Do Romney and Huntsman Have a Prayer in the GOP Primaries?

As a group, political reporters are far more secular than the rest of the country, leading them sometimes to misrepresent or underappreciate the impact of religion on voting. I think there is some informative shoe leather reporting undone about how Mormons are perceived by GOP voters.

When I talk to Christian Evangelical friends who are active in Republican politics, their first concern about Romney is not Massachusetts’ health care program and their first concern about Huntsman is not that he worked for President Obama. Rather, they just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a Mormon President. They generally do not consider Mormons to be Christian and harbor deep distrust about much of LDS practice and beliefs. This Pew poll is a bit out of date, but check out the subsection on GOP Christian Evangelicals to get a flavor of these attitudes.

I don’t see how a Mormon candidate gets out of closed GOP primaries in states like South Carolina and Pennsylvania which have high proportions of Evangelicals. And it’s even worse when they are two candidates competing for the same subset of such voters who are willing to vote for a Mormon.

The history here is interesting. At the wonderful moment in 1854 when the Republican party came into existence and catapulted the career of the man who became perhaps our greatest President, its founders pledged to wipe out “the twins relics of barbarism”. One of those of course was slavery, but few people recall that the other was Mormon polygamy.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

40 thoughts on “Do Romney and Huntsman Have a Prayer in the GOP Primaries?”

  1. Yup, yup, yup. I’m out of an Evangelical background, to the point that one of my uncles was unhappy when he learned I’d changed my major from music to mathematics. “I’m concerned for your soul,” was how he explained it.

    In that demographic the idea that the LDS is a Satan-spawned cult is practically an item of faith. Romney isn’t going anywhere with Evangelicals because he’s a Mormon. He’s unlikely to go anywhere with the rest of the GOP primary voters because ACA is within epsilon of Romney-care.

    Huntsman has the additional burden of having provided aid and comfort to “the enemy.” These guys are both toast, but if they want to perform a few tens of millions of economic stimulus over the next twelve months, they should knock themselves out.

  2. Heck, I’m an atheist, and I’d have to say, based on my knowledge of Christian and Mormon theology, that everybody else who calls themselves “Christians” actually have a point in claiming that Mormons aren’t. Or to put it another way, Mormons have about as much claim to being Christians, as Christians have to being Jews…

  3. Dennis, I’m not of an Evangelical background, so I’m curious — what do they have against mathematics? That it’s secular? But what about secular music?

  4. Henry, I’m going to guess that it is because evangelicals are against science, of which math is a key part.

  5. Evangelicals are really the least of Mitten’s worries. I have come to the conclusion that today’s Republican Party consists mainly of a hard-core of Birchers, American Nazis, KKK, militia groups and their fellow travelers in the Tea Party together with certain number of so-called “centrists” who are mainly useful idiots providing a thin veneer of respectability to impress the Villagers. Clearly, the only successful path to the Republican nomination is to either be a Bircher or at least be willing to swear everlasting fealty to them.

  6. The… well, let’s call it the “mission statement” (in the parlance of our times) of Christianity is the Nicene Creed. Filioque clause aside, if you add to it or take away from it, you aren’t Christian. I don’t have a problem with an LDS President, but the Church of Latter Day Saints are about as Christian as Muslims.

  7. I’m sure that there are conservative Republicans who would never vote for a practicing, believing Mormon. I’m also sure that there are liberal Democrats who would never vote for a practicing, believing Mormon. The difference of course is that the former know that they are nixing the candidate because on his religious beliefs and will generally be comfortable saying openly that that’s what they are doing. While the latter will either not realize that they are being similarly prejudicial or will not fess up to it in public, prefering instead to hide behind some other excuse for why they are avoiding the candidate in question.

    In any event, the fact that Romney tends to poll very well among Republican primary voters doesn’t seem to trouble those touting the “Republicans will never elect a Mormon” thesis.

