UCC church is quite relevant, too. Though I suspect he’s going to get a free pass from most of the DC elite media, and I don’t see Obama being hounded about his religious faith at every campaign stop these days.

  • Stephen A.

    As a side note, based on his performance on that radio station, Mitt’s people need to throw away that banner in the second photo.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Remember, we discuss MEDIA COVERAGE OF RELIGION here, not the religion itself. Neither do we discuss whether you personally plan to vote for or against Mitt Romney and why.

    Thanks!

  • Jerry

    I agree with you about the continual focus of the media on his religion’s theology. It reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy – some reports can’t let go of that issue to look at what, to me at least, is much more important – what Romney would actually do as President.

  • Kimberly

    Mitt Romney’s explanation that he did not try to implement his church’s doctrines and policies during his tenure as governor in Massachusetts and that he would not do so if elected President of the United States is consistent with the views of the majority of voters on the proper separation of church and state. Perhaps I am wrong, but I think most voters are more concerned with how the respective candidates potential governance would effect their lives (i.e., taxes, foreign policy, healthcare, etc.) rather than how much food they choose to keep in their pantries. I sure hope so.

  • Gabriel

    Mitt Romney – 24 Hours On The Trail.
    Watch on YouTube

  • Chip

    I could be completely wrong about this but I can’t help but think that if Democratic candidates held their debate on a Sunday morning during the middle of worship for a vast group of Americans that people would snipe about how it was further evidence of their godlessness.

    This doesn’t happen often, but I completely agree with Mollie on this point!

  • http://hometown.aol.com/frgregacca/ FrGregACCA

    Re: #1. Yes, indeed.

    With regard to the Romney candidacy, the media would do well to thoroughly explore a)the power – both political and economic power – the LDS Church wields in Utah and Southern Idaho, and b)what life is like in these places for Mormons and non-Mormons, and especially for African-American non-Mormons.

    Second, while Reid is often held up as the poster boy for Mormons who are members of the Democratic Party, there are significant differences between Reid and Romney in regard to their relationship with the LDS Church. Romney is the descendent of old Mormon pioneer families who have been in prominent in the LDS Church in Utah since its inception. Reid, from Nevada, is a first generation convert who himself admits that many Mormons find it astonishing that he is both a Mormon and a Democrat.

  • harold

    Bigotry in disguise:

    While Internet evangelist Bill Keller has openly declared his opposition to Mitt Romney on the basis of his Mormon religion (“a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan”), other Evangelicals who oppose Mitt Romney’s candidacy seem more reluctant to openly acknowledge the true motivation for their opposition. Some anti-Mormon Evangelicals are trying hard to find faults with Mitt Romney in order to oppose his candidacy on grounds other than anti-Mormon bigotry. However, their hidden motivations are becoming increasingly evident. Their fears seem based in their own insecurity in their own religion. They believe Mitt Romney’s successful candidacy would give new legitimacy to the Mormon religion and somehow undermine their own faith. Incidentally, most Evangelical ministers are paid clergymen (e.g., Bill Keller); their financial stake may hinder their objectivity in matters of religion. The clergy of the Mormon Church is completely voluntary; Mormon church leaders have normal full-time jobs and serve in the church part-time on an un-paid, voluntary basis. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Evangelicals seem secure in their faith and are not bothered by the prospect of a Mormon president.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    WE DISCUSS MEDIA COVERAGE OF RELIGION HERE. NOT PERSONAL VIEWS ABOUT THE RELATIVE VALUE OF A GIVEN RELIGION.

    PLEASE TAKE RELIGIOUS DISCUSSION ELSEWHERE. PLEASE STAY IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT MEDIA COVERAGE OF RELIGION.

    THANK YOU.

  • harold

    Sorry…point taken.

  • Osvaldo Mandias

    My problem with a Mormon being put into a position such as the office of the presidency is the theology around the 2 year food stores that all good Mormons are required to have.

    3 months to one-year, where allowed by law. Also, why on earth does this bother you?

    They had a prophecy that the U.S. Government would one day fall because of its corruption and immorality, and because the LDS Church would still stand because of its organization and lack of these qualities – the government would plead for them to take over and they could restructure things as they see fit.

