Monday, June 18, 2012

The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney: A Review

Four years ago two presidential candidates had religion problems. One of them, then Senator Barack Obama, "overcame" his "preacher problems" and was elected the forty-fourth President of the United States. The other, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, never made it out of the primaries.* Now, those same two politicians are clashing for the same office as the nominees of their respective parties. The question today remains the same as then. Will Romney's faith be a hindrance to him as he seeks the nation's highest office. The answer will be determined over the next few months.

But what is the faith of Mitt Romney? How deeply committed is he to the Ladder-Day faith movement? Is he, like so many Christians today, a marginal member or someone who is deeply committed to his faith? In his helpful book The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney: What Latter-day Saints Teach and Practice, Dr. Andrew Jackson lays out both the Mormon heritage and faith and Mitt Romney's Ladder-Day heritage and faith. To understand one, in many ways, is to understand the other.

The book has this dual purpose. It is not a typical "The Faith of . . ." product, but instead surveys for the reader the origin and story of Joseph Smith, Mormonism, their theology and worldview, and where the Romney's come into play.

This means that if you were to take out the Romney connection, this would remain a helpful book. For those who do not understand the Mormon faith, this will be a helpful resource. Jackson begins with the family of Joseph Smith, how he founded Mormonism, what challenges they had, what they believe, etc. Jackson writes from an orthodox Christian perspective who is not afraid to point out the many strange stories, rituals, and true legends of this bizarre faith. He points out Smith's obsession with deep magic (like the two stones Smith used to translate the book of Mormon), the endless visions and dreams from angels and various people from Scripture, the obsession and insistence on polygamy, racial division, polytheism, Utopianism, etc. 

I have studied Mormonism fairly extensively and know a lot about them, but gained a lot of interesting insights from Jackson.  A lot of the questions I have regarding this movement have been answered. Jackson is not writing to academics, but to the average voter. Jackson wants the reader to understand the movement, why they do what they do, and why they believe what they believe and for the most part he succeeds here. 

But there is another part of the book: Mitt Romney. I did not realize just how far back the Romney family goes in the story of Mormonism. The Romney's have been a leading presence within the Ladder-Day church since the beginning days with Joseph Smith. Perhaps we could even say that the Mormon church would not be what it is today without that first generation Mormon-converted Romney family. The author traces the Mormon family line of Mitt Romney and reveals a man who has a very deep Mormon heritage. No wonder he refuses to abandon his church and faith.

This all leads to the question in raised in the end. Will Mitt Romney be more open and honest about his faith, or will he continue to try to get elected without having to make his faith a topic of discussion? To a certain extent, this is an unfair question. Four years ago, in the middle of the Republican Presidential primaries, Mitt Romney had to give a major speech on religious liberty at the George H. W. Bush Presidential library precisely because his faith was a topic of discussion. Jackson mentions this, but it is not entirely true to say that he has not had to discuss it.

Yet at the same time, little has been said regarding Mormonism this time around. Perhaps Republicans feared wounding their nominee by raising it. Perhaps his primary opponents didn't want to sound like religious bigots by raising it. Regardless, Romney has not had to say much about his faith and it will be interesting to see if the man whose children were baptized by Jeremiah Wright and will raise the strange rituals and beliefs of Romney's faith. Only time will tell.

Nonetheless, this is a fascinating book that ought to be read by every voting American. Certainly this is not a positive book on Mormonism, but it is a true one. Jackson's goal is not to attack Governor Romney or his faith, but only to understand it and to help the reader understand it. Romney is a Mormon dedicated to his faith. And being that Mormonism is still considered a strange cult with weird practices, books like this are necessary.

*I am not suggesting here that Romney's faith is the reason he was not nominated in 2008. But one cannot deny that his Mormon faith was a major primary issue.

For more:
Blogizomai - On God, Religion, Politics, and Mormonism: Robert Jeffress on Bill Mahar
Blogizomai - Here We Go Again: Mormonism and Presidential Politics
Blogizomai - An Important Read: Is Mormonism "Having a Moment?"
Blogizomai - An Important Read: Jeffress on Faith, Politics, & Secularism
Blogizomai - The Remarriage of Faith and Public Policy: Why Kennedy's Legacy Is a Farce
Theology - "Those Are Biblical Principles...?": Jeremiah Wright's Theology Misapplied  
Reviews - "The Audacity of Hope"   
Blogizomai - Romney Will Burn In Hell: Bashir, MSNBC, and the Current Climate of Progressive Punditry

Blogizomai - “A Better America Begins Tonight”: The General Campaign Begins
Blogizomai -Romney & Obama's Duel on the Economy
Blogizomai - Running With Romney: Fox Highlights the VP Short List
Blogizomai - "The last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope.": Romney's New Hampshire Victory Speech (Video & Text)
Blogizomai - Going to the Dogs: The 2012 Campaign, Manufactored Controversies, and the Unborn
Blogizomai - (President) Mitt Romney's Florida Victory Speech
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Awkward Romney Interview
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