Romney uses Mormon faith to deflect attention from wealth

December 13, 2011

Romney rarely has spoken about his religion during the primary campaign, conscious perhaps of polls showing that as many as half of white evangelicals believe the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. In one of the few times he has highlighted his church, he made Rick Perry seem intolerant for refusing to disavow Pastor Robert Jeffress’s assertion that Mormonism is a “cult.”

Now Romney is talking about Mormonism in order to head off the perception that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy  — a view reinforced by his attempt to silence Perry’s attacks on his healthcare record by offering him a $10,000 bet during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. Given his personal wealth, estimated at $250 million, Romney needs to avoid any more moments that make him look like Judge Elihu Smails, the country club president from “Caddyshack” who tried to use his money and background to purge the club of undesirables like the brash outsider Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield (and, yes, Caddyshack culminated in a bet between the two).

Today at a lumber mill in northern New Hampshire, Romney hearkened back to his ten years spent moonlighting as a Mormon pastor while living in Boston. That work included counseling those who had lost their jobs or were in dire financial circumstances. “What struck me, not having grown up in poverty, was revealing and important to me,” he said.

“What impressed me was that we’re all the same in the things that we aspire for, the things we love, our families, our faith, our country. People are patriotic, rich or poor. And also when people are out of work, when people don’t have a job, when they don’t feel like they’re contributing to the betterment of their family and their future they get pretty depressed and sometimes marriages come apart, sometimes people lose their faith. Being out of work for a long period of time is real tough. And it’s not the fault of the person who is out of work. Overwhelmingly, it’s the fault of our economy.”

Today’s discussion of his Mormon counseling came after the normally buttoned-down Romney told voters in southern New Hampshire yesterday about his missionary work in France in the 1960s, and described using outdoor squat toilets and paying “a few francs” to use a public shower once a week while living on a shoestring budget. “Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators, no showers. No bathtubs,” Romney said.

Romney’s wealth and business background will be a much bigger issue in a general election match-up than during the primary. After all, Republican primary voters didn’t seem fazed when Romney asserted that “corporations are people.”

Still, his message is most effective when he’s linking the success of businesses to the creation of new jobs, something Romney attempted to do today even as he distanced himself somewhat from businesses owners.

“We’ll compete successfully as long as we get a government that makes America attractive for investment by the tax, regulatory trade polices and energy policies, and I will do that,” Romney said. “Not because I love businesspeople. I love all the good things that businesspeople do to the entire American people.”

Photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder – Mitt Romney holds a brief news conference after a campaign stop in Hudson, New Hampshire December 11, 2011.


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Mitt Romney’s theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. Thus he was not “moonlighting”; he was being a pastor with no remuneration. The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

Those who question if the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is a Christian denomination are mis-informed because New Testament Christianity is closer to Jesus Christ’s teachings than Fourth Century Creeds. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll: d-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Surv ey.aspx

11 of the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those who now insist on their narrow Trinitarian and salvation only by grace definition of Christianity for candidates for public office are doing our Republic an injustice.

Posted by BotBot | Report as abusive

The idea that Romney was “being a pastor without remuneration” is very misleading. In fact, Romney believes Mormon doctrine which states that exaltation cannot be achieved without “good works.”

As such, Romney was simply acting as a selfish business man. From the LDS perspective, he was (literally) making an “investment” in which he would give two years of his life, along with other service to his church, in return for “exaltation in the kingdom of heaven.”

From a strictly business point of view, it is a highly profitable investment, with one of the best (if you believe Mormon malarkey) returns on investment available.

Duwayne Anderson
Author of “Farewell to Eden: Coming to terms with Mormonism and science”

Posted by DandyStryker | Report as abusive

Since we are talking theology it would be more accurate to say that Mormons believe that works and faith are viewed as inseparable elements to our salvation rather than trying to split them as a pinch of works and a pound of faith.

What I’m trying to say is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that salvation can really only be found through our Savior Jesus Christ’s Grace.