  8. sd, I don’t think that you’re being fair to liberal Democrats. Even though I am an atheist (of Jewish heritage), I had no qualms about voting for Carter or Obama, both of whom openly professed their religion. I’d feel the same about voting for a Mormon, if there are any liberal Mormons, if only because I know so little about Mormons. (Until this thread, I’d assumed that they were Christians.)

  9. I guess I could vote for a Mormon, as long as they were raised one. It’s not really fair to blame somebody for their birth religion, it was “installed” before they were capable of critical reasoning. OTOH, somebody who converted to Mormonism, or worse, Scientology, as an adult? Never. At that point you have to expect them to recognize lunacy when they see it.

  10. Brett, how is the LDS any more lunatic than evangelical Christians? If you don’t start from a position that Christianity is normal and start from a clean slate, Christianity is pretty crazy sounding. So why do you draw a distinction.

    Scientology I’ll give you, because it’s not only crazy sounding, we have reliable testimony from a number of sources as to its fraudulent beginnings.

  11. Henry,

    The Mormon church (like many other religious groups) teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful. Now, its perfectly possible to believe that homosexual behavior is sinful but that the law should make no distinction between homosexual and heterosexual conduct. And so in theory, there could be a Mormon candidate for office who believed in (and publically affirmed) his church’s position on the inherent morality of homosexual conduct, but who favored public policies that were equivalent to those favored by secular liberals, who do not believe that homosexual conduct is immoral at all.

    So the question is: what sort of reception would such a candidate receive among liberal Democrats? Remember – the hypothetical is that we have a candidate who believes and says publically that homosexual conduct is immoral, but who supports policies fully in line with those favored by secular liberals.

    The situation is very much equivalent to that of a conservative Evangelical contemplating a Mormon candidate. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman believe things that are deeply at odds with the worldview of conservative Evangelicals. But they support public policies very much in line with what conservative Evangelicals support (Huntsman probably slightly less so that Romney, but neither is outside the normative band of Evangelical thought).

    I agree that many conservative Evangelicals would not vote for Romney or Huntsman for the very reason that their agreement with them on matters of policy is trumped by their disagreement with them on theological matters. But what I’m proposing is that were there a believeing Mormon candidate who nonetheless supported the liberal agenda on policy, that an equally high if not substantially higher percentage of secular liberals would not vote for him because their agreement with him on matters of policy is trumped by their disagreement with him on theological matters.

    Or to put it more concrete terms: Imagine that its 2007, and (Mormon) Harry Reid decides to run for the Democratic nomination for President (which will require him to win the support of voters outside of conservative Nevada). And Harry Reid comes out in support of non-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation and full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. But a reporter asks him in a press conference what his personal belief is on the morality of homosexual conduct and he responds: “Well, as you know I support non-discrimination laws to protect the rights of homosexuals and full marriage equality for gay men and lesbians, but I also believe that homosexuality is contrary to the will of God and deeply immoral. Gay people endanger their very souls by continuing to engage in homosexual conduct.”

    If you think that Harry Reid would have more than a 1% chance of getting the Democratic nomination under that scenario you’re deeply naive.

    My point being, its been a favorite talking point of political liberals since Mitt Romney started talking about running for President to say that “of course” he stood no chance because “as we all know” those scary Evangelical Christians would never vote for a Mormon because they find Mormon theology so repugnant. And that may well be true. But its equally true of secular liberals.

  12. > So the question is: what sort of reception would such a candidate
    > receive among liberal Democrats? Remember – the hypothetical is
    > that we have a candidate who believes and says publically that
    > homosexual conduct is immoral, but who supports policies fully
    > in line with those favored by secular liberals.

    When one starts out with the hypothetical that for any year later than 1970, 1=0, then one is able to prove any point one wishes. Doesn’t mean that “liberals” (whatever they may be) have to take such a proof seriously.

    Cranky

  13. sd, I’d draw a distinction that overlaps with the distinction that Brett draws between being born in a religion and converting to one. If Mormon doctrine is that gay people endanger their very souls by engaging in homosexual conduct and Reid happens to be a Mormon, I could still vote for him. But if Reid deeply believes that gay people endanger their very souls by engaging in homosexual conduct and seeks to reform them, then he would be a nut case and I’d have difficulty voting for him. But that wouldn’t be prejudice against Mormons; it would be wariness of nut cases.

