What’s their problem? Do they take exception to being associated with Mormonism because they suspect it of fostering some nefarious behavior? Or is it an authenticity thing, a reaction to the perception that he’s exaggerating the Christian element in Mormonism for political gain? Normally people are allowed to characterize their own faith.

Seems kind of jerky to get up in the man’s face and tell him that while you may be neighbors, you’re not next-door neighbors. No matter how much he may wish it was so.

“I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, ‘I am a Christian just like you,”’ said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. “If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences.”

This advice, which reflects the views of many Southern Baptists and other evangelicals, makes Romney’s co-religionists bristle. “The fact that we are Christians is non-negotiable,” said Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints…

For evangelicals, many of whom believe the Bible is the literal word of God, the Mormons’ founding text, the “Book of Mormon,” makes it impossible for them to be considered Christians, according to Fred Smith, associate professor of Theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia…

The Mormon faith was established in 1827 by Joseph Smith Jr., who claimed to have discovered the Book of Mormon engraved on golden plates buried near his house in western New York. The text asserts that American Indians are descended from a lost tribe of Jews who arrived in the Americas around 600 B.C., and that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri.

Those beginnings sound “farcical to most Americans,” said Brett Clifton, a professor of public policy at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

That last point is key but often overlooked in the will-he-or-won’t-he chattering about Mitt’s much anticipated “these things I believe” explication of Mormonism. Everyone compares it to Kennedy’s speech, but Americans already knew the basics of Catholicism. All they needed to hear from JFK was church/state, the Pope’s not the boss of me, etc. Mitt’s got an entire theology to defend, and as the blockquote makes clear, one with no little amount of “nuance” among its basic tenets. The question is, if he gives the speech and glosses over some of those more colorful parts, will Christians think he tried to put one over on them when word gets around about what he left out? Or does he just deal with it squarely and go through the basics point by point, however incredulous Americans might be? You can already imagine the clip of him explaining that the garden of Eden is just south of Kansas City circulating on YouTube. A tough call for him and the campaign.

I’ll say this, though: a debate between Mormons and Christians about whose beliefs are more farcical is Christopher Hitchens’s wet dream. Dawkins may fly in just to be able to watch from ringside.

No matter. Most evangelical leaders seem already to have settled on the nanny stater.