Vote For or Against Governor Romney Because He Is a Mormon?

January 9th, 2012

By Dan Miller

Romney Visits GOP Phone Bank In VirginiaDon’t we have better things to worry about?

An opinion piece in the Washington Post authored by Ken Starr, formerly a special prosecutor and now the president of Baylor University, asked “Can I vote for a Mormon?” Were Mr. Starr a Mormon, the question might have to be rephrased: Can I not vote for a Mormon?

According to this article, the “he’s one of us” attraction to Governor Romney is powerful.

Many young conservative Mormons in America are lining up behind Romney, who represents more to them than just policy positions, a big family, and good hair. But among young Mormons more broadly, seeing one of their own in Romney — and Jon Huntsman, to a lesser extent — so close to the nomination is exciting, because it would suggest that their religion is not a barrier to the White House — or at least a nomination. That’s caused great excitement among the millennial generation of Mormons, especially those who live outside the Mormon enclaves in Utah and are used to being a religious minority.

While many don’t consider Governor Romney sufficiently conservative, it has been reported that

Mormonism remains both the most conservative and most Republican religious group in America. A Gallup Poll found that 59 percent of Mormons polled classified themselves as conservative, according to 2009 polling data. Just 8 percent of Mormons considered themselves to be liberal, the lowest of any of the polled religious groups.

As the race tightens, there will continue to be many non-Mormons who dislike Governor Romney for reasons having nothing to do with his religion and who would gladly vote for (almost) Anybody But Romney — principally because Governor Romney is a RINO.  I find myself in that group and might even prefer to vote for Francisco Silva — at he least freely acknowledges that he is a clown.

However, if Governor Romney becomes the nominee I shall probably vote for him anyway because the reelection of President Obama would be far worse. At least under President Romney

Business as usual

this cartoon might not be entirely accurate.

In an article published last October, I suggested the principal doctrinal differences between Mormons and “mainstream” Christians.  An Agnostic, it may have been presumptuous for me to do so. However, there seem to be some fairly substantial differences and in November a PEW survey found that

Many Americans continue to see the Mormon faith as unfamiliar and different. Half say they know little or nothing about Mormonism, half say it is a Christian religion while a third say it is not, and roughly two-thirds believe Mormonism is “very different” from their own beliefs. There has been virtually no change in these impressions over the past four years.

There are thirteen Mormon Articles of Faith and these seem the most doctrinally different if not necessarily inconsistent:

5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

This, on the other hand seems fairly consistent with Christian ideas, although it is arguable that there are exceptions:

11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

I haven’t been able to think of any proper function of the President that would, or even could, be impacted by Mormon Articles of Faith 5, 7, 8 or even 10; in the unlikely event that Article 10 comes to pass during President Romney’s term, he won’t be able to do much more about it than any other president. There might well be objections to Article 11 were it applied to Voodoo animal sacrifices, radical Islam or the Religion of Kim; it was probably not written with them in mind.

Here is an argument against having a Mormon, qua Mormon, as the President.

On such essential doctrines as the Trinity and the role of Jesus in salvation, there are major differences between orthodox (biblical) Christianity and Mormonism. But the real problem is that Mormons believe and teach an American history that is in many particulars completely unsubstantiated and in others demonstrably false. Mormons believe that the “lost tribes” of Israel actually ended up in America, and that Jesus visited America and these tribes during his incarnation. These are just a few of Mormonism’s highly idiosyncratic views of history.

As to the Trinity and the role of Jesus, Article 1 of the Articles of Faith says, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” How, as commonly understood in mainstream Christianity, or significant there, is there any difference between Article 1 and the Christian concept of the Trinity?

