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Romney’s Mormonism Doesn’t Bother Me

There has been quite a lot of discussion about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. How serious is his Mormon faith? Does his faith influence his politics? Should Christians vote for a Mormon for the highest office in the land? Would people become more interested in the LDS faith if Romney becomes president?

 

These questions have been discussed and debated throughout this election cycle. People have not necessarily fallen into predictable patterns in their views. Ben Stein has called Romney’s faith a “worry.” Progressive Tony Jones has written a piece called, “Mitt’s Mormonism Matters: Considering a Candidate’s Faith.” Jones expresses concern that Christians, such as Billy Graham, seem willing to set aside their convictions in order to vote for a Mormon. Here is how Jones puts it:

 

“If, for instance, you think that a presidential candidate is a long-time member of a cult, then that could very well lead you to vote for the other candidate. What it should probably not do, however, is lead you to reconsider whether that candidate’s religion is a cult — that determination should be made independently of the current election cycle.”

 

While I do share Jones’ principle concern, I don’t think the election is what has caused people such as Billy Graham to reconsider their views. Rather, it’s the election that clarified changes that have been going on for some time. I took a Ph.D. seminar last year on comparative religions and it became very clear to me that sociologists, as well as many Christian apologists, have been moving away from calling Mormonism, and other new religious movements, as cults for some time. For one, “cult” has historically referred to the LDS Church but also to Doomsday cults such as followers of The Peoples Temple and Branch Davidians. It’s clear that these groups have more differences than similarities to Mormonism and cannot both be simply categorized as cults without serious qualification.[i] Second, some Christians have concluded that calling Mormonism a cult doesn’t help inter-faith dialogue. My Mormon friends all agree.

 

This is one reason why Romney’s faith doesn’t bother me. I haven’t seen Mormonism as a cult for some time. This is not to say that I think Mormonism is a genuine branch of Christianity. I have written elsewhere about the key differences between Mormonism and Christianity. Despite what Jones suggests, I (and many other evangelicals) have not changed their views on Mormonism because of the current political milieu. Rather, the elevation of Romney as the Republican presidential candidate has cleared the way for a clarification of what we have believed for some time about the nature of Mormonism.

 

Politics is a less consequential reason why some evangelicals have supported Romney than many think. The important issue is his values. Yes, his Mormon faith does influence his values. But one cannot say, “Romney is a Mormon, therefore he must believe X.” After all, Harry Reid is also a Mormon, and he has been one of Romney’s most vocal critics on a myriad of issues!

 

This is also true for Christians. Jimmy Carter was a “born again” Christian. And so was George Bush. And yet their views on foreign policy, abortion, the environment, and most other issues were diametrically opposed. I can’t speak for other Christians, but I would undoubtedly rather have a non-Christian candidate who shared my values than a Christian candidate who did not.

 

It is certainly true that Romney is a serious Mormon. He has not tried to hide this fact. Romney’s great-great-grandfather was Parley Pratt, a Mormon apostle who had twelve wives. His great-grandparents were polygamous Mormons who moved to Mexico because of anti-polygamy laws in the U.S. He took his two-year mission to France, in which he acknowledged that his faith “became much deeper” as a result of his missionary experience. Romney is a “temple Mormon,” which means he is in good enough standing with the LDS church to engage in temple activities. For a good description of Romney’s Mormon faith, as well as an in-depth analysis of Mormon beliefs, see What Mormons Believe.

 

Romney is a committed Mormon. So, how could this not bother me? I do recognize the concern of some Christians who fear a Mormon in the White House would give some legitimacy to Mormonism. This may be true to a degree. But has the election of Keith Ellison (D-MN) to Congress given legitimacy to the truth of Islam? I have not heard any stories of people converting to Mormonism because Romney became governor of Massachusetts or Harry Reid became the Senate Majority Leader.

 

There are two reasons why Romney’s faith doesn’t bother me. First, his candidacy has brought Mormonism into the national dialogue. It’s a good thing to have people discussing whether or not Mormonism is Christian. I’d rather have people talking and debating rather than ignoring the issue. Second, Romney strikes me as pragmatically driven rather than ideologically driven. He has a considerable public record in Massachusetts and with the Salt Lake City Olympics, both of which suggest he has little interest in using politics to advance his Mormon faith.

 

While Romney's faith (and really any candidate’s faith) is an important part of judging their worldview, values matter much more. I judge a candidate not by skin color or religion, but by values. That’s why Romney’s faith doesn’t bother me.

 

 

 



[i] The bottom line is that if we’re going to call Mormonism a cult, we need to carefully define our terms and make sure others understand them as well. There is such disagreement and confusion over the nature of a cult that I’ve found it generally unhelpful to characterize Mormonism that way.

Comments

Great piece Sean,

As a pastor I took the time over the past month to focus on the Biblical application of our role in this election. I believe that God has given us a choice, not a choice between two evils, just a choice. Sometimes in life the choices are easy, sometimes it takes time to determine the wise road.

Romans 13 describes quite succinctly the role of government. The governments role is to punish evil and protect the innocent. Our choice is to determine to our best ability which candidate holds the highest sense of justice. Which candidate holds the clearest understanding of morality? Which candidate has more personal integrity? Which candidate will uphold the standards of our nation as established by the documents that hold ultimate authority and have defined our country for the past 200+ years?

