This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Jon Huntsman is right. The question of whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult or is Christian is a political sideshow. The race for the Republican presidential nomination should be about important policy issues, not about which candidate or which denomination is Christian.
Apparently, though, that's too much to hope.
A Baptist preacher named Robert Jeffress said the other day that Mitt Romney is not a Christian because he is a Mormon. "Mormonism is not Christianity," Jeffress said. "It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity."
We don't want to enter a theological debate about what qualifies a person or a faith to be Christian. All we can say is that Mormons consider themselves to be Christians. They proclaim Jesus Christ to be their savior. They espouse the values and ethics that other Christians do. Family, charity, the Golden Rule. That's what the Mormons we know are about.
What this has to do with presidential politics, we don't know, except that in politics, candidates will use any label, any association, to cut down an opponent.
Mitt Romney tried to put this issue to rest four years ago when he gave a speech titled "Faith in America." He embraced his LDS faith, although without much explanation of its doctrines, while making an eloquent case for religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.
JFK did the same in 1960, and the voters put a Roman Catholic in the White House for the first time. But, apparently, there now must be the same rite of passage for a Mormon.
We wonder, though, whether anyone could get away with implying that someone is unfit for the presidency because he or she is a Jew. Jews aren't Christians, either. Is Judaism a cult? No. It's another faith, one of the three great monotheistic religions of the Middle East, and, by the way, the first. Christianity is the second, and Islam is the third.
But we digress.
Romney and Jon Huntsman aren't running for an ecclesiastical office. They are running for the presidency of the United States, a nation whose Constitution enshrines freedom of religious exercise and forbids the federal government from establishing a state religion. What should be important to voters is less the personal faith of the candidate but the commitment of that candidate to uphold the guarantees of religious freedom in the First Amendment. On that score, voters should have no reservations about either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman.