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Mike Huckabee Makes Amends on Mormonism

The evangelical, who previously trafficked in anti-Mormon tropes, validated Romney’s religion in his RNC speech

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Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee addresses the audience on August 29, 2012 during the Republican National Convention.(STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has been the target of many partisans throughout his political career. During his 1994 Senate challenge to Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator and his surrogates attacked Mormonism for its exclusion of blacks in the priesthood, despite the fact that the ban was actually lifted in 1978. During the current electoral cycle, liberal commentators from Salon to the New York Times have insinuated that Romney and the LDS Church seek to take over the United States.

But it’s not just Romney’s Democratic opponents who have sought to use his faith as cudgel to pummel his political prospects. One of the greatest traffickers in anti-Mormon tropes has been his Republican rival, former Arkansas Governor and evangelical pastor Mike Huckabee.

During the 2008 Republican primaries, the New York Times Magazine reported Huckabee asking in an “innocent voice”: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” (They don’t.) He later apologized, pleading ignorance. Many Mormons were not convinced, seeing Huckabee’s words as a classic anti-Mormon dog whistle designed to rally the conservative Christian community against the Church of Latter-day Saints. As prominent LDS writer Orson Scott Card said at the time, “We noticed and will not forget Mike Huckabee’s viciously anti-Mormon mockery of Mitt Romney during the 2008 campaign. If Huckabee is the Republican nominee for president, look for substantial numbers of Mormons to defect or abstain.”

Which is why Huckabee’s about-face at tonight’s RNC is noteworthy. Addressing the convention, Huckabee stated:

Let me clear the air about whether guys like me would only support an evangelical … I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country.

It’s an instructive sentiment, if arrived at belatedly by Huckabee himself. Hopefully, politicians and commentators on both sides of the aisle will take it to heart.

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***One of the greatest traffickers in anti-Mormon tropes has been his Republican rival, former Arkansas Governor and evangelical pastor Mike Huckabee.***

And your basis for such slander is . . . ? Surely you don’t think asking a question about a doctrine that Mormons actually believe is out of bounds, do you?

***“Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” (They don’t.) ***

Actually, they do: http://en.fairmormon.org/Jesus_Christ/Brother_of_Satan
“God the Father also had many other spirit children, created in His image and that of His Only Begotten. These children include all humans born on the earth. Some of God’s children rebelled against Him, and contested the choice of Jesus as Savior. (See D&C 76:25–27). The leader of these children was Lucifer, or Satan. Those spirit children of God who followed Satan in his rebellion against Christ are sometimes referred to as “demons,” or “devils.” (See Moses 4:1–4, Abraham 3:24–28).

Thus, it is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are “brothers,” in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father.

However, critics do not provide the context for the idea that Christ and Lucifer were brothers. Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable. In a similar way, Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus and Satan are equals.”

Just because many Mormons like Orson Scott Card—and apparently writers for Tablet—are ignorant about LDS teaching does not make Huckabee a “great trafficker in anti-Mormon tropes.”

This is a shoddy hit job that is beneath Tablet’s usually high standards.

This criticism misunderstands my post, which–as it comes from someone as knowledgeable on matters of faith as Joe Carter–likely means I wasn’t entirely clear. I apologize. My point above is not about the truth of Huckabee’s accusation. Rather, it was that Huckabee brought up a classic evangelical anti-Mormon dig (whose popularity is well documented at Joe’s link) in a completely irrelevant political forum. It was a very useful tactic for alienating evangelical voters from Romney based on his Mormon faith. But that very tactic is deeply problematic and counter to the spirit of American politics, which does not make religion a test for office. (It’s one thing if a particular religious belief might have real-world political consequences; it’s another if it’s a totally abstract theological point–like whether Jesus and Satan are brothers–that has no bearing on how the politician might behave or govern.)

