The Mormon Question - Again
(Click on the image above to see it enlarged and easier to read.)
Mitt Romney’s crawl towards the 2012 Republican nomination for president has generated initial salvos across the bow of Romney’s Mormon background. Two fundamental assertions have emerged: 1) A Perry backer has asserted that the Mormons are a cult, and 2) several conservative Christians have declared that Mormons are not Christians.
Back in 2006 when Romney was running for president, I wrote a piece on Mormonism and the idea of a Mormon president. In response to the recent hoopla, Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, points out (correctly) that Mormonism doesn’t really fit the fundamental components of a cult. Certainly, it gathers believers together into an organization promoting the notion that they possess a superior truth and a higher status with God than those with other beliefs. That applies to most organized western religions.
The Mormon Church does rigorously commandeer 10% of one’s income and reviews individual tax returns, but they do NOT have the flock surrender all possessions or pay enormous sums for church activities. The indoctrinations do foster an “us and them” mindset, but Mormons are not isolated from society. Charismatic leaders don’t seduce pretty wives and daughters. They're no Jones camp in a jungle or Heaven’s Gate preparing for a comet. They are not Scientology slaves in Sea Org.
Mormonism is not a cult.
The second assertion is more complex depending on the semantics of "Christian," and Mouw refuses to touch it. Still, barring a severe twist on the meaning of "Christian," it is correct. Mormons are not Christians.
They do believe Jesus Christ is the direct son of God, but crucial components of the Christian faith are utterly contradicted by the key cornerstones of Mormon belief. Perhaps most notable is the Mormon conviction that God was once a man, a human being, and that men (good Mormon men) have the potential to become what God is now, with their own universe over which they have dominion (and often more than a few wives). God has a physical body just like a man.
Mormon founder Joseph Smith wrote:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens...I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form -- like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man....it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the veil, so that you may see....and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did. - (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 3).
LDS church writings have some troubling remarks likely to see daylight should Romney become the nominee. Some have been exaggerated or twisted by those hostile to Mormonism, but consider this publication posted at Brigham Young University's site by the Mormons themselves. The ideas there are not slanted or distorted or those of an extreme fringe. They are fundamental.
In what has some slant but says a lot in eight minutes, this "Banned" Video on Mormonism (8:42) provides a taste of some of what's going on.