Spreading a Political and Religious Message?

Evangelicals raise concerns a Romney presidency would boost Mormon faith.

ByABC News
August 6, 2007, 12:23 PM

MANTI, Utah, Aug. 6, 2007 — -- Every summer, tens of thousands of Mormons come to this rural area of Utah to attend a religious "pageant," an elaborate reenactment of the history of Mormonism. Scores of evangelical Christians come, too not to worship, but to save souls.

"They're deceived people," said Ginny Gunderson, an evangelical who traveled from Oregon. "They're victims. And I don't want to see anybody spend eternity in hell if I can help it."

Many evangelicals believe Mormonism is a cult. This view poses a potential political challenge to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who will likely need evangelical votes if he is to win the Republican nomination.

Mormons consider themselves to be Christians. They believe that Mormonism is the "restored" church and that authentic Christianity disappeared in the years after Jesus died and was revived by Mormonism's founding prophet, Joseph Smith, in the early 1800s.

There are, however, many significant differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity. These differences are aggressively highlighted in books, pamphlets and DVDs by evangelicals groups across the country who specialize in ministering to Mormons.

While Mormons believe that the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, they also believe that three books written by Smith are the word of God, too.

Mormon scripture teaches that God has a body of flesh and bone and that he presides over not one but three levels of heaven. Many Mormons also believe that the faithful will one day become gods themselves and preside over their worlds.

Evangelical distrust for Mormonism goes well beyond theology. Evangelicals are also wary of Mormons' secret temple rituals and their massive missionary campaign, which sends thousands of young believers around the world to spread the word. Mormonism is now one of the fastest-growing faiths on the planet.

Many evangelicals worry that a Romney presidency would lend Mormonism even more strength.