Left-wing groups have pounced in recent days on a video from 2007 that shows Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney angrily defending his Mormon faith from criticism in a radio interview.
The host of the show, Iowa talk radio personality Jan Mickelson, had apparently tried to show differences between Mormon views on the second coming of Jesus Christ and those of most Christian evangelicals. He asked whether Jesus would arrive in Jerusalem, where Christians commonly believe the event will take place, or in Missouri.
“The second coming, the arrival of Jesus Christ, our Church says is in Jerusalem,” Romney replied, visibly angry. “That’s the Church doctrine.”
The Republican former governor of Massachusetts, who has served as a spiritual leader in the Mormon Church in Massachusetts, then offered a short explanation of that end-times scenario, saying, “Throughout the Bible, Christ appears in Jerusalem, splits the Mount of Olives to stop the war that’s coming in to kill all the Jews. Our church believes that. That’s when the coming and glory of Christ occurs.”
The reference to the eschatological war, and Christ’s actions to save the Jews from that war, is a common Christian belief rooted in Christian interpretation of verses in Zechariah and other books of the Bible.
The video was published on YouTube on October 31, and had garnered nearly 1.5 million views by the evening of November 4. The hits seemed to be driven largely by discussion on left-wing websites.
On Religion Dispatches, author Sarah Posner wondered, “Does [Romney] somehow revel in a ‘war that’s coming in to kill all the Jews,’ or see it as inevitable?”
She calls Romney “a notorious liar” and suggests “we may never know” the answer to the question.
The video brings “renewed attention to Romney’s apocalyptic beliefs,” suggests the Jewish left-wing site Tikkun.org.
The story probably got most of its online traction in recent days when it was published on Saturday night by the Daily Kos, a left-wing blog and news site.
While activists pounced on the find just days before a close election, in some places wondering openly whether the quote, according to which Christ will stop the war on the Jews, actually suggests Romney supports such a war, the video also offered insight into Mormon views on abortion.
While defending his own pro-life credentials as governor of Massachusetts, Romney insisted that “the Church does not say that a member of our Church has to be opposed to allowing choice in society. It does not say that. And therefore, there are Mormon Democrats. There’s a Democratic Party in Utah filled with Mormons, and the Church doesn’t say, ‘They’re wrong. They’re being excommunicated.’ No, it says, ‘Look, we are vehemently opposed to abortion ourselves, and for ourselves, but we allow other people to make their own choice.’”
Romney goes on to note that he disagrees with the Church’s tolerance for other people’s choices, and refused to vote for any measure that would strengthen protections for abortion rights as governor.
Vice President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, echoed the Mormon Church’s position during the vice presidential debate last month. “Life begins at conception,” Biden said. “That’s the [Catholic] Church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. I just refuse to impose that on others.”
In the five-minute video, Romney also complained that the media were more interested in his religious views than his campaign for the presidency, a point he made more fully in the full 20-minute video of the conversation posted online in December 2011.