Friday, November 30, 2007

So, What Does Romney Think About the Bible?

Is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney breaking with his fellow Mormons?

Is he engaging in politicalspeak?

Or does he simply not know what his own Mormon religion teaches about the Bible?

These questions came to my mind several nights ago after listening to Romney's response to the YouTube-submitted question of Joseph from Dallas, Texas, during the most recent Republican presidential debate.

In a question which one blogger described as being "from some scary guy who thrust a Bible at the camera and intoned in a rather threatening voice," Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee were asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?"

Giuliani and Huckabee gave answers one might have expected from them. Giuliani's was the response of a post-modern guy who's given little or no thought to the Bible or faith issues in spite of being a Roman Catholic. Huckabee, the former Baptist pastor, answered in a way which could be sliced and diced by those of varied confessional backgrounds, but would nonetheless be similar to the responses given by most Christians.

Romney's response seemed, at best, incomplete.

I'm privileged to be reviewing an advance copy of a new book by my blogging colleague, Andy Jackson. In it, Andy draws from the pronouncements of the Mormon religion itself to discuss what the Latter Day Saints believe about the Bible, which is what the YouTube questioner had in mind when he used the phrase, "Word of God." (In fact, he appeared to specifically reference the King James Version of the Bible. But I won't get into that here.)

All Christians would agree, I think, with something like the formulation of my own Lutheran movement, which says that the Bible is "the authoritative source and norm of [Christian] life, faith, and practice." In the Bible, God discloses Himself and His will to we limited, mortal human beings and all that we Christians say about or do in the Name of God must be measured against what God reveals about Himself there. (This is what the word, canon, refers to; canon is a means of measurement.) We don't have the freedom or the right to claim as true anything about God or about life with God that's less than, more than, or outside of what the Bible teaches.

But, according to the Mormon sources cited by Andy, Mormon teachings don't have as high a regard for the Bible as traditional Christian teaching. Both in the writings of the religion and the pronouncements of its prophets, presidents, and apostles, beginning with Joseph Smith, the Bible is seen as a severely corrupted book with impoverished notions as to how one is saved from sin and death.

Furthermore, the Bible is regarded as an inferior form of revelation when compared to The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants.

And none of these written sources are deemed as authoritative as the latest visions given to the religion's luminaries.

A devout Mormon can speak of the Bible as the Word of God, but certainly not in the same way Christians do. If Romney knows that, then, as long as he was going to answer the "scary" man's question, honesty should have impelled him to mention that.

A Mormon could serve honorably as President. I said this in 2005. But we have every right to expect that a Mormon (or a Baptist, or a Buddhist, or an atheist) won't soft-pedal her or his religious views when asked directly about them and when he or she chooses to answer such questions.

This was Romney's response to the question about whether he believed in the Word of God:
MR. ROMNEY: I believe the Bible is the word of God, absolutely. (Applause.) And I try to live by it as well as I can, but I miss in a lot of ways. But it's a guide for my life and for hundreds of millions, billions of people around the world. I believe in the Bible.

MR. COOPER: Does that mean you believe every word?

MR. ROMNEY: You know -- yeah, I believe it's the word of God. The Bible is the word of God. I mean, I might interpret the word differently than you interpret the word, but I read the Bible and I believe the Bible is the word of God. I don't disagree with the Bible. I try to live by it.
"I don't disagree with the Bible." Not exactly, "Here I stand." And nobody says that he has to have a "Here I stand" view of the Bible in order to be President. At least I don't say that. Believing in the Bible as the Word of God isn't a requirement for holding the office of President.

The problem is that Romney appears to want to say that he has the same view of the Bible as historic Christianity, in violation of the tenets of his own religion.

Instead of trying to fudge on this issue, which it seems, is his aim, why doesn't Mr. Romney just say what he thinks or simply tell people to lay off his religious views?

People would respect him for such legitimate responses, I think.

But lame answers, in which he appears to aim at "splitting the difference" and make everyone happy without really saying anything do not help his candidacy.


Charlie said...

