Why Mitt Romney’s Mormonism Might Matter

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Church, popular culture and you, Politics
Tags: , ,

Ever since Mitt Romney ran to be the Republication nominee for U.S. President back in 2007 and 2008, people have been talking about whether his Mormon faith matters. Mormonism is a particular worry for Evangelical Christians, many of whom don’t believe that Mormonism is a Christian faith. It forced Romney to address his faith while on the campaign trail, including in this speech at the George H.W. Bush Library in Texas.

The issue of whether a presidential candidate’s faith matters has lingered for decades. When John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, became president, it was seen as a breakthrough for the mostly Protestant U.S. Now, the vice president is Catholic and both Rick Santorum, a Catholic, and Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, are in the running for the Republican nomination. Santorum even received support from evangelical leaders this week.

Romney’s faith has been danced around during this campaign, but was briefly the subject of debate when a prominent Evangelical minister and supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry questioned Romney’s Christian credentials during late 2011.

While Romney was battling his own questions of faith in 2007 and 2008, current President Barack Obama faced relentless scrutiny from conservative pundits such as Sean Hannity, criticized then-candidate Obama’s longtime association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who made controversial comments about race and the U.S.

People began to wonder, and still do, if President Obama’s close friendship with Rev. Wright says something about his character.

Back to Romney.

Five U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Romney this week, potentially putting aside some Catholic questions about a Mormon in the White House. Catholics, in practice, do not recognize a Mormon baptism.

“We the undersigned former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See — Thomas Melady, Ray Flynn, James Nicholson, Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon — are united in our wholehearted support for the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States because of his commitment to and support of the values that we feel are critical in a national leader,” they wrote in a collective statement.

Continuing, they wrote: “Although our political affiliations are diverse, we recognize the importance of family and traditional values in American life. We also share the conviction that Governor Romney has the experience, vision and commitment to the common good that our country needs at this crucial moment in history.”

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ returned after his resurrection, this time to America. He preached, according to the Book of Mormon, to Native Americans long before missionaries came preaching Christianity. Those Native Americans were Nephites, who many Mormon scholars believe were descendants of people who had left Jerusalem.

This is the Book of Mormon’s account of Jesus’ appearance to them:

“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).

Most Christians across the world believe Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. Mormons believe that Jesus did come again already… to America.

And that, to me, is what’s interesting about Romney as a candidate.

A Mormon’s account of North American history is fundamentally different from that of most Christians, virtually every other faith and anyone else. In Mormon history, North America was the site of an appearance of Jesus Christ, which is no small thing. It differs from historians’ and archeologists’ own research.

Jesus came here to create his church and it was restored by, as Mormons see it, prophet Joseph Smith. America is an exceptional place because of this unique historical event, according to Mormons.

Of course, many people will point out that many Catholics in North America and beyond believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared in Mexico, Lourdes and Fatima. There are also several other unconfirmed sightings. That’s always worthy of discussion.

Romney isn’t running for Historian in Chief. He’s running to be President of the United States. The
land’s history is taught to children in classrooms across the country. Does it matter that Romney, as a Mormon, believes in a history that includes the assertion that Jesus Christ lived here and continued his teachings? That, without question, is different from the mainstream. Does he need to disavow it? No. Should he explain why these historical events are true if he believes them. Possibly.

Can a man be President of the United States if he views its history and origins vastly different than the average American? Again, it’s worthy of discussion.

  1. spamlds says:

    How ironic that, after the years of anti-Catholic rhetoric from the 1840s to the 1960 election of Catholic John F. Kennedy, that a web site for young, forward-thinking Catholics should spout such intolerant, anti-Mormon drivel! If religious discrimination was wrong when focused against Catholics Al Smith and John Kennedy, why would any self-respecting Catholic engage in such rhetoric today against a Mormon running for president? Maybe you might want to consider this article from the San Francisco Gate, written back in 2008 by Nathan Oman.


    • Matt Palmer says:

      It’s not anti-Mormon or intolerant to ask someone who is running for president about the belief that Jesus Christ was in North America addressing Native Americans, who were said to be of Jewish heritage. There’s been no DNA linkage between those two cultures. I’m not bashing Mormons at all and I hope it’s not pandering to say that their commitment to family is admirable in modern day culture.
      Why isn’t the notion of Christ coming to North America and speaking to these Native Americans worthy of discussing? It’s fundamental to the Mormon religion itself, but is definitely a different North American timeline than the vast majority of people learn every day.

    • kellcsmith says:

      Dude, you totally miss the point of the article.

  2. Dick Beyer says:

    I didn’t think that your blog was particularly “anti-Momon”. It is interesting to think about people who have so much faith they believe not what they see in the world but what they learn from their church. Is it any farther to believe as described in the blog contrary to physical/historical evidence than it is for a creationist to hold steadfast in the face of overwhelming physical evidence of the age of the universe? Yet we would never say that a creationist couldn’t be President. (Some suspected Jimmy Carter but he carefully stated that we should learn of our world with our intellect while carefully not offending anyone.)

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