There was a classic comedy record in the early 1960s called “The First Family.” Vaughn Meader played the part of John F. Kennedy, and it was all good clean fun.
In the album, there’s a press conference, and a reporter asks the JFK character, “Mr. President, what are the chances of a Jewish president?”
“JFK” responds along these lines with his thick Massachusetts accent, “Well, I-uh think the-uh chances of a Jewish president are quite strong. Now, I know as a Catholic, I could never vote for him. But other than that—.” (LAUGHTER)
JFK, of course, broke a barrier, being the first Catholic to win the White House.
Religion is an issue in this campaign, since the frontrunner Republican candidate is a Mormon.
I’ve heard some people talk about Mormons (members of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”) as if they are just part of another denomination within Christendom, like Methodists or Baptists. Is that true?
First of all, Mormons tend to make great neighbors and friends; they tend to be honest and hard-working people, devoted to their God(s), their family, and their country. Mormons can make great political leaders as well. The missionary zeal and faithful tithing of the average Mormon should put the average Christian to shame.
It’s a free country. Mormons can believe whatever they want to.
But by virtually every theological criterion, Mormonism is outside the bounds of traditional, historic Christianity. When Mormons refer to “God,” they’re not referring to the God of the Bible. Ditto when they say “Jesus.”
In historic, biblical Christianity, there is only one true God, who is eternal and unchanging. But Bill McKeever, in Rose Publishing’s book, Christianity, Cults & Religions, notes that in the Mormon view, “The one whom Christians call ‘Our Heavenly Father’ is one God among many Gods stretching into eternity past” (p. 89).
We can become gods who will one day rule our own planet, says Mormon teaching, if we’re righteous enough. McKeever quotes the fifth Latter Day Saints president Lorenzo Snow, who stated “As man is, God once was; as God is, many may become” (p. 89).
In the traditional Christian view, the one God is a Trinity, existing in three eternal, divine persons without beginning or end. The late Walter Martin was a prolific theologian on groups at the fringes of Christendom. He said of the Mormon view, “The Trinity consists of three gods born in different times and places; the Father begot the Son and Holy Ghost through a goddess wife in heaven.” (The Kingdom of the Cults, 1965 / 2003, p. 192).
When Mormons talk about Jesus, they are talking about a divine being who is the brother of Lucifer. This is not historic Christian teaching by anybody’s reckoning.
Even though Jesus is divine in Mormonism, so also are a lot of others. Mormonism is polytheistic, whereas Christianity is monotheistic.
Mormonism is not only polytheistic; it once was officially polygamous. At least until the Supreme Court ruled that marriage in these United States is between one man and one woman (Reynolds v. United States, 1878). The case was brought on by a Mormon with many wives. Utah could not become a state until after it dropped polygamy.
In Mormonism, everything pivots around the claims of their chief prophet and founder Joseph Smith (1805-1844) from western New York state, who claimed to have received divine revelations that told him that all of Christianity (prior to him) was hopelessly corrupt.
Smith also claimed to have found special golden plates, which had been buried, given to him by the angel Moroni. Tablets that only he could read.
Because of reported revelations to Smith, Mormons have three other books of “Scripture” in addition to the Bible. From the historic Christian perspective, the additional “revelations” end up nullifying the core message of the Bible.
So how does all this relate to the campaign?
If Romney became president, he could be perceived by some Mormons as fulfilling one of their prophecies: “When the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the ‘Mormon’ Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 2, p. 182).
Note that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing a religious test for candidates. But, of course, we the people are free to choose the rulers we wish.
Also, Mitt Romney is not running for bishop, but for president.
However, any attempts at political bridge-building should not be construed as papering over real, deep, and significant theological differences.