You're assuming that this isn't just a case of ignorance on his part. I haven't looked at Romney's religious bio enough to know if he is a token Mormon who just doesn't know much about what his faith says (are there token Mormons?), or if he's trying to appeal to evangelicals, as you say, by pretending there are no real differences between Christianity and Mormonism.

I think it's regrettable that the question was asked, but I can see why CNN's producers would want to put the candidates on the spot. But since there can be no religious test for public office, it really sets a bad precedent.

David said...

It's no secret what the Mormon Church teaches about the Bible. The lesson manual for their bible study can be found at their website:
The link is for the first lesson, there are 46 on the New Testament and 48 on the Old Testament.

Christian said...

Ahhhh, now I see why a copy of this comment wasn't posted on redbluechristian. The site is run by the famous Mark Daniels, friend of Romney lackey Hugh Hewitt. (Remember what Paul told the Corinthians about "bad company.)

I also see that the Mormon "starting to learn" has the job of defending Mitt Romney on the blogs, as I've run into him (or her) a few times now. Funny that his propaganda is posted on a Christian site, but a Christian's truth is not.

Anyway, let's see if I can get posted here. Those who call ourselves Christians shouldn't be like the godless Evolutionists. If we have the truth, what are we so afraid of?


Yes, Mitt Romney lied about the Bible. What's new?

To paraphrase Ann Coulter, "If Mormons believed the Bible, they'd be Christians."

It's all been documented at

Like Mormonism, the blog isn't what it seems.

(Funny photos too!)

Christian said...

Oops. Please forgive me Mr. Daniels. I see now that my post on redbluechristian has, in fact, been posted. (Must have been a technical glitch here? I checked for a few days - even today before posting here - and didn't see it. But now I see all three of my attempts at comments are up.)

If they have been up all this time, then I confess my sin of presumption to you.


Spencer Troxell said...

I think you are right. Romney's biggest weakness, in my opinion, is his inability to not pander. I have watched all of the debates that have been televised, and have been struck by Romney's ability to be very passionate about very local issues (like farm subsidies in Iowa and the border in Texas). I know all politicians pander, but he is especially frequent at it. The danger of being the kind of guy who says what he thinks in a way he thinks everyone will want to hear it, is that eventually what he says ends up sounding like nothing.

Mark Daniels said...

I have no control over what gets included in the comments at RedBlueChristian. com, but I've never known Andy Jackson to thwart comments. (Unless they're in poor taste.)

I've been away all day, so if you had difficulty commenting here, I can assure you that it has nothing to do with me.

While I have met Hugh Hewitt and he's been kind to me and to this blog--though he usually links to specifically Christian content here, I'm not a Romney supporter. (I don't do candidate endorsements around here.)

But in fact, what I was trying to do with this post was take Romney to task for appearing to equate his own views on the Bible with those of his Mormon religion. I suggested that this left us with three possible explanations of his answer during the CNN YouTube debate:

(1) That he was breaking with his fellow Mormons.

(2) That he was engaging pandering to the Religious Right.

(3) That he simply doesn't know what his own religion teaches about the Bible.

There should be no religious test for holding political office in the United States. That in fact, is what the Constitution says. But if a candidate chooses to answer such questions, it's fair to ask what he intends to say and how it reflects on his authenticity.


IZ said...


Reading some of your comments (as well as your article Mark), I was struck by the arrogance of your assumptions. Namely, that you know more about what he or his religion believes about he bible than he does. This seems to be common place among Evangelicals, and indeed it is a huge stumbling block between any kind of true dialogue between the two groups. Evangelicals say one thing about mormon belief, to which mormons respond with their true beliefs, to which the evangelicals respond "you see, Mormon's can't even be honest with us about their true beliefs", which then translate into such rationales as "how can we then trust any one of them to run the country?"

In this case, you come to the question of what Mitt Romney believes about the bible with a pre-concieved notion about what he "really" believes. Since his answer doesn't square with that notion, he must either be (as you put it mark) 1) Breaking with his fellow Mormons (read not a "true" Mormon),2) Pandering to the Religious Right (not a true conservative, social or otherwise), or 3) That he simply doesn't know what his own religion teaches about the Bible (because YOU do, and since it is different that what he states, he must be ignorant (even though he was a Bishop and a Stake President)).

