Should a Christian Vote for a Mormon?

This post is the second of a four part series related to the 2012 Presidential Election.  Please consider reading the introduction which will also include links to all the articles as they’re posted.

Let’s just get the question out in the open so we can have a frank discussion about it.  Can a Christian vote for a Mormon in good conscience?  I believe the Mormon church (also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS) has many teachings which are clearly unbiblical and place it far outside any attempt to define Christian orthodoxy, but does this impact our vote?

Perhaps the better question is, “should a Christian vote for anyone who is not a Christian?”

The Double Standard

What about voting for a Roman Catholic?  Most of those opposed to Romney on religious grounds would also take issue with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church (as would I), but I’ve heard nary a word about not voting for Paul Ryan or Joe Biden on account of their Catholic faith?  What about voting for a Jewish candidate?  What about an atheist, a Hindu, or even an “evangelical” whose fruit is questionable?

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Used by Permission through Creative Commons license – Click image for full credit.

As Christians, I think we sometimes put to much emphasis on the “cults” rather than simply recognizing them as just another person in need of Christ.  I believe that many, though not all, Christians who are opposed to Romney solely on the basis of his Mormon faith would not have to think twice about voting for a Catholic or a Jew.  This is a double standard.

Frankly, I believe this may be, at least partially, born out of fear because the LDS church is expanding at an exponential rate while our own evangelical churches are experiencing anemic growth.  But instead of making this an issue of evangelism, we’ve made it an issue of Presidential qualification.

With that out of the way, let’s go back to the proper question – should a Christian vote for anyone who is not a Christian?

The Biblical Standard

Before we go any further, we need to get one thing correct at the outset, Romans 13 makes clear the role of civil government.  In a nutshell, government is instituted to restrain/punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.  That is the biblical role of secular government.  (Note that the purpose of government is not to advance our faith – that’s our job.)

Based on the biblical purpose of government, the single most important factor in choosing our leaders is then, presumably, to choose a leader who has a solid understanding of morality – what is right and what is wrong.  Certainly a person’s faith will inform their moral calculations, but their faith is not, in and of itself, the issue at hand.

Beyond this, the Bible never seeks to offer specific criteria for the selection of civil leaders.  It would certainly stand to reason that we may prefer a Christian where possible.  After all, we are to pray for the salvation of our present leaders per I Tim 2, so certainly electing a believer at the outset would seem good.  However, saying this is preferable is hardly the same as saying we must vote only for a Christian.

We certainly understand that in selecting church leaders there is an abundance of Scripture which addresses spiritual qualifications.  The Israelites had spiritual requirements for leaders as well, but these were leaders whose authority also extended into spiritual matters.  God is clearly concerned about the spiritual qualification of spiritual leaders.

However, one of the defining principles of the American experiment was that the civil leaders were to have no jurisdiction of spiritual or ecclesiastical matters.   As such, there are no specific spiritual qualifications.

Furthermore, God has worked through sundry non-Christian leaders throughout history to fulfill the biblical purpose of restraining evil, punishing evildoers, and protecting those who do right.  Even beyond that, these non-Christian leaders have been used to further the spread of the Gospel, raise up other Christian leaders, and protect God’s people.  Biblical history is itself replete with such examples.

During the the 2008 primary season, Dr. Wayne Grudem had the following to say:

“For evangelicals to support a Mormon candidate would be similar to supporting a conservative Jewish candidate—someone we don’t consider a Christian but who comes from a religious tradition that believes in absolute moral values very similar to those that Christians learn from the Bible…

Or have we come to the point where evangelicals will only vote for people they consider Christians? I hope not, for nothing in the Bible says that people have to be born again Christians before they can be governmental authorities who are used greatly by God to advance his purposes. God used Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to raise Joseph to a position of authority over the whole country, so he could save his people from famine (Genesis 41:37-57). God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to protect and raise up Daniel and his Jewish friends to positions of high authority over Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49). God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland (Isaiah 45:16; Ezra 1:1-4), and used Darius, King of Persia, to protect the Jewish people as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). God used Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to raise up Esther as Queen and to give Mordecai high authority and honor in his kingdom (Esther 6:10-11; 8:1-2, 7-15). In the New Testament age, God used the peace enforced by the secular Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, to enable the early Christians to travel freely and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.”

