*It’s looking more and more likely that Barack Obama will be facing Mitt Romney next November.

According to recent polls, Romney’s much-debated “Mormon Problem” — considered by some to be a main roadblock to the Republican nomination in 2008 — has decreased in salience among the white evangelicals on whom he’ll probably depend in both the primary and general elections, reports Black Christian News.

But one element of the Mormon problem that’s yet to be vetted will come into stark relief should this match-up take place: the Mormon Church’s troubling history of racial exclusion.

This history is a long one, stretching back to the inception of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in the 1830s. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, ran for president in 1844 as a moderate abolitionist; ordained a black man, Elijah Abel; and offered to adopt one young black convert, Jane Manning James, as his spiritual daughter. Yet earlier in his life, Smith wrote anti-abolitionist screeds replete with racist sentiment typical of Christian pro-slavery apologists of antebellum America. In one 1836 letter to missionaries in the South, Smith excoriated northern abolitionists as the instigators of discord among southern slaves who, he argued, were generally happy.

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