Do you not see how arrogant that sounds to someone reading this blog. It is basically saying "He believes (fill in the blank), and if he says otherwise he is at best pandering and at worst lying!" I'm sure you would not so much appreciate if I started listing mischaracterizations of evangelical christian beliefs, and then blasting you for having the audacity for trying to claim you believe otherwise.

Full disclosure: I am a Mormon and a Romney supporter. As such, I can state that there is nothing in his answer that doesn't square with his the churches view of the biblen or what he has consistently claimed when asked about it. It is the evangelical characterization of our beliefs (such as at the linked that is in error, not his answer. You would rather he have gone into a nuanced discussion of the Mormon veiw on revalation and what constitutes scripture or the word of God?

The truth is, he wasn't trying to equate his view of the bible with those of Evangelicals. It just so happens that holding the Bible as the word of God is something boths groups have in common. Does it hold the same level of importance for both groups? No, because the mormon church has an open cannon (as it was, BTW, until the cannonization of the Bible by the catholic church (considered heretical as well by many evangelical christians) hundreds of years after the last books were witten). So we hold it to be equally the word of God as the Book of Mormon and others, but it obviously does not hold the same level of importance as it does for Evangelicals. Before you jump down my throat, let me clarify. It is like saying that the book of John is just as important to you as the bible as a whole. Would you claim this (does the book of John cotain all the information needed to form true conclusions about the nature of Christ/God and what salvation entails). But that doesn't make the book of John any less true (or any less the word of God), does it? Such is the Bible to Mormons. It is the word of God, absolutely! Just as the book of John is to Mormons and evangelicals. But we see it important to not only have other writings revealed from God to his people, but to have continuing revelation as well. Afterall, did Paul not need to recieve revelation, by virtue of the fact that they already had old testament scriptures? Or because Christ had already taught all we need to know?

We hold all scripture equally. Infact, we hold all scripture the way you hold the Bible. So the Bible is only part of it. But it is absolutely the word of God. This was a lengthy response, to be sure. But I hope I have cleared up some of the misunderstanding surrounding our views. And I am not any kind of official spokesman for my church, but I can assure you that I am more an authority on this matter than Mark or any of the other evangelical posters here. Word of advice: you would come off as far more crdible if you didn't pretend to tell us mormons what we, depite our protests to the contrary, "really" believe.

Christian said...

Mr. Daniels said,
"I have no control over what gets included in the comments at RedBlueChristian. com, but I've never known Andy Jackson to thwart comments. (Unless they're in poor taste.)"

You may know now. The post(s) at RedBlue citing the romneyforpresident.townhall
blog appears to have been "thwarted."

Using "poor taste" as a criterion for posting comments doesn't sound right. There's a lot of the Bible that's in "poor taste." (See Eze Ch 23.)

Maybe you'll sharpen Mr. Jackson on this? The truth is often harsh. That's no reason to suppress it.

Mark Daniels said...

You write, "We hold all scripture equally. Infact, we hold all scripture the way you hold the Bible. So the Bible is only part of it. But it is absolutely the word of God."

This is precisely what Mr. Romney failed to say and it's exactly why his answer was so misleading, intentionally or not.

From a Christian perspective, the Mormon position on the Bible, as you accurately characterize it, takes away from the authority of the Bible. It does so by equating other writings and visions with it. This is unacceptable to Christians.

Romney's failure to make the kind of brief, honest statement you've shared here was either:

(1) A deliberate attempt to equate Christian belief with Mormon belief even where they diverge, as he already has in ways that has offended many Mormons themselves. (Look here: The aims of doing this would be purely political.

(2) A public pronouncement of breaking with his own faith, again because his answer is incomplete at best and deceptive at its worst.

(3) Or, a reflection of ignorance regarding the teachings of his own religion.

IZ, I believe that you have honestly characterized the way in which Mormonism regards the Bible as the Word of God. Romney didn't do that.

