Romney’s religion a ‘stumbling block’ to some Christians
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, one of the most prominent Baptist churches in the country, caused an uproar recently when he said Republicans shouldn’t vote for potential Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney because he’s in a cult.
Jeffress made the bold statement before introducing White House hopeful Rick Perry at the Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C. Friday.
Perry distanced himself from Jeffress’ remarks later, saying “No. I don’t think it is,” Perry said when asked by a journalist if he believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose group put on the Values Voter Summit, said that Jeffress’ use of the word “cult” was unfortunate and that Jeffress’ remarks on Mormonism shouldn’t have been blown out of proportion because the comments were made during a sidebar conversation with the media.
The summit’s purpose is not to discuss theological matters, but rather to unite faith-based voters, Perkins said.
In an interview on CNN after the event, Jeffress clarified his remarks saying, “Historical Christianity has never embraced Mormonism as a part of its faith,” and that Mormonism “doesn’t embrace the historical tenets of evangelical Christianity.”
Romney, a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, was also a speaker at the event.
He did not respond to Jeffress’ remarks, but he did lash out at fellow speaker, Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, who has said in the past that Mormons have “a completely different definition of who Christ is” than the founding fathers did, and do not deserve First Amendment protections as a consequence.
In response Romney said, “One of the speakers who will follow me today, has crossed that line,” Romney said. “Poisonous language does not advance our cause. It has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate.”
He added, “The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us – let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart.”
Jeffress is not the only evangelical to make headlines for discussing Romney’s Mormonism.
In an interview published Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Chairman Pat Robertson said he liked Mitt Romney’s political beliefs and viewed the potential Republican Party nominee as an “outstanding Christian.”
In addition, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, penned a column for CNN’s Belief blog in which he said he doesn’t think Mormonism is a cult.
In a recent Pew Research Center poll 34 percent of white evangelicals said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, and a quarter of all Americans said they were less likely to do so.
There are many other doctrinal differences between evangelical Christians and the Latter-day Saints. These differences include views on topics such as the Trinity, the Bible, Satan and the Deity of Christ.
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry has a fact sheet on the differences between Mormonism and historical Christianity.