but this time, from someone way smarter and way way more knowledgable than I am. Richard Bushman is probably the most authoritative speaker on Mormon history living, and this link is to a transcript of a rather lengthy discussion between Bro. Bushman and journalists from some of the major newspapers in the country.
This is not just a great source of information about Mormonism and Mitt Romney — it’s a discussion of the role of religion in American politics and culture. It’s very long.
I’m finding quite a few claims about Mormons and Mormonism coming from opponents to Mitt Romney (candidate for President, in case that wasn’t crystal clear). I thought it might be useful to take the claims that are coming up and address them for those who don’t have a lot of background in Mormonism. Feel free to pass links to this around if you wish.
I’m working right now from an article in the Boston Globe entitled “Rival camps take aim at Romney’s religion.”
Workman questioned whether Mormons were Christians, discussed an article alleging that the Mormon Church helps fund Hamas, and likened the Mormons’ treatment of women to the Taliban’s, said participants, who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting freely.
- Mormons aren’t Christian
- Mormons do not explicitly follow or affirm the post-biblical creeds of Christianity, and, thus, do not understand the basic Christian beliefs in the Trinity, Duophecitism, and some others exactly the way they are understood by mainstream Christian theologians. They do believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that salvation comes through his atoning sacrifice.
- The Mormon Church funds Hamas
- The Mormon Church doesn’t fund political groups. It appears that the Church may have been involved in an Islamic charity that was found to be siphoning off funds to Hamas. Although the Church (afaik) has not taken an official policy on Israel/Palestine, the Church as a matter of doctrine believes in the literal gathering of Israel (the people), and dedicated the land of Israel for that purpose more than 150 years ago.
- Mormon treatment of women likened to the Taliban
- If you’re talking about the Church that Mitt Romney belongs to, that’s so wrong it’s humorous. The Church does believe that men and women have different roles to play in the home, church and society, but not substantially more so than Evangelical Christians do. As a practical matter, most of the work that is done by the Church is done and directed by women, under the nominal direction of men. More than likely, the individual was talking about the FLDS Church, run by Warren Jeffs, which involves not only plural marriage, but plural marriage involving teen-aged brides and welfare fraud, but that has nothing more to do with Mitt Romney than David Koresh has to do with Jesse Jackson.
Last year, when Romney and McCain were battling to sign up supporters in key states, Romney’s campaign got word that Chuck Larson, a former Iowa GOP chairman and now one of McCain’s top Iowa advisers, had been calling Mormonism a “cult” while trying to woo state legislators and their staff. One Republican Larson approached, who would talk only on condition of anonymity, said that Larson told him, “He’s a Mormon for crying out loud — that’s essentially a cult.”
- Mormonism is a cult.
- This claim might have made sence 160 years ago, and would have applied to groups such as the Shakers, the Oneida, the Adventists as well as it did to the Mormon Church, based simply on the size of the movement and its distance from the mainstream of society. Today, Mormonism is a large, global and diverse movement. Mormonism, from the beginning, has merged a strong tradition of authority among leaders and a highly democratic diffusion of that authority not dissimilar to that found in a political campaign in structure. If the Church brainwashed people the way some claim, I’d be a lot more under control by the Church than I am, and we wouldn’t lose in the neighborhood of half of our converts within a year of their conversions.
There have been numerous anonymous attacks, too, such as an unsigned, eight-page screed that arrived last month in the mailboxes of influential South Carolina Republicans charging that Mormonism was a “politically dangerous” religion founded on a hoax. Sent from Providence, the mailing alleged that church members believe in multiple gods, likened its founder, Joseph Smith, to the Islamic prophet Mohammed, and raised alarm about future directives Mormons may be required to follow.
- Mormonism is politically dangerous
- This claim is about 170 years old, and was used to justify the worst religious persecution the United States has seen, including beatings, tarring and feathering, destruction of and expulsion from farms, murders, rapes, an Extermination Order in Missouri signed by the Lieutenant Governor, the gerrymandering involved in the drawing up of the borders of Utah, and a clause in the Idaho Territorial and State Constitution that banned Mormons from voting simply because they were Mormon. The latter two were because Mormons, as a bloc, voted Democrat, and the powers that were at the time were Republican (think post-Civil War Republicanism). A majority of American Mormons vote Republican, but Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Majority Leader, is a Democrat. The Church does not involve itself in political issues, and the social and moral issues it supports are virtually identical to that of the Evangelical Christians like the person raising this complaint.
- Mormons believe in multiple gods
- Welcome to the unintended consequences of the Council of Nicea, and welcome to the diversity of Mormon theological beliefs. This could become a lengthy discussion of theological minutia that some might enjoy but most would be bored with. If anybody really wants to go through this, leave a comment and I’ll go into it. For the purposes of this, I can say that many, perhaps most, Mormons believe that multiple gods exist, and without question Mormons believe that the purpose of this world is that our Heavenly Father’s children have the potential, through his power and grace, to be prepared to receive all that he has. This means that some will become gods, and it’s reasonable to derive from this a belief in the existence of multiple gods in a way that would make mainstream Christian, Jewish and Muslim theologians uncomfortable. However, we do not worship any multiplicity of gods.
- Joseph Smith was like Muhammad.
- There are similarities that can be drawn between these men, and there are significant differences as well. Mormonism teaches that Muhammad was an inspired man, as were Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Protestant reformers. There were also significant differences between all these men. I can’t be more specific than this with such a vague claim.
- Mitt Romney would be required to follow the direction of the President of the Church.
- This shows an ignorance of the way the Church works. The last major directions to come from Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley were for people to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover in the last four months of 2006 (with no penalty for not doing so), and, previous to that, to avoid tattoos, that girls should have not more than one piercing, and that to their ears, and boys to avoid piercings of any kind. There is no evidence that Mormon elected officials have been directed in policy by any President of the Church dating back to Sen. Reed Smoot (google it), including Sen. Reid and Mitt Romney during his time as Governor of Massachusetts. Mormon officials are guided to some degree by the morality they learned from the Church, making them no different than any other religious officials, and Mormonism includes an explicit direction toward religious tolerance in our Articles of Faith that other mainstream Christian denominations obviously do not have.
Now, I don’t expect everybody to join the Mormon Church (actually The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor do I expect everybody to vote for Mitt Romney. I don’t even expect to see everybody refrain from criticizing Mr. Romney on any position he’s stated. I would just like to see a little more truth involved in the discussion. The reason to vote for or against Mr. Romney is the same reason to vote for or against any other candidate — you do or don’t believe they would be capable of doing the job better than anybody else.