By Chelsea Telega
The bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Girard said the fact he and Mitt Romney share religious views is not enough to persuade him to cast his ballot for the former Massachusetts governor.
Bishop Robert Palmer, who leads the church, said a person’s religion does not determine whether he or she would be a strong president.
“I want good, caring, trustworthy people to be leaders. It doesn’t matter what walk of life they come from, as long as they serve the people,” Palmer said. “I don’t care if they’re Muslim or Jewish or Mormon, as long as they understand that they have been called to serve.”
Palmer said he believes other Mormons share his beliefs; in Ohio there are an estimated 58,000 Mormons’ votes, and not all of them are guaranteed for Romney, the bishop said.
“Is he the right person for the job? Maybe. We need a change, that’s all I know. That’s my personal opinion,” Palmer said. “The people of the [Mormon] church vote for who they want in the White House.”
Raised as a Catholic, Palmer joined the Mormon faith 10 years ago, and he is happy that Romney’s faith is drawing attention to the religious denomination, which has roots in Ohio dating back to the 1830s. The church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in New York.
Palmer said the church has been getting streams of phone calls inquiring about the religion since Romney has shown interest in a presidential seat.
Palmer said the beauty of the church is that the members “take care of themselves through the Lord.” He said the main goal is not to convert people to the religion, but to “teach truthfulness.”
Another local minister, Randy Brunko of the Evangel Baptist Church in Boardman, said Romney’s religion may hurt his chances to become the country’s next president, however.
“The concern that I have on a personal level is that if Mitt is elected president, it continues to blur the issues to the American public about issues of Christianity. What if people will think that Mormonism and Christianity are one in the same?” the Rev. Mr. Brunko said.
Mr. Brunko said Christians have to believe in Jesus Christ as their savior and that the Mormons’ ardent following of The Book of Mormon contradicts the most basic tenets of Christianity.
Although Mr. Brunko worries about the attention that Romney is bringing to a religion that he does not support, he said he actually planned to vote for Romney.
“With all of my theological differences with Mitt, and they are great, I look at this from a standpoint of our country. No president is going to be perfect, and I think that Mitt would be a safe, friendly president. I do not think that [president] Obama is that way,” he said.
Morality is one of Mr. Brunko’s main requirements when voting for president. He thinks Romney will prove to be “Christian-friendly.”
“The decisions he makes as a president will not be negatively affected by his Mormon belief,” Mr. Brunko said. “I don‘t think you would see much difference between how Mitt Romney would run the country as a Mormon and how George Bush did as a Christian.”
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