What Kind of Mormon is Mitt Romney?
There is no separating the man from his religious heritage, nor is there any indication Mitt Romney desires to distance himself from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church). Romney has been open about his Mormon affiliation, but less transparent with his actual beliefs, which causes some confusion given there are many types of Mormons of varying beliefs and degrees of involvement and commitment within the Mormon faith.
Romney is a "TBM"— a True Blue Mormon, or Totally Believing Mormon. He served a mission for the LDS Church, and served as a Bishop and Stake President (both volunteer, local positions). He has committed to abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco and he gives 10% of his income to the LDS Church, both of which are required for him to maintain his worthiness to enter a Mormon temple. Romney has performed the sacred Mormon temple ceremonies and like all other temple Mormons vowed never to reveal them or speak of them outside the temple.
Given his high level of commitment to his Mormon faith, it is no surprise that Romney is quick to affirm his belief in Jesus Christ and position himself well under the “Christian” umbrella, as nearly all Mormons do.
What is less clear to many people is what makes Romney's Christianity different from those of other faiths. One big difference is that the LDS Church claims that it is the only true church on the face of the earth. The Book of Mormon teaches there are really only two churches – the church of the Lamb of God (read Mormon Church) and the church of the devil. Anyone who doesn’t belong to the one true church is part of “the great church … the whore of all the earth” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10) Evangelical and other Protestant denominations don’t claim they are the only true church, so understandably this particular exclusivist Mormon teaching tends to rub non-Mormons the wrong way. As a TBM, Romney would hold unswervingly to the Book of Mormon as Scripture and its teaching that only the LDS Church is the one true church. It can be safely assumed that Mitt also affirms many if not all of the following uniquely Mormon beliefs:
- The Bible has many errors, changes, and omissions and must be understood using the Mormon scriptures as explained by the LDS Church's prophets.
- God the Father was once a man like us but is now God, our Heavenly Father.
- Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit son of our heavenly parents and is the literal elder spirit brother of all of their other spirit children, including Lucifer (Satan). He became a God in heaven before becoming a mortal man.
- The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate Gods with three separate bodies (the first two of flesh and bone, the third of spirit).
- Adam and Eve's act of eating the forbidden fruit was not a sin, but was a noble deed that was necessary for the blessing of the human race.
- Heavenly Father, himself an immortal, physical man, "sired" the physical body of Jesus Christ through his mortal mother Mary so that Jesus became his literal, only-begotten Son in the flesh when he was born on earth.
- Faithful Mormons may become Gods, meaning that they can become all-powerful beings that make and rule their own worlds.
It is good for a man to know what he believes and why, and it is to Romney’s credit he has refused to distance himself from his LDS faith despite the scrutiny and criticism. However, dialogue with LDS people on the topic of their beliefs and history can be difficult given a number of factors. Those who are TBM like Romney may not always be forthright about certain aspects of Mormonism due to their commitment to protect the image of the organization—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and may even be willing to deny beliefs or practices they know are true. This was the case with Mitt Romney in his interview with Judy Woodruff on the Charlie Rose Show in June 20061 as well as with a previous Mormon prophet, as documented here.
Also, new converts or less committed members may simply not know about some of the more disquieting or disturbing aspects of the religion, or be unaware of Mormon teachings that are alien to the Bible or contradict it (like all the points mentioned above). A good way to avoid confusion (or at times outright deception) is to become better informed on core LDS beliefs and to be able to document them from official Mormon sources. A resource for doing that can be found here: Mormon Belief: The Doctrine of the LDS Church. In general, the Mormon Church does teach its members to live by traditional Judeo-Christian values, but selective integrity that leads to blurring or denying unique or disquieting aspects of the LDS religion only makes mutual understanding and respect more difficult – whether president or pauper.
1. Romney was asked about two specific LDS teachings: that Jesus would return to earth and appear again in the state of Missouri, and that God has a material body and he was fathered by another God. Both questions were framed accurately (Woodruff was paying close attention to her notes) and the simple, truthful answer to both of those questions would have been “Yes – those are teachings of my (LDS) church.” Instead Romney replied, “Well, there is a leap of faith associated with every religion, you haven’t exactly got those doctrines right …” He went on to say “but the most unusual thing in my church is that we believe there was once a flood upon the earth, and a man took a boat and put two of each animal inside the boat, and saved humanity by doing that …” Romney thus denied and deflected the issue away from two established, unique Mormon doctrines not found in the Bible and foreign to traditional Christianity, and shifted the focus to one of Christianity’s and Judaism’s best loved stories - Noah and the ark – and then shamelessly claimed this story was his religion’s “most unusual thing.” Unfortunately, such disingenuousness is common with Mormon people who see the need to protect the image of their church and leaders as more important than honest dialogue. The Charlie Rose Show interview is available here, the segment in question starts at the 10:45mark.