I will add, again, that I don't feel that Romney was under any obligation to answer this question. He could have said, "I have a high regard for the Bible. But this is neither the time or place to discuss my theological views of it." But he chose to answer the question.

The issue of whether a Mormon can hold high elective office in America was answered affirmatively in 1953, when Ezra Taft Benson was nominated to serve as Secretary of Agriculture by President-Elect Eisenhower and was subsequently confirmed without any opposition that I know about. Were Mormonism a prohibitive red flag, Benson certainly would have caused it be waved; he was an important figure in the Mormon religion.

When Mr. Romney's father ran for President, the scuttling of his candidacy had nothing to do with his religion, but with his seeming admission to being brainwashed by the Johnson Administration regarding the war in Vietnam.

I grant that the Religious Right, of which I am not a part and of which I take a dim view, has created pressures on GOP candidates to "speak their language" and pass muster with them. But it was Mr. Romney and his acolytes who first made a big deal of his religion, even having the official campaign biography, written by my cyber-friend, Hugh Hewitt, called "Mormon in the White House?" and relying heavily and very publicly on his fellow Mormons to pay for his campaign, making it appear like less a political effort than a religious crusade. It's Mr. Romney who has made his religious affiliation appear questionable, if not menacing thus far in this campaign.

There are conservative evangelicals who no doubt want to create a religious test for service as President. They will advance this agenda toward, not just Mormons, but any candidate who doesn't conform to their narrow band of preferred theological and political positions. They're not anti-Mormon; they're anti-anybody-who-doesn't-kowtow-to-them.

Kowtow to them Mr. Romney has done, making himself appear like a flip-flopper in the process. That will prove more destructive to his candidacy than his religious affiliation.

I would happily vote for a Mormon for President and I never would impose a religious test on a candidate.Mr. Romney appears intent on imposing such a test on himself, however, and muddies up the waters considerably while doing so.

If he fails to win the nomination, I doubt that it will be because he's a Mormon. It will have more to do with the apparent dishonesty with which he portrays his religion than with his affiliation with it.

Thank you for your comments and your candor. God bless you.


IZ said...

If your last line was meant to end the discussion, I hope not, since I really enjoyed your response. It was thoughfull and respectfull, and I appreciate that. I hope you don't mind, though, I would like to respond to a few things in your reply.

You write "This is precisely what Mr. Romney failed to say and it's exactly why his answer was so misleading, intentionally or not."

If he had been ask if he thought that the Bible was the complete word of God, with no extrabiblical writings being included, then I would have no argument with your statement here. But he wasn't asked that. He was actually asked if he thought every word in the bible is (literally) true, which is virtually impossible to answer satisfactorily without first defining "true". Even (most) evangelical christians, as Mike Huckabee demonstrated with his answer, believe that much (some, anyway) of the Bible is metaphorical, and so not literally true. But this is an aside. The point is that he was asked (more or less)if he believed the bible to be true (which he does, and so he stated), but you seem to not be satisfied because he didn't answer as if he was being asked whether or not he believed other writings to be the word of God as well.

It seems to me that there was really no answer he could have given to the question as it was given that you would have been satisfied with. Even my characterization of the Bible (which we both agree is at least moderately accurate from and LDS perspective), was adding in more information than the question was asking. So if asked "is the Bible the word of God" he is somehow required to answer "yes, it is. But let me also tell you that I also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, as well as the D&C, which if you don't know, is a set of scriptures as revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith during the 1800's, and the Pearl of Great Price, which contains the writings of Moses and Abraham, as translated by Joseph Smith through the power of the priesthood and revalation. I also believe that the current president of the LDS church today is a prophet of God, who continues to recieve revelation from God in order to lead the church in the way God sees fit." I could go on, but my point is that once you start requiring him to include extraneous information that do not directly answer the question, it become really hard to draw the line of where he is permitted to leave information out.