    Nope.

    control of our government is a stated goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Nope.

  • Osvaldo Mandias

    Newspapers are in the entertainment business, so its natural they’d run a big piece on Mormonism, but its a little strange they wouldn’t have done a piece on his politics in addition.

  • Deep Sea

    A few responses:

    Comment #1 above claims: “Given that control of our government is a stated goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I could not vote for him for president, or for any other Mormon for that matter.”

    Huh?? Repeating this claim around the internet does not make it true. This is conspiratorial nonsense. Mormons have never had “control” of the national secular government nor do they hope or plan to acquire such control.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Deep Sea,

    Please note that GetReligion is a blog that analyzes mainstream media coverage of religion.

    Because your first comment responds to an off-topic comment that I have not deleted, I’ve let it stand. However, both comments are egregiously off-topic.

    Your second comment related to a non-mainstream media essay written not on or for this site and not by me. Your second comment related to something written by my husband. I did not write the piece or have any input in it. Should you wish to address the piece he wrote, please do so with him.

    However, I’m rather trigger-happy with the deletion keys today and will continue to delete comments that are off-topic.

    Please stay on topic — discussing mainstream media coverage of religious issues.

  • Gary

    Since there is so much coverage of Mitt Romney’s religion should there not be the same amount of coverage of Obama’s pastor’s liberation theology? Should not Obama tell us whether or not he holds to liberation theology?

  • Misty

    Ovaldo Mandius-
    The answers are yes and yes. They have always wanted to have a LDS in charge ever since Joseph Smith ran for President. They do have a prophesy about the LDS people saving the United States, because the Constitution will “hang by a thread”.

  • http://www.millennialstar.org Ivan Wolfe

    Interestingly, the most vicious attacks on Romney’s religion have come from the secular left, not the religious right. Yet this gets little media coverage, despite places like The New Republic and Slate running articles on why Mormons are so weird they shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office.

    The mainstream media has a narrative – the religious right apparently MUST have a problem with Romney, and if they don’t, they will. When the secular left attacks Romney, the often don’t notice it.

    So the real problem here is that the people doing the reporting have a blind spot and can’t see outside the meme they’ve created.

  • JLF

    Lora Horn touches on a subject many Mormons have heard about from unauthorized sources but just accepted as truth. The White Horse Prophecy is another such myth. There are a lot of Mormon myths out there and these are just two of them. The food storage is one of those carry overs from pioneer days that has value in current times but for different reasons. It is a hedge against personal economic difficulties and more properly works in third world countries than the USA. That isn’t to say we can’t have economic down turns here too. And it is not two years supply of provisions but one.

  • JLF

    News coverage of Romney’s religion, I think, tries to ferret out and discuss what many people believe about Mormons. That is, they perform strange rituals, believe weird things and are not Christian at all. But Romney, on the advice of many Evangelical supporters and others, understands many people don’t know much about the church are are temped to believe the worst anyway. Discussing these things would take away from discussing his politial views and into defending his religion. That would sound way too much like missionary work and nothing like politics. It is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t kind of thing. Let’s face it – religion is based on faith and that is all. Discussing religion rather than political ideas is a distraction doomed to kill a campain.

  • JLF

    I forgot to explain the White Horse Prophecy. It is rumored that Joseph Smith said that in the latter days the United States would be in such a shambles that the consitution would be hanging by a thread and that a few church members would save it. The church officially disavows this “prophecy” but still it hangs around. When it comes to Mormon mythology it is best to believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. If you want to know what the LDS Church teaches ask the LDS Church, not your pastor.

  • Chuck

    Newspapers are not in the entertainent business, but they want to sell newspapers. The big gorilla at breakfast is Mormonism. The vast majority of people are not going to buy papers on policy-not at this stage. We have hundreds of days till the 2008 election. We have thousands of newspaper articles. Don’t blame editors for going after “sexy” before “wonk,” especially in the middle of August. Does anyone know how many people do NOT buy a newspaper in August?

  • C.G.

