(Photo: Courtesy of First Baptist Dallas)
After Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress said Friday that frontrunner presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a Christian and that Mormonism is a cult, LDS Democrats condemned the statement saying “Mormon-phobia” had no place in America.
“As Latter-day Saints – and Democrats – we are appalled and disappointed by Jeffress’ statement that Mormons are not Christian,” LDS Dems Interim Chair Senator Ben McAdams and Interim Vice-Chair Crystal Young-Otterstrom said in a statement Friday.
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that the foundation of our belief is the divinity of Jesus Christ,” the two senators said. “Members of the LDS Church are compassionate, caring individuals who seek to follow the example of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Utah State Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis joined McAdams and Young-Otterstrom in condemning the statement of Jeffress, the evangelical pastor of First Baptist Dallas. “On behalf of all Utah Democrats, I heartily condemn Jeffress’ insult,” he said. “Mormon-phobia should have no place in America. Latter-day Saints are good, honest, and hardworking people. I love Mormons. The Democratic Party is welcoming to followers of all faiths and creeds and I invite those who feel unwelcome in the Republican Party – because of their faith – to join us.”
Jeffress made the remarks against former Massachusetts Gov. Romney’s faith after introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney’s top rival, at the Values Voter Summit Friday in Washington, D.C.
“Evangelical Christians should not vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian,” Jeffress told The Christian Post after the event. “Historically, evangelical Christianity has never embraced Mormonism as a branch of Christianity.”
“Mormonism has always been treated as a cult. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, officially labels Mormonism as a cult. It does not embrace the historic tenets of evangelical Christianity.”
Jeffress’ statement came days after Christian Broadcasting Network Chairman Pat Robertson said he liked Mitt Romney’s politics and saw the Mormon presidential candidate as an “outstanding Christian.” He said this during an interview with The Associated Press.
Robertson’s tacit endorsement of Romney was seen as potentially damaging for Perry. Soon after Perry launched his presidential campaign, he claimed the top position in opinion polls. However, recent polls show Romney as having the top slot for the GOP presidential nomination.
In a Pew Research Center poll in June, 34 percent of white evangelicals said they would not vote for a Mormon candidate, and a quarter of all Americans said they were less likely to do so.
During Romney’s campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Here is the bottom line. As an Evangelical Christian – a Christian who holds to the ‘traditional Christian orthodoxy’ of the Church – I do not believe that Mormonism leads to salvation.”
Fellow Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, meanwhile, has said he does not believe Mormonism disqualifies someone from being president.
Mormons reject one of Christianity’s central tenets – the Trinity. Instead of believing in one God in three Persons, Mormons believe in many gods. They also believe Joseph Smith Jr. is the first latter-day prophet who restored the original Christian church in the 19th century in America. They believe the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false. Additionally, Latter-day Saints are often criticized for their belief in “divine” books of scripture, aside from the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.