Evangelical Author Sees 'Mormonizing' of America

Stephen Mansfield, an evangelical author who has written widely about the faith of politicians, turns his attention to Mormons in his latest book, The Mormonizing of America.

He talked with Religion News Service about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — has progressed from persecution to prominence.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’ve written “The Faith of George W. Bush” and The Faith of Barack Obama. Why did you write “The Mormonizing of America” instead of “The Faith of Mitt Romney”?

A: I thought that the story of Bush at the time was bigger than the story of evangelicals and the religious right at that time. I thought the story of Obama personally was bigger then the story of the religious left that he was sort of the champion of. But in this case I think that the story of the Mormon moment or this Mormon ascent is a bigger story than Mitt Romney. There’s something broader going on and he’s not so much the champion of the movement, maybe just at the vanguard of it....

Mormons and Patriotism

RNS photo by Sally Morrow

American flag hanging from a Kansas City, Mo., Mormon temple. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

As Americans celebrate the nation’s founding, some Mormons may outdo their neighbors in fireworks, fanfare, and frenzy to express their outsized patriotism.

Love of America, they believe, stretches beyond appreciation and gratitude. It is theological, prescribed in holy writ.

When it comes to American exceptionalism, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently said, “Mormons sort of have an extra chromosome.”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly lauds the crucial role this country has to play in human history.

Evangelicals Stay Mum on Mitt Romney’s Mormonism

RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a rally in Tempe, Arizona on April 20. RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

When Romney delivered his “Faith in America” speech in 2007, the Southern Baptist response was to label Mormonism a “theological cult” and “false religion.”

What's surprising in 2012 is the relative lack of anxiety on the other side, among evangelicals who for years considered Mormonism a "cult" that was to be feared, not embraced.

In fact, the relative ambivalence among prominent evangelicals about this new "Mormon moment" -- and the fact that Romney's campaign could mainstream Mormonism right into the Oval Office – could radically shift the dynamics on America's political and religious landscape.

Idaho Bans ‘Five Wives’ Vodka Over Risque Label

RNS photo courtesy Ogden's Own Distillery

RNS photo courtesy Ogden's Own Distillery

 Idaho regulators have decided not to carry Five Wives Vodka because of its label, while Utah booze cops have deemed the bottle’s depiction of 19th-century women in petticoats holding kittens near their lady parts as acceptable.

Although some may see the label as a spoof on Utah’s polygamy past, the inspiration actually came from a wagon traveling from Missouri several years before the arrival of Mormon pioneers, Ogden’s Own Distillery owner Tim Smith said.

The 1841 Bartleson–Bidwell caravan included 66 men and five women —hence the label Five Wives Vodka.

With Nomination Clinched, Focus Turns to Romney’s Mormon Faith

RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney speaking to supporters at a rally in Tempe, Arizona on April 20, 2012. RNS photo by Gage Skidmore/courtesy Flickr

Mitt Romney clinched the GOP presidential nomination on May 28, becoming the first Mormon selected by a major political party. But will his barrier-breaking faith be a boon or bane to his White House campaign?

The answer to that question could presage the next president, and two studies published in May come to contradictory conclusions.

In both studies people were given information about Romney and his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for him.

Romney Learns How to Talk to Evangelicals

Mitt Romney speaking in Detroit, Feb. 2012. Photo via Wylio

It's no wonder that Mitt Romney won plaudits from evangelical bigwigs for his commencement speech at Liberty University on Saturday. It showed he's learned how to talk to them--or at least, learned to listen to the people who know how he's supposed to talk to them.

When he was running for president last time, Romney told the bigs that he was pretty much like them in considering Jesus his Lord and Savior. But if there's anything evangelicals don't like, it's Mormons claiming to be Christians like them. Then he gave a speech declaring that, like a presidential candidate half a century earlier, he did not "define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."  But evangelicals (these days) don't much believe in Kennedyesque separation of faith and public office.

Evangelical Leader Says Engaging Mormonism is a Christian Mandate

RNS photo courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Mouw argues that understanding Mormonism is a Christian mandate. RNS photo courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

Richard Mouw never intended to start a riot within the evangelical community by saying his fellow believers had "sinned against Mormonism." But that’s exactly what happened.

Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., had been meeting regularly with Latter-day Saint scholars before he gave a seven-minute introduction of Ravi Zacharias, an evangelical speaker who addressed a packed audience in the Mormon Tabernacle in November 2004.

"We’ve often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of members of the LDS faith," Mouw said that night. "It’s a terrible thing to bear false witness."

Study Shows Mormonism is Fastest-Growing Faith in Half of U.S. States

Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Michael Patrick and Eduardo Martins observe Temple Square from observation deck in Salt Lake City, Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Mitt Romney may or may not become the first Mormon to move into the White House next year, but a new study shows that Mormonism is moving into more parts of the country than any other religious group, making it the fastest-growing faith in more than half of U.S. states.

The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, released here Tuesday (May 1), shows that the mainline Protestants and Catholics who dominated the 20th century are literally losing ground to the rapid rise of Mormons and, increasingly, Muslims.

Utah Storehouse at Top of Mormon Food Chain

Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

Warehouse image J.A.Astor/ Shutterstock.

SALT LAKE CITY — At the new Utah Bishops' Central Storehouse, pallets loaded with food wait to be ferried to locales near and far, their destinations handwritten in black marker on plastic wrap covers: Lindon, Ely, Mesa, San Diego, St. George.

Storehouse manager Richard Humpherys stops a golf cart next to one steel storage rack, slits open a cardboard box with a pocket knife and pulls out a can of peaches made with fruit grown at a Mormon church-owned orchard and processed at its cannery in Lindon, Utah. The can's label is stamped "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" and "Welfare Services, Salt Lake City, Utah."