(You can read Grudem’s full article here.)

I believe that to categorically declare that we must vote only for a Christian candidate is to add to the clear teachings of the Scripture.  I believe the burden of proof rests with those who believe God has forbidden us from voting for a non-Christian candidate in civil government to make that case.

The Priority of Religious Liberty

One of the first, if not the first, priority of civil government should be to ensure freedom of religion.   In fact, the verse I mentioned earlier in I Tim. 2:2 instructs us to not only pray for the salvation of our leaders, but also that they would allow us to worship freely.

Why is religious liberty important?  Because true faith in Christ must be voluntary.  Jesus never forced faith upon anyone.  He simply proclaimed the truth, and allowed people to respond.  (Through the work of the Holy Spirit, yes, but I’m speaking here in human terms.)  Our desire should be that the government simply stay our of the way, and allow us to live and preach the Gospel, so that people may choose Christ for themselves.

How does this “justify” voting for Mitt Romney?  May I answer that with another question… If religious liberty is the first priority of civil government, would it not be hypocritical for us to then require a religious litmus test for our vote?

How can we say that our primary concern is for the government to allow all people to worship freely, and then immediately qualify that by saying that we cannot support a person of any other religion to be a civil leader?

The Job Description

Would you hire a Mormon?

If I were to hire a mechanic, I would certainly ask him about his experience in auto repair, types of cars he is familiar with, perhaps some technical questions to test his knowledge, but whether or not he was a Christian would be immaterial to whether or not he’s a good mechanic.

Of course, I also need my mechanic to be honest and show up on time, so assuming I’m convinced of his mechanical skills, I’ll also take the conversation another direction as I seek to understand his work ethic and his moral basis. (Note that we don’t even need to have this conversation unless he’s already qualified as a mechanic!)  His faith certainly may come up in this conversation, but only to the extent that it impacts his moral character or ability to do the job required – not as it impacts his eternal destiny.

But, many would say, surely hiring a mechanic isn’t the the same as hiring the President!  Let’s take a look at the president’s job description – that would be Article 2 of The Constitution.  The primary constitutional roles of the president are as follows:

  • Commander in chief
  • Negotiate treaties
  • Appoint judges and ambassadors
  • Provide information to Congress regarding the “state of the union”
  • Convene both houses of congress on extraordinary occasions
  • Receive ambassadors and other public ministers
  • Take care that the laws be executed
  • Commission officers of the United States

That may not be a complete list, but I don’t think I’ve missed anything major.  Must a person be a Christian to properly assume these duties?

Let’s go back to the question about whom you would hire.

What about the surgeon who is going to operate on your child?  No doubt, you’d like it if he were a believer.  It would be comforting to know that he prays for guidance and seeks God’s help.  However, faced with the choice between a Christian (btw, he’s a resident just out of med school) or a Hindu (he’s a top expert in his specialty with 30 years experience), who would you choose?  I would suggest that to choose the Christian would not only be wrong, it would be foolish and a dereliction of your parental duty.

Likewise, when hiring a President, let’s make sure we’re focused on the right questions.  Their faith is not, in and of itself, one of those questions.

The Bully Pulpit

One of the specific critiques which I’ve heard more than once is that a Mormon President would lend new legitimacy to the LDS faith due to the prestige of the office of the president.  This is highly speculative, and could theoretically be true, but could just as easily go the other direction.  For example, it could make it more difficult for a LDS missionary to proselytize a Democrat!

Simply looking at historical precedent, there don’t appear to be any major religious realignments on account of any President’s particular religious affiliation.

By the way, I tried to do a simple analysis with our first Roman Catholic president (John F. Kennedy) to see if there had been an appreciable impact on Roman Catholic membership due to his election.  Unfortunately, it appears there is going to be nothing simple about such an analysis since Vatican II occurred in the early 60’s, and America experienced an influx of Latin American immigrants starting in ’64.  Kennedy was President from ’61-63, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to test any theories on the that historical precedent.

