I have no idea how this escaped our notice until now…
But thanks to The Waipa Blog out of New Zealand, we now have this article by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp of UNC-Chapel Hill in the Christian Century. Written from pretty much a doctrinal angle, it may be the best piece on the issues it addresses that I have read. Some highlights:
What does Mormonism suggest about the character of a potential president? This question is challenging principally because, as is the case with any religious tradition, there is not necessarily a direct correlation between Mormon beliefs or doctrines as enunciated by church leaders and individual practices. Just as one can't tell very much about the behaviors of individual Catholics just by listening to the pronouncements of the pope or even reading passages of scripture, we cannot easily predict the behaviors of Mormons by examining particular teachings. Variety among Mormons is as common as in many other Christian traditions.
The LDS Church itself is only one of dozens of diverse Mormon groups that claim the Book of Mormon as authoritative. Although all share a common core of teachings, the groups range from some that could pass as Unitarian to the polygamist sect led by fundamentalist Warren Jeffs. The LDS Church, by far the largest Mormon communion, falls somewhere between these extremes.
In practice, then, LDS religious authority is diffused and regulated in quite orderly ways; indeed, one might say that this flow is both more controlled than in many Protestant churches and more democratically distributed than in Roman Catholicism.
Although Mormons today share many of the conservative right's political goals regarding women's roles, gay rights and abortion, they reach their stance by somewhat different means.
Will evangelical Christians trust a Mormon to uphold the political values that the Christian right so cherishes? Despite Romney's attempts at détente, suspicion still runs very high, as the few evangelicals who have tried to engage in dialogue with LDS members have discovered. When Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, made visible efforts to find common ground with Mormons several years ago, many staunch evangelicals were outraged by what they saw as his willingness to talk to the devil. Obviously, evangelicals are not all of one mind about dialogue with Mormons. But it is certain that many will remain suspicious of Romney's motives, despite any temporary allegiance of interests.
A diffused religious authority, an emphasis on personal agency and responsibility, and a dedicated but wary relationship to the government represent crucial elements of the Mormon gestalt. As I have suggested, however, Mormons are a varied lot, and it would be far too simplistic to think that one could cull specific political implications from a particular doctrine or religious practice. One need only recall the vast territory separating Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch to glimpse the divergent ways that political life can be interpreted and expressed among coreligionists.
Mitt Romney's political identity is even less clear. He is known now mostly for his ability to change his mind. While it is tempting to attribute his shift to the right to the machinations of the LDS Church, and while the church itself has aligned itself more closely and vocally with traditional conservative values in the past few decades, it is difficult to see a clear line of influence from religious precept to political doctrine.
Yes, the piece is a bit left-leaning and saws the flip-flop yarn a little hard, but it is pretty smart about Mormon doctrine and how it relates to politics.
Lowell: I agree. I haven't been able to read to read the whole thing, but as a Mormon I can say it sounds like the author has got our culture down.
Newsweek ran a blurb this week on the Mormon doctrine of "celestial marriage" and how it can lead to polygamy in heaven. There is no Romney mention, but come on, why else would the piece be there? All I can say is that there is enough to worry about in the here and now to avoid concerning myself with the details of life in the hereafter. Unless I am mistaken, I think Jesus said something along those lines.
A review of a book about sermons in American history. You know, it would be interesting some day to look into how the lack of a professional clergy, and therefore trained sermonizers, in the LDS church has affected their historical path.
An interesting podcast on the judiciary and religion/state issues.