Mormons Field 2 Presidential Candidates

Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and former Gov. John Huntsman of Utah are not only vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, they both belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church. Since this is the first time any Mormon has ever run for President, it is time for a debriefing on their religion.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) was founded in New York in 1830 by Joseph Smith, after he claimed to have received visions from god. The new church drafted a Book of Mormon to supplement the Bible. Smith moved his people to Missouri, but the locals drove them back into Illinois, where Smith was taken from a jail cell in 1844, and executed by a mob. Brigham Young, a church apostle, then led a Mormon exodus from Illinois in 1847, to their new land in Salt lake City, Utah.

Mormons are perhaps most famous for having once allowed polygamy, a practice that permits men to have more than one wife. Polygamy was terminated in 1890, as a condition for U.S. statehood, which was granted to Utah in 1896.

Mormons today are interested in spiritual and worldly affairs. They actively try to convert people to their faith. As their boys become young men, they serve overseas as missionaries, usually for two-year stints. Today, they have 52,000 missionaries at 340 missions worldwide. Their dress code requires white shirts and ties, and their chastity law keeps the young men from having relations with women, while serving as missionaries. Mormons avoid alcohol, as well as other forms of entertainment.

Gov. Romney was a Mormon missionary in France (1966-68), and Gov. Huntsman served in Taiwan, China (late 1970s).

While the spiritual missionary practice of trying to convert others to the Mormon faith accomplishes little, one collateral benefit is the exposure it gives their young men to a variety of cultures throughout the world. The missionaries gain a global education, not through books, but by just being there. While the Republicans should not receive our votes for reasons other than religion, it is comforting to know Huntsman was in China, and Romney was in France, as they had to have learned something while abroad.

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