The Washington Post’s Libby Copeland wonders whether the presidential candidacy of Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was “good for the Mormons.” She never really answers her own question, but The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press do: No, it was bad for the Mormons, because Romney’s run for the White House unambiguously revealed – perhaps for the first time – how far out of the mainstream many Americans consider Mormonism.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken in January “showed that far more Americans say they’d never vote for a Mormon than those who admitted they wouldn’t choose a woman or an African-American,” according to The Journal. Two months earlier, half of those participating in an Associated Press-Yahoo poll said they had “some problems supporting a Mormon presidential candidate. Among white evangelicals, more than half expressed reservations about backing a Latter-day Saint,” reports AP.

The antipathy was broad-based, with atheists and evangelicals alike taking a dim view of Mormon beliefs and practices – and they made no bones about it. As AP puts it: “Mitt Romney isn’t the only casualty in his failed presidential bid. The Mormon church, yearning for broad acceptance, also took a beating.”

You could call it the “Shawn Bradley” effect.

This, from The Journal:

In December, political pundit and actor Lawrence O’Donnell Jr. unleashed a tirade on the “McLaughlin Group” television talk show, tearing into the Mormon Church and Mr. Romney’s faith. “Romney comes from a religion founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist. And he comes from that lineage and says, ‘I respect this religion fully.’…He’s got to answer.” …

On the Internet, the Romney bid prompted an outpouring of broadsides against Mormonism from both the secular and religious worlds. Evangelical Christian speakers who consider it their mission to criticize Mormon beliefs lectured to church congregations across the country. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the Catholic journal First Things, wrote that a Mormon presidency would threaten Christian faiths. Atheist author Christopher Hitchens called Mormonism “a mad cult” on Slate.com, and Bill Keller, a former convict who runs an online ministry in Florida, told a national radio audience that a vote for Mr. Romney was a vote for Satan.

This, from AP:

Extremists denounced Romney’s campaign as a Mormon plot to take over the country. Some Evangelicals feared that a Mormon in the White House would draw more converts to his faith. …

Many Christians said they were raising legitimate theological concerns, not Mormon-bashing.

The news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, which considers the LDS church a cult, ran a six-part series through December explaining why they don’t consider Mormonism to be Christian. (They also profiled a distant Romney relative who is Protestant and manages a Southern Baptist-affiliated bookstore in Salt Lake.)

In just one example of the practices that set Mormons apart, LDS church founder Joseph Smith revised — and in his view corrected — parts of the Bible.

Interviewed by AP, Brigham Young University professor Robert Millet, wondered: “How can it be the case that Gov. Romney and his feelings about Christ and his feelings about religion have been so little understood?” Because – as The Stiletto has repeatedly argued – Romney either dismissed people’s questions about his belief system as “bigotry” or glossed over the doctrinal differences between Mormonism and gospel-based Christian religions. He never invited understanding.

Ironically, Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), an ordained Baptist minister, may get hoist by the same petard: That Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also found that 45 percent of voters are not thrilled by the idea of a president who is an evangelical Christian.

Why? Probably because they’re discomfited he can quote scripture better than they can. When National Public Radio recently sent a crew to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., they found that few people understood the biblical allusions with which Huckabee lards his speeches. NPR could not find a single person who knew that the “little boy with two fish and five loaves” who “fed a crowd of 5,000 people” was Jesus; or that “one small smooth stone is even more effective than a whole lot of armor” refers to David slaying the giant Goliath with his slingshot; or that “the widow’s mite has more effectiveness than all the gold in the world” refers to a parable in which Jesus tells of a poor widow donating two coins of the smallest denomination in circulation to G-d – which was all she had.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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