    1) I am astonished that reporters and pundits don’t check their so-called religious and theological facts about Mormons with the media gurus of the LDS Church. They are ready, willing and quite able to give feedback on the myths and misstatements that are continually being promoted as truth.

    2) Anyone reading the blog comments like those found here before long will be able to recognize the sources and spot plants of misinformation any time a Mormon topic comes up. Provocateurs set up false and misleading straw men and then beat them up. The naive believe it. Case in point: Brownback’s telephone attack on Romney.
    3) After watching Romney’s off-air conversation and listening to Mickelson, anyone can understand why Romney responded the way he did and why he took Brownback to task in the last debate. Mickelson and Brownback were both way out of line.

  • http://gringogary Gary Davis

    As a life long Latter Day Saint I’m continually amazed by the nonsense put forth as fact concerning my faith. Anyone truly interested in finding out our beliefs can simply go to: mormon.org or lds.org. The information available there isn’t as juicy as the stuff on the anti-Mormon sites but,for those who are interested, it does tell what we actually believe.

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  • NorthboundZax

    Like Gary, as a life long Latter Day Saint, I am amazed at some of the nonsense put out there about mormonism as well. However, lds.org or “official” websites won’t give the complete story either – just the nice sounding and PR savvy parts. (Just try and find a reference to Joseph Smith’s polygamy, there).

    A particular issue I have with Mitt’s mormonism (even if I am LDS, too) is what happens if his oath of office and temple oaths come into conflict. E.g., the prophet calls and says its time to make way for Jesus take over Jackson County, Missouri (hypothetically – not that I think it would happen). Who’s interests would he put first? Would his oath of office trump his oath before angels and witnesses to devote all his time, talents, and energies to the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS? or would his temple oath trump his oath to serve and protect? Unfortunately, it can be difficult to serve two masters. Which will Mitt choose when pressed? I have no idea – and that is scary.

    Further, I think Mitt’s complaint that he is not running as a Mormon, so he shouldn’t have to discuss the religion would have much stronger legs if he hadn’t been pounding so hard the aspect that he is a “man of faith” to gain the Christian conservative vote. If he is going to keep saying it is important to be a man of faith, he shouldn’t be shocked when people want to look at the warts of that faith and its possible implications of having an adherent in office.

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  • Rathje

    “sacred texts came from a 19th-century American who translated gold tablets that have since disappeared.”

    Sigh… They never seem to get this one right.

    It’s “plates!” “PLATES!” Not “tablets.” That’s Moses.

    Moses = tablets
    Joseph Smith = plates

    The plates in question are paper-thin rectangular leaves of gold bound together with rings, resembling a book. The writings were scratched into the surface. All clear?

    “Jesus, Smith said, came to visit a Jewish tribe that had settled here ages ago.”

    Great, except they weren’t Jewish. The group that started the Book of Mormon by sailing to the Western Hemisphere were from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, not Judah. So that would make them not Jewish. Israelite, yes. But not Jewish.

    I agree with Ivan. This whole hypothetical about the impending political battle-royale between Mormons and Evangelicals is mostly just a liberal wet dream. They’d absolutely love to see the Christian Right implode upon itself over Romney.

    The question is whether Christian conservatives are really that stupid. I know that most of the media secretly think they are, but somehow I doubt it.

    And to address the question of whether an LDS politician would be excommunicated for espousing a pro-choice position – the answer is no. The LDS Church is strictly hands-off in this respect. Probably more so than any other Christian denomination in America.

  • Perkunas

    Mollie,

    I think that the religious argument that you graciously ended in the comments above is a prime example of why the media’s coverage of Romney’s faith is not going to die away. I’ve wasted — and will probably continue to waste — far too much time reading internet articles on the Romney articles that always devolve into theological fistfights in the comments over what Mormons do/don’t believe. It’s been eye-opening and dismaying.

    As much as I would like to clarify misconceptions about my LDS faith, I’ve given up on the media’s ability or willingness to do so. News editors are probably reading the same online exchanges that I am, and they realize that sensationalizing Mormonism is effective. Whether their motivations for doing so are political bias or simply a drive to sell more papers, they will continue to pump the Mormon angle until people stop caring — which means never, IMHO.

