by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
Castle Rock, Colorado
December 6, 2007
ROMNEY SPEECH MUST WALK A FINE LINE
DENVER, Dec. 6, 2007 -- The director of "A Mormon President," a new film examining bias against the Mormon Church in this country, warned today that Presidential candidate Mitt Romney "has to hit a home run" in Thursday's highly anticipated speech about his Mormon faith. He will deliver the speech at 10:30 a.m. EST at the Bush Library in College Station, Tex.,
Adam Christing, director of "A Mormon President," an uopcoming documentary on Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, told The American Reporter that Romney's predicament is different than President John F. Kennedy's 1860 speech in Houston, and he risks raising more questions about his faith or seeming evasive if he doesn't talk about it.
"Mitt has caught a catch-22," he said.
Christing said that evangelical Christians are highly suspicious of Romney because of First Prophet Smith's stance on the "three 'p's - polygamy, plurality and politics." The film traces the history of the Mormon church and the murder of Smith in Nauvoo, Ill., while he was running for President in 1844.
"Smith wanted a theocracy," Christing said. "There was a secret ceremony proclaming him 'King on Earth.' He had an militia of more than 5000 followers and he was running for President. He preached polygamy as a revelation from God and that his church was the one true church on Earth. The people back then thought he had gone too far," he said.
"It's going to be tough for Romney, with one speech, to overturn all this indoctrination people have had about Mormon theology. Kennedy's Catholicsm was still considered more mainstream. Romney has to deal with Smith's legacy."
It is a legacy that leads many people to regard the LDS church as a cult, even with over 13 million members worldwide, growing at a rate of another million every three years, according to the LDS website. The church boasts 50,000 voluntary missionaries in 162 countries throuhgout the world and has been called the world's fastest growing religion.
Christing called Romney's upcoming speech a "focus moment" for Mormons, comparing Romney's popularity to Smith's charisma. "Many Mormons in Utah and other places hope he will be that guy riding in on that white horse," Christing said, referring to a Mormon prophesy predicting that the Mormon church would "save the Constitution.
"Let's face it," Christing said. "Romney would be a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. He's an ideal candidate on all levels except one - he's a Mormon."
Christing, a member of the Mormon History Association, told The American Reporter he is not a member of the LDS Church. As a child, he said, he was a member of one of the 400 offshoots of the church called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members rejected polygamy and stayed in Illinois after Smith's murder.
"Romney needs to show the American people that his religious values like strength in the family are America's values," Christing said. "He needs to convince people that the church is apolitical. He needs to talk about God and country and patriotism and religious liberty. If he gets into theology at all, I think it can backfire on him."
"I do think he can overplay that Kennedy card, though, because for most traditional Christians, Catholics are in the same neighborhood theologically.
"The pope never ran for President while the prophet of the Mormon church, Jseph Smith, did. He has to be careful not to overplay it."
Earlier this year, Romney told The American Reporter he hoped he could win over the evangelicals, but campaign front-runner Rudy Giuliani got a boost fom Pat Robertson; the powerful Focus on the Family organization of theological Protestant conservatives, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., has remained silent on the issue.
One issue sure to present pitfalls for Romney is the Church's long record of discrimination against blacks in its hierarchy. Blacks could not be priests in the church until 1978. However, Romney's father, 1968 presidential candidate George Romney, was known as a liberal on racial issues, which to a degree freed his family of the taint of the church's historic racism.
Bob Meldrum, media spokesperson for the Denver, Colo., branch of the Mormon church, echoed the official church policy of "no comment on Mitt Romney's or anybody's political campaign.
"We are totally politically neutral," Meldrum said. "Members of our church belong to both parties and we encourage them to get involved in any campaign they want and support candidates along with their personal beliefs, not their church beliefs."
Romney faces an uphill climb. His own church cannot officially lend their considerable resources to his effort and the rest of the Christian community harbors doubts. If he talks about the specifics of his faith today, he will open a Pandora's box of criticism and historical perspectives. If he doesn't, and relies on Kennedy's famous statement that his vote will not be influenced by the Church, he might leave the public wondering.
After Sen. Orrin Hatch, an LDS member, ran for President in 2000, he said "one reason I ran was to knock down the prejudicial wall that exists against Mormons. I wanted to make it easier for the next candidate of my faith."
By all accounts, Romney's campaign still faces immense hurdles, as Mike Huckabee gains in Iowa, spending a fraction of Romney's millions in campaign funds.
Even Christing mentioned Rep. Ron Paul as one of his pwn possible choices for President. At the very least, Romney's "faith speech" will call attention to his campaign and break down some of the barriers.