  14. Cranky – the hypothetical is by no means absurd. Religious traditions accounting for the vast majority of the world’s population teach that homosexual conduct is immoral. Indeed, outside of some strains of Reform Judaism and a handful of relatively small Protestant sects, the doctrine that homosexual conduct is wrong is nearly universal among Western religions.

    Now, one is free to disagree. But one shouldn’t be shocked that in a society in which the overwhelming majority of people profess belief in one of the religious traditions that teach that homosexuality is immoral that many tens of millions of your countrymen believe that homosexuality is immoral. And its by no means absurd to think that there are plenty of people in public life who favor full legal rights for homosexuals but who nonetheless think that homosexual conduct is wrong. Indeed, it is a hallmark of modern society that lots of people think that behavior X is immoral but nonethelelss that behavior X shouldn’t be illegal and that people who engage in behavior X should have full rights under the law.

    To pick a recent hot button case, almost everyone with a functioning brain thinks that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church who protest at the funerals of fallen servicemen are doing something deeply evil. And yet many people (if not a majority then at least a very large minority) think that the Supreme Court was correct in holding that these folks have every legal right to carry on with what they are doing.

    Or, to pick a more common example – if we are to believe their public statements there are scores of prominent Democrats who believe that abortion is deeply wrong morally, but who do not believe that abortion should be banned or regulated with any greater scrutiny than other surgical procedures.

  15. Henry,

    So in other words, you could envision not voting for a candidate who you had no substantaitive disagreement with on matters of policy because you found elements of his theological worldview to be objectionable. The fact that you’d describe such a candidate as a “nutcase” while a Evangelical Christian doing the exact same thing would describe Mr. Romney or Mr. Huntsman as “heretics” is just window dressing. You’d each avoid voting for someone because they hold to doctrines you find objectionable despite there being no differences on matters of public policy. You prove my point.

    To chide conservative Evagelicals as “bigots” for refusing to vote for a Mormon who is otherwise a down-the-line Republican on matters of policy while stating that you’d not vote for a professing Mormon who was otherwise a down-the-line Democrat on matters of policy is hypocricy. And the distinction between being born a Mormon and converting later in life is nonsense. These are all big boys we’re talking about, who have been adults coming into contact with people of different faiths for decades. Lots of people choose to convert from one religion to another in adulthood, and lots of others choose to abandon religion altogether. To not do so is to implicitly endorse the faith you were raised in.

    And for full disclosure, I’m a Catholic. Thus I believe that the Mormon church teaches falsely on many many dimensions, and that Mormonism cannot be said to lie within the mainstream of Christian Nicene orthodoxy. But I’d vote for Romney or Huntsman in a heartbeat. Indeed, those two are by far my preferred candidates in the current field.

  16. > Cranky – the hypothetical is by no means absurd.

    Certainly it is absurd, since you are attempting to trolley-problem the entire population of Democrats, progressives, liberals, and “lefties” (whatever those categories might mean in today’s sociopolitical environment) with a scenario that cannot possibly occur.

    And as a “liberal” (with whatever freight you think attaches to that label) living in a conservative swing state I have to vote for politicians every year [1] who have deeply different religious beliefs from me and who often express 4-out-of-10 beliefs (or just policy prescriptions) I find deeply repugnant, as do all of my like-minded family and friends. So even your trolley problem setup fails the test of actual “liberal” voting patterns.

    Cranky

  17. Sorry; left out the footnote:

    [1] Yeah, we like us some ‘lections down he’uh.

    Cranky

  18. sd, you contend that adults who do not convert or abandon religion “implicitly endorse the faith [they] were raised in.” That depends what you mean by “implicitly endorse.” If you mean that they have not converted or abandon religion, then your contention is tautologically true. But there are plenty of people who were raised in a religion and who, as adults, are thoroughly secular and never attend church or synagogue, but who, if asked their religion (on a hospital admission form, for example), will say that they are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or whatever religion they were raised in. If they are honest with themselves, however, many of them would admit to being agnostics or atheists.

