Mormonism

Mitt Romney on the Cusp of Making Major Mormon History

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appears at a town hall meeting on June 4, 201
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appears at a town hall meeting on June 4, 2010 in Mesa, Arizona. Via Shutterstock

WASHINGTON --  With Rick Santorum’s exit from the White House race, Mitt Romney stands on the cusp of history as the first Mormon to appear at the top of a major party ticket in a general presidential election. Romney, a Brigham Young University-educated, Mormon-family scion and beloved Utah figure, is now the inevitable Republican nominee and will take on President  Obama this fall.

The news is sure to bring a surge of excitement unseen in Utah since Romney led the triumphant 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and helped usher the state — and the Mormon Church — onto the world stage.

“Romney has family here, he’s lived here, he’s worked here, he went to school here,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has campaigned this year with the former Massachusetts governor. “It feels like he’s one of us.”

Mormons, GOP Didn’t Always Get Along So Well

LDS Temple, Salt Lake City. Photo by Joe Y Jiang/Shutterstock.com
LDS Temple, Salt Lake City. Photo by Joe Y Jiang/Shutterstock.com

WASHINGTON — The founders of the Republican Party saw Mormons as their enemies. And the first Mormon leaders didn't have much nice to say about the GOP, either.

You would never know it now — one recent poll showed three-quarters of Mormon faithful lean toward the GOP — but the two groups had an acrimonious start, fueled largely by the early Mormon practice of polygamy.

As Mitt Romney presses his bid for the Republican nomination for president, many Americans don't realize how his Mormon faith played an important role as foil in the early days of the GOP — and how its first candidates catapulted to power in part by whipping up anti-Mormon sentiments.

The Top Six Mistakes Reporters Make About Mormons

I spent the weekend in New York at a conference I co-organized on Mormonism and American politics. We had two days of stimulating papers and presentations, an overview of which you can read here. One of my favorite talks was by veteran religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack, who has been covering Mormonism (and every other faith) for years for the Salt Lake Tribune and had some advice for journalists who suddenly find themselves trying to understand Mormonism this year during the Romney campaign.

Peggy’s basic thesis was that many reporters cover Mormonism using a basic paradigm taken from covering Protestantism, and fail to appreciate important differences. Find out what Peggy's the top six mistakes journalists make are inside the blog...

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 25, 2012

Obama Speech: State Of The Union Address Carries Emphatic Populist Challenge; What Do Latino Evangelical Voters Want? (OPINION by Gabriel Salguero); Evangelist: True Christians Don’t Demonize Mormons, Obama; Daniels Slams Obama's 'Pro-Poverty' Policy; Does Mitt Romney And Newt Gingrich's Rise Signal The End Of Evangelical Influence In 2012?; Time For The Peace Vote?; Best Actor Nominee Dedicates His Oscar Nod To Undocumented Immigrants; Christine Lagarde Sounds The Alarm On Europe; Davos Elite: Capitalism Has Widened Income; Gap Alabama's Immigration Law Dividing Religious Community.

When Faith is Attacked

Religious prejudice has become a major campaign issue during the Republican primaries this fall. Not surprisingly, it’s the “M” word. Surprisingly, the M word in question is not “Muslim.” While Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain have both made remarks about the alleged dangers of sharia law in American courts, the M word making the most waves is “Mormon.” The issue is this: Will a key Republican voting bloc—conservative evangelical Christians—refuse to support the likely front-runner, Mitt Romney, a Mormon?

The biggest wave thus far was caused by Robert Jeffress, who introduced presidential hopeful Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in October and then made the rounds of reporters declaring Mitt Romney’s religion a “cult” and saying “born-again followers of Christ should always prefer [a] competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.”

Watching the news coverage of this incident, I’ve been struck by two things. One, for the most part, the tone that the media appears to be taking regarding an issue of blatant religious prejudice is what I would call “descriptive/inquisitive.”

Cable news anchors ask questions such as, “Do you think Romney’s religion is going to cost him the election?” Replace the term “religion” with “economic plan,” and the tone would be the same. Now imagine if we replace Romney’s “religion” with Romney’s “race” or “gender.” The tone changes—it goes from descriptive/inquisitive to offended and outraged—and it should. That’s because our society has, again for the most part, recognized that counting someone’s race against her in a political election is an act of prejudice, and it’s bad. So why is counting someone’s religion against him any less an act of prejudice? Why has our media become enlightened enough to call out racism or sexism in political races, but when it comes to religious prejudice, the tone is, “Gee, look at that. Wonder how that faith is going to play?”

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Woops! Gingrich Iowa Political Director Resigns After Calling Mormonism a "Cult"

The angel Moroni from atop the Los Angeles Mormon temple. Via http://bit.ly/tGZZ
The angel Moroni from atop the Los Angeles Mormon temple. Via Wylio http://bit.ly/tGZZwk

Newt Gingrich’s Iowa political director resigned yesterday after less than a week on the job for disparaging comments he made about the Mormon faith, referring to the religion as a “cult.”

The Gingrich campaign released a written statement last night about Bergman’s resignation.

“Craig Bergman agreed to step away from his role with Newt 2012 today,” the statement said. “He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012’s pledge to run a positive and solutions orientated campaign.”

News: Quick Links

Romney's Mormonism To Be A Bigger Issue In The General Election, Say Evangelicals (includes comments from Jim Wallis; Oakland Braces For A 'General Strike'; Military Blew $1 Trillion On Weapons Since 9/11; American Voters Like Obama Better This Week, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Cain And Gingrich Up As Romney Stalls And Perry Fades; Obama: I'll Make The Call On Keystone XL Project; Democrats Embrace Populism; Huntsman Takes On Big Oil

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