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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. Bristol

    Was this the Mormon Spring?

    November 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  2. LAguy

    I think Mormonism took quite a hit this election. Romney became the main spokesperson, the "face" of Mormonism, to many who knew nothing about it. What they saw was a person consumed by greed, who cared nothing for his workers or the poor or the sick. A man who dismissed half this country as freeloaders. A man who stood for absolutely nothing, who truly believed in absolutely nothing except opportunism. If that's the face of Mormonism, most Americans want NOTHING to do with it.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • CTR

      You mean this guy? http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505267_162-57415081/supporters-seek-to-define-the-real-mitt-romney/

      November 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • B. C.

      I think Senator Harry Reid said the same thing - that Mitt Romney does not represent him as a Mormon. You are right that anybody shallow enough to think one person represents 14 million will not want to learn any more about the 14 million. But the article suggests that the one person served to get many people curious to learn more. These will be able what in Mitt Romney is personal and what in him is LDS. And what being said of him is simply not true.

      November 9, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • twin2

      I'm willing to bet that you are one who is reliant on the government. Why is it that people see somebody who is successful and assume he is greedy? Could it be that he actually works hard for what he has?!! I don't think it's fair that I work hard for what I have and as a result get to pay higher taxes so that I cans share it with those who are unmotivated to do their part!! But then again, why would they be motivated when President Obama is happy to take my money and give it to them for doing nothing!

      November 9, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • phil

      B. C.

      ..you mean 14 million "members," who are mostly dead holocaust Jews that the Mormon Church baptizes and counts as part of their church?
      What a SCAM!

      November 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • LDSareChristian

      14 Million members are living, breathing soles. If baptisms for the dead were included, we'd be quoting a 1 billion membership. ;-)

      November 10, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      LDS... If you cannot tell the difference between a "sole" and a "soul", then I guess that might speak about the educational qualities that your church teaches, doesn't it? A sole can be the bottom of your feet, or even a fish.. a soul is a mystical concept rooted in religion that no one can ever prove actually exists.

      November 10, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • LDSareChristian

      Well, typos on my part may be the exception. But polls/studies show LDS generally are above average on education. ;-)

      November 10, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • LDSareChristian

      hummm, based on your definition of soul, 14 million LDS don't exist? ;-)

      soul: 5. a human being; person.

      November 10, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • Mirosal

      you don't have to have a soul to be a human being. It'a a religious concept so ingrained into the human psyche that you fail to look outside of your own mindset.

      November 10, 2012 at 5:01 am |
  3. Richard G

    There are many Mormons that did not vote for Romney for various reasons, I know, because I, my wife, a cousin, and a few friends I voted for someone else.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  4. Matt

    You're pathetic, it never ends. Where is the article about how the Muslim Faith and Reverend Wright (sp?) shaped Obama's faith and beliefs. It's so sad that 47% of our voters are so dense they do not see through the abominable excuse of news from main stream media. Obama has not a chance in you know what to win, if the simple truth and facts about him are actually shared, and make the news instead of withheld. I guess it really boils down to what the Democrats claim is the Republican way, buying it. Why don't we expose who actually owns main stream media and why the reporters and journalists are all censored (oh that may be too strong) told what they can and can not say.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • phil

      God, I can't tell you how much satisfaction I get from your whining. Now run along back to the trailer park, little man.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • thinkscience

      You don't think the media hasn't already exposed all this? Fox? Talk radio? You don't think this isn't all over the net? You really think that the vast majority isn't aware of all this? You condescend to all who voted for Obama. And you are paranoid. You live in a democracy. And Romney lost. There is no other reason than Obama is a better candidate, better leader, better person. End of story.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • TC

      There were several articles about Obama's Christian faith and it's roots, including Wright's church.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Obama has not a chance in you know what to win, if the simple truth and facts about him are actually shared'

      and what is the simple truth and facts about him?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  5. KMAN821

    ALL RELIGIONS ARE CULTS by definition whether they are "mainstream" or not ... and hopefully we'll see their undue and polarizing influence on our secular society go away sooner rather than later! Regardless of Twit Romney's religious affiliation ... he is simply a man without a shred of character and a man who willfully represented a political party blinded by their own hate.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Zeb

      There are several ways to define "cult", and most religions do not match the problem that people are specificially refering to with Mormonism: That they write their own holy books, then rewrite them, then require everyone to believe what they've written. There have been thousands of changes, for example, to "The Book of Mormon". Other churches look seek the oldest, most original texts. The Bible isn't likely to change very much, ever again. But "The Book of Mormon" could say anything tomorrow morning, and Mormons would be required to believe it.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  6. Art Leigh

    Sounds like the author of this piece is a Mormon. There are 3 sects of Mormonism or LDS Church, the main stream Mormons who's president and living prophet is Thomas Spencer Monson, they gave up Polygamy in order to gain Statehood in 1890. The FLDS those that still practice polygamy, and refused to stop polygamy and fled to Mexico and other hard to reach places. Mitts Grand father was one of these. The Reformed LDS, the RLDS followed Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith, who chose to remain behind with her three children and not go the Salt lake City in 1847 with many of those who refused to follow Brigham Young and felt that a descendant of Joseph Smith must become his successor. In June 1852, the "New Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" held its first conference. Though encouraged to become the head of the church, Joseph Smith III, the oldest of Emma's three sons, refused to do so until 1860 when The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) was formed. He held this position for 54 years. For much of its history the RLDS chose a leader who was related to Joseph Smith. They do not and never did practice polygamy.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • KMAN821

      Art, no one really cares about subtle differences in nonsense!