  19. Henry – What you say is true but irrelevant to the discussion. You contend that you would potentially be comfortable voting for a Mormon who was raised a Mormon, but not one who converted later in life. The only possible basis for this is the supposition that someone raised Mormon who otherwise supports policies you approve of can’t possibly “really” believe in the tenents of their own religion. So in other words, holding certain religious belief is a disqualifier for you, even if a candidate otherwise supports the same things you do. There is no functional difference between that and conservative Evangelicals deciding not to vote for Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman becvause of their religious beliefs.

    In your earlier post you wrote:

    “But if Reid deeply believes that gay people endanger their very souls by engaging in homosexual conduct and seeks to reform them, then he would be a nut case and I’d have difficulty voting for him. But that wouldn’t be prejudice against Mormons; it would be wariness of nut cases.”

    So in other words, holding to Mormon religious doctrine (which, presumably, the vast majority of the population in Utah, as well as most of Idaho and Nevada outside of the Las Vegas and Reno areas), makes one a “nutcase” who is unfot to hold public office. Mormonism per se teaches that homopsexual conduct is wrong and that homosexuals should stop having homosexual relations.

  20. Cranky wrote:

    Certainly it is absurd… with a scenario that cannot possibly occur.”

    What? There are scores of liberal politicians who say that they think abortion is wrong because of their personal religious beliefs but that nonetheless support relatively open abortion laws under the rationale that they do not want to allow their personal beliefs to influence a matter of public policy.

    So you’re suggesting its impossible for there to be a liberal politican who says that he thinks homosexuality is immoral due to his personal religious beliefs but that nonetheless supports non-discrimination laws and marriage rights for gay men and lesbians because he doesn;t want to allow his personal beliefs to influence a matter of public policy? “Cannot possibly occur?” Really?

    You’re saying that if you took every Democratic member of the House (to pick one body) who has a generally pro-gay voting record, that among the dozens of Roman Catholics you wouldn;t find one who thinks homosexuality is morally wrong. That among all of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom attend churches which hold to very traditional views of sexual morality, that you wouldn;t find one who thinks homosexuality is morally wrong? Not one among all of the Southern Baptists? Really? Really?

  21. sd, you quote me correctly as saying, “But if Reid deeply believes that gay people endanger their very souls by engaging in homosexual conduct and seeks to reform them, then he would be a nut case and I’d have difficulty voting for him.” Then you equate my words — “deeply believes” and “seeks to reform them” — with “hold[s] to Mormon religious doctrine,” which “teaches that homosexual conduct is wrong.” You ignore that there are no doubt people who hold to Mormon religious doctrine but who do not feel deeply in sync with its anti-gay bigotry, and there are no doubt even people who hold to Mormon religious doctrine DESPITE its anti-gay bigotry. I have no idea what percentage of Mormons feel deeply anti-gay, and, if you tell me that it’s most of them, I’ll believe you. But I still believe that to feel anti-gay at a deep level makes one a nutcase, and I still contend that not wanting to vote for nutcases is not religious bigotry, even if the people who are nutcases largely coincide with those of a particular religious group.

  22. > sd @4:53
    > Cranky wrote:

    Very deft snipping of key phrases in my sentence, sd. You are without doubt a master of eristic argumentation.

    Cranky

  23. Henry,

    You’re playing games here. You obviously don’t want to fess up to holding people’s religious beliefs against them, and so you’re trying to suggest that a religion’s doctrines and its teachings on moral matters are somehow different categories of things altogether. But that’s nonsense.

    The Mormon church teaches certain things about the nature of God and his interactions with humanity, one of which being that God guides the doctrine of the church on an ongoing basis through continuing revelation to a series of living “prophets,” essentially church elders. And the Mormon church has never waivered from condeming homosexual conduct, despite revisiting the issue numerous times over its history. So its very difficult to see how you can conclude that Mormon condemnation of homosexuality is somehow distinct from Mormon religious doctrine.