What does have bearing on how the politician might behave in government is the fact that Romney, in responding to a reporter’s question about the Jesus-and-Lucifer-are-brothers issue, lied about what his church teaches. He said, “I leave doctrinal matters to the leaders of the church, but you’ve got your facts wrong on that.” He knew he was lying and that deeply disappointed me. We need men of integrity who have the courage of their convictions in government. Nevertheless, for the record, I have no choice but to vote for Romney. It’s either a dishonest Mormon or a dishonest Marxist..
Tom >

***My point above is not about the truth of Huckabee’s accusation.***

Of course it was, and it is absurd (and insulting to your readers) for you to claim otherwise. If a claim about a religious doctrine is true, then how can it wrong to ask if that is what it’s adherents believe? If you ask about Catholics, “Don’t they believe Jesus is present in the elements of the Eucharist?” it would be silly to turn around and say that to ask the question is trafficking in “anti-Catholic tropes.”

Also, you claim that Huckabee is “one of the greatest traffickers in anti-Mormon tropes.” What is your basis for this claim? Surely you are basing it on something more than his asking that one question.

***Rather, it was that Huckabee brought up a classic evangelical anti-Mormon dig (whose popularity is well documented at Joe’s link) in a completely irrelevant political forum.***

Good grief. You don’t even seem to know the context for the question. Let me point it out for you. Here is the relevant section from Zev Chafets article “The Huckabee Factor” in the New York Times:

***

Romney, a Mormon, had promised that he would be addressing the subject of his religion a few days later. I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘‘I think it’s a religion,’’ he said. ‘‘I really don’t know much about it.’’

I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘‘Don’t Mormons,’’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’’

***

So Huckabee is specifically asked about Mormonism, says he doesn’t know much about it, and then asks a question about Mormon belief that just happens to be true. And this makes his one of the greatest traffickers in anti-Mormon tropes? (Perhaps you are just prone to making outrageously exaggerated and erroneous claims. If this is the case, then I withdraw my objection.)

Also, how is this a “classic evangelical anti-Mormon”? What is your basis for that claim? (The article I linked to does not mention evangelicals at all.) You seem to be making a lot of claims that you cannot substantiate. I realize this is a blog and not subject to fact-checking. But as a writer you have a responsibility to be truthful.

***But that very tactic is deeply problematic and counter to the spirit of American politics, which does not make religion a test for office. ***

When did Huckabee ever say that their should be a religious test for public office? How did you make the leap from “Huckabee asked a question about Mormonism” to “Huckabee thinks there should be a religious test for public office”? Seriously, I’m really curious how you made that leap. And please don’t say—as you did in your column—that it was a “dog whistle.” The dog whistle claim has become the laziest trope in politics, dredged up by any pundit who doesn’t have the courage to just say, “I don’t like politician X but he hasn’t said anything directly that I can smear him with. Therefore, he must be talking in code.”

***It’s one thing if a particular religious belief might have real-world political consequences; it’s another if it’s a totally abstract theological point–like whether Jesus and Satan are brothers–that has no bearing on how the politician might behave or govern.***

When did anyone—much less Huckabee—say that this abstract theological point had any bearing on how the politician might behave or govern? Huckabee never said it. It was a few words taken from an 8,000 word article (that you don’t seem to have read).

When that article came out I was serving as Director of Rapid Response for the Huckabee campaign. I was well aware of all the contexts and all the ways that pro-Romney pundits tried to use it to imply (as you are doing) that Huckabee was trying to smear Romney. It was despicable then and it’s even more despicable now.

But my interest is not in defending Huckabee. (He’s a radio host now, not a politician so it doesn’t really matter.) My interest is that I’m sick of all the sloppy claims made by writers and pundits (like you) who spout off about things they know nothing about. If you had said, “I don’t like Mike Huckabee” I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But when you try to make all sorts of slanderous claims based on no factual evidence—and do so in a reputable forum like Tablet—then it make my blood boil.

