Mormonism & the Republican Primaries: LDS & the Romney Family History

On January 17, HarperCollins released The Real Romney, a new biography of the sometime Republican primary front-runner by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, whose research adds an interesting supplement to Laurie Goodstein’s recent article in the New York Times (see the CLR discussion of Goodstein’s article here).  The Real Romney pays significant attention to the Romney family’s foundational role in the Latter Day Saint Movement.  In a January 19 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Kranish stated that he and Helman focused on Romney’s “ancestral story . . . because through that story [one] can really understand the story of Mormon[ism]”;  and, according to Kranish, Romney’s family history is one “intertwined” with “Mormon life.”  (If nothing else, the Fresh Air interview is, in itself, fascinating.)

Kranish and Helman reveal that the Romney family was acquainted with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in the early days of the LDS Movement, founded a new Mormon community in Mexico, practiced polygamy in the nineteenth century, and advocated for progressive reforms within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during the twentieth century.

For more on Kranish and Helman’s take on the Romney family and its continuing and significant involvement with the LDS movement, please follow the jump. Read more

Mormons, Evangelicals, and the Republican Primaries

The New York Times reported recently that the budding Republican primaries have sparked Evangelical unease toward Mormonism (an unease reminiscent of the 2008 Republican primary fight).  According to Correspondent Laurie Goodstein, Mitt Romney’s lead after the New Hampshire Primary might flag as the primaries move from the Northeast into South Carolina and Florida—favoring, possibly, Rick Santorum, who is popular among Evangelicals.  Ms. Goodstein cites the anti-Mormon preaching of the Rev. R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Rev. Roberts advances a view apparently shared by a certain coterie of Evangelicals that Mormonism is a threatening, apostatical religion.  According to Rev. Roberts, a Romney presidency would legitimize Mormonism and pave the way for an increase in Mormon proselytism, something he and like-minded believers fear.

The term “Evangelical” encompasses a broad range of beliefs and attitudes, so any generalization about them is suspect.  But the Pew Forum reports that 15% of white Evangelical Republicans would not vote for Romney simply because of Romney’s Mormonism—a relatively small proportion  in a general election but one more decisive in a primary.  Thus, Ms. Goodstein’s article illustrates just how much a candidate’s religion alone may deter voters, notwithstanding the candidate’s political views.

Update (Jan. 20):  HarperCollins recently released a new biography of Mitt Romney, The Real Romney, by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman that explores the Romney family’s ties to the early Latter Day Saints Movement.