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Study examines Mormon-evangelical divide

MSNBC's Thomas Roberts talks to Democratic strategist Julian Epstein and MSNBC's Joe Watkins about new poll numbers that lend insight to fellow Mormons' perception of Mitt Romney as a candidate, the politics of the Mormonism, and how the religion itself shaping debate on the campaign trail.

A study out Thursday takes another look at the uneasy relationship between Mormons and evangelical Christians, a timely issue as Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seeks to wrap up the Republican presidential nomination next week in heavily evangelical South Carolina.

The report, by the Forum on Religion & Public Life of the Pew Research Center, says Mormons and white evangelicals share strong beliefs in prayer, the Bible and conservative politics but disagree sharply over theology. About half of Mormons in the survey said they felt hostility from evangelicals.

The Associated Press has a breakdown of the data here.

The report is generally consistent with several that have been undertaken in the last few years, most recently a survey in October of Protestant ministers, 75 percent of whom disagreed with the statement, "I personally believe Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) to be Christians." Sixty percent said they "strongly disagreed."

The survey found that evangelical ministers were more likely to "strongly disagree" that Mormons are Christians than were mainline Protestant ministers.

In a look at the issue in the context of Romney's campaign, Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a leading Southern Baptist institution in Kansas City, Mo., told msnbc.com that the evangelical distinction was drawn over much more than differences of opinion that developed a millennium after the crucifixion of Jesus:

The LDS Church "radically reconstructs the historic Christian doctrines on God, Jesus and salvation," said Roberts, the author of "The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism" and for many years a senior leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second-largest denomination.

"I think evangelicals look at Mormons as basically having a belief in God and the 10 Commandments, and Mormons are generally known to be morally traditional and to confirm much of the Judeo-Christian ethic," Roberts said in an interview. ... 

But "they deny the confessions of the church," he said, referring to a series of statements of fundamental Protestant beliefs about salvation over the centuries.

Read the full msnbc.com story: Romney campaign puts Mormon faith in spotlight