From the Wall Street Journal: Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight

Soon, the Mormon Church began posting its videos on YouTube — 22 so far. One clip, for example, showed Mr. Ballard, the church apostle, answering the question “Are Mormons Christian?” It has drawn 26,000 views. By contrast, a cartoon clip from “The God Makers,” a 1980s film that mocks Mormon beliefs, has been viewed 945,000 times.

Mr. Ballard’s call for more new-media activism inspired dozens of new Web sites. On, several Mormons of different political views write about the presidential race. Founder Mike Rogan, of Chandler, Ariz., says he started the blog “to combat some specific misconceptions about Mormons,” including that all Mormons are “conservatives with a mindless ‘sheep’ mentality.”

Mr. Hitchens, the best-selling author of “God is Not Great,” wrote last fall that Mr. Romney owed voters a discussion about “the mad cult” of his church. Similar commentaries inspired Ryan Bell, a Salt Lake City attorney, to start a Web site, Romney last summer. “Every faith has wacky doctrines,” he says, adding that the press seems fixated on his faith’s more sensational side.

Mormon fury boiled over after Mr. O’Donnell’s appearance on the “McLaughlin Group,” when he called Mr. Smith a proslavery criminal and rapist. He said Mr. Romney “was” a racist because he was a member of a church that discriminated against blacks until 1978.

Mr. Bell and others responded on their Web sites that church founder Mr. Smith, who faced many charges in his turbulent life, including treason, was never convicted of any crimes. (At least one Mormon historian says he was found guilty of a misdemeanor as a minor for fraud, but others say incomplete court records make it impossible to determine.)

The allegations about blacks stung the most. Many Mormon historians say Mr. Smith welcomed blacks from the church’s inception, had ordained some blacks, and ran on an abolitionist platform for president in 1844. Blacks were barred from being church leaders, they say, by his successor, Brigham Young. Many Protestant churches, Mr. Bell pointed out, were segregated well into the 20th century. In 1978, the church lifted the ban on blacks becoming leaders.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s WSJ.

While I consider this an important article, I found it frustrating because it did not really plumb the depths of the source of the concern. The first, as I have said before, is not Mr. Romney’s Mormonism, but his truthfulness about it. The second, which is the most glaring failure of the article, is the issue of what Mormons actually believe (much of which remains carefully hidden in a number of instances from the public, and which was the screamingly silent omission from Mr. Romney’s Texas speech on religion and public life). This is then not about the harsh spotlight, but about legitimate scrutiny and concern which should be present in the same way for every candidate–KSH.

Update: The Deseret Morning News has a related article, “With Romney out, Utahns in quandary” which is also worth perusing and which includes the following:

Many Mormons interviewed in the past months about why they support Romney insisted his faith alone wasn’t the reason they wanted him to become president, citing everything from his family values to his ability to tackle economic issues.

“First and foremost, I support Mitt Romney because I think he’s the man with the right qualities,” said Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who traveled to Boston to help raise money for Romney. “Secondarily, he happens to be a Mormon.”

Herbert acknowledged that he and other Mormons feel “gratitude and pride” seeing a fellow member of the faith in the national spotlight. But, the lieutenant governor said, Romney’s candidacy has also made it clear not everyone is ready for a Mormon leader.

“There is probably also a realization that Mormon bigotry is out there still in the country as we’ve seen it bubble up. There is still some work to do,” he said, to show that Mormons are “acceptable people to be your neighbors and your leaders.”

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

5 comments on “From the Wall Street Journal: Mormons Dismayed by Harsh Spotlight

  1. dpchalk+ says:

    I thought the op-ed piece “[url=;&emc;=th&oref=slogin] The Revenge of Seamus[/url]” by Gail Collins in this am’s NYT was quite insightful. A little more on target for the many, many other reasons to not have voted for Mitt.

  2. Katherine says:

    Dr. Harmon, with respect, I don’t think Mormon believers in general are deliberately misrepresenting themselves. They have not studied orthodox Christian beliefs, they do not know the Creeds, and they rely on their religious authorities’ statements. You and I know that Mormons are not Christian in the traditional sense, but they don’t. What you were asking a political candidate to do was to study the traditional Christian faith and state that he understands it and definitively rejects it.

  3. Tikvah says:

    Katherine, Mormons are taught early on that they are the ‘true’ Christians. They believe that the Bible is true ‘as far as it is correctly translated’ and, of course, only they have the true translation, along with the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, etc., which they hold in much higher regard than the Bible. Mr. Romney has already rejected our Christianity.

  4. Sidney says:

    Dr. Harmon, with respect, I don’t think Mormon believers in general are deliberately misrepresenting themselves.

    Katherine, when Mitt Romney was asked if he believed the Bible to be the Word of God, he replied “yes, absolutely.”

    That, unfortunately, was not the whole truth – he neglected to add on the Mormon caveat “as far as it is translated correctly.” (On the other hand, Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is the unadulterated Word of God.) Mitt knew that his answer was not an acceptable Mormon Sunday School answer. He gave his answer anyway, and he did it intentionally – for political reasons, obviously.

    This sort of thing is common among Mormons, and I believe it is this sort of undercurrent of dishonesty that is what Kendall has in mind.

  5. Juandeveras says:

    The Episcopal bishop of Utah, Carolyn Tanner Irish, is a former Mormon who, like Mitt Romney, is a Stanford grad. I’d like to hear her comments on this subject. She also presides over her family’s Utah business.