Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama – What Do They Believe?

Beliefnet looks at the religious beliefs of President Barack Obama and Presumptive Republican Nominee Mitt Romney. Both men have had to deal with misinformation about their beliefs, and we seek to clear the air by looking at the differences between traditional Christianity and Mormonism.

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God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit

A central part of traditional Christian doctrine is the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity is the belief that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three coexisting forms in one total being. They are different, yet the same. Christians have expressed this idea in a number of ways, including those who don’t believe in it at all. So, while Mormonism doesn’t always follow the traditional Trinitarian doctrine, it isn’t necessarily radical. There are Mormon groups who believe in the Trinity, much like there are Christian groups who don’t.

However, the traditional Mormon approach to the Trinity is that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are separate beings, but all with the same aim. That may seem like semantics, but it is important when you consider how they view the parts of the Trinity.

God – For traditional Christians, God has no human form and is a spirit. For Mormons, God has a body.

Holy Spirit – For Trinitarian Christians, the third person of the Trinity, and for Mormons a separate being from both God and Jesus.

Jesus – Both groups view Jesus as the Son of God and the savior of mankind through his resurrection. However, due to their rejection of the Trinity, Mormons do not believe that Jesus was God on earth. Rather, Jesus came from the same spiritual state Mormons believe all of humanity comes from.

Salvation

The differences in the views of God, especially as related to Jesus Christ, have a major impact on the route to salvation in both groups. They each have a concept of the afterlife. Ideas about what happens after we die vary amongst both groups, but they do both embrace some form of eternal life and possible eternal punishment. So how do they get there?

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In traditional Protestant Christianity, it is widely accepted that humans are born in sin and are in dire need of God’s grace to be saved and to do good. This salvation is achieved through faith, and the works that humans do are an expression of that saving faith. In Mormon groups people are free to do good or ill. As a result, salvation is achieved by works first and faith second. This difference comes from the idea that all of humanity was once spiritual beings who lived with God that have come to earth to learn to live honorably, at which point they can return.

This prime difference between traditional Christianity and Mormonism is exhibited in the faith backgrounds of both men. President Obama’s faith came at a later age, and it is clear that he bases it on salvation through Jesus Christ. His faith, while inspiring good works, is rooted in ideas. In Mitt Romney’s case his involvement in his church, his college mission, and his service are a part of his Mormon faith. That level of involvement is something that is central to his belief systems. Both approach their religion in entirely different ways because of who they are and what they believe.

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Stephen Russ
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