If Mitt Romney wins today’s election, he’ll become the United States’ first Mormon president. While the Republican candidate has tried to steer attention away from his religion, the issue has proven to be a hot topic for pundits and voters. A video interview from 2007 in which Romney defends his Mormon faith with seeming frustration went viral yesterday, rousing eleventh-hour questions about the extent to which Romney will abide by his faith when forming policy, especially with respect to abortion. And recently, FLOTUS hopeful Ann Romney appeared on The View to contest the rumor that Romney used his religion to get out of military service.
What part will Romney’s religion play in his presidency? When the polls close, will a bully pulpit open? These primers on Mormonism illuminate the values and beliefs that have shaped the man aspiring to be our nation’s newest leader.
“The Book of Mormon”
No collection of books about the Church of the Latter-Day Saints can really begin without the book itself: the official edition of the Book of Mormon, available free from the church itself, is the document upon which more than 13 million believers worldwide base their faith. (Fun fact: 46 percent of Tonga is Mormon.)
“No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith,” by Fawn M. Brodie
First published in 1830, the Book of Mormon came to Joseph Smith engraved on golden plates and written in “reformed Egyptian.” Smith’s life is one of the most extraordinary stories ever told, and Fawn Brodie’s biography defies its own subtitle (“No Man Knows My History”).
“Brigham Young: American Moses,” by Leonard J. Arrington
Eventually, the fledgling church was forced to move west–and the leader of that exodus, Brigham Young, gets an award-winning treatment in Leonard J. Arrington’s classic biography.
“A Different Jesus?: The Christ of the Latter-Day Saints,” by Robert L. Millet
From the start, though, questions were raised about whether or not Mormons were Christians, and those questions remain to this day (only 51 percent of Americans believe Mormons are Christians, according to a Pew poll). Mormon scholar Robert Millet points up the similarities–and the divergences–between “traditional” Christianity and the faith espoused by the likes of Mitt Romney, in “A Different Jesus.”
“Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer
Mormonism has sometimes been a controversial religious movement, given its early-years embrace of polygamy, among other things. Jon Krakauer’s headline-making expose of the remaining 40,000-person strong adherents to plural marriage looked unsparingly into the story of Ron and Dan Lafferty, two members of a splinter church who murdered their younger brother’s wife and her child.
“No Apology,” by Mitt Romney
But there’s no questioning Mormonism’s growth, and its central position in America’s religious and political life, especially on Election Day. Mitt Romney wrote about his faith–and his faith in America–in his best-selling autobiography “No Apology.”
“Could I Vote for a Mormon for President?”, by Ryan Cragun and Rick Phillips
But will Romney’s Mormonism adversely affect his chances against President Obama? Two sociologists of religion, Ryan Cragun and Rick Phillips, ask that most pointed question in their new book “Could I Vote for a Mormon for President?” The authors pose 20 questions about the religion, and look into how it affects Romney’s life and political views. American voters’ answer to Cragun and Phillips book title won’t be known before the polls close; until then, all we can do is read and wait.