We, like many others, believe we attain that grace through faith in Christ and his atonement. What seems to frustrate Evangelicals is that we do believe you have to be at least trying to do good.

Works is not the taboo word for us that it is for evangelicals. This is not because you can earn your salvation rather it’s because we believe that if you really have faith in Christ you will try to follow his example.

We believe that this is what James was referring to when he said “faith without works is dead”. No person who truly has faith in Jesus Christ would continue to willfully do wrong. And, in fact, we should be moved to bestow the same charity Christ offers us to our bothers and sisters if we do indeed carry faith in our hearts.

Under this view works by themselves are dead because doing something for the wrong reason is still wrong and you can never truly have faith if that faith does not manifest its self as works. Inseparable.

I cannot judge what was in Romney’s heart when he served his mission and donated hours of service to his fellow man as a pastor for the church. If he however, was following the doctrine of Christ as Mormons or Latter-day Saints see it, that service should really be seen a an expression of his faith in and love for his savior Jesus Christ.

Posted by LayneP | Report as abusive

Who cares if he is Mormon? The question should be if he can lead our country, not the religion that he chooses to associate himself with. If anything, it should only matter that he is religious, because people who are religious have a moral code that they must follow. In addition, I don’t think there is a single politician out there who truly knows what it is like to be unemployed. They may say they do in order to get votes, but politicians are completely out of touch with reality.

Posted by tdnarb | Report as abusive

I am a Christian. (I’m also a Democrat, just for full disclosure).
By the definition of the Word of God itself, however, Mormonism is not Christianity. Galatians one forbids the adding to or amending of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, condemning those who do (twice) to damnation. The Book of Mormon, with its assertion about the life and ministry of Christ, the nature of God, and His relationship with the Holy Spirit, is an amendment to the Gospel. In addition, to your point about pastoring with no renumeration, that shouldn’t be a distinguishing point at all. Any pastor who takes up a ministry with the focus on compensation is doing for all the wrong reasons anyway. The ministry is a calling, not a career. It should be noted that its not an obligation either, which it appears to have developed as in the LDS Church.
As well, to your point about Mormon teenagers, Christian behaviors do not a Christian make. As you know from reading Romans, all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Salvation does not come from works (despite what James says-check the interpretation), but from acceptance of Christ and repentance of Sin.

All of that being said, I think a candidates religion is, and by rights should be, irrelevant, especially when it comes to high public office. This is a pluralist country, made up of a diverse body of religious and irreligious people. What should be our concern is political and intellectual qualifications, ethical questions (as separate from religion) and the Hamiltonian/Madisonian Character of the men and women.

God bless you. I’m praying for you.

Posted by Shaefer | Report as abusive

Really, Mr. Anderson? First, the idea of living well & serving others to have a blessed future is virtually universal to all religions and even many nonreligious people – call it Karma or enlightenment… etc. There is nothing distinctive in Mormonism on that front.

Just how many 19 year olds do you suppose there are, anywhere in the world, who will put all of their future plans and hopes on hold and pay their own way (living very simply – even if, like Mr. Romney, they have the means to live far more comfortably) to fulfill their obligation, as they see it, to serve their fellow humans? Not just for weeks or months, but for years. Even if you find their doctrine odd or offensive, it is hard not to see the evidence of self discipline and well developed delayed gratificaion (an important marker for maturity).

Lastly, serving as Bishop (the lay minestry, referred to above) places enormous demands on your time, energy, and virtually every resource you and your family can muster. It is difficult, demanding work that consumes every available moment of your life. I’ve never known anyone to volunteer for the task, and with good reason (although one does often develop a rewarding commrads-in-arms relationship with the other people one serves with).

Everyone, including you, bases actions, at least occasionally, on some present or future benefit. Just how does that reflect poorly on anyone? Perhaps you’d prefer a society in which everyone seeks only their own immediate gratification, without regard to the damage inflicted upon thier fellow human beings?

Posted by thingaboutit | Report as abusive