On August 9, 2012 the Huffington Post posted a blog co-written by documentary filmmaker Helen Whitney and LDS author Gregory Prince. The Mormon Moment – Postponed suggests that Mormonism remains enigmatic despite the intense interest about the faith currently exhibited by the public and media alike. The authors believe presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a unique opportunity to “clear away the fog that continues to obscure” the religion by answering several thoughtful questions that they pose in their article. The last of the nine questions seeks to lighten the mood a bit when the authors ask:
9. Of all the misconceptions surrounding your religion, which one has offended you the most? Or, to interject a lighter note, what misinformation or stereotype has caused you to roll your eyes and even laugh when you are with your Mormon friends?
Mr. Romney’s answer to this (and every other) question posed by Whitney and Prince would be interesting to read, but he has, to date, provided no response.
One question asked was about how Mr. Romney would handle it if God spoke to him (or spoke to a Mormon Church leader who subsequently spoke to Mr. Romney) asking him to do something that would conflict with his role as president. Mr. Romney laughed and said, “I don’t recall God speaking to me. I don’t know that He’s spoken to anyone since Moses and the bush…” Apparently this answer caused some consternation among Mormons because the idea of God speaking to people today is not a misconception, but rather a central tenet of Mormonism.
According to Mormonism’s first Prophet Joseph Smith, God spoke to him in 1820. This First Vision formed the foundation of the Mormon religion, a religion that recognizes continuing revelation as a pillar of the Church. Adult members of the Mormon Church are currently studying Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. Chapter 11 is titled, “Revelation from God to His Children.” The manual relates a story George Albert Smith told (about an airplane flight) in an effort to teach “the importance of revelation.” Then,
[President Smith said,] Not only has the Lord given us the advice already recorded in the scriptures to guide us but he has placed a leader in this Church, one of his sons who has been chosen and ordained and set apart to be the President. He is our pilot and he will be directed by a voice that will enable him to lead us where we should go. If we are wise we will not set up our judgment against him but will be happy to honor him in his place as long as the Lord sustains him.
…The distinction between this great Church and that of all other churches from the beginning has been that we believe in divine revelation; we believe that our Father speaks to man today as he has done from the time of Adam….
It is unique these days to belong to a church, wherein those who are members believe that the Lord speaks through their leaders. When we are instructed by the President of this Church, we believe he tells us what the Lord would have us do. To us it is something more than just the advice of man. We believe that, and it searches our souls, and we are prompted to renew our determination to be what God would have us be.
We have had misguided souls in the Church who have, in their ignorance, opposed the advice of the [President of the Church], not sensing the fact that they were opposing the Lord and they have fallen into darkness and sorrow, and unless they repent they will not find a place in the celestial kingdom.
Let us remember that the President of this Church has been officially designated as the pilot of the Church here in mortality to represent the Master of heaven and earth.
Judy Woodruff on the Charlie Rose Show posed another apparently laughable question to Mr. Romney in June 2006. She suggested that there are some aspects of Mormonism that people might not understand, for example, “that Jesus Christ will appear again in the state of Missouri or that God has a material body, that He was fathered by another God.” Mr. Romney laughed while telling Ms. Woodruff that she didn’t exactly have those doctrines right and that she should “go talk to the Church” (beginning at 10:45 in the video). But she did have those doctrines right. All three of the doctrines Ms. Woodruff mentioned are teachings of the Mormon Church.
Gospel Principles, published by the Mormon Church as “a study guide and as a teacher’s manual” explains that Christ will return to Missouri:
Near the time of the coming of Jesus Christ, the faithful Saints will build a righteous city, a city of God, called the New Jerusalem. Jesus Christ Himself will rule there… The Lord said the city will be built in the state of Missouri in the United States… (255)
Mormon scripture clearly states that God the Father has a material body:
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22)
Mormonism’s Prophet Joseph Smith was forthright in his teaching that God the Father was fathered by another God:
If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it. (History of the Church 6:476)
Mitt Romney is not the only Mormon who tries to publicly distance himself from Mormon doctrines. In a 2007 interview Helen Whitney noted,
The question I constantly hear in the making of the film [The Mormons]… ‘Do Mormons tell us what they really believe?’…In truth in my own experience, talking to so many Mormons, both the ordinary folk and right up to the general authorities, it’s the rare experience for me, that I’m with a Mormon who will own…the big, bold ideas of Mormonism. (“Mormonism and American Politics: Mitt, Mormonism, and the Media,” Chapter 12: Secrecy, beginning at 2:00)
Mormons often complain that their religion is misunderstood. They protest the misconceptions people have about Mormonism. They express dismay over public misrepresentations of the teachings of their church. But the LDS Church itself — its spokespeople and its leaders, its celebrities and its members — are so reluctant to “own the big, bold ideas of Mormonism” that they end up being the biggest culprits, fostering misunderstandings, misconceptions, and misrepresentations along the way. The Bible says we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). The public voice of Mormonism sows prevarication; it shouldn’t surprise anyone when others are left wandering around in the fog.