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Correction to This Article
This article about Mormonism and candidates for president incorrectly stated some results of a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Asked to give a one-word impression of Mormonism, 75 respondents - not 75 percent - said "polygamy," and 57 respondents - not 57 percent - called the religion a cult.

Romney Aims to Prove His Christianity

VIDEO | The Mormon Question
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By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 6, 2007

PALMYRA, N.Y. -- Mormon missionary Laura Bergeson is getting used to The Question. It comes from the curious who wander into this rural outpost of western New York to explore the exhibit hall of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.

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" 'So, are you guys Christian?' " Bergeson repeats The Question with a weary smile. The answer, Mormons say, is emphatically yes.

The question is on the minds of voters on the religious right as Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate who is also a Mormon, prepares to deliver an address today designed to convince evangelical Christians that he shares their religious values.

That could be a tough task, because many of those voters, a core Republican constituency, believe Romney's church lies far outside the bounds of Christianity. His task has taken on a new urgency since GOP rival Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, has soared in the polls with less than a month before the Iowa caucuses.

Almost one-third of Americans of all faiths surveyed in August by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said they do not regard Mormons as Christian. Among white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly, more than half said they believe that the Mormon religion is not Christian.

Unless Romney, who will speak at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex., treads carefully, the speech could be a disaster for his campaign, said Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. "His church has beliefs that other Christians just can't accept," he said.

Like all Christians, Mormons worship Jesus Christ as the son of God who atoned for their sins by dying on the cross, and they study the Bible as the word of God.

But, unlike traditional Christians, Mormons also revere the Book of Mormon equally with the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. They believe that Jesus visited the Americas after he was crucified and that he will return and reign from the United States and Jerusalem. They believe that the dead can be baptized, that God was once a man and that a human can become like a god. And, they say, God speaks through living apostles and prophets, such as Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Mormon Church.

Mormons believe the faith's founder, Joseph Smith Jr., a Palmyra farmer, was guided by an angel to a set of ancient records etched on golden plates. Those records, which include an account of Jesus Christ's appearance in the Americas after his crucifixion, are in the Book of Mormon.

For many traditional Christians, such ideas are heresy.

"It is fascinating," said Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "It's just not Christianity."

Mormons say such pronouncements are not only hurtful, they're just plain wrong.


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