We must remember, even with both Republicans and Democrats in the highest offices of our nation we have become increasingly and in many cases are anti-Christian. The problems in America today are not political problems they are spiritual problems that can only be answered by the King of Kings.

In the end, we live in a country that entrusts to us a voice and we should all use it to glorify God and to promote His standards for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To do anything less would be a lack of gratitude and contrary to God's command about doing good in society. See Titus 3:1-2.

Amen, Todd. Great perspective. Thanks for taking the time to share!

Sean......seriously????? I removed my comment and sent it to you in a message.

Hey Luke,

I saw your comments before you took it down. Thanks for your thoughts. I've been accused of many things but this is the first time I've been accused of being soft! By the way, saying that Romney's Mormonism doesn't bother me is hardly a glowing endorsement.

I think we may actually agree more than you realize. I have not softened my position on the falseness of Mormonism one iota. I have criticized Mormon doctrine in the Apologetics Study Bible, my recent book with my dad "77 FAQs", in many blogs, on YouTube, and in my speaking. So, I have not changed my doctrinal position on Mormonism at all. That was not the point of the post.

Notice, the post was entitled, "Romney's Mormonism doesn't bother me." It's not titled, "Mormonism doesn't bother me." As I said earlier, I think Mormonism is utterly false. The point of the blog was about how it does not bother me to have a Mormon as a president. I am concerned about the LDS faith as a false religion, as you are. But this is a different issue than my concerns about voting for a Mormon for president.

You said, "For the Christian faith, a cult has traditionally included any belief system that has fundamental differences from Christianity." I'm not sure this definition is accurate. By this definition Buddhism and Hinduism would be considered cults. But clearly they are not. Theologically speaking, a cult is a religious system that claims to be Christian but errs on at least one essential doctrine. By this definition I would in fact consider Mormonism a cult. But I don't think this is the understanding most people have of the word "cult," so I'm not convinced it's best to simply refer to it that way. I do agree with you that we need to define the word "cult." That's exactly what I wrote in the footnote to the article.

I hope this helps at least a bit to clear up the confusion.

First, thanks for the response.

Second, just wanted every other reader to realize why I took the message down. I do believe I have a good feel for your position on most if not all topics (Biblical truths) and didn't want to question your writing in public since I had a venue to do it in private. After all we are on the same team.

Here are my thoughts. (you don't need to address them, I've already taken to much of your time.)

For a country that was built on Christian morals and for a country that still claims to be majority Christian, it should bother us that we can't get a die-hard believer in Jesus Christ as God and Savior-Christian in office.
Reference: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

In your response you differentiate between Romney's Mormonism and Mormonism in General. I don't understand the separation unless you talking about situational separation (For example: Romney's Mormonism vs. Obama's ethical position) which isn't clearly defined in the article.

Second of all, and this is my main point. I believe that a majority of people believe that Mormonism is a Christian religion. To classify them as a Protestant might be a little more of a stretch for some. I received a flier from our "Friendly Mormon Neighbor" (the title of the track they gave me) last week where it clearly answered the question that they were Christians. In addition, the reference I linked above has LDS as a Christian religion, not in the "Other Religion" section. The Mormon faith is absolutely taking the opportunity to gain members through this exposure and I believe as Christians we need to take the opportunity to express our beliefs and subsequently, our differences and to never compromise our position. And yes, always do it in love.

If you would have titled the article something like: Mormonism Bothers Me, However, I'll Cast My Vote in Romney's Direction" your position would have been crystal clear.

Your words are so valuable, never underestimate it.

Thanks for the dialogue and keep up the great work.

I'd question whether values can realistically be considered separate from theology. Separate from any theological basis, can “values” embody anything more than a human origin and purpose ? Could such “values” ever be more than temporal, variable, and circumstantial; as man is ? Is it really valid to speak of “values” except as a moral standard that transcends man's ?

I'm consequently not impressed by Romney's “values” (which politicians, especially, are notorious for falsifying or changing), and am “bothered” a great deal by his Mormon theology. No other religion is founded on or propagates more-specifically anti-Christian beliefs.

The “spiritual Beings” of Joseph Smith's “First Vision” (whom Mormons believe to be God the Father and Jesus) told him that all Christianity is “an abomination.” The “scriptures” and “prophecies” they gave Smith and his successors to teach, specifically contradict Biblical Christianity's fundamental truths: Who God is, Who Jesus is, what is the gospel.

Yet Mormonism claims its counter-Biblical teachings are “true Christianity,” restored by its “God” to correct the Bible's “corruptions.” Mormonism claims therefore to be the sole and true (as it officially entitles itself in part) “Church of Jesus Christ.” Constituted to oppose Christ's faith, Mormonism yet usurps His name to legitimize its counterfeit. And that sense of “opposing by claiming the place of” is, according to Strong's, exactly the force of the “anti-” in "antiChrist."

II John seems applicable. In speaking of “the deceiver and the antichrist” (v. 7), John warns against any who “...does not abide in the teaching of Christ [and so] does not have God.” (v. 9) We are told to “...not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” (vv. 10b-11, NASB)

Is following the priest of an anti-Christian “god” more than a greeting ? It seems an especially relevant question for Christians this week.

In Jesus, Steve

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening.-Missed Fortune

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About
Sean McDowell is a teacher, author, speaker, husband and father. He is an avid fan of college basketball, ping-pong, and his favorite superhero is the Amazing Spiderman.