    Evangelical Christians (heck – all Christians in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant traditions who have done their homework) believe that Mormonism teaches certain doctrines that are false. Mormonism simply has a different view than does Nicene Christianity on almost every core doctrinal topic – the nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the nature of Jesus Christ’s Church, the content of God’s revelation to humanity, etc. As a result, it is likely that many Evangelical Christians would refuse to vote for a Mormon for the Presidency.

    Secular liberals (and I’m generalizing here, but this almost certainly applies to at least 80% thereof) believe that Mormonism teaches certain doctrines that are false. Mormonism simply has a different view than does secular liberalism on a variety of issues of ethics and morality, including the morality of homosexual conduct. As a result, it is likely that many secular liberals would refuse to vote for a Mormon for the Presidency.

    Now, one can legitimately hold that both the Evangelical Christian and the secular liberal are being perfectly reasonable here. Ideas have consequences after all, and to willingly adhere to falsehoods is perhaps an indicator of flawed character. Or one can legitimately hold that both the Evangelical Christian and the secular liberal are being unreasonable (i.e. bigoted) here. We should judge people based on their actions, not their worldview after all, especially a worldview so closely tied up in one’s childhood, ethnic origin, etc.

    But what you can’t do, without being a hypocrite, is to condemn Evangelical Christians as bigots for refusing to vote for a Mormon who they otherwise agree with on all substantive matters of policy because his (sincerely held) religion teaches doctrines about the nature of Jesus Christ they find theologically objectionable while simultaneously refusing to vote for a Mormon who you otherwise agree with on all substantive matters of policy because his (sincerely held) religion teaches doctrines about the morality of homosexuality that you find theologically objectionable.

    You seem to be suggesting that you’d have no problem voting for a Mormon so long as he didn’t believe what Mormonism teaches about the nature of homosexual acts. Which is to say, you would have no problem voting for a functional non-Mormon. Because what you’re suggesting is that a clear and unambiguous teaching of the Mormon church (a church which, remember, claims that it receives ongoing guidance on doctrine directly from God) is not simply wrong but evidence of “nutcase” tendencies. The fact that, under this view of things, the vast majority of people alive in the world today and the overwhelming majority of people who have lived since the dawn of civilization are “nutcases” is neither here nor there. You do what you do.

    If Mitt Romney came out tomorrow and said “I’m a proud and practicing Mormon but I just want to state for the record that I do not believe that the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God, I do not believe that God speaks to the prophets of the Mormon church and I hold to the teachings of the historic Christian faith, as articulated in the Nicene Creed,” then I’m sure there would be hardly any Evangelical Christians who would have any problem voting for him at all. But any reasonable observer would say that while Mitt Romney claims to be a Mormon, he has ceased to be a Mormon.

    P.S. Harry Reid, FWIW, is indeed a convert to Mormonism.

  24. sd and Henry: I think there’s one honest reason for either a liberal or a conservative to take a candidate’s religion more seriously than their platform, even if the voter has no wish to impose their own religion on others via the ballot box. That’s simply that they might consider political platforms to be much more opportunistic and changeable than religious beliefs.

    For instance, I’m not gay, but it would really spoil my decade in many ways to have an anti-gay government. So I’m going to be much more defensive in my dealings with a political candidate than with J Random Straitlove. Do candidates very often turn on a dime about their basic religious positions once they get into office? No: those say something about them, even if only something the candidate would rather we didn’t hear, like ‘canting hypocrite’. Do successful candidates very often swivel their policy ‘convictions’ at the hint of a poll or a prize or a party whip? Ooh, let me think about that a moment!

    I vote for a politically liberal Mormon, or Muslim, or Catholic or Evangelical Christian, etc., when they give me reason to believe that they’re as religiously committed to civic equality, or stern separation of force from faith, or some other decent principle, as they are to other beliefs of theirs I like less. If conversely their record suggests they’re as committed to secular mutual respect as they are to Cutting Out Waste in Government, Justice for All, and Jam Tomorrow – not so much, then.

