Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mormonism, Round Two

(I sent a letter to a conservative journal of opinion in response to a charge of bigotry leveled by one of their other correspondents toward those who do not consider Mormonism to be Christian. Some of it is a rehash of what I have already posted. They published it, and I will post any responses and attempt to answer them. -- Lee)

Does theology matter in a political campaign? I ask anyone who thinks it doesn't: would you vote for a Satanist? No? Not even if otherwise he were the perfect candidate, the second coming of Ronald Reagan himself?

If you would, then please disregard the rest of this letter, because you and I have nothing in common. But if you would not, then congratulations, we have just demonstrated that a candidate's theology is important. Now, it's only a question of where to draw the line. Regarding Mr. Romney specifically, the question becomes, is he on our side of the line, or not?

I disagree with your correspondent K. that it's an easy question to answer. He answered it by labeling the proposition that Mormonism is not Christian as an "ignorant, bigoted lie." Well, K., you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of voting for a Mormon, the fact remains that Christianity and Mormonism are two distinct religions.

There is more to being a Christian than sharing the nomenclature. What unites every Christian denomination, from high Roman Catholic to humble backwater Baptist, is a belief in the Holy Trinity -- One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Heresy, on the other hand, always reveals itself by denying the Trinity; Mormons simply do not believe in it (though they are not forthcoming about that fact). They believe God the Father and Jesus the Son are distinct and separate beings. Furthermore, Mormons believe there are many gods, perhaps millions of them -- every faithful Mormon some day hopes to become a God of his own world. Mormons teach, "As man is, God once was; as God is, man shall become." In the Mormon cosmos, our own local holder of the "God franchise" originated as a mortal man whose faithfulness was rewarded as he became lord of this planet. This contradicts not only the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but also the Judeo-Christian concept that God is eternal and unchanging.

What all this means is that when Mormons say they believe in God and in Jesus, they mean something completely different than what Christians mean.

Believe me, Mormons perceive the gulf between the two religions -- but it's generally considered rude when Christians notice the same thing. Well. If you think Christians are sometimes harsh toward Mormonism, you ought to read what Mormons think of Christianity. Please follow the link and read for yourself a passage from Joseph Smith's own writings, posted at the LDS website. Smith communicates quite clearly that all the other Christian sects are an "abomination," and that all those involved in preaching it are corrupt. Like K., they are certainly entitled to their opinion. But if Mormons think Christianity is an abomination, why can't Christians at least think Mormonism is mistaken? Is the distance between A and B somehow greater than the distance between B and A?

Religious conservatives like me aren't looking for an excuse to vote against Romney. It's the other way around; we're trying to figure out how we can vote for Romney, and we have to work this out. But don't bother coming at us and calling us names because we seem reluctant to park our consciences outside the voting booth. Conservative Christians have been more faithful to conservative policies and values than an awful lot of Republicans, including one George W. Bush -- who even now is concocting a harebrained scheme for ruining the mortgage market, in a move worthy to be included in any list of worst stupid liberal tricks.

The bottom line is that God is in charge, and the Republicans only want to be. The Old Testament makes it clear that the kings of Israel and Judea who pleased God were successful, while those who worshiped false gods brought curses upon their people. If we are faithful to God, He will not fail His people. Republicans, even the non-Mormon ones, have been known to do just that.


Glen said...

George Washington stopped taking communion after the revolution, John Adams was a Unitarian and Thomas Jefferson was a deist. They still managed to make a contribution to their country. ;)

Lee said...

Just think how much better they would have done if they were all believers! Maybe the Civil War would have been avoided...?

Apparently, there is some controversy over the Washington-Communion thing.

Glen said...

>> Just think how much better they would have done if they were all believers!

I'm trying hard to imagine how things would have turned out with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Mike Hucklebee as founding fathers. No, it's just not working for me... :D

Lee said...


Well, I am not now, nor have I ever, been a card-carrier for electing clergymen!

Glen said...

Peggy Noonan wonders aloud if you could still love Ronald Reagan?

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.

Lee said...

