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21 March 2012

My Take: How Romney could transcend Mormonism with civil religion

March 20, 2012


You see, Romney is facing a political reality: people don’t know much about Mormons. And as Ishmael reminds us in “Moby Dick,” “Ignorance is the parent of fear.”

A recent Pew study found that when asked for one-word descriptions of presidential candidates, “Mormon” was the most common answer when describing Mitt Romney.

In June, a Gallup Poll found that only 76% of Americans would vote for a Mormon. The Pew Center found that while 68% say being a Mormon wouldn’t matter to their vote, 25% say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.

While these perceptions are troubling for a country that values religious freedom, they are a political reality for the Romney campaign.


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In Other Words: Mormons – Fact and Fiction

March 20, 2012

Greenfield Patch (Wisconsin)

The Mormon People: the Making of an American Faith by Matthew Bowman: Religious historian Bowman presents 180 years of Mormon history and doctrine, recounting the church’s origin and development, and explaining how Mormonism came to be one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. He then sets the scene for the 2012 presidential election, with its potential to mark a major turning point in the way the faith is perceived by the American public.

Under the Banner of Heaven : a Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer: Using mostly secondary historical texts and some contemporary primary sources, Krakauer details the history of the Mormon church from its early 19th-century creation to its violent journey from upstate New York to the Midwest and Utah, where, after the renunciation of the church’s holy doctrine sanctioning multiple marriages, it transformed itself into one of the world’s fastest-growing religions. While Krakauer demonstrates that most nonfundamentalist Mormons are community oriented, industrious and law-abiding, he poses some striking questions about the policies of the religion–and many religions in general.


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Has Romney the courage to confront the bigots?

March 21, 2012

Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)

Santorum has been careful not to criticise Romney’s faith directly, but his appeals to Evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics are couched in a language of exclusivity.

The core of his candidacy lies in an assertion that only certain types of Americans espousing a certain type of ‘traditional values’ are fit to lead. He never utters the word ‘Mormon’ but that is because, among the people he is addressing most directly, he does not have to.

The longer the Republican contest continues the more likely this sort of thing is to peep out into the open.


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The rise of Mormon feminist bloggers

March 19, 2012

The Guardian (United Kingdom)

On her 30th birthday, which she celebrated in New York City, D’Arcy Benincosa did the wildest thing she could think of: she ordered a cup of coffee. The friend who was with her freaked out. They were Mormons, and coffee is forbidden; but both were on the brink of leaving the church. Later that day, Benincosa sampled a cocktail, and within a few months she had sex for the first time. “On my 30th birthday, I made the decision,” Benincosa, now 34, tells me over the phone. “I’m done.”

A teacher and photographer who lives in Salt Lake City, she is no longer active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She describes herself as culturally Mormon and is one of more than 20 women who write for the Mormon feminist blog, the Exponent. Some of its contributors are still in the church, and it is part of a growing trend of Mormon feminist expression online.

Along with the Exponent, there are Feminist Mormon Housewives, Women Advocating for Voice and Equality (Wave), and a literary group called Segullah. In the past it was hard for Mormon women who struggled with the status quo to locate kindred spirits, but the internet allows them to find each other. When Benincosa came across the Exponent, she stayed up all night reading post after post. “I just cried because I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m not alone.'”


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Mormon missionary from Cache Valley hit by bus in Brazil

March 20, 2012

ABC 4 (Utah)

A missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was hit by a bus while serving in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In a statement, LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said:

Elder Britten Steven Schenk, 20, from Hyde Park, Utah serving in the Brazil Sao Paulo East mission, was struck by a bus on 16 March 2012 while waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street. He underwent emergency neurosurgery to relieve the swelling of the brain. Elder Schenk’s parents have flown to Brazil to consult with doctors and to be with their son at this critical time. Our prayers are with him, his family and friends.


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Column: Trust Mitt Romney the Mormon

March 20, 2012

Daily Astorian (Oregon)

Believing that only Mormons can get into the highest level of heaven, the Celestial Kingdom, and that others will be limited to the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms, they have baptized anyone and everyone, including Anne Frank, Gandhi, Hitler, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Elvis.

Asked by Newsweek in 2007 if he had done baptisms for the dead, which involve white garb and immersion in water, a startled Romney replied, “I have in my life, but I haven’t recently.”

