A few weeks ago, I wrote a comment that Romney is "Arguably the smartest of the bunch," to which a friend e-mailed me and said (paraphrase) "Anyone who believes/does weird Mormon stuff can't be that smart."**
Dowd hits my friend's nail on the head:
“We have reporters asking Mitt Romney if he wears The Garment, the sacred one-piece, knee-length underwear with Mormon markings and strict disposal rules.
“I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private,” (Romney) told The Atlantic.
That's not a real reassuring answer to Evangelicals. One Mormon historian tells Dowd:
Romney gave a speech in College Station last week to defend faith in general and to say that our founders didn't believe in a "litmus test" of faith for the President. He makes (I think) a good point:
Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don’t buy all of the New Testament, he said, “which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies.”
"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew makes the point that Christians trying to figure out who "God's man" is for the Presidency is completely alien to the New Testament (they didn't have a choice, other than to submit and pray). We're blessed with being able to choose our leaders, but the Church should focus on being salt and light rather than spending resources to make the fallen World around us look and behave more morally. The Church should be the Church no matter who is elected President. They should know us by our works, love, and unity rather than our legislative work.
Is Mormonism a cult? Absolutely. I think it's tempting (for me) to think that Romney will receive secret messages from satan (or the Mormon President) that will wreck our country. But, Romney is no more under the influence of Satan than any other lost person.
Scripturally, there is no difference between an atheist, a cult member, and someone who claims to be "born again" but habitually commits sin, like adultery. All are lost and under the influence of Satan. But, I'd rather vote for someone (like Romney) who believes this:
"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion inthan vote for the atheist, secularist, or the guy who is on his 3rd marriage. I personally would also rather vote for the guy who finished valedictorian of his class at BYU, in the top 5% of his class at Harvard MBA school, and has had real success in a non-political job and in other non-political endeavors, and who also listens to Greg Mankiw. But, Romney isn't my first choice.
– the religion of secularism. They are wrong.” America
**(As far as how a "smart" person can believe in Mormonism, I encourage you to check out Have You Witnessed to a Mormon Lately, or Beyond Mormonism, by former Mormon elder Jim Spencer. He offers these great texts for free online. It's a psychological part of having to check certain brains at the door. He tells the story of an intelligent engineer who rationalized how men could be living on the moon, as Joseph Smith claimed. You can be a rocket scientist in the real world, but limit your brains in applying scientific logic to your religious thinking if you're part of a cult that allows no such questions to be asked).