How could they vote for Mormon Mitt?

Harold in New Jersey asks:

Why did the Republicans vote for a Mormon?  U.S. Republicans are pretty dedicated to a traditional interpretation of King James Bible-style Christianity. On social issues I’d call it their second Constitution. I have in front of me the Book of Mormon. The front cover says “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was never in hiding.

Several themes combined. Understandably, Mitt Romney didn’t emphasize his devotion to a minority religion that perplexed some voters. Likewise, Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t want to highlight his affiliation with a radical liberationist minority in the United Church of Christ. But yes, Romney never hid his Mormonism. Nor could he, since he has held important church posts.

And yes, the Latter-day Saints break from traditional Christianity by, among other things, giving Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon equal authority with the Bible (they use only the King James Version by the way) and his other revelations in Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Romney got the usual support from the  core Republican constituency of conservative Protestants (including Evangelicals) and Catholics, despite their doctrinal disagreements with Mormons, who are equally loyal Republicans and allies on “social issues.” (In 2012 the Grand Old Party continued its  solid following among regular worshippers of whatever denomination, while the Democrats drew lopsided favor from non-religious Americans.)

Mormons’ Republicanism is intriguing historically since that party’s first platform in 1856 denounced slavery and Mormon polygamy as “the twin relics of barbarism.” The party’s first president, A. Lincoln — now showing at a theater near you — was never even baptized and modern Republicans aren’t very picky about candidates’ religious credentials, either. Nixon was a fallen Quaker because he took up arms in World War Two. Ike didn’t hold any church membership till he won the White House and went Presbyterian. Reagan wasn’t much of a churchgoer. Did 2008 G.O.P. voters know or care what John McCain believed?

Speaking of the U.S. Constitution, the LDS scriptures consider it a sacred document. Perhaps Evangelicals who voted for Romney despite his creed were inspired by its tenet in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Significantly, the Guy heard of only one Evangelical of any consequence who publicly fretted about voting for a Mormon. Actually, in both 2008 and 2012 some of the harshest religious attacks against Romney emanated from the Left — search the Net for “Mormon” and “MSNBC.”

About Richard Ostling

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.

  • Marie

    I think it should be noted that voters who were probably the most twitchy about Mitt’s Mormonism were probably the same group that had/have doubts about Obama’s Christianity. In the end they took what they may have seen as the heretic who supported their social/moral values over the iffy-Christian who didn’t.


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