Conclusion

I do not believe we should apply a double standard to members of the LDS church.  The Bible clearly establishes the role of civil government to restrain evil, but does not require that we vote only for Christians.  We must not be hypocritical in our commitment to religious liberty.  We need to make sure we use the right criteria for “hiring” a President.  And I do not believe the concerns about a potential Romney presidency becoming a platform for the Mormon faith are valid.

The fact that Mitt Romney is a member of the LDS church will in no way impact my vote for him this November.

– Jeremy

Comments

  1. Excellent article, Jeremy. Well thought out, well said.

  2. Well done, Jeremy. This is an article worth sharing.

  3. sandi boehr says:

    A Mormon can’t be compared to a Jew or Catholic in their faith. Jews and Catholics are not cults; Mormonism is. Mormons believe Jesus is a brother to Satan and make no “bones” about the fact that they don’t believe in the Deity of Jesus.

    What is a much bigger issue for anyone ~ believer or non-believer- is the fact that Romney is a “flip-flopper,” and he’s not a Constitutional candidate. The big issue in choosing candidates is their stance of lack of it, on the Constitution.

    I’m not a supporter of Obama, but I can tell you I won’t be “holding my nose” at the ballot box and voting for Romney. My vote is much more the “currency of my virtue” than the candidates, and because of that neither of the two parties will garner my nod.

    • jeremyjisaac says:

      Sandi,
      Thanks for taking the time read my thoughts and comment. In reference to the cult issue I would point out that Jews don’t believe in the deity of Christ, which is the criteria you use to point out Mormonism is a cult. My point in the article still stands – they are all following a false religion. That we agree on.

      I’ll be posting another article this week in reference to the issue of minor party candidates so I look forward to discussing that issue with you then.

  4. Mormons are nothing close to an Abrahamic religion. Mormons are a Cult of Christianity! I don’t know how much experience you have with them or what you know but let me share a few items.
    This is just stuff I know from first hand experiences. I have had two ex-fiancées in my life. One was an Ex Witness and the other an Ex Mormon. I am still friends with both and we all parted ways on good grounds. I am happily married and so are they.
    If you leave their “truth” you are out man! I am talking out of the family and outside of their lives. How’s that on family values? Mormons worship a god from the universe of Kolob (witch is someplace we haven’t found yet). Ever read their books? I have, it was interesting as a confirmed Lutheran to read.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQb2mTzwlLo
    Sure they have changed a few things back in 1978 but the rest are things the LDS accepts. Of course with their “guidance”.
    Mormons have a real world view. A directive from Joseph Smith to take leadership of this country. Look it up and you will find it. Mormons are to get elected, teach us all how to live good Mormon lives, so that we may all become gods in Kolob and create other worlds etc. You get it by now.
    I am not telling anyone who I am voting for this year. It is close between two candidates though. What I will tell you though is that I am not voting for Romney. I feel that voting for him condones the Cult he is a Bishop in along with their world view.
    As Lutherans we pray each Sunday for God to help us pick leaders that will most listen to him. I can not reconcile that prayer with someone who prays to a very different god. The god of Kolob and Mormonism does not exist and I will not vote for someone who prays to a false god. I would rather choose an atheist that at least has a chance of being influenced by our Triune God.
    In the end, I feel bad for Mormons and Witnesses. (don’t get me started on the Witnesses) they have allowed themselves to be duped by false profits coming in God’s name.

    • jeremyjisaac says:

      Adam,
      Thanks for commenting. If you read my post you know that I made it clear from the start that the LDS church is a false religion. If you want to use the term cult, that is fine. However, based on your comment I’d question whether you even read what I said, particularly regarding the double standard we as Christians often apply to Mormons.
      Btw, you said would vote an atheist over a Mormon. You saying God has a “chance to influence” an atheist but is impotent to influence a Mormon? (Prov. 21:1)

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