Reynolds is an ordained minister, a columnist for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.” She is a former editor and columnist for USA Today.
With Mitt Romney’s commanding performance in the first presidential debate last week it is an increasing possibility that the United States
could elect its first Mormon president, a man who was a missionary, a bishop, and a stake president, the highest-ranking Mormon leader in Boston, said to be equivalent to a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
Romney has credited his faith to his success as a businessman, a family man and a politician, but I find it incredible that we — myself included--know so little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly called the Mormons.
It is amazing that nearly 80 percent of recently polled Americans know little or nothing about Mormonism. Another 38 percent don’t think Mormons are Christians and 42 percent would feel at least some discomfort with a Mormon president and there is a widespread belief that Mormonism it is a cult. I find it strange that the media are not delving into these issues with the same zeal as they scrutinized John Kennedy on whether his first loyalty would be to the pope or the presidency or Jimmy Carter, who as a Southern Baptist, was grilled about what it meant to be born again.
Of course in our politically correct culture, it’s hard to ask such questions without being attacked as having such bias. Indeed, when candidates of different races and religions outside of the mainstream run for public office, it’s easy for us to wonder how the ”other” will impact the status quo. President Obama certainly experienced this in 2008 and much of his term has been analyzed through the prism of race and often religion for good and for bad.
Mormons numbering 14 million worldwide are a small number, but according to Stephen Mansfield, author of “The Mormonizing of America,” the faith has reached critical mass as a dominate force in politics, entertainment and pop culture. Included among this famous group are more than a dozen congressional leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top executives of Jet Blue, American Express, Sears and Marriott. Then there are millionaire commentator Glenn Beck, management guru Stephen Covey, the Osmonds and even Gladys Knight to name a few.
Yet for now in many quarters Romney has become the face of Mormonism. For his part he, like Kennedy, has emphasized if he were elected he would be representing the nation not his church. In December 2007, speaking at the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, he said: “Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin,” he said. And to end the matter that he and Mormons are not Christians, he said: “I believe that Jesus is the son of God and the Savior of mankind.” Nevertheless for better understanding here are seven questions that I believe the media should ask Romney about his religion.
Do you agree with or plan to condemn how women are treated within the Mormon faith? And since women receive 74 cents to the dollar that men earn in the job market would you fight for equal pay and gender equality for women in public policy?
Mormon women, reportedly, are not allowed to serve in the priesthood, although virtually all males can from age 12. Some faiths such as Catholics, Baptists and Orthodox Jews may exclude women from ordination, but none ordain all males as a group.
Do you support the right and the duty of journalists to probe and challenge government without political pressure being applied?
This question is based not only on the 1946 ex-communication of noted biographer and UCLA professor Fawn Brodie for writing an unflattering biographer about prophet Joseph Smith, but recent statements that Mormon writers face serious consequences for challenging Mormon principles or leadership. The Daily Beast has reported that David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, fifth-generation Mormon and managing editor of MormonThink.com faced discipline and ex-communication for apostasy for writing a negative article about Romney. Twede wrote that his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Mormon offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, ordering him to “cease and desist.”
Prophet Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon movement, ran for president in 1844 calling for the establishment of a “theodemocracy,” a government led by God”and eventually by the Mormon Priesthood-- as the only way to bring order and happiness to the earth. You seemed to continue the analogy when you apparently referred to the Declaration of Independence as a theological document establishing a covenant between God and man. Do you see the American presidency as a theological office?
Mormons reportedly believe that after the Resurrection of Jesus. He appeared in Jackson County, Mo., where He will one day return and rule from a temple there and in Jerusalem. If this is correct, how does it affect your policy toward Israel?
Mormon church finances are traditionally kept from the public. Is this an underlying reason why you refuse to release all of your tax records?
It is in the Mormon tradition to rely on the revelations of prophets for divine guidance. If there were two opposing views, one from someone recognized by your faith as a prophet and the other based on the U.S. Constitution, how would you choose?