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Small Wonders: A convenient marriage of doctrine and politics

September 07, 2012|By Patrick Caneday

History is the chronicle of divorces between creed and deed.  — Louis Fischer

As recently as 2004, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — Mormons — were excluded from participating in events organized by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, the largest Christian grassroots organizer of annual National Day of Prayer observances.

The task force is chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian activist group Focus on the Family.


Yet, just this year, major Christian colleges such as Liberty University have welcomed figureheads of the LDS Church as commencement speakers. And some of the Christian community's most prolific voices — Franklin Graham, Chuck Smith and Tony Perkins, to name just a few — have been walking back the condemnation many evangelical Christians have long had for Mormonism.

What changed in eight short years?

A devout Mormon became the Republican Party's best hope of making Barack Obama a one-term president.

In the past, if you mentioned Mormonism to many evangelical Christians, the first word you'd hear back was this: cult.

I've heard it among the pews, and I've heard it from the pulpit. “Mormonism is a cult.”

Though Mormons share many family and social values with their Christian counterparts, Mormonism has never been accepted as an authentic “Christian religion” by the Christian establishment.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution forbids religious litmus tests for candidates of public office, religious beliefs are a common and valid factor to consider in measuring the personal judgment and character of a candidate. It may not always be an accurate measure, but neither are political ads.

Alas, a presidential candidate in the U.S. avowing anything other than mainstream Christian beliefs stands little chance of getting elected today.

Thus the need to blur the lines between the two religions.

But therein lies the problem.

The differences aren't just vague misunderstandings of the Mormon belief system. They are well-substantiated doctrinal disagreements. To those who practice strict adherence to their Christian orthodoxy, Mormon theology is not only incompatible with Christian belief, it is considered a threat and heretical contradiction.

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