Update on Mitt and Mormonism

Update on Mitt and Mormonism June 14, 2011

I had promised to finish my series on Mitt Romney and Mormonism today, but last night I wrote a piece on Father’s Day for Six Seeds and wanted to post that instead.  You can find it below.  Please subscribe to the RSS feed, connect with me by Facebook or Twitter, or tune in tomorrow to see the conclusion of that series — and thanks to the many folks who have left thoughtful and impassioned comments.

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  • Carknedge

    In your first installment you write:

    Yet it’s not necessarily bigoted or unreasonable to say that “This candidate has certain beliefs and values, emanating from his faith X, that lead me to worry he will not make the decisions I would want him to make as President.” Or “I’m concerned that a person who believes faith X is lacking certain qualities (rationality, empathy, humility, open-mindedness, etc.) I would want in a President.”

    While your foregoing statement seems sound in principle, and is even touched upon by Warren Cole Smith with regard to Mormon belief about “history” (as he calls it), this is not one of the significant bases for Evangelical opposition to a Mormon as president.

    Instead, what is described in the above statement is the basis of Atheist and “very-liberal Christian” (theologically liberal, not necessarily politically liberal) opposition to a Mormon, theologically conservative Protestant, or theologically conservative Catholic as President. I base this on having been a lifelong Atheist until becoming a Mormon in early middle age and having been raised by parents, and educated in part in an institution, that were very liberal Christian.

    Evangelicals resort to the “implausible beliefs = irrational thinking” line of attack on Mormons opportunistically and as a tactical matter, but it is not their motivation for attacking Mormons. Warren Cole Smith as much as admits that he would likely be quite pleased with Mitt Romney’s decision making as President. However, it would not surprise me if he would rather see the reelection of President Obama, a strong supporter of abortion and the candidate of choice for virtually all gay voters and gay campaign donors to whom he is politically indebted,than see Mitt Romney elected President.

    Quite simply, Warren Cole Smith’s motivation is to stop people from coming to believe Mormon teachings and from becoming Mormons and to cause people to stop believing Mormon teachings and to stop being Mormons. Warren Cole Smith has this motivation because he would like to see people “saved”, and go to Heaven when they die, and because he believes that all Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, Atheists and so on, in other words, the great majority of the past, present and future human race, are not “saved” and are all going to Hell when they die – and in Hell they will suffer unimaginable torture for eternity. My guess is that Warren Cole Smith believes that all Catholics are going to Hell, but that Mainline Protestants are going to Heaven, although I do not really know about that. Any of you Bible-whackers and snake handlers out there in cyberspace have the answer to that?

    I have a hunch that Warren Cole Smith would not be overly concerned by a Jewish candidate for President, especially if he was of an Orthodox or Conservative tradition, despite the fact that he believes that all of the Jews are going to Hell. For that matter, a Google search turns up hundreds (at least) of Evangelical websites attacking Mormons but, as far as I have seen, none attacking Jews. (I am not talking about nitwit anti-Semitic hate sites, but regular Evangelical websites.) Why the difference? I have a few ideas:
    (1) The Mormon mission. Mormons have 50,000+ full-time missionaries working (not “hundreds of thousands” as Warren Cole Smith writes) and half or more are in the USA. Mormons have previously used print and electronic mass media, and are now using the internet and social media, in missionary work and it might be that the Church is about to unleash the “I’m a Mormon” coordinated mass media and internet campaign, previously tested in nine medium size cities, on the nation as a whole. Jews are not doing anything like that.
    (2) Evangelical’s hireling clergy. The unpaid, limited-term, untrained lay clergy of Mormons, Mormons’ use of nearly all members (including as young as 12 years) to deliver sermons on Sunday, and, indeed, Mormons’ use of members for nearly all the functions of the Church, delegitimize and condemn by example the professional clergymen and clergywomen of Protestants and make them look like religious mercenaries. The Book of Mormon is explicit that such “priestcraft” is damnable. The Jews have professional rabbis.
    (3) The Great Apostasy. The Book of Mormon and modern revelation make it clear that there are only two churches, the Church and the Church of the Devil. The entire massive edifice of Protestantism, and before that Catholicism, from which Evangelicals proceed, is not merely a mistake, but a positive evil. Jewish scripture and (at least in basic sources) Jewish teaching simply do not address the problem of Catholicism and Protestantism.
    (4) Fear of the future. Catholics almost entirely displaced Jews in numbers, theological development and in cultural, social and political significance. To a fair extent in Europe, and to a large extent in North America, Protestants displaced Catholics in numbers, theological development and in cultural, social and political significance. Harold Bloom, in his insightful book The American Religion, noted the vitality of the Church and the Mormon people relative to others in America. Maybe Warren Cole Smith sees, at least dimly, the writing on the wall.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I won’t venture to say what Warren is *really* concerned with, but he does make the salvation argument overtly in the article, and I do address it in the second part of this series.