I don’t think you read my response correctly either, nor responded to its contentions. But at this point, I’ll just let readers judge if you’re giving both the post and my explanation a fair reading, and whether your argument is bolstered or hindered by claims that I don’t read the articles I cite. (Pretty sure the NYT political profile perfectly illustrates my point, but perhaps we read it differently.)

Considering that Huckabee ends up being held up as the moral example to other pundits and politicians at the end of this post, I do wonder how you got the notion that I wrote it to be anti-Huckabee. That would be news to me.

Tornogal says:

Facts:

1. Romney and most Mormons are working so desperately to convince the world Mormonism–after decades of distancing itself from Christian faiths which it regarded as abominations–is another Christian denomination. Not true.

2. Evangelicals as a rule so detest Obama that they are willing to compromise ANYTHING to see him out of office.

That’s what this is about.

PhillipNagle says:

I’m 68 and have been following politics most of my life. I have never seen such bigoted religeous hate directed at a presidential candidate as has been directed. Most of it has been from liberals. Those people should be ashamed but all they care about is Obama staying in office. Since Obama can’t run his record he must descend into religious bigotry. The irony of this is how outraged the liberals would have been had the anti-Semitic and anti American church Obama belonged to for 20 years became an issue.

Phillip you simply do not have a clue if you think that liberals are going after willards religion. It has actually been repubs and tea baggers who have gone after Obama saying he is a muslim. By your totally inaccurate and ignorant statement it shows how you really have accepted the repubs and tea baggers mastery of hitlers big lie theory. Lie to them often enough, make it outrageous enough and they will believe.

I have been seeing huckabee on tv doing anti-Obama commericials and am now convinced that he is every bit a big LIAR as all other repubs and tea baggers.
It is one thing to be against a policy but a completely different thing to blatenly LIE about the policy to get your message out.
Sort of like ryan saying that Obama was responsible for closing a GM plant even though the plant closed prior to Obama being president.
ryan knows this to be true, the repubs and tea baggers know this to be true, and ryan’s hadlers know it to be true, but they say they are not going to let fact checkers get in their way!
It’s one thing to fib or even LIE, but to know you are LYING, have been corrected several times and continue to go on LYING, puts you in class of low lifes who will say anything to get what they want.
repubs and tea baggers have become master of hitler’s big lie theory, lie to them often enough, make it outrageous enough and they will believe it.

PhillipNagle says:

I have a name fore anyone who uses the term “tea bagger”. The term is cocksucker and you are a cocksucker.

Paul3571 says:

During the 2008 Republican primaries, the New York Times Magazine reported Huckabee asking in an “innocent voice”: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” (They don’t.)

Ummm…yes, they do. http://capro.info/Cults/Mormonism/The_Jesus-Satan_Brotherhood.html

You also might be interested in the debunking of seven Mormon myths as well.

http://derengowski.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/debunking-seven-mormon-myths-part-1/

http://derengowski.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/debunking-seven-mormon-myths-part-2/

Strangewalk says:

I don’t see that Romney was lying–he was responding to a sentiment that proposed Jesus and the Devil to be somehow on the same level, which they of course they are not. If we accept that all men are brothers (which we are in a sense), then we have as a ‘brother’ Adolf Hitler. However, would you confirm the charge that he was your brother?

voxon123 says:

Do you know what Mormons believe? How many people have ever given more than five minutes of thought to this subject? They are not Christians, they are not seen as Christians because their teachings are completely different. Google (Christianity vs. Mormonism). Better yet read a book which shows the contrasts between the two religions.

