Monday, August 27, 2012

Secular reporters following Mitt Romney's presidential campaign seem unaware of the significance of Mormon communion, while a Mormon reporter presents a half-truthful picture

Dishonesty and deception are among the characteristics of a cult. A cult typically isn't up front with outsiders about its beliefs and practices and tries to deceive people about them. When Mitt Romney, presumptive 2012 Republican party candidate for President of the United States, participated in a communion ceremony in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, there were observers from the media present. While Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker reported the details in The New York Times on August 19, 2012, they failed to note their significance:

BOSTON — Mitt Romney read Scripture from his iPad as he juggled his 2-year-old grandson on his lap.

He made sure to accept a small piece of white bread and cup of water, representing the flesh and blood of Jesus, from a member of the clergy who looked like he was about to accidentally pass him by.

A reporter who is aware of the significance of Mormon communion chose to present a false picture. McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed is a Mormon who has been following Mr. Romney along the campaign trail, and attended the same service as the New York Times reporters. Here's how he reported it for BuzzFeed on August 19, 2012:

WOLFEBORO, N.H — A little after 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Mitt Romney got out of a black SUV with his wife, greeted a couple in the parking lot, and walked into a Mormon chapel to take their seats with a small congregation of wealthy vacationers and native New Hampshirites.

And I followed him in.

As a member of Romney's traveling press corps, I've followed the candidate across the country over the past eight months. I'm also a fellow Mormon, and I've written thousands of words along the way about how our shared religion seems to be shaping his candidacy. But until today, I had never actually sat in the same chapel as him, sung the same hymns with him, and said "Amen" to the same prayers as him.

It's an experience I wasn't sure I'd ever have. For all his private devotion, Romney has refused to engage even the most innocuous questions about his faith, arguing that discussion of Mormonism should have no place in 2012's recession-worn public square. I've often wondered why the candidate insists on keeping one of the most meaningful — and humanizing — aspects of his life hidden from public view; what it was about the fundamentally un-exotic Mormon experience that he was so afraid to share.

My chance to find out came Sunday with BuzzFeed's turn in the recently-formed "protective pool," a rotating group of reporters who follow Romney everywhere he goes and file short dispatches to the rest of the press describing the candidate's schedule. As luck would have it, my turn on pool duty happened to align with the pool's first trip to church with the candidate.

Shortly after entering the chapel, Mitt and Ann filed into an aisle with their son Tagg, his wife, and their six children, while a handful of reporters took seats in the back of the chapel. As my colleagues surveyed their unremarkable surroundings, they commented on how unremarkable it all looked: a generic high-ceilinged room full of nondescript parishioners.

What I saw, though, was a slice of Mormon Americana — a buffet of congregational quirks that any Latter-day Saint would recognize.

After a couple of hymns, including one titled "He Died, the Great Redeemer Died," a gaggle of teenage boys in white shirts and ties walked down the aisles passing out trays of bread and water that symbolize the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. When one of the boys accidentally moved on before the tray got to Romney, Tagg gestured for him to return. The candidate quietly partook in the ordinance, which represents repentance for past sins and a renewed commitment to avoid them in the future. It's a key tenet of Mormonism — this notion of constant spiritual course-correction — and a campaign aide would later tell me that, wherever Romney finds himself on Sundays, he tries to attend a Mormon Sacrament meeting.
When it came to his report for the press pool, Mr. Coppins, said this, as quoted by The New York Times blog The Caucus on August 19, 2012:

After a second hymn, “He died, the great redeemer died,” young men clad in white shirts and ties passed out the sacrament — small pieces of white bread and cups of water that symbolize the flesh and blood of Jesus, similar to Catholic communion. Taking the sacrament is a sign of repentance for sins committed in the past and a commitment to follow the commandments in the future.

The half-truth of this picture is the part about "a commitment to follow the commandments in the future." Indeed, that's what Mormonism is all about--a religion of salvation by human merit (bold inserted by blogger):

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23

But of course, there's no such thing as "grace, after all we can do;" it's either one or the other:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Romans 11:6

Mr. McCoppins, however, presents a deceptive picture when he says that Mormon communion is similar to Catholic communion. In Roman Catholic communion, there is a belief in transubtantiation--accurately termed by the Church of England in Article XXXI of its Thirty-Nine Articles as "blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits"--wherein the priest performs a miracle and turns the bread and wine (not water) into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Bible-believing churches use bread and wine or grape juice, with the fruit of the vine symbolizing the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross as the payment of the penalty imposed by God for our sins:

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Mark 14:22-25

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

Associated Press reporter Kasie Hunt also seems to have been misled regarding Mormon communion. She reported on July 2, 2012:

Romney's campaign doesn't tell reporters when Romney is going to church. But the Wolfeboro branch is open to visitors and an Associated Press reporter attended the same sacrament service the Romney family attended. It featured bread with water instead of wine, a variation on communion that allows for the Mormon prohibition on drinking alcohol.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' use of water instead of wine or grape juice in communion has nothing to do with prohibition on alcohol (if they don't want to use alcohol, they can always use grape juice), and everything to do with the Mormons' hatred of the symbolism of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins, as stated succinctly by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt:

Mormonism teaches and practices…that Latter-Day Saints must prove their worthiness and earn eternal life by obedience to thousands of laws and ordinances, and repetitive performances of secret Temple rituals. This is because Mormonism denies that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died for our sins and thereby purchased eternal life to be given as a free gift of God’s grace to all who receive Him by faith. Because they reject the full value of Christ’s blood poured out in death for sin on the cross, Mormons take bread and water at their communion services instead of bread and wine (or grape juice) as Christ commanded; and they display no cross inside or outside their chapels and Temples, but do display many Masonic and other occult symbols. Mormons have an almost fanatical aversion to the cross and shed blood of Jesus Christ. Ed Decker & Dave Hunt, The God Makers, 1984, p. 136

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