So, with the results from the New Hampshire primary in, there is again a lot of talk about Mormons. As one tweeter posted, 55% of the votes in New Hampshire went to Mormons! The news articles about Romney’s win seem to be all about his Mormonism and little else. Not a problem, but it does tend to bring out the crazies and the detractors.
This article claiming that Republicans are warming to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was an interesting read and had a great quote from Tim Pawlenty, “I’m a person of faith and an evangelical myself and I may not have the same religion as Mitt Romney but if you look at his values and his conduct, he has lived his life as a tremendous family man, he’s man of great integrity.” But it also had a picture accompanying it of an anti-Mormon protester at Temple Square. I just don’t get those guys.
Seriously, what’s the deal with anti-religion protesters? I don’t get it. If you don’t agree with my religion, that’s okay. I’m not offended. It doesn’t bother me. Why does it bother you that I believe something different than you do? Even religions (like my own) that do believe and proclaim that they are “the only true church” aren’t a big deal to me. At least I know that my own church does not preach that all who do not believe are going straight to hell. There are some who believe that, and maybe I could almost justify protesting such a church, but to be honest, I still don’t care. Even if you tell me to my face that I’m a sinner and going to burn for it because I don’t believe in God in exactly the same way you do, I’m not going to get upset. Do you know why? Because I know that I believe in God, and I believe that an individual can develop a personal relationship with deity, through prayer and scripture study, and it is this relationship that I have built with my God that lets me know that while I am not yet perfect, I’m doing all right. He loves me anyway.
And there is news surfacing recently about Mitt Romney. Sources are claiming that when he was an LDS Bishop in the ’80s, he threatened a young single mother with ex-communication if she would not give up her child. Ridiculous. First, a Bishop is not the final say in an excommunication – it generally happens at the Stake level. And I highly doubt that any Bishop would threaten excommunication over such a matter. The rules about excommunication are explicitly outlined in the Church Handbook and Bishops do not have as much freedom in that area of Church discipline as people generally think. I can understand a bishop recommending that a single mother give up her child for adoption, suggesting that it might be the best course of action for the child to be raised in a family with both parents, depending upon the circumstances of the birth of that child. I have heard of some young women who were the victims of rape who were counselled to give their child up, as a way of providing that child with a solid future.
And this story seems to have people all agog that Mitt Romney was once a Mormon Bishop. Well, to them I say – No big deal. Anyone familiar with the LDS church knows that while Bishops are important to their congregations, it’s not a big deal that a man was once a Bishop. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no professional ministry, you don’t need to study theology to become a Bishop, in fact BYU does not offer degrees in theology at all, probably the only religious university that doesn’t. All members are expected to know the religion well enough to serve in whatever capacity when they are called upon. And Bishops usually serve as the leader of their congregations for 3-5 years, then they are released from that calling and another man is called. Any worthy male member can expect to serve as a Bishop at least once in their lifetime. The fact that Mitt Romney was once a Bishop only means that he was a worthy member of the Church. Well done Mitt. He has no closer ties to the General Authorities of the Church than any other member. That’s the way the Church works.
Mormonism as a complex and sometimes complicated religion. It cannot be fully understood by a few protest signs or articles on the internet. With two Republican candidates for President who are Mormon, you can bet that there will be a lot more rumors and false information. I would encourage anyone and everyone who is looking for correct information to go seek out the proper sources. Mormon.org is a great resource for those who have questions about what Mormonism is all about. Just as you should inform yourself on what each candidate believes by looking at their own websites and public statements and not by what their competitors are saying they believe, you should always find the correct sources when getting your information about religion.