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The Mormon Question

by @ 7:42 am on November 28, 2006. Filed under 2008 Election, Mitt Romney, Politics

Now that Mitt Romney has made it clear that he is running for President in 2008, the media is beginning to ask a question I thought we’d left behind in 1960 when John Kennedy became the first Catholic President, whether America is ready for a Mormon President:

Although Mormons are known for family centeredness, hard work and clean living, many Americans remain suspicious of them, maybe because so many aspects of their faith remain mysterious. A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found. That’s why Michael Otterson, a Mormon convert who is now the church’s director of media relations, was calling on political reporters when he visited Washington from Utah in October. He wants them to know that in its 176-year history, the church has never endorsed a presidential candidate and that much of the folklore surrounding its beliefs just isn’t true. “The message in a nutshell is, Remember that we’re politically neutral as an institution,” he says. “The church is about preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything else is a distraction.” Otterson says he has a “no dumb questions” policy and urges journalists to call his cell phone, day or night.

In response, the LDS Church has launched a public relations campaign to combat public misconceptions about their church, including that polygamy thing. Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear that Romney will face an uphill battle in his race for the GOP nomination, and that his faith will be an issue that will have to be dealt with:

Even if the church succeeds in its public relations offensive, Romney still has some explaining of his own to do, particularly to the Republican evangelical base, which now makes up nearly a third of the party’s electorate and can wield huge power in primary states, most notably South Carolina. That’s because some Evangelicals hold the view that Mormonism is not a Christian faith. Because Mormons acknowledge works of Scripture that are not in the Bible, believe that their prophets have received revelations directly from God and teach that God has a physical body, Evangelicals consider them heretics. The Southern Baptist Convention lists the LDS church under Cults and Sects, along with Scientology. In late October, Romney and his wife Ann, balancing lunch trays on their laps in the den of their Belmont, Mass., home, met with about 15 evangelical leaders from as far away as Alaska, including Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Southern Baptist leader Richard Land. The three-hour meeting was set up by Mark DeMoss, a p.r. consultant who specializes in Evangelicals. Charles Colson, the former Nixon official and convicted Watergate conspirator who founded a prison ministry and now hosts a popular evangelical radio show, told TIME that Romney’s faith should not disqualify him. “You wouldn’t vote for a man just because he is a Christian, nor would you vote against a man just because he was a Mormon,” Colson says.

This, more than anything else I think, explains Romney’s recent courting of religious conservatives. Clearly, the evangelicals will be faced with a choice if Romney becomes one of the front runners for the GOP nomination (with, say, John McCain). Do they ignore the religious differences or let those differences determine their vote ? It will be interesting to watch.

In the meantime, there’s been much discussion over the past several days about this issue. Andrew Sullivan seems to have started it all with this post last Wednesday. then this one, then this post, then there was this post showing the so-called sacred underwear with a follow-up here, and then this. Reading through Sullivan’s posts, one can easily see, as Ann Althouse points out, a decided bias against Mormons in general and Romney in particular.

If that is what Romney, and other Mormons, can expect from a non-evangelical, convincing the people who actually need to vote for him could be even more difficult.

6 Responses to “The Mormon Question”

  1. KipEsquire says:

    To evangelical Christians, Mormons are a lot like observant Jews: “Sorta kinda like us, but not sorta kinda enough.” They will NEVER support Romney in large enough numbers for him to be a viable candidate.

  2. Kip,

    If you’re right that evangelicals will not support Romney, a candidate that agrees with their political agenda almost completely, then I think it will show them for the religious bigots some people say they are.

  3. Andrew says:

    Doug, Kip is mostly right, but I think that you are a bit wrong. Like Romney, I am a mormon and I know that there are a lot of evangelicals who will not support a mormon for president. Guess what? I don’t care too much. It is not bigoted to eschew supporting those with whom you disagree. Now, I believe that it is the duty of Romney and other mormons to assuage the fears and questions of people who view our religion as cultish, wrong, or out of the mainstream. Heck, we might even make a few friends in the process. Mormons should not be negative about other’s views of us if we are prepared to answer their questions and address their concerns (in a courteous manner, of course).

  4. linda williams says:

    its about time that the evangelical do not know nor will they
    even try to learn what the Mormon faith is about. I’ve been to churches that have actual lies on the wall about what the
    mormons believe. and its as if they are scared to even read the information from the church. I have a nonmember husband and his peacher has him so scared he won’t even go to church with me, as if we were going to put a spell on him and make
    him a mormon. actually this peacher couldn’t live as a mormon because he is bad mouthing every body but his church but we don’t say bad things about other churches and
    boy he picks on every mornom and even a talk show host was going to hell, the one who gives away cars and helps her own people in africa. If romney is a good Mormon and and lives his faith he would be the best preisdent you could get. we are honest,clean,morally and vocal. thank you

  5. Samuel Gerace says:

    The major issue with Mormonism is their veiw point on Jesus Christ. Christians believe from Scripture that Christ is fully and completely God. He was not created. He has always existed. Mormonism believes contrary to these Biblical points. That is why it is deemed a cult.

  6. Samuel,

    Why should Romney’s religious views matter at all ?

    Are you saying that only someone who believes in Jesus Christ as you do should be President ?

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