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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The King on Mormonism, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry

Could you imagine the
Council of Nicaea
debating the legitamacy
of The Book of Mormon?
As a young person growing up in suburban Connecticut, the only real contact I had with Mormonism was through their inspiring commercials which aired through out the 70s and 80s.  Most of these 30 second spots were actually quite uplifting - they addressed things like family time, recognizing children's accomplishments, verbal abusehelping others selflessly, and other thought-provoking messages.  Peruse YouTube and you can see for yourself that many of these situational approach spots are as relevant today as they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Because I grew up in suburban neighborhood that held 150 closely-spaced homes, our street was ripe picking for all kinds of canvasasing, so about every three months, we'd usually find a pair of young men dressed in white shirts and dark pants ringing our doorbell.  My parents made a point of never being rude to them, and would simply tell them that we regularly attend Church on Sunday.  I distinctly remember that she offered one pair a few dollars, and after a bit of quibble, and perhaps embarrassed, they took the money and departed with a  smile saying "thank you and God Bless you."

At one point in my early professional career I worked directly with a number of Mormons.  They were always polite, hard-working, and generally - well-accomplished.  When you work with people day in and day out, you can't help but get a sense of what makes them tick - beyond the suit and tie. Of course, common sense tells you that it's bad form to get into in-depth discussions about politics in the workplace, but inevitably current events come up during normal conversation, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out where people stand on the issues of the day.  For whatever reason, I often found myself aligned with my Mormon colleagues when it came to politics, and basic values. And that seems to be the trend I've noticed when I've come across Mormons since then.

One of the older gentlemen I worked with in my department also happened to be a Mormon as well as a company Vice President.  After some time he did broach the topic of religion with me.  He asked me if I attended church on a regular basis. I said that I did and I expressed my views about the disgraceful problems within the Anglican Communion in a fairly forthright manner; and that I found my Church experience nothing short of discouraging.  He smiled and nodded, and showed empathy.  We discussed Christianity as a whole, and in the end he said, "Well it sounds to me like you are pretty open-minded about Religion." I thought his comment sort of odd given that I had just spent 15 minutes chastising my own denomination for what I deemed doing Satan's bidding. I expect that I might have served up the perfect opportunity for him to sell me the Mormon ticket to Eternal Life.  He didn't. But I think he did mention that he had some literature that he was willing to share with me, if I was interested.

Whether he gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, and a Latter Day Saints pamphlet or not, I can't recall.  But he never pushed his religion on me - although he had the perfect opening to do so.  And that's what I remember most.

Religion is a matter of personal faith and personal preference.  However, if you actually think about it, unless you grow up in an atheist or non-practicing household, most people don't actually join a religion but rather are born into a religion. Sure, later in life, people might shift denominations (sects) within a religion but they rarely change religions.  Among my closest friends, the majority are mainstream Christians (Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Greek Orthodox, and Presbyterian, etc), and  we all share a sort of kinship connected by the fact that in some form or another we all buy into the whole Jesus storyline (And I don't mean to sound too irreverent here :) ).  I also have association with people who are Hindu, Jewish, Pagan, and perhaps a few who are Muslim. 

The point being that when it comes to religion or denomination, we are a product of our up bringing which might be reason enough to wonder why some fail to understand why a person may be tied to one particular faith or another, or more to the point - might be unwilling to abandon one faith for another.  We tend to ask this about people who are members of religions that are considered extreme - such as Islam.  And sometimes we ask this about Christian Denominations which are different - such as Mormonism.

The first thing we notice which separates Mormons from other Christian Denominations is that they actively canvas and mission door-to-door to recruit members.  Few other Christian denominations take such an assertive approach.  Seeing someone show up at your home to recruit you to their religion is, at minimum, considered a little strange to New Englanders who see religion as a VERY private matter - certainly not to be discussed with strangers.  Notwithstanding, I think it takes a lot of gall to do what Mormons do, particularly with a likely 99% rejection rate which at times must be received in an abusive manner.

The story of Jesus visiting with North America
Indians is a tale that's a bit hard to swallow
particularly without tangible evidence
The second thing is the whole business of the Book of Mormon.  Now I'm not going to get into a history lesson on Joseph Smith or Brigham Young.  I would rather point you to historical texts and documentaries that will provide you with unbiased detail on who they were and what they did and didn't do (and I'm sure that such generic sources are probably not well regarded by Mormons themselves because they deal in facts and not mythology, or are wrapped in LDS marketing).  I would not likely ever become a Mormon because I do not subscribe to the view that either Smith or Young or American Indians met Jesus or Angels in America, or were anointed by God to do anything.  Of course, this is a matter of my own personal belief.  I'm quite satisfied with the Old and New Testaments as they stand without complication of a third tale of Jesus' visit to American Indians or anyone else on this Continent.  And frankly, there is enough within the Holy Bible that is complex and complicated for the most academic Christian to understand.