Mormon feminists got upset this winter when they found that young women in some temples had not been allowed to do proxy baptisms while they were menstruating.


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Letter: Important questions for Republicans

March 21, 2012

Oroville Mercury-Register (California)

Profiteer and Mormon Mitt Romney poses a special problem for evangelicals because the Mormon God is not the Christian God. If you believe that God is a man from planet Kolob who had sex with Mary to produce Jesus, if you believe that Jesus and the devil were once brothers and that men became gods and have wives and sex in the afterlife, then you’re Mormon, not Christian.

The Book of Mormon is the Mormon word of God. The book had to come from the Mormon God because it doesn’t exist in Christianity. It’s telling that Romney’s Mormons will not allow the followers of Christ inside the Mormon temple. (See “Cult Explosion, Cults Exposed by Those Who Escaped,” DVD.)

By supporting Romney for the highest office in the land the message is that Republicans approve being Mormon and not Christian. This is a betrayal of the Christian faith.


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Even In Illinois Blowout, Evangelicals Won’t Vote For Mitt

March 21, 2012


Why didn’t Romney make the same inroads with Illinois evangelicals that he did with conservatives, Tea Partiers, and middle class voters?

One possibility is that he has made virtually no effort the assuage the religious Right’s anxiety about his Mormon faith. He found success courting Tea Party conservatives, in part, by hammering the message of economic freedom throughout his entire swing through the state. By contrast, Romney has avoided almost every question posed to him this cycle about his religion, apparently calculating that for a certain group of anti-Mormon Christians, no amount of explanation will change their minds. That may or may not be true, but it’s hard to say definitively because Romney hasn’t tried to change them.

The other problem is that that suspicion of Mormonism doesn’t vary in degree state by state nearly as much as political ideology does. Whereas terms like “conservative” and “Tea Party” can mean very different things in blue-state Illinois than they do in, say, Alabama — a fact that likely helped him win over those groups on Tuesday –the same is not necessarily true of evangelicals put off by Romney’s faith. If you view Mormonism as a cult, an affront to Christianity, or even just a bizarre belief system that forces its adherents to wear strange underwear, those views will shape the way you perceive Romney — regardless of whether you live in a red state or a blue state.

Of course, evangelicals’ distaste for Romney is not defined solely by their opinions of Mormonism. But, as the LDS-owned Deseret News has repeatedly argued throughout the primary, the question of how much a candidate’s religion matters is exceptionally telling.


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GOP Primary Spurs Discussion of the Role of Religion in Politics in Classes at Benedictine University

March 20, 2012

Lisle Patch (Illinois)

Classes discussed whether a bias exists againt Romney for his religious beliefs, or against Santroum for his “outspoken” views on social issues. Hardy said he’s noticed a discrepancy between the number of people who say they support Romney in polls, and those who actually vote for him.

“Some of the students felt it was obvious, based on some of the primary outcomes and views expressed by potential voters, that a lot of voters are still uncomfortable with Romney’s religious background,” Hardy said.

However, Hardy said the “anti-Mormon sentiment fails to come up in polling.” Romney had secured 518 delegates to Santorum’s 239 as of Monday evening, according to a report from CNN. Santorum, however, has won the support of Illinois’ neighboring states.


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Russell Pearce’s Arizona Comeback Faces Surprise Challenger: The Founder Of SkyMall

March 20, 2012

Talking Points Memo

While still boasting of conservative credentials, Worsley appears to have a gentler approach to the state’s booming immigrant population than Pearce did during his time in office.

On a biography on the website of the Mormon church, Worsley wrote about his close ties to the Hispanic community. He said he is fluent in Spanish and spent time as a missionary in South America.

“I grew to love and appreciate the cultures south of the border,” he wrote. “We are all God’s children. We are all immigrants to this great country.”


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Russell Pearce Announces Run For State Senate After Recall

March 20, 2012

Huffington Post

“I know my duty,” Pearce said, according to the Arizona Republic. “It’s been a nice vacation, but it’s time to go back to work. We have a sacred duty to this land.”