    It’s all in what people convince me they’re serious about, and what they’re winking at other people over my head about.

  25. sd, the only place in your most recent comment where you address my position is when you write, “You seem to be suggesting that you’d have no problem voting for a Mormon so long as he didn’t believe what Mormonism teaches about the nature of homosexual acts. Which is to say, you would have no problem voting for a functional non-Mormon.” Thus, you feel entitled to tell a person who regularly attends a Mormon church and considers himself a Mormon that he is a functional non-Mormon if he disapproves of the Mormon church’s anti-gay bigotry. You said in an earlier comment that you’re a Catholic. Thus, no matter how devoted a Catholic you may consider yourself to be, I am entitled to tell you that you’re a functional non-Catholic if you disagree with any Catholic doctrine, such as the evil of contraception.

  26. sd, you also choose to ignore the distinction that I have made repeatedly between merely being a Mormon and believing deeply that gays will go to hell. If a Mormon were otherwise the most liberal candidate, then I might vote for him even if he didn’t repudiate the Mormon’s anti-gay bigotry, so long as I believed that he didn’t take it seriously.

  27. To foreclose being accused of anti-gay bigotry myself for my preceding comment, I’ll note that, during the 2008 campaign, Obama revealed himself as an anti-gay bigot in his opposition to gay marriage, and his bigotry might have stemmed from his religious views (or it might have been political). Yet I and most other liberals voted for him with enthusiasm. I would never vote for him again now that he has institutionalized Bush’s torture regime, but that’s another matter.

  28. It always seems to me that there is a vast difference between believing that certain behaviors are a pathway to perdition for the sinner, and believing that the behavior should be against the law, or grounds for ostracism. I have a hard time understanding why religious people, who seem to hold that each person’s salvation is between her and God, so strenuously seem to simultaneously wish to legislate against behavior they consider evil. If it’s my soul that’s in jeopardy, and my soul alone that I can choose to either save…or not…no law is going to change that outcome. And why would anyone care, unless I’m committing crimes which victimize others?

    So if I were convinced that a person of any religion had a solid conviction that his soul is his business, and mine is mine, I’d vote for him if his political views were agreeable. What I can’t do is vote for anyone who seems to feel that her brand of “morality” is something that should be legislated and imposed on everyone, and that somehow doing so improves society.

  29. Henry,

    You’re repeatedly asserting that you’d have no problem voting for a Mormon, but that anyone who believes homosexual conduct is morally wrong is a nutcase and a bigot. Mormonism officially teaches that homosexual conduct is morally wrong. People who engage in homosexual conduct are, for example, subject to excommunication from the Mormon church. Indeed, according to Mormon doctrine one is unable to attain the fulness of the afterlife unless one enters into a heterosexual marriage. Compared to other religious groups, the Mormon church has a relatively strong view of its own theological authority (i.e. it teaches that its own teaching is authoritative and binding, as opposed to many mainline Protestant groups which do not assert binding authority on the consciences of their members). And the vast majority of Mormons agree with their church’s teaching on the morality of homosexuality.

    So you are free I suppose to construct some fantasy Mormon in your head who publically professes Mormon faith, attends Mormon religious services regularly and in good standing, but who nonetheless rejects Mormon teaching on matters of sexual ethics. I’m sure many such people exist. But they are a minority in their own religious community and by the standards of self-understanding of that community put their own membership in it at risk (The Mormon church expels heretics after all).

    You may object to my assertion that such people are functional non-Mormons. OK fine, maybe that’s rhetorically too strong. But the fact remains, by your own articulation, you are unwilling to vote for someone who professes to believe what the Mormon church teaches on the issue and what the vast majority of Mormons actually believe. Which is to say, the only way a Mormon could get your vote was to believe things contrary to the Mormon faith and in opposition to his co-religonists.

