I found the story interesting, and reasonably factual, but I had a serious problem with a quote used from the Web page of the “Rev. Brad Atkins, president of South Carolina Baptist Convention,” that read: “Romney’s Mormonism will be more a cause of concern than Gingrich’s infidelity, Christians can forgive sin, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves Christians.”
Perhaps I can help those who “struggle” to better understand how a practicing Mormon like Mitt Romney, and myself, believe we are Christians because I am a convert Mormon, having left Atkins faith 51 years ago. A Mormon Christian, like me, believes that Jesus is their Savior, their Redeemer and their Advocate with God the Father, and who established His Church with prophets and apostles (Eph 2:20), with priesthood authority (Matt 18:18) and then restored that Church organization, with prophets and apostles and priesthood authority in 1830 in upstate New York by a youth named Joseph Smith.
And I fully understand just how hard this doctrine may be to many who have been anchored to their family’s religious culture all their life, and who depend on seminary trained pastors for guidance.
And that is why I believe pastors like Brad Adkins are afraid of people like me, convert Mormons — afraid because, since 1960, millions have read the keystone book of the Mormon faith, the Book of Mormon, A Second Witness of Jesus Christ, and have felt its powerful biblical support that Jesus is the Christ and have, like me, converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In making this difficult transition, and it is difficult because it creates waves in their lives, mostly with those family members who don’t understand why they are leaving the family’s religious faith for such a strange and misunderstood, and often demanding new religion.
But I don’t believe Atkins’ fear that his flock will convert to Mormonism is justified. Becoming a Mormon Christian will require a total commitment of one’s life to the covenants they enter into when baptized, and few there are willing to make such total commitments.
Mormonism is a church of Christian service. Mitt Romney served a two-year mission in France, he served as a bishop (pastor) of a congregation (likely five years), and he served as a stake president over several congregations (likely nine years), all without pay. Joan and I served in lay leadership roles for many years before being called, following retirement, to serve a senior mission in Toronto Canada in 1994 and 1995, at our own expense. Our children and grandchildren have served missions and today serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.
Most local leaders of today’s more than 30,000 worldwide church congregations developed their testimonies of Christ and their leadership skills by serving one another — often on missions, without pay, and while paying a full tithe. Mormon Christians serve because they believe it is what Christ would have them do.
But before ending this column, I am duty bound to remind all of us, including evangelical Christians, that the Constitution of the United States declares in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or Public Trust under the United States.” I am also duty-bound to remind each of us that the First Amendment to the Constitution proclaims “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
Most Americans believe the America we all love is being “transformed” by the enemies of freedom today. So, instead of discussing the “Mormon factor,” while forgiving an “adulterer,” should we not be discussing which candidate has the skills, character and moral strength needed to lead America out of its economic mess.
So, is it possible for Mitt Romney to win even if he loses the Republican presidential candidacy? Yes! He will win because he is taking the “Mormon factor” out of politics — just as Kennedy took Catholicism out of the political arena in the 1960 presidential race. Thus, Romney wins, even if he loses.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.