Mitt’s Mormonism Matters: Considering a Candidate’s Faith

Bishop Mitt Romney, 1984

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

This week’s question in Patheos’s run up to the election is, Does a candidate’s faith really matter?

I say, yes, of course it matters.

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Was Mitt Romney a “Pastor”?

Last night, in the final question of the town hall-style debate, the candidates were asked how they’ve been misunderstood as men, and how they’d like to correct that misperception. In his response, Mitt Romney said that he’d served as a “pastor” of a church:

My — my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we’re all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I — I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I’ve sat across the table from people who were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times. [transcript]

I hadn’t heard of a Mormon man being called a “pastor” before, so I tweeted my misgivings. It seemed to me that Romney was attempting the normalize one of the oddities of Mormon church life — that there are no pastor, just bishops. An interesting and illuminating round of tweets with Mormons and ex-Mormons ensued (click on the images to be taken to the actual tweets):

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Mormonism No Longer a Cult, according to Billy Graham

Billy Graham met with Mitt Romney last week. According to the press secretaries of each, Graham told Romney he’d do “all I can” to help get Romney elected. It seems that one of those things is to remove the long-standing statements about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints being a cult from the BGEA website:

A Billy Graham Evangelistic Association article labeling Mormonism a cult has been removed from the group’s website following the 93-year-old televangelist’s meeting with the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last week.

Graham pledged to do “all I can” to help Romney get elected during the meeting

The Citizen-Times at 4:56 p.m. on Thursday captured the article, which said cults are “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others.”

Graham met with Romney at his Montreat home just hours before. The article is not on the association’s Website today. [Mormonism ‘cult’ claim vanishes from Graham site | The Asheville Citizen-Times |]

Some, like Steve Knight, have questioned whether Billy is being played like a puppet by son and heir, Franklin, in these, his last days. According to Steve,

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What Would You Ask Mitt Romney?

Now that he’s the Republican candidate, Romney’s Mormonism is on the table. I’ve been critical of the LDS Church, and will continue to be. In fact, my response to Jake Tapper’s question wouldn’t have been much different from Rick Warren’s on Sunday. LDS teaching on the Trinity is more than a “sticking point” for me. Their Christology is also suspect.

At RealClearReligion, Jeff Weiss has seven questions that he, as a religion reporter, would like to ask Romney about LDS teaching. Here are the first two:

1) LDS teaching about gender: “All human beings — male and female — are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

Has this teaching informed Gov. Romney’s thinking about homosexual rights generally or gay marriage specifically?

2) LDS teaching about the role of men and women in families: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”

Has this teaching informed his thinking about the rights of women, tax breaks for families, or other family-related legislation?

Read Questions 3-7 at RealClearReligion – 7 Questions for Mitt About Mormonism.