Let's get specific now. I've discussed some general issues of politics and religion, but let's talk about a particular candidate. Mitt Romney appears to be leading the Republican race for the presidential nomination. From what I know of him, he appears to have the makings of a good president. However his religion has already become an issue in some circles, so let's discuss that.
Full disclosure: I am of the same religion as Romney. I am inclined to support him for president, though my mind is not fully made up on that score. I like his demonstrated ability, both in business and as governor of Massachusetts. I believe he would bring some much needed improvement to the way our federal government manages its power and finances. I also believe he would appoint judges who are more in tune with the constitution than many now on the bench. He has even, both at the Salt Lake City Olympics and as governor, shown the ability to get big egos with disparate agendas to work together. However I have doubts about his commitment to limited government. There are other candidates worth a look, notably Herman Cain who is another successful businessman of great ability and commitment to the country.
Be that as it may, let's look at Romney's (and my) religion and how it might affect, or not affect, his performance as president.
First, is he committed to that religion? That is a difficult question since it is impossible to see inside the mind of anyone. However his actions would indicate that he is. Mitt Romney has spent uncounted hours doing unpaid work for his church, first as a missionary in France, then in various positions up to and including stake president. That last is equivalent of running a diocese in other churches – except he had to do it while holding down a full-time job elsewhere. Also, there is not even a hint of scandal in his background, no indication at all that he does not live the teachings of his church.
That said, is there anything in his church's teaching that should concern us? For example, would he try to impose his religion on the country? The answer is “no,” loud and clear. In fact one of the central beliefs of “Mormonism” is that it is against God's will to force anyone into any religion. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (LDS Article of Faith 11) Se also the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, 134:7, “We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.”
There is clearly no indication that Romney (or any other committed member of his church) would use government to force religion on anyone.
There is, however, one LDS (Mormon) teaching that bears strongly on how I hope Romney would govern. The church teaches that the Constitution is inspired.* (See Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80, and 109:54). We have every reason to hope that Romney, if elected, will follow that constitution.
Finally, there is a charge by some that the LDS are not Christian. That accusation lacks foundation in fact. While it has some differences with mainstream Christianity, the Church is centered on Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind and the only way we can reach any form of salvation. Even a modest perusal of LDS scripture shows the centrality of Jesus' atoning sacrifice. Even if Christian belief were a requirement for office, Romney meets that requirement.
In short, Romney's religion is no reason vote against him, and provides some reason to vote for him. It is of course not the only factor to consider, but it should not be an impediment.
*Note however that “inspired” does not mean perfect. For example the Constitution initially allowed slavery, something repugnant to not only all right-thinking persons but to LDS scripture and belief. In fact the most severe persecution the Church faced was in Missouri, largely because most of its members did not like slavery.