  • Eric G.

    A few random comments:

    And with how many people (30 percent, according to a Pew survey) have said they consider Romney’s religion to be a major barrier to their support, it should be covered by the media.

    I agree that for that reason alone (and others as well), that an examination of Romney’s faith has some legitimacy. However, the very same poll showed that an even higher percentage would not support someone who has been married three times. So why isn’t Giuliani being questioned about his marriages as much as Romney is being questioned about his religion?

    But the article goes much, much deeper on Mormon theology. It delves into aspects that average Mormons might not even know are part of their faith. Plunkett discusses Mormon belief in God’s spirit children, who become human. If they are faithful and obedient, they can go to heaven where they might become perfect, he explains.

    There seems to a belief in some circles that even the basic theology of the LDS church is somehow hidden from its members, and that somehow outsiders know LDS theology better than Mormons do.

    In this particular case, the writer is (quite awkwardly) referring to the doctrines of the pre-existence and exaltation. These doctrines are not hidden from members in the least. Even primary children can tell you about the pre-existence, that they are spirit children of God who have come to Earth to (among other things) obtain a body. There are even hymns and children’s songs about the subject. If there’s any faithful member of the church who doesn’t know the doctrines awkwardly referred to in the story, he or she hasn’t been listening.

    A particular issue I have with Mitt’s mormonism (even if I am LDS, too) is what happens if his oath of office and temple oaths come into conflict.

    The same is true for the adherent of any faith (although we may be talking about higher callings rather than temple oaths). Any president of faith could at some time come to the viewpoint that God has called him/her to do something that conflicts with the oath of office. There’s nothing unique about Mormons here.

    Further, I think Mitt’s complaint that he is not running as a Mormon, so he shouldn’t have to discuss the religion would have much stronger legs if he hadn’t been pounding so hard the aspect that he is a “man of faith” to gain the Christian conservative vote. If he is going to keep saying it is important to be a man of faith, he shouldn’t be shocked when people want to look at the warts of that faith and its possible implications of having an adherent in office.

    I have to agree. He promotes himself as a man of faith and points to his personal family values and lifestyle. To a certain extent, he brings the examination of his faith upon himself.

  • NorthboundZax

    NBZ: A particular issue I have with Mitt’s mormonism (even if I am LDS, too) is what happens if his oath of office and temple oaths come into conflict.

    Eric G.: The same is true for the adherent of any faith (although we may be talking about higher callings rather than temple oaths). Any president of faith could at some time come to the viewpoint that God has called him/her to do something that conflicts with the oath of office. There’s nothing unique about Mormons here.

    I agree that it is not unique. Any man of faith may couch his policies in his own terms of God. Maybe this is even part of the current president’s adherence to positions that don’t quite match reality.

    However, Mormonism goes beyond just an individual’s attachment to an assumed higher calling to an expectation of following and obeying ecclesiastical leaders, particularly the living prophet. The temple oaths seal that expectation, and Mitt even took the oaths prior to 1990, when there was an attached (although never practiced) penalty of death for violating those oaths.

    This was – I believe – the real issue with JFK. Not that he was Catholic, per se, but what if the Vatican called him up to pardon all pedophile priests (or whatever). His response was that he would resign. We get no such promise from Mitt.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Maybe Mollie has gone into labor, because most of these posts have absolutely nothing to do with mainstream media coverage of religion. All the best on your delivery, Mollie!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Chris,

    You don’t consider the Denver Post to be mainstream media? Or what?

    I’m making a comment about media coverage of Romney — in general — using his own views about media inquiries into his religion and a media criticism piece that appeared in the Denver Post (the same paper that played up his religion over his politics).

    In other news . . . no labor yet.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Oh wait. You’re saying that I’m not policing the comments well enough.

    This is true.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Soon, the thought of policing comments will be the furthest thing from your mind. :-)

  • NorthboundZax

    Oops – I’m guilty. To bring it back to media coverage, I should have ended my previous post with the idea that I don’t see an egregious excess of religious coverage with Mitt – even with some tangential needling like Mickelson was engaging in. In some aspects there may not be enough delving. The oath issue I mentioned above is central to how someone like Mitt would govern the country he was entrusted with (or maybe I just missed the memo that nobody but me takes religious or political oaths seriously anymore).