    How in the world that’s different from an Evangelical stating that he wouldn’t vote for a Mormon is beyond me. You don’t get to beg out of the comparison by asserting that you don’t have anything against Mormonism but that you oppose “nutcases” and “bigots” which are defined here as people who hold opinions in line with the Mormon faith. That’s a word game. If an Evangelical said that he’d have no problem voting for a Mormon but would reject any candidate who was enough of a “nutcase” to believe that the Book or Mormon is a divinely inspired text or who was enough of a “bigot” to believe that the religious rituals or the Mormon church are uniquely efficaceous in saving souls, then any rational observer would say in reply that “of course you have a problem voting for Mormons.”

    But to take this discussion back to its origin point – the idea that the Republican party is somehow inhospitable to Mormons because of the deep religious biogtry of its members but that the Democratic party is Mormon central USA is laughable.

  30. Henry, to sd: “…I am entitled to tell you that you’re a functional non-Catholic if you disagree with any Catholic doctrine, such as the evil of contraception.”

    Or war.

  31. Of course the mormons are christians. The average Christian believer does not give a shit about the Nicene Creed. It is only dragged out when someone wants to argue that some group isn’t Christian.

    The mormons believe in the resurrection story, and indeed the nails on the cross are part of their temple endowment ceremony. Therefore, they are Christians. Just dissident ones.

  32. “Brett Bellmore says:
    March 12, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Heck, I’m an atheist, and I’d have to say, based on my knowledge of Christian and Mormon theology, that everybody else who calls themselves “Christians” actually have a point in claiming that Mormons aren’t. Or to put it another way, Mormons have about as much claim to being Christians, as Christians have to being Jews…”

    Brett is right. Mormonism and Islam have this in common: they are both off shoots of Christianity with similar revelation stories. (Mohammed had the Koran revealed to him by the angel Gabriel, and an angel directed Joseph Smith to the buried Book of Mormon.) While Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not call themselves Christians.

  33. John Q:

    I’d say that the situation of Mormnonism is slightly more complicated. Yes, Muslims don’t call themselves Christians, but Mormons do call themselves Christians. The Mormons are clearly outside the bounds of Nicene orthodoxy, and that matters. But the question of whether Mormons are Christians is a matter of where you draw the boundry line, which is a bit of a judgment call. Relatively modern groups like the Jehova’s Witnesses also claim to be Christian, but stand outside of Nicene orthodoxy. As do relatively ancient groups like the Copts and Nestorians.

    Contra Dilan (above) I’d probably come down on the side of saying that Mormons aren’t Christians in a meaningful sense. Yes, they acknowledge the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus. But they also claim that the Book or Mormon is inspired by God and they deny the doctrine of the Trinity. These are big differences from “mainstream” Christianity with a host of implications for religious worldview of adherents. I’d probably make the same call on the Jehova’s Witnesses. I’d likely give the Copts and Nestorians the ebenfit of the doubt, though as a Catholic, I obviously think that they’re wrong on the things that divide them from the Nicene tradition.

    But again, its a judgment call about where you draw the boundries.

  34. Mormons are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and consider themselves Christians. Not Protestant Christians or Evangelical Christians, just Christians. There are many who’d like to claim Catholics aren’t really Christian either, but telling someone who considers themselves Christian that they’re not is wrong.

  35. sd: “I’d probably come down on the side of saying that Mormons aren’t Christians in a meaningful sense. I’d likely give the Copts and Nestorians the ebenfit of the doubt.”

    The analytical contortion that could lead you to conclude Mormons are not Christians while Copts and Nestorians are is…well…it’s mind boggling. I don’t mean that in a pejoritive sense. Just please have a few more friendly conversations with some regular Mormons about their personal feelings and understanding about Jesus Christ and the Bible and I think you’ll find they are Christian enough.

