In recent days I have been in a number of discussions about Mitt Romney running for President. It began last week while I was in Birmingham for the EMNR conference. During the Summit meeting the question was raised as to how a Mitt Romney Presidency would impact apologetics and Evangelicalism in general. This is an important question in light of the state of biblical illiteracy within Evangelicalism today. It is also important as some who are regarded as Evangelical leaders sign on to helping Romney get elected. National radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt went so far as to call those who raise concerns about Romney’s Mormonism, “religious bigots.” For some this harkens back to the day of John F. Kennedy running for president and the fear that the Roman Catholic Church would be running the country if a faithful committed Roman Catholic were elected. The operative words here being “faithful” and “committed.” Regardless of what one thinks of Kennedy’s presidency it is pretty clear that Rome held no sway as to how the nation was governed. There are some who point this out and insist that this will be equally true with Romney and Mormonism. That may be but there are other questions which should probably be addressed.
The first question I would ask is, will Romney and the Mormon Church (more properly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or LDS for short) be honest about the claims of Mormonism? My response is, I don’t think so. For example in the article Romney must overcome bias against Mormons, by Phil Dawson of ABC affiliate WZZM13 quotes Kevin den Dulk, Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University:
He is going to have to show his faith is mainstream and is consistent with what the average American would want.
There is certainly a recognition that the “average American” is not going to want anything really exotic or what they may view as weird.
Insisting that Mormons are similar to any other Christian denomination he goes on to say:
We believe in God the Eternal Father,” says stake president Kaplin Jones. “We believe in His son Jesus Christ and through Christ’s atonement we have the opportunity to be resurrected and achieve eternal life. We think of ourselves as Christians
The devil is, as they say, in the details. The language sounds similar to that of Evangelicals but the definitions are what makes the difference. For Mormons “Eternal Father” is the one who procreated each and every one of us through physical sex with one of his many wives on a far distant planet. He was once a man who earned his way to become god and is one of an eternal progression of gods and goddesses before him. Jesus Christ likewise earned his way to godhood. The Eternal Father came to earth and had physical relations with his daughter Mary in order to provide a physical body for Jesus. Professor den Dulk mentioned “we have the opportunity to be resurrected and achieve eternal life .“ This is important as LDS see a difference between being born-again and having eternal life. Being born-again, in LDS parlance, is one getting the opportunity to be resurrected. Eternal life on the other hand is the opportunity to work your way to godhood as the LDS teach that Jesus, Heavenly father and all gods in the past have done (The LDS are polytheistic in teaching their many god view). The LDS are entitled to their beliefs but they officially deny the very basics of the Christian faith either overtly or by redefining the terms. This really raises the question of honesty as well. On the one hand the LDS desire to publicly claim that they are similar to any other denomination. On the other, internally, they are clear that the LDS is the only true church.
Gordon B. Hinckley, the current president of the LDS was asked about the teaching that men become gods by Larry King, Hinckley said that he didn’t know much about that teaching. As “god’s prophet” for today he may consider going to his college and sit under his professor, Robert Millet, who is clear in preparing the Mormon missionaries that Mormonism is the only true church, (this would of course mean that all other churches are false). He also lets them know that they need to be less than honest about becoming gods. At least until they have succeeded in winning the convert. All of this raises the question of honesty. If Mitt Romney and the LDS Church have a difficult time being honest about their faith, what does that say about his trustworthiness as a presidential candidate?
Will the LDS Church Run the Government?
This is not so much an article either for or against Mitt Romney. I don’t know if he is any more or less honest than any other candidate. MCOI does not take any official positions for or against any candidate or political party. Romney may make a fine president or he may make a terrible one. He may not even get to run for any number of things things can happen on the way to the Primaries. As time goes on reporters will look more deeply at Mormonism itself. The LDS will step up their work at fogging up the issues and discernment ministries will have increased burden to respond, with little support from the Evangelical churches. If elected, would the LDS be running the U.S. government? Most likely not. But something else which should be of concern to the Evangelical church will happen.
Merdian Magazine’s article Can LDS Film Director Mitch Davis Help Mitt Romney Get in the White House? features an interview with LDS film director, Mitch Davis. He is notably excited about the possibility of Romney being elected for the PR it will give to the church. As he put it:
Putting a human face on Mormonism and stepping out of the backyard, onto the world stage. But I think that’s just a byproduct of something much larger, which is electing the next leader of the free world as we approach one of the most perilous times in our planet’s history.
But in what way would this help the LDS?
How could it not? It’s one of the most visible jobs in the world! Having a Mormon in that office would be like having the Olympics in Salt Lake City every day for four years in a row — eight years if he runs for reelection!
The LDS is very effective at their public relations and missionary work. They have more full time missionaries on the street than all of the Evangelical missions organizations combined. And so, we find ourselves in an interesting place in history. Evangelicals that do not support missions to cults and false religious movements but will very likely support with their nickels and noses (money and vote) a Mormon earning his way to becoming a god for president. In so doing they will create one of the best media campaigns the LDS could ever hope for to advance their missions and growth.