Reeves Stroud says:

You are for Rom so you would say that. Do I hear Rev Wright or Obama is a Muslim or hangs around with terrorist. Ms Palin said…Um i think maybe you have selective memory. All you can say is Liberal from a Regan era which is ironic because there is no way he would be nominated today by this republican party. They would have said he was too liberal. No, Christians put out literature about how wrong Mormonism is etc etc…yet, I guess out of convenience they decide to vote for one…how hypocritical is that. How they ever face a Mormon at their door. All they have to ask is did you vote for Romney…that ends it right there…same argument can be used….though I dont always agree with Dr Dobson…he said he could not vote for either…one belongs to a cult and the other is against some biblical principles…

Reeves Stroud says:

I have a name for someone who calls someone a cock sucker who is a tea bagger and calls someone that who points out someone who claims to be a christian or a tea baggers who claim they are the only moral ones…..HYPOCRITE….Hum…..lets see….who just swam in the sea of Galilee….drunk naked tea bagger….who claimed before they were the holy ones over liberal democrats……True Christians or people with morals dont call people names or win them over with their words…they win them over with their lifestyle….people dont have to say it they can see by how you live but when you use words like that….it shows whats in your heart………you would think after 68 years you would have learned that by now…

d_nise says:

hypocrite! Mormonism has been considered a cult by the evangelicals for many many years and has been written about over and over. To now shrug his shoulders and say it isn’t important proves he is an opportunist, a “convenient” christian, and a liar.

PhillipNagle says:

So it is established, neither of us is a true Christian by your definition though I certainly never claimeded to be and you are a cocksucker.

Yep. In the Catholic Church, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses must be rebabtized. They are considered cults.

1OldGunny1 says:

Mormons are not Christians because they believe in salvation by both works & grace while Christians believe only in salvation by grace. Two entirely different doctrines.

We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and DOCTRINE, one in charity.
Really? even the so called evangelicals are divided, they’re doctrine is different.
If ye are not one, ye are not mine! or If anyone will do my will, he will know the doctrine!
So whos doctrine are they following?
So they gang up on the Mormons like the Pharises & Saduceses, even tho they differed in doctrine!
Every thing that was created, was created by God.

Mormonism in general: screwball theology, good rules for living, great people. I’d much rather have a devout Mormon who respects other religions than someone whose faith is nebulous at best and who has no respect for the Constitutionally-protected beliefs of others. (However, Mr. Romney, go after my coffee at your peril. :))

They do believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers, though… They also believe God lives on a planet called Kolob. Seriously,
a quick google search can prove the crazy things that cult belives in
(not that Christianity, Islam or any other silly religion is much better
anyhow, but still) – i’m surprised that a super christian country like ‘Murica would allow a Mormon to be a serious contender for president….

They do believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers, though… They also believe God lives on a planet called Kolob. Seriously…
A quick google search is all it takes to prove all the crazy stuff this cult believes in
(not that Christianity, Islam or any other silly religion is much better when it comes to silly nonsense, but still) – i’m surprised that a super christian country like ‘Murica would allow a Mormon to be a serious contender for president….

And his beliefs SHOULD be taken into consideration – Any man gullible enough to believe a known huckster and charlatan like Joseph Smith – despite all of the rather shaky and suspect circumstances surrounding the religion’s founding – is not a man I would consider capable or qualified to be the leader of any country, let alone the greatest (and most terrifying) military the world has ever seen.

The man belongs to a religion that believe black people were cursed with the ‘mark of cain’ because they didn’t (as some kinda ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ or something before their birth) participate in some giant intergalactic space battle between good and evil before humanities creation… It even was once said that black men cooould enter heaven, but only as slaves to white Mormons there…. And Romney also believes that God lives on the planet Kolob, and that every man will eventually become the GOD of their own personal planet one day if they’re a good Mormon and wear their magic Mormon underwear (also a real thing. look it up).

