Would you gladly welcome a Mormon into your family?
Apparently some Americans still hold strong views about Mormons and with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proudly boasting his longtime association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormon religion is being scrutinized today perhaps more than ever.
According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a number of voters say they would be “uncomfortable with a close family member marrying someone who is black or Mormon, with slightly more distrust from people outside their community.”
The poll exposes long-standing prejudices about marriages between people of varying races and religions with little differences in opinions four years after Americans elected President Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president.
“Twenty percent of voters report discomfort with the idea of a Mormon marrying into their immediate family; 14 percent say the
same for African-Americans,” according to the poll. “For blacks, proximity appears key: Whites living in communities with few or no African-Americans are more apt to express uneasiness than those in more diverse communities.”
The poll doesn’t get into specifics about how blacks feel about Romney and his Mormon faith, but since most African-Americans will vote overwhelmingly for Obama in November, the issue of Romney and his religion may only be a concern for black Republicans who are not yet solidly behind Romney’s candidacy.
But one black conservative, a Mormon who plans to vote for Romney in November, says he's standing by his faith.
Don Harwell is president of the Genesis Group, a support group for African-Americans in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that was "established to meet the needs of Black members, many of whom were descendants of early pioneers," according to its website.
"I know the church is true and I am a firm believer," Harwell told CNN. "There are always problems, you can find the problems, or you can focus on the positive side."
In what some historians are calling a post-racial society since Obama’s election, the new survey also asked voters about their views on racial discrimination.
“Since Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president, fewer Americans say they sense discrimination against blacks in their own communities,” the survey revealed. “About 37 percent of those polled say African-Americans face discrimination, down from nearly half the public in January 2009. The decrease is most pronounced among whites and other non-blacks.”
Although Romney doesn’t talk much about his faith on the campaign trail, the new poll is timely considering many black Americans are skeptical of a religion that teaches that black people are cursed by God.
For decades, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has taught that black people are “inferior” and “cursed” by God because of something sinister that blacks did before they were born.
“And [God] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity,” according to a bizarre passage from the Book of Mormon. “For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God; I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities."
Until 1978, the Mormon church banned black men from its priesthood. The church also barred black men and women from temple ceremonies that promised access into the afterlife.
“Mormons, they're prejudiced against blacks," Marvin Perkins told USA Today. "Let's say you have this powerful witness of God telling you that this church is truly of him," said Perkins, a black salesman from Los Angeles. "And then the people in that church lovingly tell you that you are cursed. How do you reconcile those two things?"
Perkins told the newspaper that he was considering joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints back in 1988 but couldn’t justify joining a religion that discriminates against black people.
Romney has not spoken substantively about his religion and does not usually take questions about his Mormon faith.
When Romney was asked by a GOP delegate about whether he agreed that black people were cursed by God, Romney, who appeared agitated, answered “no” and quickly walked away.