I also disagree completely that with his answer he trying to equate our beliefs with those of ECs, any more than if he was asked if he believed in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world and answered "yes". It is true that we have differing theology as to the nature of Christ, but why would he be required to delve into the nuances of how his view of Christ divulges from the mainline christian view, especially since that wasn't the question. Should Mike Huckabee, given that there is a prominent mormon on the stage with him, be required to make the distinction as well. "Gov. Huckabee, do you believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world?" Gov. Huckabee: "Well, let me first state that I believe that Christ, as God, is not only the man Jesus who walked the earth and died on the cross, but also God the Father, who created the universe, earth and everything on and in it, including the souls and bodies of men. In addition, he is the Holy Spirit, who is able to dwell in the hearts of men and communicte gospel truth to our mind and body. My view differs from the views of some others, who believe that The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three seperate beings who are only one in purpose, but not in substance. Having said that, yes, I do believe Christ is the savior of the world." Again, if we are going to apply a standard to one presidential candidate, shouldn't we apply it to them all. And what in the world are these kinds of questions doing in a secular presidential debate anyway? Your guess is as good as mine.

And I don't feel his answer was in anyway deceptive, or, as I've argued above, incomplete. At least as far as the question asked is concerned. I think it would be a stretch to conclude that somehow he is ignorant of his churches doctrines, though I think your inclusion of the third option was probably to reinforce that it was one of the first two. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course, I'm just guessing.

You write "Mr. Romney and his acolytes who first made a big deal of his religion, even having the official campaign biography, written by my cyber-friend, Hugh Hewitt, called 'Mormon in the White House?'"

I don't know that there is anything official about the biography, I do not know that any of the profits has gone to the Romney campaign, only to Mr. Hewitt himself (and his publisher, of course). But it, coming out in march, was hardly the first mention of his religion, as I'm sure you know. His religion had already been scrutinized through dozens of cycles by the time the book came out. Regardless, I think it bit of a stretch to propose that he, as a candidate, would have willingly and willfully brought the scorn of EC voters everywhere upon himself and his candidacy. He would have been more than happy to have his religion go unnoticed, at least not discussed in the media ad nauseum. It is this very desire which is at the root of his hesitancy to answer questions about specific doctrines of his church. And it is this hesitancy which, as you point out, adds an aire of "apparent dishonesty", rightly or wrongly, to both his style and message.

You make a valid point about the religious right having "created pressures on GOP candidates to 'speak their language' and pass muster with them". This is an unfortunate truth in GOP politics, but just because the pressure exists, doesn't mean that every word he utters that matches their agenda is a "kowtow" to them. They could be his sincere views, which makes him well suited for a GOP run. Or he could be pandering. But on what are you basing your suspicion that he has kowtowed?

I am skeptical of your conclusion based on the conclusion that you came to regarding his apparent deception in answering the bible question. I, as a mormon, see no deception. If ECs are going to infer deception based on their perception or pseudo-understanding of mormon doctrine, then I can't stop them. But it shouldn't be Romney's responsibility to tailor his answer to fit their preconcieved notion of what he believes, whether it be the religious right, or Mark Daniels. His responsibility is to answer questions as honestly and straightforwardly as possible, which from my point of view, he did.

It's ironic, that by requiring him to include extaneous nuanced details of his doctines in his answers, in the name of "coming clean", tansperancy, or fessing up to his true beliefs (at least as you see them), you do two things: You simultaneously accuse him of pandering to one group while requiring him to pander to you and others who feel the way you do, and you set a standard for him (in regard to his responsiblity to answer for his faith) that you hold no other candidate to.

I am long-winded (you may have noticed) and I am fairly pointed in my criticisms where I disagree. I appologize that I seemed to focus on the negatives of you original post and reply, as time and space don't permit me to comment on the insight you provided on which we both agree. Indeed, you make a fairly well thought out argument, and your views seem refreshingly non-partisan (regardless of what your political affiliation may be, of which I am ignorant). I appologize if any of my posts came across as antagonistic, this was not my intention. I have enjoyed this brief back and forth, and if nothing else, I appreciate the forum you have provided for me to both defend my faith and express my political views in a non-hostile environment. Thanks again, I look forward to reading more of your work.

Israel (IZ)