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Former Mormon: What Americans Need to Know About Mormonism

How might Mitt Romney’s faith affect his social, economic or diplomatic priorities?

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Tarico: How about Mormon doctrines and internationalism?

Amini: Mormonism is an American religion, and lends itself strongly to American exceptionalism. The Book of Mormon teaches that the land the United States now occupies was designated a sacred and blessed land from the creation of the Earth. Mormons also believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, and that when Christ returns, Zion will be established there. Mormons see the Founding Fathers as divinely inspired, and the U.S. Constitution as an inspired document nearly to the point of scripture.

Interestingly, the church recently reported that it counts more members outside the U.S. than within.

Tarico: Talk to me about women and reproductive rights.

Amini: Mormons teach that the greatest thing a woman can aspire to be is a loving housewife and mother. It is a divine role to care for children. At the same time, because of the Correlation Committee, these teachings are carefully worded.

The church abhors abortion, but doesn’t take a firm stance on birth control. Most couples I have talked to were not forbidden to use any form. However, Mormons believe that we existed before this life, and that there are souls waiting to come down. Growing up, I often heard stories told by mothers who claimed to see their unborn children in visions, waiting to come down to earth. Also, Adam was told to multiply and replenish the Earth. So while Mormons aren’t instructed directly to have lots of children, it is implicit in the theology and culture.

Tarico: Will the Church continue to resist gay rights or will Mormons adapt?

Amini: That’s hard to speculate on, but we could look at what the church has done in the past. It was inconceivable in the 60’s that the Church would ever allow black people to become full members, but that was reversed. Homosexuality will likely prove more difficult due to the Mormon doctrine of eternal marriage and how heterosexual norms are fundamental to Mormon eschatology. I think it is possible that over time Mormons, will adopt an attitude that is more like mainline Christians. The generation in charge of the church right now still thinks that homosexuality is a choice. Perhaps by the time my generation runs the church, things will change.

Tarico: But right now the Church is actively opposing gay marriage.

Amini: Gay marriage is in more direct conflict with Mormon doctrine than perhaps any other Christian denomination, due to the role gender will play in the Mormon afterlife. Still–this may be a little cynical of me–the Church runs itself like a business, and I believe that the stance they have taken on gay marriage is less of a moral one, and more of a political strategy to ingratiate themselves with the broader Christian community.

Tarico: How would former Mormons tend to look at a Mormon presidency?

Amini: Most ex-Mormons I know are politically liberal. I can’t conceive of a democratic Mormon president. Harry Reid is a paradox – he’s part of the team, but not part of the team. I would bet that a Romney presidency would not be looked at favorably by most ex-Mormons because they’ve rejected the criteria by which he makes decisions.

Tarico: Is the “I’m a Mormon” marketing blitz timed in support of the Mormon Presidency?

Amini: Well, I think the Church leaders recognize that if Romney does well, they will do well. They recognize that they are perceived as odd and that having a mainstream candidate will do good things for their image. My guess is that they’d be pleased if he won, but I don’t believe they are trying to orchestrate it.

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