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Mitt Romney: A Sign of Mormon Acceptance?

Whether or not you like Mitt Romney's politics, there is another question that his campaign raises for the American culture. Does the fact that he is a Mormon candidate for president mean the the Mormon Church has reached a cultural acceptance on the level of a Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic? 

Sociologists use the labels of Church, Sect, and New Religious Movement (often called a cult) to describe a religious organization in relationship to its surounding culture. A Church is in low tension with its culture-- citizens may even feel comfortable voting in an election at a "church." A Sect is a group that has rejected cultural values, and thus the culture has in turn looked at them with suspicion. We might think of the Amish as an example of a Sect-- their rejection of technology and choice of clothing are strange to the surrounding cultural environment. A Cult exists in the highest level of tension with the culture at large. The tension is so high, that cults are often viewed as dangerous, and the government may even get involved actively in restraining their activities. 

The Mormons have slowly over the years adapted to their surrounding cultural environment, to achieve more acceptance by the culture.  Thus they have moved from being viewed as a cultural threat (with socially suspicious practices such as polygamous marriages, rumors of secret rituals behind closed doors), to a religious movement that many in the culture view with acceptance and even honor. 

If Romney does get the Republican nomination, and possibly the presidency, will that be the final indicator that Mormonism has completed its journey from being viewed as a cult, to a sect, and finally the sociological designation of a full fledged, culturally accepted church with little or no tension with its surrounding environment? What do you think? 

(cartoon credit: Drew Moody,

Romney With the Book of Mormon Cartoon

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Bo Cassell is an Associate Professor of Sociology at MidAmerica Nazarene University. In his 20+ years of experience working with youth and young adults, he has directed mission programs, developed youth conferences, and served as a youth pastor. He is the author of three books, including Water, Fire, Wind: The Elements of Following Christ, and Global Christianity: The Life We’re Called To Live-- both of which were commissioned as the preparation reading for two youth conferences attended by over 17,000 teenagers. He has also written curriculum for WordAction Publishers, and published several articles in Group Magazine, Journal for Student Ministries, Youthworker Journal, and Credo Magazine. A student of missions and culture, he has traveled to over a dozen countries, and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. He is a sought after speaker for leadership and youth ministry workshops, college campus chapels, and youth camps and retreats. Bo is a graduate of Pepperdine University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He holds two Masters degrees, and is working toward a PhD. He lives outside of Kansas City.


  • Thursday, 28 June 2012

    I would say this would absolutely give evidence that there is little to no tension between the culture and the faith. I believe that the Mormon faith has been most successful in politics (now I'm thinking of Glenn Beck, too). I'm not so sure this was the case even 4 years ago when Mitt Romney was a contender for the Republican nomination. Sadly, I believe that they have been so successful in the political arena because they rally against an "even bigger and evil" enemy. In this vein, I believe that those who view their "conservativeness" as key to their identity have been more willing to accept the Mormon faith, while those who view their "liberalness" as key to their identity have been less willing to accept the Mormon faith.

  • allison watkins Wednesday, 22 August 2012

    Well, Mormons are interesting people. They're strongly against pre-marital sex. They're taught to be good to other people. They have a strong focus on education. Yes, they view the bible in a different way, yes they have their own scripture. For the most part though, they have the same values as a dedicated Christian and when it comes to politics I think that's all Christians care about is that they have someone in office that has the same morals and values as them.

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OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.