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Romney’s loss closes out ‘Mormon moment’
Mitt Romney attending church on Sunday earlier this year.
November 8th, 2012
03:20 PM ET

Romney’s loss closes out ‘Mormon moment’

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Mitt Romney’s defeat appears to close out a years-long “Mormon moment,” a period of national fascination with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It has also provoked Mormon disappointment; Romney would have been first Latter-day Saint in the White House, culminating a decades-long process of growing Mormon acceptance and influence.

But prominent Mormons and religion experts say Mormons should be heartened that Romney’s candidacy appeared to help mainstream the relatively young faith, which was founded in 1830 in upstate New York.

“Part of the Mormon moment was curiosity and much of that curiosity has been satisfied,” said John Green, professor of political science at the University of Akron.

“There will always be people who disagree with them,” Green said, “but the sense is that this community is part of the broad middle of American society.”

As stories about the LDS Church graced the covers of magazines and front pages of newspapers, the church’s press office was working overtime to answer questions from around the globe. A church that prefers to keep private became very public.

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“Without question there has been an increase in interest in the Church over the past several years,” church spokesman Michael Purdy told CNN. “Although there have been exceptions, this attention has given people the opportunity to know who we are and what we believe.”

It also meant more publicity for aspects of the church that many Mormons would prefer not dwell on, like the church’s onetime practice of polygamy (the church banned the practice more than 100 years ago) and its denial of the priesthood to black members until the late 1970s.

But even the uncomfortable questions were good for the church, said Richard Bushman, a Mormon scholar who has served as a local Mormon leader.

“So long as those objections and criticisms were kept under wraps, they just sort of festered there,” Bushman said. “Getting them out in the open where people could speak candidly, that in a way clears the atmosphere.”

Coverage of Mormonism also led to some level of misinformation. One example: On the TV show “The View,” on October 18, 2012, Whoopi Goldberg asked Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife, about how she would relate to soldiers.

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“As first lady, if you get the job, it’s going to entail a lot of things, and one of those things is going to be talking to the mothers whose children are coming home in bags, you know, from wars,” Goldberg said. “Now, I know - I believe that your religion doesn’t allow you to go fight.”

Goldberg was wrong. Mormons are actually known to enlist in the military at higher levels than others. “No, that's not correct,” Ann Romney told Goldberg. “We have many, many members of our faith that are serving in armed services.”

Purdy, the church spokesman, says such exchanges were ultimately beneficial.

“A good deal of misinformation has been replaced with a more accurate picture of the Church, its doctrines, and its members across the world,” Purdy said. “That is a good thing for all involved and we look forward to these opportunities continuing.”

But with Romney’s loss, interest in Mormonism is expected to dwindle. Joanna Brooks, a well known Mormon blogger and author says it’s only a matter of time until that interest returns.

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“There have been many Mormon moments, and there will be many more to come,” she said. “Mormonism remains a vibrant and distinctive force on the American religious landscape, and as a young religion with a new global reach, the Mormon story is still unfolding.”

The last Mormon moment, she said, was a good one: “This is a moment in which the nation proved that it was capable of having a discussion about candidates and platforms without openly subjecting either candidate to a religious test.”

Though Romney’s faith garnered plenty of coverage - from Time’s cover story “The Mormon Identity,” to New York Magazine’s “Where is the Mormonism in Mitt Romney?,” - neither the campaigns nor outside groups made much, if any, mention of it.

Romney’s bid seemed to improve relations between Mormons and evangelical Christians, many of whom have long seen the LDS Church as a cult. In May, Romney spoke at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell.

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Weeks before the election, too, the Rev. Billy Graham met with Romney for the first time and removed “Mormonism” from a section of his website devoted to cults.

“The Billy Graham business, for me that was symbolic that evangelicals instead of just dismissing Mormonism, (they) now need to talk a little more about what they mean,” Bushman said.