A person that believes these things should not be given any kind of power or authority. It’s insanity. Granted, I don’t think we should give the nuclear missle launch codes to someone that believes some hippy socialist (funny, given many christians are capitalist bourgeoisie scum) named Jesus died for our sins, and then rose from the grave as a zombie three days later, after performing a bunch of magic tricks that Criss Angel probably could pull off no problem, especially if he only had to impress a bunch of ignorant people from a culture with little in the way of science or common sense either… but whatever, we gotta draw a line somewhere. Just because we’ve allowed a certain level of insanity in our leaders historically (luckily i dont think Obama believes in any religion – not Christianity like he claims – and certainly not Islam like the right believes… he’s too intellectual to be religious beyond putting on an act to appease the mostly Christian population). Bahhh, I’m glad I live in Canada. Ugh…

Most is coming from Liberals? Ummm… Have you somehow missed all the “Obama is a stinkin’ Muslim” insanity coming from the right in America? With Romney and his Mormonism it’s one thing, he belongs to a kinda silly ‘new religious movement’ (read: cult) – With Obama, the religious bigotry and hatred is directed at a religion the man isn’t even a part of!!! Now that’s truly ridiculous. It would seem I’ve learned more in my 27 years of life than you have in your 68. How sad…

68? You have the debate skills of someone in junior high school… I’m a proud cocksucker, myself, tea bagger…

Gavin Stevens says:

Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and the Crucifixion. Wouldn’t that make them a Christian denomination? I’d say so…

Gavin Stevens says:

Mormons believe in Jesus Christ and the Crucifixion. Wouldn’t that make them a Christian denomination? I’d say so…

Gavin Stevens says:

I’d say if they believe in Jesus Christ they are Christians..
Dictionary.com says:
Christian, of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.

Gavin Stevens says:

Christian, of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
It’s called “The church of Jesus Christ of Ladder day saints”!

Tornogal says:

They agree with mainstream Christianity that there was a Jesus and that he was crucified. But LDS doctrine is enormously at odds with many other critical doctrinal points.

The LDS church is free to declare itself “Christian,” of course. But the main body of Christianity should be free to reject that assertion. And many in it do.

KaKa Khan says:

Good thing we’re not like Mormons who’s adherents at one time excluded other races or cultures. After all, some my best friends are Goyim! On behalf of the Chosen people living in the U.S., we’re glad you live in Canada too…

KaKa Khan says:

That would depend, does simply believing Moses existed make one a Jew, or does what we believe about him actually matter? Someone once commented that Chrisitianity is just a really successful Jewish sect.

KaKa Khan says:

Then Catholics aren’t Christians either.

KaKa Khan says:

There is only one sin in American politics nowadays, and that is the sin of not winning.

KaKa Khan says:

Huzzah!

KaKa Khan says:

Now those darn “Pharises & Saduceses [sic]” are ganging up on the poor Mormons? Oh, the humanity!

KaKa Khan says:

Hey, don’t knock it. I’ve been to Kolob and they serve a gefilte fish that’s to die for.

“Mormon” is not a race. I don’t feel bad for excluding a religion, as that is a choice. Religion is a cancer – Anyone who does believe simply wouldn’t dbe vot. Really when it comes down to it – this whole issue is sorta redundant anyhow since, as a communist, I don’t believe in voting for a president in the first place. The issue is capitalism itself, and voting is irrelevant until capitalism is overthrown. Before that, to take part in a bourgeoisie election is disingenuous.

Sorry, Yair, but your facts are wrong. Mormons DO believe Jesus and Satan are brothers, in the same sense that you and Jesus and Satan are brothers. All of the above are equally spirit children of the Mormon god, just in different places on the eternal ladder of progress. So while it’s sensationalistic to phrase it as Huckabee did, it’s nonetheless true in a metaphysical sense (to the extent Mormonism even engages in metaphysical discourse). You have to understand Mormon cosmology first because it is profoundly different from anything found in Judaism or mainstream Christianity. While all these traditions shared similar vocabulary, the terms as used by Mormons frequently have completely different meanings.

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Mike Huckabee Makes Amends on Mormonism

The evangelical, who previously trafficked in anti-Mormon tropes, validated Romney’s religion in his RNC speech

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