"I think our people recognize we live in a pluralistic culture, therefore one has to look at a candidate and see what values and policies they have independent of what their religious association might be and make a determination on that basis," Wood said in a phone interview. "You can form friendships with people even though you don't agree with them doctrinally."
Pastors are struggling to get that message across while still making clear that important doctrinal differences with Mormons remain. Conservative Christians believe they have a duty to point out beliefs they fear could lead others astray and risk their salvation.
As Strang was getting out the vote last month, the news editor of his best-known magazine, Charisma, wrote a column calling Mormonism "bizarre" and a "Christianesque cult." Another columnist called Mormon doctrines "creepy and (with apologies to Mitt Romney) demonic."
Janet Parshall, a veteran Christian broadcaster now with Moody Radio, invited on her show Tricia Erickson, a former Mormon turned born-again Christian and author of "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America."
Parshall effusively praised Mormons for their dedication to family and compassion for others. She spoke fondly about working with Mormons in Washington. "When we would fight for pro-family issues, boy I tell you, we'd be able to do that with our Mormon friends because they shared the same kinds of values that we did," Parshall said. But she said there was a need to point out "what is biblically correct and what is not." In the ensuing interview, Erickson went on to call Mormonism blasphemous and describe rituals inside Mormon temples, which are for Mormons in good standing only, as "silly," ''bizarre" and "violent."
Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler and other academics took up the issue in a discussion last month at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship training ground for future leaders of the nearly 16 million-member denomination. Called "The Mormon Moment? Religious Conviction and the 2012 Election," the speakers went to great lengths to emphasize that religion should not be a consideration when voting.
Russell Moore, a theologian and a seminary dean, said a candidate's religious outlook should be examined specifically for "whether or not the person is going to be able to work for the common good." But he and others warned that supporting a candidate for president does not mean accepting his faith.
"If a President Romney is elected," Moore said, "we're the people who are willing to, if we're invited into the Oval Office, say, 'President Romney, here's where we agree with you, here's what we like about what you're doing, and we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ so you don't perish everlasting.'"
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