Why Mitt Romney’s Mormonism Would Be a Blessing to America

A great deal has been made over the fact that Mitt Romney is Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often referred to as just “Latter-Day Saints” or “LDS”).  In many cases the commentary has been negative and even inaccurate.  Interest in LDS faith seems to be growing, as evidenced by my visit to Barnes and Noble yesterday.  The number of books available there on Mormonism has increased dramatically in the last few weeks.

I, of course, am not a member of the LDS faith.  I’m a Roman Catholic.  I’ve had Mormon friends and I’ve studied the doctrines of their faith for some time now.  I’m thoroughly convinced that a president who is LDS and who lives by his church’s doctrines will be a very good thing for the United States of America.  If you understand what mainstream Mormonism teaches, you’ll understand why I hold such a conviction.

Before we go much further, let’s dispose of false idea that Mormonism is a cult.  I see no evidence of that.  Contrary to common misconception, having unusual beliefs doesn’t make a religious community a cult.  Genuine cults are communities where leaders have an excessive and often unhealthy control over their members.  Examples include the Branch Davidians (led by David Koresh) and Heaven’s Gate (led by Marshall Applewhite); members of both groups were led to their deaths by their leaders.

I would not classify the Latter-Day Saints of today as members of a cult, though it may be correct that the original Mormon community under Joseph Smith did shows signs of cult-like adherence.  In addition, please note that I’m talking about the largest group of Latter-Day Saints of which Romney is a member (with its headquarters in Salt Lake City).  I’m not referring to the smaller breakaway groups, some of which may still practice polygamy.  To reiterate, cults are marked more by the control exercised by their charismatic leaders than by unusual doctrines.  It is not uncommon in the study of religious history to encounter communities that began as cults but later became mainstream.

For those who argue that Mormon beliefs are not mainstream, I can’t deny that there is a certain accuracy there.  Mormon doctrines and theology, while retaining the terminology of more traditional Christianity, diverges wildly in how it uses that terminology.  Doctrines such as salvation and the fatherhood of God are understood differently by LDS adherents.  Mormons believe that we humans existed spiritually prior to coming to earth and that highest salvation consists of reaching the status of divine beings.  As earthly children grow to become like their parents, so Mormons believe that their ultimate goal is to grow into the status of the Heavenly Parents from which they received their original creation.

There are those who enjoy poking fun at the Mormon tradition of wearing religious underwear (called “garments”) connected to their first visit to an LDS temple.  Is such a practice drastically different from the Catholic tradition of wearing a scapular underneath our shirts?  Is it very distant from the idea often seen on TV that an evangelist can pray over a small cloth and mail it to someone who has needs that might be answered by prayer?  All religious people use outward signs as symbols of faith.  Recognizing this, it seems fruitless to laugh at each other with the vain idea that our own symbols make sense while the symbols of others are silly.

For sure, Mormon doctrines are very different (heterodox) from the beliefs of wider Christianity.  Nonetheless, Mormons should be considered Christians. They believe that their ultimate fulfillment as future heavenly parents themselves is made possible by the redemption of Jesus Christ.  This particular version of salvation may not sit comfortably with most Christians, but it still qualifies as a theological understanding of the significance of the life and work of Christ as our Savior.  Mormons explain the divergence by insisting that theirs is the true church of Jesus Christ, re-established in these “latter times” because genuine Christian doctrine had been lost, or at least corrupted through history.

Now let’s get to the core of my argument.  Why do I believe Mitt Romney’s Mormonism will bless America?  Well, that part is easy.

Joseph Smith, LDS prophet and founder, was a simple lad from Vermont.  He was born in 1817 and lived much of his early life in the state of New York.  He seems to have been imaginative and of a certain religious bent, though not beyond taking advantage of the gullibility of others to avoid hard work.  Whatever you may think of him, we can’t deny that he was a man of his times, a citizen of a new nation dreaming of unlimited expansion and wealth to the west.  It grew to be understood by most Americans that the young nation’s control of the entire continent, from Atlantic to Pacific, was it’s “manifest destiny.”

This national optimism was infectious.  It found a welcome home in the doctrines of the Latter-Day Saints.  To put it in my own words, Mormonism is the religion of American exceptionalism.  The evidence for this position lies at the heart of all Mormon theology; it’s demonstrated clearly in the Book of Mormon (which Mormons believe to carry the same revelatory weight as the Bible).