According to exit polls on Tuesday, 79% of white evangelical Christians voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. That’s an even higher share of the white evangelical vote than John McCain got in 2008, when he was the Republican presidential nominee.

“From the point of view of religious tolerance and acceptance, there were some really positive trends,” Green said. “It does suggest that the path towards greater religious tolerance has continued.”

Green raised the subject with his students after Tuesday’s election. At the end of the conversation, Green said one non-Mormon student’s comment encapsulated the strides Mormonism made in the last year.

“They aren’t any stranger,” the student joked, “than anyone else.”

– CNN’s Allison Brennan contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (1,823 Responses)
  1. JP0

    The real difference between Mormonism and other Christian religions is that their fairy tails are more contemporary.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Tinkerbell

      Fairies have wings, but I don't know of any that have tails.

      (should be "tales")

      November 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • JP0

      Duhh!!

      November 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  2. JJ

    Has Billy Graham put Mormonism back on his cult list since his sheep didn't make a difference in the election?

    November 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • ACT III: 2013-TeaBag Suicide March to the Fiscal Cliff

      No, but he is slated for a baptism of the dead sometime soon.

      no refunds on this business deal.

      it is quid pro quo. Alea iacta est

      November 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  3. Greg

    A tax exempt business operating under the guise of a religion. that is mormonism.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • ACT III: 2013-TeaBag Suicide March to the Fiscal Cliff

      drop the fig leaf. Churches are political organizations.

      The tax code should reflect that.

      liberal conservative mormon catholic baptist snake handlers muslims hindus, no exceptions.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  4. Linda

    Over 3 million republicans refused to vote for Mitt because he was a mormon. At least they stuck by their Christian religion..

    November 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  5. FedUp

    I am a Christian and all of my Christian friends are Republican and fight against abortion and yet they voted for a man who believes in a false relegion...have you ever read the Book of Morman...just take a few minutes and read it and you will be shocked that the Bible breathing believers could have voted for MR...
    Only because he was Republican...shame on them...

    November 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Linda

      I agree. Billy Graham should be ashamed supporting a man who's faith puts the book of mormons above the bible.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Christians are quite good at ignoring inconvenient facts. You're just realizing the frustrations that many of us have long felt in dealing with them. Bring up inconvenient bible verses and they'll try to explain it away or tell you that the old testament is different than the new testament, or that you have to just have faith.

      Be warned: if christians start relying too heavily on facts, they might end up as atheists.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Jim

      You are almost too stupid to even reply to but I couldn't help myself. You sorry self righteous, hypocritical, lunatic fringe, zealot. Grow the hell up or go straight there. As long as someone has good, honest, decent and compassionate thoughts and respect for fellow man. They are worth it. Bigoted, defaming, bias remarks like your have NO place in a civilized society. Do you actually have a clue how the Christian religion has changed over the last 2000 years? So much so that the originals wouldn't even recognize what the hell you are or what you represent. You make me sick.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • ACT III: 2013-TeaBag Suicide March to the Fiscal Cliff

      I have read the book of mormon.
      Raised catholic.

      Solidly agnostic after reading the book of mormon.

      Prove it and you can convert me.
      You-know-who can beam me up at any time, without an appointment, for a 5 minute pep talk to set me straight.
      He/she/it has my number.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  6. albert

    Mitt Ronmey proved the Mormons are liars and delusional. This election showed that Mormons are just as hypocritical and as far removed from what the Bible teaches as these Born Again (make pretend) Christians. They are NOT true Christians. Lets face it, a large part of why Romney lost was that he is a Mormon.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  7. JJ

    God's Own Party lost because it's nothing but frothing at the mouth deluded crazy Talibangelical Christians who desire to force a theocracy upon the population and can't wait for the rapture.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • albert

      The "Rapture" is not even mentioned in the Bible. Totally made up just like Christmas and Easter.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  8. Guest

    Just wait until a Democratic Mormon runs...Republicans will be right back to calling it a cult in no time. This election proved, once again, that the Christian right worships temporal power over all else.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  9. Christopher Walken

