Andrew Jackson’s recent book on Mormonism has much in common with a host of other well-researched and well-written treatments of the LDS church. The author traces the history of this indigenous American religious movement from its humble beginnings to the present day. He summarizes the basic beliefs of Mormonism and shows where it parts company with historic Christianity theologically.
According to Jackson, when it comes to official church doctrine there are two kinds of Mormons. Your garden-variety Mormon in the pew knows very little about what his church actually believes and teaches, and this holds true even for many of the missionaries working two-by-two in the field. More than a few Mormons I have met think that because they “believe in Christ” they share common ground with evangelicals, who also trust the Savior. Some Christians these days also make this false assumption. In fact recently mega-church pastor Joel Osteen told Piers Morgan in a television interview that he accepts presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as a brother in Christ. A few years ago such a remark would have been considered blasphemous in Christian circles.
The LDS leaders are well-acquainted with church doctrine, but they are careful not to divulge it to the general public. Instead they present a homespun squeaky-clean image and promote family values. One thing I learned many years ago when dealing with Mormon leaders in my pastoral ministry was that they are reluctant to share their beliefs openly for fear of embarrassment. They know that if they were to tell prospective converts too much too soon they would, basically, creep them out and scare them off. But make no mistake about it: the Mormon bigwigs know full well what their church teaches–and that goes for celebrity Mormons like Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney.
Jackson maintains that Romney is deliberately skirting the issue of his faith, probably for the reason I just cited. And, according to Jackson, this refusal to speak openly about his beliefs could prove to be an Achilles heel for Romney down the political road. For me this point made Jackson’s book worth the read. I have read so many books on Mormonism over the years that I have lost count; but this time I learned something new, something I had never even thought of.
And the more I reflect on it the more I am convinced Andrew Jackson is dead on the money. Just think of how opponents of Romney on the left could use his zany Mormon beliefs as a trump card. I can almost hear Bill Maher and Jon Stewart now. Imagine Romney doing an interview with Matt Lauer or Piers Morgan and getting nailed down on Mormon underwear, celestial marriage, the planet Kolob, Reformed Egyptian Hieroglyphics, God having been a man, and the possibility of men becoming gods. Add to these items the issues of the historicity of the Book of Mormon (or lack thereof) and the dubious character of Joseph Smith, and you have a recipe for a public-relations nightmare. Talk about the proverbial October surprise! Could this be it?
Jackson believes it would be advisable for Romney to address the issue of his religion head-on–the sooner the better. That seems like his only option; but still, there will be a need for damage control. And given the utter absurdity of Mormon beliefs and practices, how can Romney answer the spate of obvious questions with a straight face without being taken for a fool?
All things considered, Andrew Jackson has presented a fine work on Mormon beliefs, specifically as they relate to Mitt Romney’s presidential run. As far as writing style the author is very much a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy, and you will find this volume very readable. He writes with an honest yet gracious tone, and even concedes that he will vote for Romney over Obama come November. On a practical level I appreciated the print and font size and style, but I read the hard copy and have not seen book in electronic formats, which are also available.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Read it and you will not be disappointed. Here is the Amazon.com link: