Mitt Romney is the front runner for the Republican nomination for president in the 2012 elections, by many accounts. That is, if some Christian pastors don’t convince their congregations that it’s unacceptable to vote for a Mormon and persist in perpetuating fictions about the Mormon faith.
I, personally, know quite a bit about the Mormon faith. Though I am not a practicing Mormon, having left the church as a teenager, my entire family is Mormon and I grew up in the faith. Allow me to clear up some common misconceptions about being Mormon, as we focus on Romney’s campaign:
- Mormons do not practice polygamy. They did practice polygamy prior to Utah becoming a state in 1896. The federal government required Utah to include a ban on polygamy in its state constitution in order to become part of the union, which had the effect of breaking up families, with husbands abandoning wives and children en masse. Many Mormons felt this was unfair, wrong and immoral. These people broke off from the Mormon church and created their own factions that are not associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. They are the ones who practice polygamy today. Watch Sister Wives on TLC for a modern-day picture of polygamy. Other people who practiced polygamy? Abraham and pretty much everyone else in the Bible.
- Mormons ARE Christians. The church is titled The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – note the Jesus Christ part of the title. The first Article of Faith, one of the primary beliefs of the Mormon religion, is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Which, as you can see is nearly identical to many Christian faiths belief in the Godhead.
- Mormons believe in an Eternal Family. Mormons are exceptional parents and the foundation of their lifestyle is the family. Like Catholics, Mormons tend to have a lot of children. Not so much because they have to, but because they like to. The family is the center of their lives. They focus on their families in an obsessive sort of way that is really very beautiful. Displayed in the living rooms of my grandmothers, my mother and many Mormons I know is the saying, “No success in life can compensate for failure in the home.”
- Mormons believe in, and use, various forms of birth control. They are instructed to have only as many children as they can emotionally and financially care for.
- Mormons believe in modern-day prophets, rather like the Pope. It is usually a kind elderly man who has been in the LDS administration for many years. They believe he is ordained and called of God. They believe that there are Holy Men that live today and speak to their members about what God wants of them. Their members follow righteously. When one of them dies, another is called of God.
- Mormons believe, like many religions, that God speaks to people through the Holy Spirit. They believe the Holy Spirit guides their actions, keeping them safe, directing them in the ways they should go.
- Mormonism is a completely volunteer religion. Bishops (equivalent to Pastors), Youth Leaders, Finance Advisors, nursery workers, everyone is a volunteer. No one gets paid for their service. They also do not get to choose their jobs. They are “called” by God to serve where they are needed and they comply. These jobs are temporary, usually for a year or several.
- Mormons contribute billions of dollars to international and national Aid. They donate money, food, clothing and medicine around the world. They do it because service is a foundation of their religion. Women make quilts for infants, maxi pads for girls and women, hats and many other things. Once a month on Sundays Mormons fast and the money they would have spent on food, they donate to the poor.
- Mormons do have a gender-divide like many Christian religions. However, they also have a history of gender-equality. Prior to obtaining statehood, women had the right to vote in Utah. This too, was outlawed by the federal government when they became a state.
- Mothers generally are encouraged to stay at home with their children. This is considered right and good, not because they are not considered smart enough to compete in the marketplace, but because of the vital importance they place on children and the family. Women pursue the raising of their children with an equivalent ambition to any woman’s profession.
- Mormons, including Mormon women, are highly educated. They achieve university degrees in order to better educate their children and to provide for their families should their husbands become unemployed or in case they are widowed or if they choose to work outside the home or become work-at-home-mothers and many do.
- Mormons have a long history of serving in the military. My grandfather, father, sister-in-law, cousins and brother have had careers in military service.
- Mormons have a strict code of accountability. Mormons believe in tithing, church attendance, moral conduct, healthy behavior, kindness to others, and fiscal responsibility. They are accountable both to the church and to each other.
- Mormons never, ever give up on each other. You can leave the church and 50 years later they will still ask you to come back.
- Mormons take care of their own. If a Mormon is out of work or going through a poverty spell they are supplied with food, money, clothing, employment, counseling services and anything else they might need.
- Mormons are not a cult. Any religion made up of millions of people can’t be considered a cult. They are extraordinarily organized. Not given to whimsy.
- Mormons believe in self-sufficiency. If you were in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina you’d have wanted to find some Mormons. As a tenet of the religion they are advised to keep a storage of food, water and money. They keep survival tools, as well as items to cook, keep warm, travel, and hunt with. They keep 72 hour survival kits. They are extremely active in Boy Scouts. It is common sense. They also believe in the Last Days and intend to survive them, which motivates this tenet.
- Mormons believe in niceness and politeness. Really, you’re not going to find nicer neighbors, nicer people to work with, kinder friends. If you have a baby, Mormons will bring you meals for two weeks. If someone dies, same thing. If you have sickness in your family, you will have help.
- Mormons are evangelical, meaning they are encouraged to serve Missions and convert others. They believe they have the Truth and they want everyone to have it too. Boys of 19 and girls of 21 (because older girls rarely date younger boys) are encouraged to go around the world, learning another language, spreading the word of God. Only young adults who have lived under the strictest of moral conduct are eligible to go and those who do go are encouraged to pay for it themselves. It is a great sacrifice. They put off college for two years to do it. It is a great coming of age experience, a great time of growth and very difficult for some. Retired adults are also encouraged to participate in this experience.
- Mormons hate for people to go to hell. They have three Kingdoms of Heaven to prevent this from happening. The Celestial Kingdom is for those who have lived Holy, Eternal Marriages and kept their Covenants to God; the Terrestial is for those who have been Holy but, have not accepted the Mormon faith – even after death; and the Telestial for those who have been murderers and terrible sinners; Outer Darkness, Mormon’s version of Hell, is reserved only for those who, after death, having been given the chance to accept the truth of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior still choose to reject it. It is one of the most compassionate versions of salvation I’ve ever heard of. Everyone gets a chance after death. They baptize people by proxy after death to account for all of those who were born before Jesus came to earth and those who never had the chance to accept or hear of Jesus during this life.
- Mormons believe in the Bible as the Word of God. They also believe in the Constitution as inspired by God. They also believe in the Book of Mormon as the Word of God. I, personally, believe all inspiration comes from God — thus, the Holy Spirit.
If you’re not going to vote for Mitt Romney, that’s fine. I’m a Democrat, so I most likely will not. But don’t not vote for him because you’re ignorant about Mormons.