Peggy Noonan is full of beans. I would counter that the evangelical's involvement in politics today is a reaction, not an assault. If Christianity were not under assault, I would be more inclined to sympathize. But she's a rich New Yorker, not a Southern Baptist woman trying to teach her kids that, no, having pre-marital sex is not okay, not even if you use a condom. Madalyn Murray O'Hair politicized religion long before Jerry Falwell religisized politics.

Glen said...

There's a warning from Evangelicals for Mitt about this very thing.

For example, in 1980 voters had two choices: a divorced movie actor who did not regularly attend church and was not on good terms with all of his children, and a once-married Southern Baptist whose evangelicalism was at the core of his national identity. Voting on the basis of whose doctrine was better would have meant electing the second guy - Jimmy Carter - over the first, Ronald Reagan.

Lee said...

I'm don't think it's my job, as a Christian, to support the most theologically correct candidate. If that were true, I might be a little more enthusiastic about the Huckabee campaign. There is no question that someone can be theologically correct and a poor statesman. I think Carter more or less proves this point. The question for me is, does one need to be theologically correct *enough* to justify my support? And I don't see any way around it -- of course there are theological considerations. If Reagan was not a regular church goer, then I am sorry for him, but you'd have a hard time demonstrating he was hostile to the notion of Christianity.

I don't know how to grade a heretic like Romney. Really, I don't. Is it enough that we share certain values? That he does bend the knee to his notion of God/Jesus? I really don't know. As of now, my main beef is that Christians like me cannot be dismissive of such theological considerations, the same way many of the conservative rage are.

Anonymous said...

People who think that Romney's Mormon religion should not disqualify him for the presidency are usually unaware of the loonier aspects of Mormonism. First of all, unlike other religions, it has secret rites. That alone should be enough to make people wonder what goes on there. Second, there are the problems with their doctrines such as some day being a god on their own planet, of wearing special, sacred undergarments, and that wives can only go to heaven when their husband calls them there with their secret name.

Even if you think this silly stuff passes muster, just wait until the average American hears it. They would think Romney is a nut. Would you vote for someone who came up to you on the street and said they believe they are going to be a god some day? Not likely.

Mormonism is a bizarre cult, just like Scientology.

Lee said...

It's a strange one, from my perspective. To me, the odd thing is that Huckabee was called on the carpet for saying Mormons believed Jesus and Satan are brothers. He apologized. Problem is, it's true. Since when must someone apologize for telling the truth? It's telling lies we should apologize for.

Glen said...
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Glen said...
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Glen said...

Now that Fred's dropped out, I was just wondering how the Reformed Trombonist was warming to Mitt?

Anonymous: Your point is excellent. I think that sort of Mormon looniness will be exactly what the Democrats use in the campaign. The choice will be go with the somewhat conservative Mormon wacko or the reliably socialist Hillary.

Despite his theological short comings, I find that Mitt's the best choice. Huckabee is a good Christian and a liberal/populist. McCain claims to be a conservative, but seems to have no understanding of the limits on the power of the Federal Government see here. Alan Keyes is a good Christian and a conservative, but has no following. I like Ron Paul's libertarian credentials and can even overlook his eagerness to lose the war in Iraq, but I don't think he's got much more of a chance of winning the Republican nomination than Alan Keyes.

In the final analysis, Mormon wackiness is less of a threat to me than socialist wackiness.

Lee said...

Glen, I already recognize Romney is the only choice conservatives have. I'm already warm enough toward him to see that much.

BTW, we had a lesson in church this past Monday on Scientology. As the GB says, there is nothing new under the sun. Essentially, it's a modern update of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism. It's the idea that "being saved" requires some secret knowledge that they are willing to reveal to you -- in this case, if you give them enough money. It's all very Greek -- they were the philosophers back in the day of Jesus. To the Greeks, the idea of God coming to earth was not hard to swallow, but rather the fact that he took on a body to do so. Ugh! To the Gnostics, God would never take on a physical body; he would keep his spiritual form, and it just looked like a body to everyone else. The epistles of John take Gnosticism head on.

Glen said...


Mitt thinks he will become a God over his own planet. Hillary thinks she is a God over her own planet. Who is more dangerous?