As the election process marches on, Mitt Romney is emerging as the front-runner in the Republican presidential primaries. With a slim win in Iowa, a landslide victory in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is projected to make a good showing in this week’s South Carolina primary. For better or for worse, everything seems to be going for the former Massachusetts governor. However, there remains a big elephant in the room regarding Mitt Romney that is sure to surface in coming months – his Mormon faith.
All of the Republican candidates have refused to take part in unfair personal attacks on Gov. Romney’s Mormonism; thus, the media has made little noise on the subject. Any conservative will agree however, that if Governor Romney does indeed win the Republican nomination, liberal talking-heads across the nation will suddenly have spontaneous revelations about his “cult-like” and “extreme” religion, and (out of the goodness of their hearts) will be sure to bring it to the attention of the American people. Thus, conservatives need to analyze this issue not only to make an educated vote during the primaries, but also for the general election, where the establishment media will inevitably use Romney’s Mormonism against him if he wins the nomination.
The myth of America’s anti-Mormon tendencies is not a fabrication. According to a Gallup Poll, Mormonism still has relatively high unfavorability rates. The same poll shows however, that liberals have a grossly higher unfavorability of Mormons (61%), than do conservatives (45%). In a political context, 25% of the population has said that it ‘would never’ vote for a Mormon President, and nearly 30% said they would be ‘less likely’ to do so – an obvious blow to the alleged “electability” of Governor Romney. From a conservative perspective, there a lot of reasons not to vote for Mitt Romney; but his Mormon faith is not one of them.
Politically, there is no conceivable reason for conservatives to fear Mormons. Gallup reports that 59% of Mormons identify as conservatives – the most conservative of any major religious group. Religiously, most of the concerns with Mormonism come from stereotypes and suspicions about the faith and its uncertain status as a Christian denomination. While I do not intend this article to be a theological referendum on Mormonism, I do think it may be helpful to mention a few key tenets of the faith:
- Mormons accept the concept of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- They believe in eternal judgment.
- They believe in being baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sin.
- They believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
- They also believe that the Book of Mormon –revealed to Joseph Smith by God- is the inspired Word of God and is a supplement to, and not a replacement of, the Bible.
Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is his strongest attribute. While it may be smart for him politically to downplay it, conservatives would appreciate knowing of his involvement in his local church and his favorable reputation among its members.
Romney served as the Bishop of his local congregation and later as Boston’s stake (similar to a Catholic diocese) president. He has also contributed great financial support to the building of Mormon temples and other outreach activities. As a lay leader in his church, Romney offered pastoral advice to members of his church who sought his guidance in overcoming spiritual struggles such as divorce, loss, and sometimes even abortion. For his service in this respect, Romney earned respect and an admirable reputation in his local congregation. An analysis that details the above statements and many others can be read here.
Mitt Romney’s record as Governor of Massachusetts is fair game for discussion. In fact, it is because of his moderate approach to politics that I cannot support him in the primaries. However, it would be inappropriate to hold the faith of the Mormon Governor as the reason that he cannot fulfill a presidential duty. Conservatives would be wise to adhere to the long-established tradition of religious liberty in America and instead judge the competence of Governor Romney on his political policies. I want to conclude with the words of our nation’s first president, who set a great precedent by establishing these acclaimed virtues:
“Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church, that road to Heaven, which to the shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest, and least liable to exception…In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” (George Washington’s Sacred Fire, page 496)