10 October 2011

Perry, Romney, and Mormonism

One of the more controversial recent issues in relation to American religion involves the 2012 presidential race.  All of the candidates claim Christianity (defined very broadly).  The specific group to which each particular candidate belongs differs.  The controversy came about when Robert Jeffress, a mega-church pastor and a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry called Mormonism, the religion of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a cult.  Incidentally, one of my most-read posts on this blog dealt with Mormonism and its unpopularity in the nineteenth century.

Now, most people in America today don't think of Mormonism as a cult in the Branch Davidian/David Koresh kind of way.  However, it would be interesting to consider how people around its founding viewed the religion in the mid-1800s.  As mentioned in some comments on the post above, it took a while for Utah to achieve statehood because of some of their unorthodox beliefs, especially that of polygamy.  The Mountain Meadows Massacre was not exactly a warm, fuzzy affair. 

While I've read about Mormon beliefs previously, I went to their website, just to see what they say today.  It seems that some of what they say actually conforms to historical Christianity.  However, the same could also have been said of the Branch Davidians.  I am not in any way equating the Mormons with the Davidians, just pointing out that agreeing with some Christian doctrines does not necessarily make a group orthodox. 

Here is an interesting anecdote on some of the more interesting points of Mormon doctrine.  The author of this post, Bruce Gourley, actually holds a Ph.D. in history.  Many outside the Christian faith fail to see the importance of the differences between historical Christianity and Mormonism, but the differences are on some points quite significant.  Among others, one example pointed out by a 2007 post on the Washington Times website quoting Mormon sites shows that the Mormons teach that Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers in "pre-history."  Getting the identity of Jesus right is pretty much a prerequisite for claiming to be Christian.

However, this brings up another question.  Is there any reason that Mormonism should disqualify Romney from being president?  I would argue no.  The Constitution clearly prohibits religious tests from being a requirement of office.  It also permits freedom of religion.  Christians who would like to prohibit those of other faiths from being a public official fail to see that the argument could be turned on them in the future if Christianity become a minority religion in America.  Whether Romney (or John Huntsman, another Mormon running for president) is the best man for the job remains to be seen.  However, his Mormonism alone should not disqualify him.


  1. Romney, and any Mormon offended by being referred to as cultists, need to be asked why they adhere to a religion whose prophet, Joseph Smith, referred to Christianity, in general, as being cultic.
    He actually, claimed that God Himself referred to Christianity as “all wrong,” an “abomination,” “all corrupt” and “far from me”—this is the very foundation of the Mormon religion.
    Pardon the spam-like URL but, see: http://www.examiner.com/messianic-jewish-in-national/rick-perry-on-robert-jeffress-mormonism-as-cult

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mariano. You are correct in saying that Smith believed all Christian groups to be corrupted. He argued that he was restoring true Christianity. If Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church, how does that square with 18 centuries (or so) without the "true church"? The same could be said for many other groups that have been spawned at one time or another in the last century or two.


  3. Yes, the Constitution prevents one's religion or lack of it from disqualifying one from office. But that doesn't mean that person isn't disqualified in the minds of some or all of the voting public. That is, any qualified Mormon is free to run, but that doesn't mean voters have to consider him a good candidate.

  4. Thanks for the comment. Some of the public will think just about any candidate disqualified for some reason or other (probably rightfully so in most cases). The big question that I was trying to bring up is, should we hold someone being a Mormon as the only reason not to vote for them?

  5. Well, a voter has the right not to vote for someone for pretty much any reason. And voters appreciate candidates who they feel have common values, so that makes a pretty good reason for many people to question the wisdom of voting for a Mormon.

  6. Fair enough, Jenny. I would point you to my more recent post on this topic, which is basically a link to another website that discusses the same issue.