For Mormons, many of the early inhabitants of North America were the lost tribes of Israel–members of God’s own chosen people.  The fact that no scientific evidence exists for this position doesn’t change their belief.  In addition, they believe that Christ himself visited these people and preached to them.  Going back even further, Mormons believe that America is so important to the plans of God that the Garden of Eden itself was located here.  And it is here, in what is now the United States of America, that God will establish a divine kingdom on earth at the end of time (the New City of Zion or Heavenly Jerusalem).  We don’t have to fear that Mormons themselves will try to found this kingdom.  In their early days they did try it, and failed.  This failure led them to reformulate their understanding and to leave the kingdom to God’s doing.

Because of their unusual beliefs (along with the personality quirks of Joseph Smith–especially regarding plural marriage), early Mormons suffered tremendously for their faith.  As far as I am aware, they are the only religious group in US history to be identified by a government officer for extermination (the so-called Missouri Executive Order No. 44, issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs in 1838).  Early Mormons perpetrated their share of suffering on others, but for the most part they were on the receiving end of persecution.  Personal responsibility and hard work came to be synonymous with Mormonism.  It is the foundation of the LDS ethos to this day.  (Such commitment to hard work is a bit ironic, given Joseph Smith’s penchant for avoiding it!)

While there are exceptions to every rule, Mormon Americans are generous and kind people who cherish their country and who believe it–and the liberties it recognizes–to be an important part of God’s plan for the world.  One of the reasons that Mormons are so strict about alcohol and caffeine consumption is because of their belief in restoration.  All that was wrong with the world before Joseph Smith’s “revelations” can be corrected through the restored church founded by him.  Theologically speaking, America appears to me to be part of how they understand that divine restoration.

I’m not a Mormon, but I don’t fear having a God-loving Mormon in the White House–even if his understanding of God is different than my own.  Given what I know about “Latter-Day Saints,” I’m looking forward to it.

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9 thoughts on “Why Mitt Romney’s Mormonism Would Be a Blessing to America

  1. Thanks, John. You covered it well and made it clear. Lots of important points there.
    I was glad to see that Billy Graham endorsed him – that says alot too for the Christians who are
    concerned. Glad you count them as true Christians despite the differences – I do too.

  2. To put it another way, I would rather live next door to ANY Mormon family than ANY of those people I have seen in videos of people who support Obama- Like Cinnamon, or the ObamaPhone lady.
    just sayin’.

  3. I have much respect for you, John Switzer, and I am voting for Mitt Romney but Mormonism is indeed a cult. It has simply been dressed up over the years. I’ve studied it over the years and my conclusion is not one I have hastily or recently come to. Mormonism is indeed a cult by Protestant or Catholic definitions. The Lord can use anyone for His purposes to accomplish His will. The Lord used pagan kings during the Old Testament periods. Some of these kings gained a respect for the God of the Israelites — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but many of these kings refused to come to God as the Scriptures instruct. There are many good moral characteristics about the Mormons but their doctrines are based upon falsehoods. Their two books (The Book of Mormon & The Pearl of Great Price) which they view equal to the Bible are simply fabrications by Joseph Smith. Nineteenth century fabrications told in 17th century English twisted from Old Testament passages woven in with great imagination from the heart of a gifted and talented liar who profited from it all. If one’s goodness could bring about salvation then the Lord Jesus Christ would not have had to die for sins. Do not be deceived, Mormonism is indeed a cult which delivers a different gospel other than the one the Lord Jesus Christ brought. Mormonism delivers a false gospel. They believe Jesus Christ is quite different from Whom He claims to be in the Scriptures. They do not believe in the Trinity and I have not yet begun to address all the many falsehoods they assert. Everyone who runs under the banner of Christianity is certainly not a true-hearted Christian. Nevertheless, the Lord can indeed use someone who is not a Christian to bring a blessing to His people and this country just as He used Pharaoh of old to bring a blessing to the Israelite people long ago and just as He also used Cyrus to bless them another time. I am voting for Mitt Romney as I believe he will certainly be better than what we have. I further believe that the Lord can use Mitt Romney to be a blessing to this country. I question whether Barrack Obama loves this country. I truly believe Mitt Romney loves this country and that he knows how to build business and balance budgets. But Mormonism is indeed a cult.

    • Thank you for your post, Michael. It would appear that our divergent opinions hinge upon how we define “cult.” You seem to be confusing a cult (a sect with an excessive and unhealthy form of control) with the notion of heterodoxy (alternative religious teaching).

