Karen T, MA is a Philadelphia-born convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, single mother of two, writer, and non-profit business professional.
Excerpts from an Article Written by Bob Abeshouse of Aljazeera
Mitt Romney is the favourite to become the Republican Party’s candidate in November’s US presidential election. But in what could be a tight race with Barack Obama, Romney’s Mormon faith might be a deciding factor…
…So what is Mormonism and what would a Mormon in the White House mean for the US and the world?
The biggest challenge Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney faces in locking up his party’s nomination for president and defeating Barack Obama in the general election could well be his Mormon faith. According to a Gallup poll, one in five Americans would not vote for a Mormon for president, and it is not just Democrats, but Christians who are a key component of the Republican base.
In the Republican primaries, Evangelical Christians oppose Romney and support his main opponent Rick Santorum because they do not think Mormonism is Christian, but rather a cult. Meanwhile, the practice of polygamy remains a negative characteristic commonly associated with the Mormon faith and Romney, although his church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the LDS church) banned the practice more than 100 years ago.
Mormonism is a truly American faith. It was founded in the 1830s by Joseph Smith, a charismatic American frontiersman who grew up in an area of New York State known as the Burnt Over District because of an intense period of religious revival there…
…Smith proclaimed himself a prophet who was going to restore the uncorrupted Christianity practiced by this Nephite civilisation and bring God’s government to the world.
In Mormon theology, America occupies a special place. According to Smith, Adam and Eve settled in Missouri, near the small town of Gallatin, after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Smith also revealed that Jesus will return to Missouri to plan for his second coming.
Historian Will Bagley, who has written more than a dozen books on Mormonism, points out that “in the Mormon sacred geography, America is essentially God’s favourite place in the world. God helped create the constitution and the American Republic so the gospel could be restored under Joseph Smith”.
These sentiments are echoed by Mitt Romney, who has said that he believes the American constitution was divinely inspired, and who speaks often of American exceptionalism, the unique destiny and role of the US in the world…
…Many thought that with Smith gone, Mormonism would vanish. But instead, as Bagley says, the mob “created an American martyr”. Today, the LDS church has some 14 million members worldwide and is the richest per capita in the US. It sends out more than 50,000 missionaries a year to convert people to Mormonism.
Richard Hinckley, an emeritus member of the LDS Church’s General Authority, says that Mormons place a high value on proselytising because they believe they are helping to save mankind. About 70 per cent of American Mormons are supporters of the Republican party, reflecting a church leadership that Bagley says “sees the world in corporate American terms, because they’re attorneys, they’re executives”…
…Evangelical Christians in the US have had a long competition with Mormons for converts. Philip Roberts, who served as the head of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for over a decade, says many evangelicals now fear that the election of a Mormon president would give the Mormon faith additional legitimacy around the globe, aiding the missionary efforts of an ‘un-Christian’ faith.
Evangelicals regard the idea that humans can progress to godhood as blasphemous, and take issue with many Mormon practices and doctrines, such as so-called endowment rites. In these temple rituals Mormons pass between rooms representing different stages of the eternal progression they believe all humans participate in – from the Garden of Eden to the earthly world to celestial heaven.
Mormons also practice proxy baptisms, or baptisms of the dead, to save deceased ancestors who passed away without being baptised on earth. Despite warnings from the LDS Church, Mormons have stirred controversy by baptising dead celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims…
…Mike Moody, who attended Brigham Young University with Romney, thinks he is running for president to help establish “the Kingdom of God. I think that’s the foundation of his personal ambition. He’s kneeled down and taken what’s called the oath of sacrifice. He’s promised his talents, his abilities, and everything that he is to the church”.
Moody believes that Romney is also influenced by a Mormon tradition known as the White Horse prophecy that goes back to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon migration to Utah. The prophecy says that there will come a time when the US constitution “hangs by a thread” and Mormons will ride in on a white horse to save it.
Today, Romney faces the same challenge John F. Kennedy did in 1960 – convincing voters that he will not be beholden to leaders of his church. One in five voters said they would not vote for Kennedy because they were afraid he would take orders from the Pope – the same percentage who now say they would not vote for a Mormon for president.
Richard Hinckley says there would not be discussions between a President Romney and LDS church leaders over policy. “It won’t happen,” he says. “First of all he’s too smart to do that. Secondly, our leaders are far too smart to engage in that.”
Romney has done his best to avoid all discussion of his Mormon faith in the 2012 race. According to Phil Barlow, a professor of religion at Utah State University who was a counselor to Romney when he was a bishop in the Boston area, Romney and his campaign regard any speech about his faith as a “lose, lose situation”…
Response by Karen T.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is for all, just as the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all. Because the Savior appeared and ministered in Jerusalem, does not mean His Church was only for the Jews. Because He appeared in America–where religious freedom was exigent to the restoration of His pure teachings and necessary for His full authority to be re-established on earth for the last time, never again to be taken–does not mean it is ‘an American’ religion. Of the 14 million members from every walk of life around the globe, more members reside outside of the US than within its boundaries.
Taking religious promises out of context is poor reporting. Most people of their own faith commit to sharing their time and talents to build up Christ’s work on the earth. You frequently here mix doctrine and motives and spin here in ways that are unhelpful to the truth, to “things as they really are”. Being committed to Christ is not tantamount to forcing individuals into the waters of baptism. Of all people, we are among those with the greatest respect for and deepest belief in the right to choose, and the agency of men and women. The entire doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holding any power in the kingdom of God rests upon our belief in agency as paramount and fundamental to everyone’s progress, and the lack thereof, to a halt in the same. In fact the doctrine of the priesthood–the very right to exercise the powers of God on behalf of others to heal, bless and improve lives–rests strictly on the Savior’s condition that the priesthood holder be respectful of others’ views; the divine powers of the priesthood cannot be exercised with “control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” (Modern Revelation: Doctrine & Covenants: 121 36-38). Equating commitment with force or desire to impose beliefs on others contrary to their own spiritual confirmation and right to agency is counter everything The Church of Jesus Christ espouses, though it is, ironically and unfortunately, contorted and construed to be the opposite in your piece.
We respect your own right to walk your own spiritual walk and make your own electoral choices. We do believe, as you rightly indicated in this case, that members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe what “He” Himself declared–that America was raised up and prepared to be a place where His Church could be restored and shared with all those seeking His fulness. We are not a church or organization of compulsion; we are not fundamentalists nor un-Christian in methods or doctrine–though we are not ‘creedal’ Christians (dependent on man-centered, voted-upon doctrines about God’s nature in an AD council). We do believe the Constitution was and is an inspired document, aimed at protecting your freedoms, mine and ours.
We’d also like to extend to you a question and an invitation: Have you read the Book of Mormon yourself? We’d be happy to provide a copy or respond to questions you may have on a lay level. Feel free to respond via our comment form.
Abeshouse, B. (2012 April 5) Mitt Romney and the Mormon factor, Aljazeera. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2012/04/201244114433199395.html