Mormon in America?

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The Weekly Standard’s cover boy this week is Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a probable candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The article, by Weekly Standard publisher Terry Eastland, probes the question of whether Americans, especially American evangelicals and Catholics, will pull the lever for a Mormon for President.

The article is fascinating less for its political prognostications than for its commentary on the theological limits of culture war co-belligerence in America. Eastland provides a helpful sketch of the stark theological differences between the Latter Day Saints and mere Christianity, noting the softening toward Mormonism by many on the evangelical left.

Also of interest is Eastland’s take on Romney’s abortion views, which Eastland argues are at odds with the LDS church but not in the ways one might think:

On the question of when life begins, Romney is actually to the right of some members of his church, since, invoking science, he says life begins at conception (“when all the genetic elements are in place for a human being to develop”), while some co-religionists say it doesn’t begin until implantation occurs, because “there’s no soul” until then. Romney’s position on when life begins has shaped his response to the therapeutic cloning legislation just passed by the Massachusetts legislature. Romney says it would sanction “the creation of life with the intent of destroying it. For me, that’s the line I draw. Other people, other Republicans”—including other Mormons—“draw the line in different places.”

Mormon theology about ensoulment and implantation explains, for instance, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s support for embryonic stem cell research.

Eastland’s article raises some interesting questions about theological consensus and cultural activism, questions that probably won’t be answered for some time.

The culture is changing but it can be good news for the church.


Onward cover

About Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency 
of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

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