Pearce lost his seat in November 2011 to Jerry Lewis, who is also Mormon and a Republican. Democrats and Republicans in the state worked together to collect more than 10,000 signatures to oust Pearce, taking aim at S.B. 1070 and allegations of illegal campaign donations by the then-lawmaker.


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Three For The Money

March 21, 2012

Salt Lake City Weekly (Utah)

While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ $1.5 billion mixed-use development, in partnership with real-estate investment trust Taubman Centers Inc., has injected new life into downtown, some see the 700,000 square feet of new retail space in Salt Lake City as a threat to neighboring shopping districts Gateway and Trolley Square.

“There’s just not enough demand nor fashion retailers to fill all the square footage that’s available in the downtown area,” argues Geoff Kaessner of GSK Realty Services. “All three cannot be national fashion retail shopping centers.” Nick Egelanian, president and founder of Site Work Retail Services, a national consultant that specializes in retailing, knows the Salt Lake City retail market well. “There’s no question in my mind this market cannot support all three,” he says.


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The federalist solution

March 21, 2012

Chicago Tribune (Illinois)

Allowing local majorities to have their way, Gerken continues, “turns the tables. It allows the usual winners to lose and the usual losers to win. It gives racial minorities the chance to shed the role of influencer or gadfly and stand in the shoes of the majority.”

She’s right, and not just about her favored groups. For instance, Mormons (not a group Gerken highlights) are a national minority. But they are a Utah majority. Hence, Utah takes on Mormon characteristics. It’s no theocracy, but it is more representative and distinctive. In areas where Latinos or blacks are the majority, what’s so terrible about having institutions that reflect their values?


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Federalism can be the route to power for minorities

March 21, 2012

Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

Allowing local majorities to have their way, Gerken continues, “turns the tables. It allows the usual winners to lose and the usual losers to win. It gives racial minorities the chance to shed the role of influencer or gadfly and stand in the shoes of the majority.”

She’s right, and not just about her favored groups. For instance, Mormons (not a group Gerken highlights) are a national minority. But they are a Utah majority. Hence, Utah takes on Mormon characteristics. It’s no theocracy, but it is more representative and distinctive. In areas where Latinos or blacks are the majority, what’s so terrible about having institutions that reflect their values?


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NY evangelical gathering loves that Rick Santorum

March 20, 2012

Capitol Confidential (New York)

One audience member expressed concern that a vote for Romney would be perceived as an endorsement of Mormonism, which he views as a cult. Motley — who had earlier expressed concern over Romney’s conservative bona fides — deftly noted that the Mormons he had worked with were good, moral people, and added that he’d take Romney over Barack Obama any day of the week, a riposte that earned a smattering of applause.

McGuire said that he didn’t think that anti-Mormon animus was widespread among evangelicals.


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Judge rejects attempt to sue Berkshire over ex-exec’s Lubrizol stock buys

March 20, 2012

Crain’s Cleveland Business (Ohio)

The retired director of the Creative Writing Program at Cleveland State University writes on WashingtonPost.com that scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is good for the candidate because it “marks him as a man of active faith and diverts attention from an issue that necessarily plagues him: Mitt Romney, flip-flopper.”

In a long “Guest Voices” post in the “On Faith” section of the newspaper’s website, Neal Chandler argues that Mr. Romney’s adaptable positions on various issues is very much a reflection of the Mormon Church itself.

“If institutional Mormonism has developed a religious politics, it is a policy agenda of aggressive accommodation to cultural and political realities, leaving the church freer to pursue its own distinct ends,” writes Mr. Chandler, himself a Mormon.


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Fringewatch: Randall Terry, Buddy Roemer, and Fred Karger, in that Order

March 20, 2012


Last August, Mark Barabak profiled the stunt presidential campaign of Fred Karger. He was a Republican consultant who came out very late in life. He was willing to burn through thousands of his own money to stump at New Hampshire Republican events and build websites making fun of Mormon beliefs.

The piece ran to 1684 words. Until last week, Karger hadn’t even won 1,684 votes. Then came Puerto Rico, where Karger campaigned for a week and won 1,702 votes. He bested Ron Paul. Buddy Roemer, aided by a position at the top of the ballot and a first name that sounds like an 80s plush toy, did even better — 2,622 votes, better than Newt Gingrich. As of now, Karger has won 3,272 votes across America, and Roemer’s won 8,157.


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