    I am a Mormon and recently had an hour long conversation on faith, hope, and charity with a southern evangelical after a work conversation detoured into religion. I never disclosed my Mormon faith, but he walked away fully convinced that I am his brother in Christ…and I am. I’m sure if the conversation had centered around Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, or the LDS concept of Heaven he would have wigged out. But I tend to do the same thing when I hear Catholics talk about the Virgin or Transubstantiation. I also get icky shivers when Evangelicals talk about damnation, predestination, or the inconsequence of sin once one has been “saved”. But I would never deny their claim of being Christian.

  36. This is weird. I am a “Mormon”, I believe in Jesus, and I believe in social justice and in not discriminating against gay people. I am a Christian. Its my relationship with God that defines that, not someone else’s judgement.

    Has anyone in this thread actually bothered to look at the LDS Church website?

    From mormon.org

    “While our backgrounds and experiences are diverse, Mormons are united by a commitment to Jesus Christ. This site features Mormons sharing their stories and telling what their faith means to them.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the official name of the religion commonly called the Mormon Church. Mormons believe first and foremost that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God.”

  37. Thanks, Dave F for a pretty succinct summary of what I feel, too. I get pretty icky around the issues that Reformed (Evangelical) Christianity raises. I had a cordial discussion with a Protestant minister once, which changed abruptly when I started bringing up the five points (TULIP) of Calvinism, which I knew his church subscribed to. He wanted to move me, and my discussion (which was not hostile, but probing) away from other congregants as soon as possible…

    The idea that the Nicene Creed, or any other post-Biblical document, truly defines or represents Christianity is one that many honest, Bible-believing Christians would have problems with. Many sincere Christians of my acquaintance believe that the authority begins and ends with the Bible itself – other creeds and articles of faith are merely man’s appendages to it. One such friend, with theological training, described the Nicene Creed as “a nice summation”, but noted that it didn’t define his faith. Only the Bible could do that.

    There’s a fair bit of “our club – our rules” mentality when some Christians try to define who is – and isn’t – within the “club” of Christianity. Just don’t get the fringier members of them started on whether (from an Evangelical perspective) Catholics are “really” Christians. Or some lingering Catholic thinkers who still maintain (privately or not) that Protestants are “outside the Body of Christ” by their rejection of the Mother Church. Then stand back and watch them tear each other apart. It’s then you realise that drawing a line in the sand that says, in effect “Evangelicals in, Catholics (barely) in, Mormons OUT!” is really pretty arbitrary.

    Now the Council of Nicea was in what, 325 AD? So for around 292 years (give or take) after the Resurrection, Christians were stumbling around in the dark, without the illuminating guidance of the Nicene bishops and their endless committees and their compromise communiqué. Poor benighted souls, who may have imagined themselves Christians, but were bereft of the creed that would define them as such! Of course, if we call the Nicene Creed the “mission statement” of Christianity (I’ll pause to let you calm your stomachs)… then maybe we can employ similarly slick language to claim that the primitive Christians could be “grandparented in” to the Christian communion.

    Of course, it helps if you throw a big holy blanket over the whole of Nicea (and all the subsequent councils, to sort out the bits of doctrine that they couldn’t agree on the first time round), and claim that it was “inspired” – much better than lifting up the corners and noticing underneath that the whole pullullating confab was in reality a political bunfight, kind of like a party convention, where the various factions worked the delegates, played the numbers and tried to shout down their opponents. The only way they were able to come to any agreement at all (and expel a few inconvenient “heretics” along the way) was for Constantine to point a metaphorical gun at their heads and let the bishops know that if they couldn’t come to some sort of agreement, then he would have to do it for them.

    So by all means, sign your name to THAT whole mess as the ultimate expression of Christianity, the last word if you will – I won’t stop you.

  38. It is quite disturbing in that a, Romney has serious economic ability and knowledge in both private and public sector economics and that Huntsman has significant ability in understanding our largest trading partner and speaks Chinese….but will be discarded on 19th century prejudice…and yes I am Mormon too

  39. Sd:

    I’d say the vast majority of protestants, who nobody denies are Christians, either don’t agree with the Nicene formulation of the trinity or have no opinion whatsoever about it.

    The resurrection is a hell of a lot more important to believers than trinitarianism.

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