Ravell Call, Deseret News
Foliage in the plaza with the Salt Lake Temple in the background in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011.
Labeling 14 million LDS Church members as a cult renders the term meaningless; it really just tells us that the speaker doesn't have any actual familiarity with Mormonism. —Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research

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"Brace yourself for the anti-Mormon slime machine!"

That's the warning from Kyle-Anne Shiver, a frequent contributor to the American Thinker blog, who speculates that "Mitt Romney's religious faith is likely to be mocked, sensationalized, disparaged and dragged through the media gutters" in the event of an election race between Romney and President Barack Obama.

It is difficult to imagine that running against President Obama will draw out any more anti-Mormon rhetoric than the current Republican campaign has drawn. Recently two more pastors associated with other Republican candidates have publicly criticized the LDS Church, one erroneously quoting the Book of Mormon and using the misquote to call the church racist and the other, who recently introduced Newt Gingrich at a rally, calling the church a cult and claiming Mormons once deployed "death squads."

The Rev. O'Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, Fla., was quoted in the Palm Beach Post saying that "Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency because Americans won't vote for a Mormon president."

Dozier said that a Republican candidate will need at least 10 percent of the black vote to unseat President Obama, adding that "blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith" because "the Book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed."

Dozier's claim about the Book of Mormon is wrong, said Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), an independent organization that studies and responds to claims made against the LDS Church.

"The Book of Mormon does not say that 'Negro skin is cursed,'" Gordon said. "The Book of Mormon takes place on the American continent before any Europeans or African-Americans were here โ€” it doesn't really have anything to do with blacks or Africans in any time period, let alone today. It is about a very specific group of people, in a very specific time and place."

In fact, Gordon said, "there is only one actual mention of blacks in the Book of Mormon: 'And he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female, and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God" (2 Nephi 26: 33).

Palm Beach Post reporter Andrew Abramson, who interviewed Dozier, wrote that "from 1849 through 1978 the (LDS Church) barred blacks from its priesthood," and Dozier, who backs Rick Santorum in his candidacy for the presidency, said if Romney is the candidate, President Obama's campaign will make political hay with what Dozier terms "the racist views of the Mormon Church."

Gordon also took issue with the suggestion that the LDS Church is racist.

"The LDS Church is completely, thoroughly, unequivocally welcoming toward people of all races โ€” no exceptions," he said. While he acknowledges the historical fact that LDS blacks were not allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978, "thousands of black LDS members have made peace with the church's past and have found truth, community and acceptance here."

Meanwhile, another pastor, Dr. Howard Rodney-Browne, said that while Christians are obliged to forgive Newt Gingrich for his past marital infidelities, "Mormonism is a cult and that's the problem" with Romney.

"Mormonism, if you study the whole history of it, and I'm not trying to create a problem, but they had death squads that would go around and kill everybody that wasn't a Mormon," Rodney-Browne said in an article in The Daily Mail.

"Obviously, the good pastor has been reading too many dime store novels if he believes that," Gordon said. "Every newspaper in the country would have had a field day with us. They didn't, because we didn't. No responsible historian makes this claim."

Pastor Rodney-Browne went on to acknowledge that Latter-day Saints are "very honorable people, very clean โ€” married, godly, family," but that their faith has been "doctored up and painted nicely."

"The problem is the addition to the scripture, which is the Book of Mormon, and all the other additives that Joseph Smith brought to the table," Rodney-Browne said.

The "cult" claims made by Rodney-Brown come just days after a similar charge was levied by Rev. Huey Mills, head of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools and follows by three months the media furor caused by Pastor Robert Jeffress, a Rick Perry backer who took advantage of a political forum to label The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a "cult."

"Labeling 14 million LDS Church members as a cult renders the term meaningless; it really just tells us that the speaker doesn't have any actual familiarity with Mormonism," said Gordon. "It's like what (British writer and author George) Orwell observed in 1944 about the term 'facism,' that it had come to simply mean 'something not desirable' instead of imparting any actual information or analysis."

There are longer, more in-depth articles on these and other subjects on the FAIR website, www.fairlds.org. FAIR is not in any way sponsored or sanctioned by the LDS Church.

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