    Good luck with your delivery, Mollie!

  • Mark

    People who have really been to a Mormon temple make a promise to hold what is discussed sacred and not talk about them outside of the walls of the temple. So when anyone, especially a member of the media, runs across a person purporting to be a Mormon and offering to give the inside scoop of what goes on inside, they need to ask themselves this question:

    Should any reputable reporter working for a reputable news source want to base their story upon the comments of someone whose word means so little to them? If they fudged the truth in a sacred situation, what is holding them back from fudging the truth to you? What’s keeping them from “improving the story”?

    The next question to ask yourself is how do you know they really are Mormon and not someone pretending to be one? The Mormons have a steady stream of people trying to cheat them who know all the buzzwords and how to use them but have never been a member their entire life. If they can con life-long Mormons, they certainly can con an unsuspecting reporter who only has a fragmentary knowledge of the church.

    In light of the Romney run for President, expect the numbers of the above to increase.

  • Scott

    Sunday? I expect that Christian candidates would prefer the debate did not get in the way of worshipping with fellow believers. However, I also expect that they have prayed about their candidacy and do not let days get in the way of that. Ron Paul seems to pray privately daily and I would not be surprised if Mike Huckabee also prays daily. I would guess that they worship corporately when they can. So, even though the choice of early Sunday seems strange, I don’t think that participation is any reflection on Christian candidates.

  • http://coltakashi.livejournal.com Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The basic problem with media coverage of Mormons and Romney’s Mormon affiliation is that it never addresses the aspect of Mormonism that is relevant to political discourse, even though it is right there in plain view.

    The relevant issue where Mormonism contacts public policy is, what do Mormons want to do in government? What is their view of government? Almost NO ONE talks about the very plentiful statements in LDS scripute about this issue. In the 13 Articles of Faith, originally part of a letter written to the Chicago Tribune by Joseph Smith, he specifically asserts that Mormons believe in being obedient to the lawfully constituted government authorities for their nation. He also states that Mormons respect the religious freedom of all people, no matter what their beliefs, and ask the same respect in return. So why don;t the news media just quote those pithy statements when some idiot claims that Mormons are a threat because they have some kind of subversive conspiracy going?

    Historically, the conspiracies were always against the Mormons. In Missouri, the governor endorsed murder of Mormons by militia units, the arrest of Mormons for “building a house while Mormon”, and ordered that all Mormons be expelled from the state–wiothout compensation for their lost property–under threat of “extermination”. In Illinois a state militia unit carried out the murder of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, and other units used cannon against Mormons who were not speedy enough in evacuating their city, Nauvoo.

    Mormons do have beliefs in catastrophic events prior, like many Protestants, to Christ’s Second Coming, but they store food and water because there are real disasters, personal and individual, that happen all the time. When the Teton Dam in Idaho broke and flooded several cities, the food stored by people outside the flood zone was shared with the refugees. Food was shared with victims of Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana.

    The apocryphal, unofficial “White Horse Prophecy” is NOT an idea that Mormons are going to take over the US government. What the extant version says is that Mormons would SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION at a crucial time when it was under threat. That means democracy and constitutional rights. Anybody have a problem with that?

    Harry Reid is a high priest in the LDS Church. That’s as high as you can go in terms of personal “rank” in a church with an all-volunteer clergy. There is NO discrimination on the basis of how long your ancestors have been Mormons. All of the LDS Church presidents during the 19th Century were converts themselves, just like Reid. Half of all Mormons are converts. Dieter Uchtdorf, one of the 12 Apostles, is a convert from Germany!