My view being plainly stated that I'm not inclined to believe the Mormon doctrines which are apart from those within my Anglican tenets, but I also don't see anything that inhibits an individual who subscribes to Mormonism to serve in Government, or hold even the highest political office in the land.  When contrasted with people who subscribe to Hinduism or Islam, Mormonism is still closer to my Christian-Anglican beliefs than the other two religions mentioned.  It's far more important to weigh things on the whole rather than to splice hairs about things considered minor in the scheme of things.

So, last week when Reverend Robert Jeffress introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry by making inflammatory remarks about Mormonism referring to it as a "cult", and following up with comments declaring that Mitt Romney wasn't a real Christian, the world was astonished.  As a Christian, I was embarrassed
Rev. Robert Jeffress, Minister at the
First Baptist Church of Hate. He and
Rev. Wright aught to do a reality TV
show together on MSNBC

Further, when questioned about Jeffress' hateful comments, Texas Governor Rick Perry told reporters that he thought Jeffress had "hit a home-run."  Well, that comment made me reach deep in my pocket for a pen which I used to cross Rick Perry's name off my list of Presidential choices for 2012.  The King wants a candidate who is bold, direct, and unafraid to discuss controversial issues, but does not want a candidate who peddles hate through appointed bomb-throwing mercenaries.  The Perry campaign killed itself when it took the low road by attacking a fellow Republicans' religion.  Moreover, I think we can plainly see the results based on the latest polls.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this seems like the perfect time for Rick Perry to dust off a few history books, and learn why our first wave of immigrants came to the New World in the first place.  He might wish to take it a step further and note that our Founding Fathers incorporated much of this thinking when they drafted our Constitution and later - our Bill of Rights.  Few Americans want to see their President creating denominational wars within Christianity from the Oval Office.  Given the increasing threat to Western traditions and values from Islamic sects, methinks Governor Perry should direct his rhetoric elsewhere - and leave White House ambitions to others who are far more capable of being Statesmen then he.

It might be that I'm from Yankee New England where we have a saying "fences make for good neighbors" which in my not-so-humble-opinion highlights a sort libertarianism that is ingrained in our regional thinking.  Nutmeggers have never looked fondly upon those advocating hatred for one Christian denomination over the other.  In fact, we shy away from those who wear their religion on their sleeve.  Yes, of course there are divisions of thought, and practice.  But those discussion are best held in an academic or Church venue, not on our television screens or in public political forums. 

It's interesting. Years ago when John F. Kennedy, Jr. ran for President, there was the endless fear-mongering being generated from Southern Baptists leaders who claimed that through ascendancy to the White House that a Catholic President would become an agent of the Roman Pope thus steering the Nation on Vatican-controlled course. History has shown that nothing was farther from the truth.  And besides, in a place like Washington DC where everyone seems to know every one's business, such a conspiracy in practice wouldn't last 10 minutes.  I would argue that if Mitt Romney became President of the United States, it would likely be a feather in the cap of the Mormon Church - so to speak - which might lead to increased LDS appeal, but nothing more.

Mitt Romney should be judged on
the issues, not where he attends
religious services
Unlike many of our state politicians who are hedging their bets to appear as early backers of their champion candidate, I haven't committed to a Presidential candidate as of yet.  But I strongly believe that Mitt Romney has what it takes to be a great President, and a great Statesman.  Like all those in the GOP field, he comes with a record of mistakes, concerns, and general baggage.  This is the price of having served time in office which produces a record of successes and failures. But his Mormon roots don't figure into the equation in most people's minds.  One would think that if the American electorate is tolerant enough - even so few years after 9-11 and during an ongoing war against Muslim terrorists - to elect an African-American President named Barack Hussein Obama, then I think they'd be tolerant enough to elect a strong family-oriented business man, patriot, and Mormon like Mitt Romney in 2012. 

And I certainly think that would be the case here in libertarian Connecticut.

I want to leave you with this silly video.  But I don't want you to get the wrong impression by my positing it - because it's meant to be humorous not hateful.  So do not send me hate mail to the contrary.  It's good to laugh about these things once in a while.  I never found a minister who couldn't lighten his sermon with a bit of humor to be very effective anyway.  Enjoy!

It's always good to end on a bit of humor. No insult intended.

And... I'll see you all in Church!



This document will be edited for some content and for illustrations at a later date.  The uploading tool is giving me a bit of trouble today!

This original blog entry can be viewed at

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