Mormons massaging public image as spotlight widens

Responding to the almost unprecedented spotlight on their faith generated by the presidential aspirations of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have launched a national campaign of their own.

Top leaders are talking to editorial boards, and staff members from the church’s Salt Lake City headquarters and local volunteers are meeting other journalists to offer basic information about the faith, dispel misconceptions and highlight commonalities with traditional Christianity. The church also is talking about differences that separate it from other believers.

Mormon Church: A Cult of Christianity

Given that the theology and practice of the Mormon Church violates essential Christian doctrines, Mormonism does not represent historical, Biblical Christianity, is not a Christian denomination, and is not in any way part of the Christian church.

John Taylor, a spokesman who traveled to the Tampa Bay area as part of the public relations effort, said interest in the Mormon faith has soared over the past year. He said the church, which is politically neutral, is trying to be part of the national conversation about its doctrine to be sure its story is told accurately and fairly.

The American-born religion is battling two fronts: those who know little about the faith but hold negative perceptions, and others who are more knowledgeable and strongly disagree with the doctrine.

The Rev. Bill Martin falls into the latter group. He has Mormon ancestors, but also is the nephew of the late Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults, an evangelical standard that denounces Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Thought religions such as the Unity movement and other faith communities.

Martin, pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in St. Petersburg, has positive things to say about Mormons, but disagrees with their theology.

“I believe Mormon people are some of the most wonderful, neighborly, law-abiding people you can find in this country. They have held the line on a lot of moral issues that are important to American tradition,” he said.

“Having said that, Mormonism is a theological and biblical perversion of Orthodox Christianity, because at the root of it, it is polytheistic.”

The Mormon Rolex?

Not every watch that says ‘ROLEX’ on the faceplate is in fact a ROLEX. Likewise, not every religious group that calls itself Christian is in fact Christian.

Given that the theology and practice of the Mormon Church violates essential Christian doctrines, Mormonism does not represent historical, Biblical Christianity, is not a Christian denomination, and is not in any way part of the Christian church.

The Rev. Alan Rowbotham, former senior minister of First Unity Church in St. Petersburg, thinks the Mormon church has taken the right step in trying to explain its faith.

“Any time there is clarity around an issue, it’s a good thing,” said Rowbotham, who is retired and publishes a newsletter, Spiritual Solutions.

“People seem to very often view that which is unknown to them or strange to them as being something that is bad, without any real understanding of what the tenets are.”

During a recent visit to the area, Taylor quietly and earnestly answered some of the questions detractors regularly raise about his faith: polygamy, blacks in the church, temple rituals and supplementary scriptures.

“We believe in Jesus Christ. He is the core and center of everything we do. We worship him. We honor him,” said Taylor, who was accompanied by Janis Gillrie, a volunteer public relations spokeswoman from Tampa.

He mentioned other commonalities with Christians. Mormons believe in the Bible, share a concern for the poor and work with other faiths to help those in need.

“We’re not Catholic. We’re not Protestant,” Taylor said. “We are restored New Testament Christians. We believe in the restoration of the original Christian church that Jesus Christ originated on Earth, with a lay ministry, apostles and people of faith who are trying to emulate Jesus Christ.”

The church’s additional scriptures, the Book of Mormon – which tells about Jesus’ ministry in America after his resurrection – the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants, help Mormons better understand Jesus Christ, he said.

Problems with The Book of Mormon

“All this is why Mormon leaders tell potential converts to ignore criticism of the Book of Mormon and rely entirely upon subjective (completely personal) ‘confirmation.’ Nevertheless, the church’s appeal to subjectivity does nothing to convince a rational person why he or she should believe in the Book of Mormon. To believe without any evidence is troublesome enough; to believe in spite of the evidence is folly.”
What intractable problems face the Book of Mormon?

Polygamy has been outlawed for 117 years by the church, Taylor said. Additionally, although black males were not given the priesthood until 1978 – when church leaders received a revelation that the policy should be changed – news of their acceptance “was greeted with joy. It was greeted with rejoicing,” he said.

Today, Taylor said, Mormons are diverse, with a quarter-million believers in Africa. Blacks are also in leadership positions, he said.

As for the secret temple rites, the most important of which is the “sealing” of husbands, wives and children as families for eternity, Taylor said, “I wouldn’t refer to them as secret. I would refer to them as sacred.”

Fast Facts:

By the numbers

6-million members in the United States

13-million members worldwide

20,000 chapels worldwide

Mormons in politics

16 in the U.S. Congress

Michael Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Mitt Romney, presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader

Famous Mormons

Marie Osmond

Gladys Knight

Health codes forbid: Coffee, tea, alcohol, illegal drugs and tobacco.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Waveney Ann Moore, St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 24, 2007,

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday November 24, 2007.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at