By Joe May
Religious issues often pop up in presidential politics, but not since the days of John F. Kennedy has a presidential candidate been denounced on the basis of his religious views. Putting Barack Obama, a man whom we feel has zero religious convictions, aside, no candidate in the past 50 years has been called to account for his church membership.
That is until now. Mitt Romney, a prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known to most as the “Mormonism,” is being forced to defend his membership in the LDS church.
While there have been many whispers about Romney’s church affiliation, until Friday, no one had openly questioned his fitness for office based on his religious views. On Friday, while endorsing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, Baptist preacher Robert Jeffress, who oversees a Dallas megachurch, denounced the former Massatauchets governor as a cultist, noting, however, that the governor is a “good moral person.”
And the preacher from Dallas is not the only mainstream figure to take a shot at Romney’s faith this weekend. At the annual “Values Voter Summit,” sponsored by the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer, an APA director and columnist followed the presumed GOP frontrunner to the podium and told attendees that the next president should be an “authentic” Christian. Southern Baptists and other denominations do not recognize the LDS church as a legitimate religion, listing it among others as being a cult.
For his part, Romney denounced the statements as “poisonous rhetoric.”
Naturally such comments made in the public forum call for consideration. Should a candidate’s religious views be an issue?
Our answer would be an emphatic yes. In an age that directly parallels the period that followed the American Revolution, in which many Americans identified themselves as being non-religious, the basic views of any candidate should be considered as fair game in the race for the nation’s chief executive.
It is from Christianity that most of our basic laws are derived. It is from Christianity that our standards of honesty and morality are garnered. Without a professed belief in a religious system, on what standard can a person be judged? Outside the realm of religion, honesty and morality are but subjective issues. Only through assessing an individual’s stated faith and comparing it to his actions and statements can one form an understanding of a man’s basic character.
To this end, many states still have laws on the books that ban an atheist from holding office or testifying in court. Why? Because there is no standard by which their character can be measured.
Many atheists and agnostics protest this idea, saying that they are good and moral people. Perhaps that is true, but how can such be measured if there exists no particular foundation on which to base morality? Being good simply for goodness sake just isn’t a formula that can be analyzed because there are no standards for which to determine the definition of “good.”
So by all means a candidate’s religion should be a factor for consideration in any race.
Now, for the truly controversial question: Should membership in the LDS church be a reason for skeptism of a candidate’s fitness for office?
Before we answer that question, it should be noted that many social conservatives question Romney’s qualifications based on his past record in Massatuchets. As governor of that state, Romney championed homosexual rights to the extent that his state became the first to permit strange-sex “marriage.” He also took a pro-choice stance regarding abortion. And then there is Romneycare…
Despite his track record, the former governor would have us believe that he is now a true social conservative. It is for this reason that many on the right are questioning not only his conservative credentials, but also his religion. They do so because his flip-flop begs the question..
At least here in the South it is considered only natural to take a person’s religion into consideration, especially if the individual has given us reason to question his basic moral core. And Romney’s statements that differ from his actions in office make his religious convictions, and by association, his religion itself, fair game for scrutiny.
Should it be that Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee, we will cast our vote for him, simply because this nation cannot take four more years of veiled socialism and social experimentation by a leader that would just as soon lie to his constituents as look at them. But we must register our skepticism when it comes to Gov. Romney’s religion.
We have known many fine and upstanding citizens who have their membership in the LDS church. Many of our high school friends were of the so-called Mormon religion and we respected their beliefs and took note of their high moral standards. It is not the people we reject as much as it is their beliefs, which most Christians would find to be far-fetched at best. That someone can buy into such notions causes us to question their gullibility.
We realize that last statement may bring an outcry not only from folks on both sides of the aisle, but from those of other faiths far-removed from the LDS church. It is considered anathema to question the authenticity of a particular religious outfit in today’s world, but when looks at the history of the Mormon religion, it is only fair to call it into question..
Before we tread any further, though, we should note that we reject Jeffress’ statements that Mormonism is a cult. We do not feel that the LDS church, one of the fastest-growing religious groups in the world today, meets the basic definition of a cult. That it is vastly different from any so-called Christian church is obvious, but to demonize it as a cult would not be accurate in our view.
So what is the LDS church if it is not a cult or a valid Christian belief system? It is simply a cobbled-together hodgepodge of Christianity and Freemasonry created from the mind of ne’er-do-well Joseph Smith. It is a man-made religion whose elements at times boggle the imagination.
Lest anyone protest that we are terribly out of line, we will present some truths regarding the LDS church and its founder to assist in proving our case.
In the early 1820s there arose a treasure hunter by the name of Joseph Smith. Raised in a family that claimed to see religious visions at times, but was nonetheless divided on their subjective beliefs, Smith was one of many New Englanders who used what was known as “seer stones” to find buried treasure, or more appropriately, get gullible neighbors to pay him to seek treasure that would never be found. Over the years, he would be arrested many times for bilking people out of money in various locales.
At some point, Smith claimed to have used his seer stones—along with the help of an angel named Moroni to find what he claimed were golden plates that contained the history of a race of ancient Hebrews in the Americas. Again using his seer stones placed in a stovepipe hat, he claimed to translate the alleged plates that only a handful of witnesses were allowed to view. When the work was finished, he stated the plates were taken back up to Heaven by the angel.
Oddly enough, in her book, “The History of Joseph Smith,” Smith’s own mother, Lucy, recounted that as a boy her son used to tell amazing tales of ancient American inhabitants and civilizations and describe their lives in great detail. These tales were reproduced in her son’s book, which he styled as a revelation from Jesus Christ Himself. Just how the angel could have dictated the same stories, which Smith used to tell as tales of fancy, have never been answered by those who adhere to the LDS doctrine.
The resulting work was termed the Book of Mormon and as Smith met more individuals interested in his work, he was able to get it published. When he came across Disciples of Christ minister Sidney Rigdon in Kirtland, Ohio, he managed to convert over a hundred members including Rigdon himself, thereby doubling his followers. Over the years, he formulated various doctrines, including polygamy after he was caught in an affair with his house girl, Fanny Alger, that did not set well with the locals. After he began what was termed a “wildcat bank” and urged his followers to invest in the scheme, which failed within a month, a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of banking fraud. He and Rigdon fled Ohio in the night in January 1838 and settled in Missouri, founding a town known as “Far West,” which he proclaimed to be the Mormon Zion.
Over the years, as Smith increased his group of followers, which he began calling “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” he began to design various unique doctrines and so-called temple ceremonies, many of which have been found to be remarkably similar to those of the Freemasons. For instance, Masons have a secret handshake by which members are able to recognize each other. Smith, himself a Mason, told his followers that they must learn the handshake and be prepared to give it to “sentinel angels” in order to gain admission to the highest kingdom of Heaven.
Most are familiar with the Masonic emblem of the square and compass. At some point, Smith decreed that all male members (known as “priests”) most wear a full-body priestly undergarment—a rule that is still recognized today with devout LDS members sometimes taking pains to let their garments be seen through their clothing as an outward symbol to fellow Mormons of their sincerity. These garments are considered holy, for they render a man unable to commit adultery. Emblazed with the Masonic emblems, they cannot touch the floor and once they wear out, they cannot be thrown out until the emblems are cut off and burned.
Smith also taught the Jesus and Satan were brothers, the sons of Jehovah, a man who had become god of his own planet, Earth. He told his followers that they, too, would be given planets of their own in the afterlife and that their eternal days would be spent mating with various wives to populate the new world. In addition, Smith taught that there had been a war in Heaven among the angels and those angels that had sinned were turned black, which is how he explained the existence of the African race. Until 1978, black men were not allowed to be Mormon priests. In a time in which Perry’s presidential campaign has been beset with allegations of racial wrongdoing for his having frequented a hunting camp once known as “Niggerhead,” perhaps Romney should be asked about his membership in a church that forbad black membership during his lifetime.
The LDS operate the premier libraries for genealogy research. Their reason for doing so is rooted in Smith’s teaching that one can be saved after death if someone would just be baptized for them. It is the goal of LDS members to see to it that everyone who ever lived is to be brought into heaven via this proxy baptism for the dead. Some years back, they raised the ire of Jewish leaders when it was revealed that they were baptizing people for the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
In addition, Smith claimed that the Native Americans were in actuality members of an ancient band of Hebrews who had migrated to the Americas as told in his Book of Mormon. Modern DNA evidence has since discredited this idea, showing that there is no relationship between these early Americans and Jews. However, this has not stopped the LDS from continuing to spout this teaching, even at times asserting that their views are backed up by the Smithsonian Institute, which they have claimed at various times uses the Book of Mormon for archeological purposes.
Due to the LDS claims, the Smithsonian Institute has over the years been forced to send out a form letter denying that they use the Book of Mormon for anything related to science or archeology. In fact, the letter refutes BOM claims that iron and steel as well as other items were in use in the ancient Americas.
In short, science and history has thoroughly shown the Book of Mormon to be a complete fabrication by a failed con man who at the peak of his religious leadership had as many as 28 wives, although some accounts say he was married to as many as 74 women and teenage girls.
Smith died in a Carthage, IL jail after a mob stormed the jail and shot him and a follower. Smith had been jailed after being indicted by a grand jury on charges that he was practicing polygamy, a charge that the so-called prophet denied, testifying that he had only one wife and had never taught the doctrine of plural marriage. His first wife, Emma and his son, however, would later state that he had as many as 27 wives. In fact, Emma went on to be the 24th wife of noted LDS pioneer Bingham Young.
At the time of his death, Smith was also being charged with treason against the state for raising a militia to fight against the Illinois state militia and for inciting a riot. He had also been suspected of having a part in the 1842 assassination of the Missouri governor, a crime for which one of his bodyguards was later tried and acquitted, despite evidence to the contrary. Smith, it seems, had earlier predicted the official’s assassination.
At the time of his death, Smith was also a presidential candidate, running as “General Joseph Smith,” the title of general coming from his own personal militia.
There are many other examples we could cite to show that the LDS church is far removed from any Christian mainstream. We would encourage those genuinely interested to conduct an Internet search of their own, as Mormons tend to have a great deal of presence on the web.
The fact that a major presidential candidate can buy into such a system of religion does call for others to question his gullibility and therefore his leadership ability. When something has been consistently proven to be false, blind faith becomes not a remarkable trait, but rather causes others to question the entire foundation of the person and therefore his ability to become the leader of the free world.