    I was talking to Mitt and I said how great it would be if politicians had a tail because I have animals and a tail is so expressive. On a cat you can tell everything. You can tell if they're annoyed. You can tell whether they're scared. Mitt, I don't know, for some reason, didn't agree with me.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  10. Atheism is healthy for children and other living things

    I prayed for Mr. Romney not to follow the wrong crowd, tea-partiers, but he didn't listen :-(

    November 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  11. Robert

    I'm just glad we didn't all get caught up in a hierarchy of "powers and principalities" terminating at the Mormon's planet of the Elohim near the center of the galaxy (if such a planet even exists). Phew!

    November 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  12. Christopher Walken

    I can remember, a long time ago, I was riding a black stallion. Wonderful. The beach, the waves, you know, sunset and all. Then, somehow, I heard tambourines. Yes....and sleigh-bells, Krishna, Hare, like a, you know...mantra. I didn't like it, not really.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  13. Insight

    Is Billy Graham a Mormon?

    November 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • huxley

      Count down to Billy Graham re-declaring Mormon a cult...

      3.... 2.... 1.....

      November 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      Billy is counting his days. Leave him alone.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • ACT III: 2013-TeaBag Suicide March to the Fiscal Cliff

      No, but he is slated for a baptism of the dead sometime soon.

      Billy knows he gets no refunds on this business deal; in the fine print.

      As they say in catholic legal land: Quid pro quo. Alea iacta est. Caveat emptor.

      All aboard the Kolob Express, your tickets are payable at the destination.

      November 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  14. MashaSobaka

    Romney could have worshiped woodchips for all I cared. It was the fact that he said that he would force others to abide by the laws of his faith that concerned me. His Mormonism wasn't the problem. His desire to require non-Christians to abide by Christian doctrine was.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Postal

      Please, please, PLEASE show me one instance where he said that he would force others to abide by the laws of his faith. PLEAS show me an instance where he wanted to "require" non-Christians to abide by the Christian doctrine...I'm waiting...waiting....still waiting...

      November 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • xilch

      Please cite your source. I have a hard time believing your comment.
      Mormon doctrine states the following "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."
      My source http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1.11?lang=eng

      November 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  15. jmh181

    The LDS religion does not prefer to remain private. They have THOUSANDS of missionaries out "spreading the word". They were waiting for an opportunity to burst into the spotlight without looking like they were bursting into the spotlight. Fortunately they failed the 4 year plan and no one outside of SLC will think of them in the next 2 weeks.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Missionaries are the very worst sort of people.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Chris

      Apple Bush – I hope you are joking. The Mormon missionaries are some of the finest young men you'll find today. You may disagree with what they believe, you can disagree with what they are doing, but spend a few minutes with them and get to know who they are.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Larry Barry

      Finest? I have found every last one of them is willing to lie. Every one. Whenever they come to the door, I politely ask them to put me on the list so that I no more ever come. Ever time, they say "okay, we'll do that." Then I ask them if there is a such a list, and the answers get wobbly. Finally I tell them that I already know there is no such list, and they will generally admit that's true.

      And then I ask why they lied in the first place, especially when they were representing their religion. Some won't answer, most will change the subject, and a few swear that they weren't lying.

      Shall I now tell you about some of the behavior local Mormon businesses indulge in?

      Mormons are not as honest as they fool themselves into believing.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • JP0

      You should have seen how fast the Mormon missionaries beat a hast retreat when, in 1968, my black adopted child woke up from his nap just after I had questioned them on the role of blacks in their church. They gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon but they never came back to discuss it as they had promised. (I read it, clearly the work of a 19th century con man, but then "God works in mysterious ways.")

