Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blake Ostler on Mitt Romney & the Church

Blake Ostler, a Mormon philosopher and apologist is interviewed
regarding the church and it's position on several topics, as well as
Mitt Romney's candidacy. Click "Play Show" on this link to hear the

A summary of his interview follows.

Mormon Beliefs and the Candidacy of Mitt Romney
Blake Ostler, a Mormon, a lawyer, and author of a four-volume series,
Exploring Mormon Thought

The presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney has raised questions,
largely from evangelicals, about a Mormon for President. So this
interview explores Mormon beliefs on a variety of issues. Is there
anything to fear? Or are these questions simply the latest form of
religious bigotry?

On the most controversial of issues, polygamy, Ostler makes clear that
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the official name of
the Mormons) no longer sanctions polygamy, or plural marriage. Those
who practice it are excommunicated.

The official position of the LDS Church does not approve of gay
marriage, but finds nothing objectionable in a homosexual orientation
per se. When it comes to abortion, official teaching allows it in
some circumstances, believing that a decision is best left to the
woman in prayer consultation with her local bishop (the Mormon
equivalent of a pastor). This teaching notwithstanding, Mormons, by
and large, do not favor legal abortion.

Perhaps most central to the discussion at hand, the official policy of
the LDS Church says that office holders are not bound by the policies
of the church. When it comes to policy formation or legislation, they
are free to follow their consciences.

When it comes to gender equality, Ostler says the church believes
women are equal to men, but they fill different roles. Women may not
receive the Mormon priesthood.

Mormons believe in both separation of church and state and religious
freedom. The idea of Mormons seeking a "theocracy" is, according to
Ostler, "preposterous."

Ostler affirms that Mormons consider themselves Christian, and that
they accept the divinity of Christ in the context of the traditional
Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

He then discusses many of the unique aspects of Mormon theology: the
prophecy of Joseph Smith, the revelation of Christ to natives of North
America, the place of the Book of Mormon, baptism of the dead, human
deification and their belief that the New Jerusalem will be in North

However, he notes that these beliefs – however strange some of them
might seem to those outside the Mormon faith – are not relevant to the
aspirations of a political candidate. He notes that all religions
have beliefs that sound to those outside the fold – quite strange. As
an example, he says that the Christian belief that someone can be
buried in a tomb for three days and rise again is stranger than any
teaching that is particular to Mormonism. (N.B. Mormons also believe
in the resurrection of Jesus).

Ostler concludes by noting that the current public questioning of Mitt
Romney's Mormonism by some evangelicals is alienating many Mormons,
and if it continues, it may lead to a severing of alliances on the
Christian Right.

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