The article continues,

Placing a Mormon in … [the Presidential bully] pulpit would be a source of pride and a shot of adrenaline for the LDS church. It would serve to normalize the false teachings of Mormonism the world over. It would also provide an opening to Mormon missionaries around the world, who could start every conversation: “Let me tell you about the American president.” To elect a Mormon President is to advance the cause of the Mormon Church. …

A Romney presidency would have the effect of actively promoting a false religion in the world. If you have any regard for the Gospel of Christ, you should care. A false religion should not prosper with the support of Christians. The salvation of souls is at stake. …

If Mitt Romney believes what the Mormon Church teaches about the world and how it operates, then he is unfit to serve. We make him our President at great peril to the intellectual and spiritual health of our nation.

As I contended in my linked article about Governor Romney and Mormonism,

The essential arguments of the linked article are (1) that Christianity is the one true religion while Mormonism is a false religion and (2) that a function of the presidency is to advance the doctrinal precepts of the “one true religion.”

These arguments, if accepted, would impose upon the President a new obligation, that of Defender of The One True Faith. The title of the English monarchs has included the phrase Defender of The Faith since 1521 with a brief hiatus between 1530 and 1544. By prohibiting the establishment of a federal religion, the First Amendment rejected that sort of thing. The President must support, rather than abandon, and must be dedicated to, defending the basic principles upon which the country was founded.

To oppose or to favor Governor Romney because of doctrinal peculiarities of his religion, having nothing to do with how he would or could conduct himself in office, strikes me as no less perverse than in comparable circumstances favoring or opposing a candidate because of his race or gender. There are many other, and better, factors to consider. Perhaps we should give those more thought.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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4 Responses to “Vote For or Against Governor Romney Because He Is a Mormon?”

  1. Tom Carter |

    The Articles of Faith is a pretty bland document, glossing over or ignoring the very many deviations of Mormonism from traditional Christianity. The deeper you get into the Mormon faith, the more clear it is that their beliefs are very different from what’s understood as Christianity. Major issues include monotheism (an LDS defense is here, if you have a lot of time to wade through the turgid text; there’s a simpler source here). Mormons don’t accept either version of the Nicene Creed (as evolved), don’t accept the Bible as being necessarily authoritative, and on and on. Making the case that Mormons are Christians, in the theologically accepted sense of the term, is difficult. In the broader sense, they can call themselves Christians if they want to; only the most doctrinaire Christians will likely object.

    In any case, I agree with you — I’m not religious, and I don’t have a dog in this hunt. If I cared, I don’t think I would be any more worried by a Mormon president than I would a Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc president. All of these belief systems, reduced to their essential tenets, are equally nonsensical.

    I completely agree with your conclusion — there really are other and more important factors to consider.

  2. larry |

    As I recall, this issue was hashed out in the not to distant past. The fact that a person is a Mormon should not be grounds for disqualification from the race for president in this country. Those that feel otherwise are bigoted against all but their particular belief or lack of same.
    As to Romney the candidate, I have serious doubts about whether or not he can defeat Obama. Even more precisely, I’m at a loss to find hope in any of the Republican wonna be’s. The loss of Herman Cain from the race may be the worst thing to happen to our hope to fire Obama.

  3. Tom Carter |

    From an insightful column by Michael Gerson:

    His competitors have attempted to portray Romney’s ideological inconsistency over time as a character failure. It hasn’t worked, mainly because Romney is a man of exemplary character — deeply loyal to his faith, his family and his country. But he clearly places political ideology in a different category of fidelity. Like Dwight Eisenhower, Romney is a man of vague ideology and deep values. In political matters, he is empirical and pragmatic. He studies problems, assesses risks, calculates likely outcomes. Those expecting Romney to be a philosophic leader will be disappointed. He is a management consultant, and a good one.

    Has the moment of the management consultant arrived in American politics? In our desperate drought of public competence, Romney has a strong case to make.


  4. larry |

    I have no argument with Gerson’s assessment of Mr. Romney. My concerns are more about how Romney will hold up under the attacks that will surely come? The DNC and the liberals will stop at nothing to derail any GOP candidate. Can Romney deliver as good(or bad)as he receives?

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