December 6, 2007


A Self-Defining Moment: Area Mormons Hope Romney's Speech Will Dispel Myths (Matthew McCormick, 12/06/07, Valley News)

On the eve of Romney's address, several Mormons in the Upper Valley said the attention given to the candidate's faith is unfair, but said they hope it will help dispel some of the myths about their beliefs.

“When people ask questions, then you can tell them the truth about how it really is. They don't have to make assumptions,” said Gary Cass, bishop of the South Royalton ward, or congregation, of the church.

And dispelling myths about the ‘p' word -- polygamy -- is at the top of the list for many Mormons. Though the church banned polygamy in the 1890s, the faith has had a difficult time shaking association with the practice.

The conviction, on accomplice-to-rape charges, of the leader of a group that calls itself the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and HBO's dramatic series, Big Love, about a present-day polygamist household in Utah, have not helped.

“There is no polygamy in the church today and people don't understand that,” Blatter said. “They lump all polygamy with Mormons.”

Virginia McShinsky of South Royalton said that Mormon beliefs are more similar to those held by Protestants or Catholics than the media has let on. As its name implies, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centers its beliefs on Jesus as the son of God and his coming resurrection. Mormons also take the Bible as the word of God, but supplement its teachings with the Book of Mormon, Smith's translation of the tablets.

“They try to say we're not Christian, but we're definitely Christian,” McShinsky, 83, said of critics. “They just don't understand our religion.”

There are, of course, unique theological aspects of Mormon teachings, and Blatter said that if Romney delves too deeply into these, he risks alienating those who hold different beliefs.

“I hope he talks about things he has in common with most Christian believers,” Blatter said, standing among the manger scenes, Christmas trees and poinsettias that fill the visitor's center at Smith's birthplace. “I hope he says that so they can trust him.”

Lenea Blatter said she hopes Romney stresses the religious toleration embedded in the Constitution. “Our Constitution is wonderful,” she said. “We believe that there should be religious tolerance.”

Mitt mentions 'Mormon' just once (NBC’s Domenico Montanaro, 12/06/07, NBC First Read)
Romney has said that his “Faith in America” speech would not be a JFK-like speech. In one sense, it certainly was not. Kennedy said “Catholic,” his religion, 20 times in his 1960 speech on religion during his general election campaign. By contrast, Romney said “Mormon” just once.

In fact, Romney invoked other faiths by name in the speech more than his own.

No JFK, he. Given a chance to serve not just his own ambitions but his faith as well, he squandered it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 6, 2007 11:35 AM

Block that metaphor!

"we do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

What is Mitt running for anyway, Conductor-in-Chief?

Posted by: Ed Bush at December 6, 2007 1:00 PM

OJ, since the LDS is "Abrahamic," why do you seem to have problems with them? They outgrew their dangerous cult phase long ago. True, they aren't exactly traditional Christians, but they're a lot closer than, say, the Shiites you cheer for.

I grew up in Michigan while George Romney was governor, and I don't remember his religion being an issue, but I was probably too young to have encountered any discussions of the topic.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 6, 2007 3:44 PM

I strongly reconend the recent book, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman

The author is a professional historian and himself a believing Mormon. One must keep reminding himself that this is their best shot as the hokieness fairly drips from the pages in his hands.

Read it and entdure the pathos of Bushman's lame explanations of such rhings as the "magic spectacles" and Smith's own version of the Satanic Verses.

Whether we may hold this against Mitt Romney is a close question. Better a wise Turk for a ruler than a foolish Christian, Martin Luther once said, but I am not so sure in this case. There is an element of scandal in honoring adherents of bizarre sects with election to high office. We should have no doubt, however, that Mormonism is a deal-breaker for a lot of Americans, enough to decide a close elecion.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 6, 2007 5:40 PM

The real problem you see here is the fear that he'd behave like that other Mormon, Harry Reid, once he's put in a position of real power. In other words, make a fool of himself while squandering every opportunity and advantage he has.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 6, 2007 5:42 PM

Lou, I agree that lots of Mormon theology is foolish. The episode of South Park called "All About Mormons" skewered them pretty well, and I'm amused to say that my matrilineal ancestors are now officially Mormon, due to a cousin who converted and their retroactive baptism thing.

On the other hand, from a purely rational perspective (OJ may wish to close his eyes now), it's hard to say it's more foolish than many aspects of other, larger faiths.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 6, 2007 5:55 PM

Lou: Want to take a shot at making transubstantiation sound rational?

I doubt that OJ's issue is with Mormanism. His issue is with Romney and any he'll pick up any weapon that's at hand.

Posted by: Ibid at December 6, 2007 6:06 PM

Romney has two problems:

(1) Many Americans are uncomfortable with what they hear of Mormon theology.

(2) Social conservatives are troubled that he did not follow that theology in his political career, up until the moment he declared for the presidency.

His speech today failed to adequately address the first group and told the second he'd shuck his beliefs when politically expedient.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2007 6:17 PM

It's not apparent why one pair of magic spectacles is harder to accept than weekly magic bread and wine.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2007 6:18 PM


I have no trouble with Mormonism. I'm not who he needed to teach today.

My problem is that he isn't Mormon enough, in the same way Joe Liberman isn't Jewish and JFK and Cuomo aren't Catholic.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2007 6:20 PM

Substance is not the accidents.

Question answered.

No magic to it at all: No hocus-pocus, but rather Hoc est Corpus--not the same thing at all.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 7, 2007 5:09 AM

Identical, just your magic.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2007 7:04 AM