  4. I read Charles Murray’s insightful book, href=”http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Apart-State-America-1960-2010/dp/0307453421″ title=”Coming Apart”, which postulated the erosion of “founding virtues,” one of which he called “religiousity.” I am atheist, yet I agree…with a proviso. I think that what is missing in many Americans is moral certainty. I have it myself, because I believe in, and live by, the non-aggression principle. Many do not have moral certainty, even if they openly espouse a religion. However, many who are actively religious do have moral certainty. It is not a coincidence that many of the most successful people today are also actively religious. It’s not so much because of the religion itself, but because of these people’s possession of moral certainty. Many successful liberals also have moral certainty, even if they are not openly religious. Their liberal values give them that certainty.

    (Today, an atheist wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to get elected to national office because of the misconception that only religion confers morality. LOL.)

    So, I have no doubt of Romney’s strength of character because of his religion. I doubt him because of the implications of his desire for the highest post in the largest government in history.

    • Reason as to why Mitt Romney using Bush Republican tactics will devastate the United States!
      I doubt Mitt Romney, due to the fact that he does not have the “certainty” you speak of above!.He also does not appear to possess a core of ethics that is required by a strong Presidential leader. The most recent example of his lack of certainty, and I have counted eight different times he has publicly changed position on various issues. These have all been televised; His latest change of mind was the one concerning FEMA. During one of his televised speeches he out right said FEMA belongs in the care of the states or private business sector. “FEMA does not belong at the federal level. “What state would be able to financially respond to the hurricane Sandy tragedy covering a minimum of eleven states, without federal assistance? Most recently he said FEMA is doing a fine job at the federal level.

      One person, defending Romney’s position on FEMA spoke of how poorly Hurricane Katrina was handled by FEMA. It was Bush’s responsibility to manage and see to it that FEMA did it’s job correctly. He, Bush, handled that disaster like he handled 9 11, NOT Well. I am being gracious…

      Look back at where we were four years ago! Remember why you voted for President Obama. We have moved forward in the past four years. Where are the minds of citizens of this country, in particular of Republicans? It took George W. Bush Jr. eight years to spend us out of trillions in profit, and to create a deficit of hundreds of trillions of dollars. He caused the second great depression. Mitt Romney contributed to the this depression by buying out failing companies, renaming them and laying off employees by the thousands if not hundreds of thousands and in the process taking their retirements, and benefits! I’m expecting many of those folks who lost their jobs due to Bush and Romney are voting for more Bush type and now Romney tactics. All in the name of money! Money for Mitt Romney not those of you who lost your jobs and benefits nor for the rest of us.Why would you vote for a person, Romney, who invests billions in other countries and not in “his” country.

      It took twelve years to clime out of the first depression. If Romney is elected, and I pray for us all that does not happen, we will see the end of this country as we know it. Bush all but eradicated the middle class. Romney will continue to contribute to sustaining the top 1% billionaire club and and rest of will eat bile…

      If you have not already voted, make your vote count toward rebuilding this wonderful nation of ours. I voted for President Obama and I have and will continue to work with our President to make this Nation everything we are capable of being.

      I am not a millionaire or a billionaire and I praise those of you who have earned your monies honestly! America needs you to contribute to rebuilding America, we need your voice and your money.

      Those of us who are not millionaires or billionaires, we must work hard and then work harder toward rebuilding this beloved country of ours. Remember God made of all different and he made us all with incredible potential, use it!

      • Geraldine, with all due respect, let me remind you of something: the second half of the G. W. Bush administration was one in which the purse strings of the government were controlled by Democrats in Congress. I am happy to admit that Bush pushed Congress to spend too much money, but he’s not responsible by imself.

        I left the Republican party because of this fact and only recently returned in hope of being part of a reform movement in the GOP. At least I’m honest enough to admit that wrongs have been perpetrated by both major parties. Will you be able to grant the same admission regarding the Democrats who brought down our economy? It all begin under Clinton and the Community Reinvestment Act that required banks to grant mortgage loans to home buyers who could not afford them. That act began a massive landslide that eroded our economic strength and brought us to today.

        Was G. W. Bush perfect? Nope. But he called Congress to task on the issue of bad mortgages and when he did, Rep. Barney Frank said that the federal home-lending institutions were solid and not in any trouble whatsoever. Then they collapsed, bringing the economy with them.

        To our dear Republican lawmakes, I say “shame on you for not doing more to fight this.” To our dear Democrat lawmakers I say “shame on you for buying votes with your stupidity and destroying our economic vitality.”

        Add to this fact a socialist-minded president who sees America as less a solution and more a problem for the world and we have a recipe for disaster. My friend, the beginning of the end of this disaster is coming in just a few days.

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