      November 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      @Chris

      I am absolutely NOT kidding. Missionaries are the cockroaches of the planet. Countless civilizations and cultures have been destroyed due to their intrusion. Missionaries should be jailed for child abuse and genocide. The young people you speak of are a big part of the catastrophe. They have been mentally abused, brain-washed and then sent out to spread their lies and hate. Missionaries are the very worst sort of people.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Larry and JP0, watch how quickly Chris comes back to defend his statements.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  16. huxley

    A drunkard walking in the forest claims to have found some invisible, solid gold tablets while walking in the forest – that only he can see – written in a foreign language that only he can read – by the big "G" God himself. And millions of people believe him.

    Makes you wonder if other religions were formed in equally questionable situations.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      huxley, you don't have to wonder, of course they were. All scams. Stupid people. Sucker born every minute.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • JJ

      Sounds like another story I've heard of some guy wandering about the desert coming upon a burning bush that had a booming voice coming from it and this guy goes alone to the top of a mountain and comes back down saying some sky god had written 10 commandments in stone.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • ACT III: 2013-TeaBag Suicide March to the Fiscal Cliff

      considering the number of pages in the Book of Mormon.

      the amount of gold had to have been bigger than an 18 wheeler!

      Joseph Smith could have killed that angel and had all that gold.
      Or maybe he did.

      November 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  17. Linda

    I feel sorry the Christians who voted for Romney. That meant they had to turn their back on their own religion and vote for a cult leader. Mormons believe the book of mormons is above the Bible. I feel sorry for Billy Graham for supporting Romney, I have lost all respect for Bill Graham he put politics before his religion just so he could defeat another Christian who just happened to be black. Shame on all you southern Christians and Billy Graham, now you can never call mormonism a cult again, but I can.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • sybaris

      All religions are cults.

      "Cult" is just a word that christians have adopted to cast derision on other religions that compete with their own cult.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Chris

      Linda – I feel for you given how uneducated you are. Disagree with what people believe, but at minimum, get to know what those beliefs are before making uneducated judgments. Might make sense for you to spend less time reading CNN articles and more time doing your own research and study.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I totally disagree with Ann Romney when she said Mitt and her sons 2 year mission is equivalent to our men and women who serve in the United States Military, that was an insult.

    November 8, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Chris

      I certainly cannot say as I have never served in the military. But from what I believe to be true, if Ann Romney did say that, I would agree with you completely. It is certainly not equivalent to being under the threat of enemy attacks. There are aspects that are similar, such as personal growth, setting aside one's personal desires for the benefit of others, etc. But no way it can compare.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Postal

      You can disagree with that statement all you like...especially since she didn't actually say that. She said that Mormon missions were "like" military service IN THAT YOU are going outside of yourself, you're working and you're helping others. And it changes you." THAT is what she said, and there isn't one single "inaccurate" thing about it. They help others in different ways, and they both give of their lives in service to others. The type of service is different, and she didn't go into anything else on the matter. So go ahead and disagree with a statement that doesn't actually exist.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  19. Mac

    Cult

    November 8, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  20. skarphace

    The Republicans did not lose their bid for POTUS because they nominated a Mormon. They lost because they nominated the wrong Mormon. If they would have nominated John Huntsman, they would have won overwhelmingly as they would not only have pulled in Independents, but also many moderate Democrats (such as myself).

    However, Huntsman committed the ultimate sin by working under the Obama administration, and under the current 'never compromise' Republican majority, this is a no-no.

    Now Republicans have to face the truth: Americans want a Congress that will work together. A house cannot stand that is divided against itself. This is why they lost and lost big (not only POTUS, but also losing power in the Senate). Hopefully they learn from their mistake and stop chanting their 'make our President fail' mantra. Otherwise, they can kiss 2016 goodbye as well.

    And wouldn't it be sweet, sweet irony if they lose to a newly Democratic John Huntsman? I know, but I can dream, can't I?

    November 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      POTUS, POTUS POTUS POTUS....POTUS. POTUS.

      November 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Postal

      Except Huntsman wouldn't have passed the litmus test for the Republican hard line views, so he never would have been their nominee. Which comes right back to how right leaning the ones that run the party are.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.