Romney’s Run Has Mormons Wary of Scrutiny

In this wide valley where the twin spires of the Mormon temple dominate the landscape and some neighborhoods have a Mormon chapel every few blocks, Mitt Romney’s bid for president is both a proud sign of progress and a cause of trepidation.

Many Mormons here are rooting for Mr. Romney, a fellow church member whose success in business, Adonis looks and wholesome family tableau seem to them to present the ideal face of Mormonism to the world. Among the Republican front-runners, Mr. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, recently was the leader in campaign fund-raising; his candidacy is, for many Mormons, a historic moment of arrival.

“He represents the best of what the church can produce,” said Kenneth W. Godfrey, 73, a historian of Mormonism and of this valley about 80 miles north of church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

But even for the many Mormons who support Mr. Romney, the moment is fraught with anxiety because his candidacy is bringing intense scrutiny to their church, and could exacerbate longstanding bigotry.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is called, has been fighting for legitimacy since its founding 177 years ago in upstate New York. The church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., was killed by a mob in Illinois and his followers fled from persecution and settled in Utah.

While Mormons are by now successfully integrated and prospering in the American mix, memories of that persecution are still fresh. Many current members can trace their great-great-grandparents to the church’s earliest pioneers, and children grow up reading their ancestors’ original diaries. Many Mormons fear that Mr. Romney’s campaign may reopen old wounds.

“I thought we might get mud thrown at us,” said Lula DeValve, 82, a retired teacher and a Democrat who volunteers with the League of Women Voters.

John Hatch, 30, a history student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, said, “What most Mormons desire is acceptance.”

“We see ourselves as normal,” Mr. Hatch said. “We struggle with those outsiders who see us as weird ”” the magic underwear stuff,” a reference to the ritual garments that Mormons are supposed to wear under their clothing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Mormons, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

6 comments on “Romney’s Run Has Mormons Wary of Scrutiny

  1. libraryjim says:

    The real scrutiny they don’t want is for people to see just how different Mormon theology is from historic Christian theology.

    Once the differences are out in the open and being discussed, there will be a lot of people who will see just how NOT Christian Mormons are.

  2. SouthCoast says:

    On the other hand, if Romney is a man of integrity and sense, I’d vote for him.

  3. libraryjim says:

    Yeah, I just wouldn’t consider him a Christian.
    Presidents have been of many different religions and denomination:
    Diest (Jefferson wanted to be an Unitarian, but just never bothered joining)
    and others.

  4. Sidney says:

    Mr. Grover said some of his radio listeners were astounded.
    “They were just in disbelief, saying that’s not true, Jesus is coming back to Missouri,” Mr. Grover said. “It’s the L.D.S. Church’s 10th article of faith that Zion will be built upon the American continent.”

    One can only wonder why these Mormons find this sort of denial so surprising. A few years ago Larry King asked the church president on Larry King Live whether Mormons believe that men can become Gods. His response? “I don’t know that we teach that.” In fact they DO teach that. Mormon denial of truth when it’s convenient is an old story. This is standard operation procedure for the Mormon leadership – and Mitt has learned well.

  5. Pat Kashtock says:

    Yes Sidney — They most certainly do teach that. It is one of their “13 Articles of Faith.” It goes something like, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man man become.” I remember something very close to that being said on Battlestar Galactica once. Never watched the show again after that. %-P

    But at any rate, every Mormon child has to memorize “The 13 Articles of Faith.” I am rather appalled that the Mormon president felt it acceptable to be so disingenuous with his response. But perhaps not shocked.

    I was raised Mormon. It is not Christian. Nothing but a poor imitation.

  6. Will B says:

    Last week when I was at the Republican debate at St Anselm’s College in New Hampshire, Romney was asked about his Mormon membership. He responded that “Jesus was his Lord and Savior”. It is interesting that Mr Romney ( and I suspect a number of Mormons) are trying to appear “mainstream” and in doing so , fail to acknowledge some of the LDS tenets of faith while claiming a number of Christian faith statements that are contrary to what their church teaches. Romney is a good speaker and he has learned his formula answers to issues very well. I’m wondering if his comments last week were truly sincere ( in which case he’s got some ‘splaining to do to the LDS) or a neatly tied up package for the more evangleical members of the party. For me,as a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Romney’s Mormon membership is the least of my concerns about his candidacy.