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Mitt Romney says he’s going to take the bull by the horns tomorrow and talk straight from the shoulder with us about his Mormon religion – tomorrow. Sounds fascinating. Except Romney’s burst of candor seems to have been sparked by Mike Huckabee’s sudden rise in the Iowa polls. So Romney’s real goal may not exactly be candor. In fact, candor may be the last thing he has in mind.

It’s hard, at least for me, to understand exactly what Mormons believe. A couple of things seem clear. Sort of. Mormons believe two millennium ago, shortly after the last Apostles died, the early Christian church was corrupted by heresy. So Catholics, followed by Lutherans, Baptists and other Protestant churches have been following the wrong idea about Christianity ever since. For instance, the Catholics and Baptists have been wrong about original sin.

The Mormons also believe Joseph Smith, the founder of their church, is a prophet of equal statue with Moses. And, like St. Paul, God and Christ appeared to Smith in a divine revelation (in 1820 in a field in New England where he was given the ‘Golden Tablets.’) Of course, early on what got a lot of attention was the Mormon churches practice of polygamy. But that’s pretty much a moot point now and certainly doesn’t seem to relate to Romney, who’s been married to the same woman thirty-eight years.

Anyway, maybe it’s not exactly germane to the election but my curiosities aroused. What I would really like to know is: Are Mormon’s Christians? I have asked Catholic and Baptist friends – more learned in theology than me – and they seem to doubt it. They seem to equate Mormonism with a sect. On the other hand I heard Romney say flat-out on MSNBC Jesus Christ is his Savior, which sounded pretty Christian.

So a debate between Romney and, say, Mike Huckabee on Mormonism might be fascinating. But Romney’s trying to win an election and he’s not likely to do it by telling Baptists in Iowa their church has been wrong for centuries.

Instead, what we’re likely to get is Romney addressing concerns about his religion by making what amounts to a political chess move. By saying, ‘I’m a non-smoker, a non-drinker, I’ve been married to the same woman for thirty-eight years and I have five wonderful sons who are all married. What more do you need to know about my religion?’ It is a pretty good answer. But it’s also an evasion.

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