    The assertion that Mormons in some unspecified way discriminate against “non-Mormon blacks” is really inane. I grew up in Salt Lake City in a congregation with black Mormons, in the 1950s. Members of my congregation in the Washington, DC area were black, in 1978-80. I am Japanese, and there are lots of Mormons in Utah who are from Japan, China, Mexico, Tonga, and other nations, many who have come there because of studying at BYU or to work for the Church in translating new books and old documents with genealogical information. More and more Mormons have lived for years as missionaries in New York City/Harlem, in Haiti, in Brazil, in Ghana, in Nigeria, in Kenya. Mormons are emphatically international in their experience and outlook, and multiracial themselves. You should go rent the DVD “The Other Side of Heaven” as an example of how thoroughly Mormons become integrated into other cultures as they perform their missionary service. You can walk into a large Mormon gathering in a small town like Driggs, Idaho (90% Mormon) and find that people there speak 15 or 20 different languages, from having lived in those countries. Mormons are sensitive to discrimination because of their own status as a persecuted minority. Their doctrines teach them that every person on earth is literally a spirit child of God the Father. Some Christians don’t like that shortening of the ontological distance between men and God, but Mormons assert that such was the specific purpose of Christ’s “at-one-ment”–reconciliation between God and men. Mormons believe that all people will get to hear Christ’s gospel at some point in their lives, even if it has to be between death and the resurrection. God gives every person a chance. There is no Calvinistic election of a few to salvation. God offers salvation to all people. So there is no reason to say God loves anyone more than another. That theology is reflected in Mormon attitudes toward neighbors.

    Mormons are only 14% in Utah. And most Mormons in Utah have also lived elsewhere, as part of missionary service, college, or military services, or jobs. Mormons are not insular, they are tolerant, they are accepting of others regardless of race or religion. Mormons are exacting of what they expect of themselves, but do not expect others who have not made the same covenants with God to do so. Mormon theology specifically does NOT consign to hell any good person, regardless of religion. Mormons believe the “Resurrection of the Just” will include good people who are Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim. The only people who suffer “hell” are felony grade people who have acted against conscience to harm others.

    The entire openness and tolerance of Mormons toward people of other faiths is not something that many Protestants understand. Protestants ascribe to Mormons the same ideas about heaven and hell that they themselves hold, and thus the Mormon claim to having authority from God sounds to Protestants like condemning Protestants to hell. That is absolutely incorrect. Just as is the case with Mormon policies on political issues, Mormons do not try to dictate to or coerce others.

    Bottom Line: No matter how much you disagree with Mormon particular views, the only important thing to remember is that Mormons are tolerant of other religions and do not seek to abridge the religious or political freedom of anyone. For Mormons, coercion is the essence of Satan’s program. To engage in coercion would be to go over to the dark side. No Mormon who is loyal to his religion would ever coerce non-Mormons. Even within the LDS Church, governance must be done only on a basis of love and persuasion. Mormons present no threat to anyone. Even when they gain political office, they know they have no charter to impose their religious beliefs on anyone. They are, according to the dictates of their own beliefs, required to persuade those who disagree with them.

    Therefore, there is no conflict between Mormon covenants made at baptism or in the temples and one’s oath of office. I served 20 years in the US Air Force, and took an oath in so doing. I am admitted to the Bar in several states, and took an oath. Mormons are taught that upholding the law inherently does not conflict with God’s commandments. God wants us to obey civic law. Mormons believe that the US Constitution in fact was divinely inspired in its protection of freedom. I cannot conceive of anyway there would be a conflict between religious and civic obligations, because my religion reinforces my civic duties and respect for the rights and freedoms of my fellow citizens.

    These are the facts about Mormonism that are legitimate for public consideration. They are where Mormonism meets public policy. And that interface emphatically upholds freedom and democracy and obedience to law and lawful government and respect for all people of all races and creeds. In fact, Mormons ARE people of all races, and as converts to Mormonism, they have been of all creeds, and still have relatives and neighbors and friends of all creeds. the only danger from Mormons is that, if you experience an earthquake or a hurricane, a Mormon might show up and share his food and clothing with you.

  • JLFuller

    I was truely disappapointed to see Gov Huckabee playing the religion card. It was prominant on http://mikehuckabeepresident2008.blogspot.com/. He was being offered as a “Christian” candidate as if the others were not. The blogger says it is “unofficial” but Huckabee has not disavowed it. He should do so.


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