      November 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • spike

      I agree, Art, no one really cares about subtle differences in nonsense!

      But since you brought it up - It doesn't matter if the mormon cult has 3 branches or 3 million branches. It's a horridly phony cult founded by a failed snake oil salesman who claimed to have been given secret knowledge by an angel and some mysterious disappearing gold tablets.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  7. phil

    I believe if the Obama campaign felt the election was going to be close, they would have dropped the Mormon bomb. What does that mean? Google "20 truths about Mormonism" to see the Mormon bomb. I do not believe Mormons are Christians. I believe they are a cult. Someone needs to make a movie about this election. Why did Southern Baptists, who literally have ministers that call Mormons evil, vote for Romney? Do they hate Obama so much that they betray their faith?? And the idea that Mormons are now mainstream is insane. As my exMormon neighbor says, the more you learn about Mormons, the less you like them. Thank you, Jesus, for not letting a cult member become president.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • lame-o

      Nobody cares what you believe, Phil. Any you're wrong, by the way. Romney didn't win, but the devil himself did.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • jeff slater

      How much does your pastor make a year?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • twin2

      I just love when the uneducated go to Google to get their information!!

      November 9, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  8. so sad

    I think the past few posts just proved my point about unbelievers turning nasty. OK so you don't share the same faith as Romney. Neither do I but .. I will respect him and the other faiths. Can't you all at least agree on that? Start there and see what happens. All you outthere that claim religion is for crazies or fanatics assume that we are narrow minded but did it ever occur to any of you that you might be the narrow minded ones determined not to give God a try? At least we're out there looking for Him.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Iowa

      I will not respect a cult founded by a mentally ill madman who talked about using stone glasses to see gold plates to discern the scripture of his cult.

      The idea of a mormon as president was horrifying, especially for someone who has come resent the hypocrisy of the christian religion and many of its denominations

      November 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Art Leigh

      Sound like you think you have found him. If that is the case you are not open minded. If you want to believe in a myth fine but why not use logic and science to help you look for truth?

      November 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • KMAN821

      It's difficult to "respect" blind ignorance masquerading as faith in something which doesn't exist. Yes indeed ... SO SAD!

      November 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Dianna

      What's sad is your ignorance. The intellectuals (which are educated here in this country) know the blind following of a diety where there is no proof of any kind is just fear and ignorance, and people like you are dangerous. That is why we need to outlaw public cisplays of religion and let this country be really free, like the people who came here for freedom from religion, not the freedom to control all of us with their dogma and fearmongering

      November 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      so sad, do you also "respect" the faith of David Koresh and his followers, the Branch Davidians? How about the Rev. Jim Jones, and the Jonestown followers? What boundaries would you set on defining Christianity, if any?

      November 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'At least we're out there looking for Him.'

      that fact you went looking for a supernatural being with magical powers to help explain your role in the world says a lot.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  9. Dianna

    Whatever, I cried with joy when I woke up to an Obama morning instead of dread and fear, like I was afraid of when I went to sleep. At least the country can be safe for awhile longer.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  10. paul cos

    goodbye mormon bishop,goodbye stupid cult,goodbye the possibility of the mormon church making social,economic policy,and good bye to a possible theocracy.Good bye mitt,thanks for the laughs

    November 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  11. Maria

    Jesus, we have enough problems with the Christians. Thank God this man DID NOT get into office. And his family is too big, secert services would of cost the American people millions

    November 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  12. tunatofu

    As Bart Simpson said, "PEOPLE! The little stupid differences are nothing compared to the BIG STUPID similarities!"

    November 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  13. jeff

    My self i did not care, come on people we have a muslim in office now

    November 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Dianna

      So sad that there are people as stupid as you out there. What would people label you as I wonder... other than rascist and ignorant, I mean

      November 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • phil

      You simple minded filth. congratulations. Idiots like you got him re elected.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • KMAN821

      Let me quess numbnutz ... you love FOX News!

      November 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      and no doubt jeff will go to his grave believing obama is a muslim.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • J

      Obama is not a Muslim. This is a rumor started by the Republican Party. Google the 10 myths about president Obama. it dosent matter if he was boon in Kenya or the United States his mother was a Citizen when he was born therfore it makes Obama a citizen. There are lots of untruths out there that tried to tarnish Obama from the start by the Republican party. And in my opininon it was because the Repubs cant handle having a minority president and not a "rich white man.

      November 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  14. spike

    Mormonism is a cult. It's the 19th century equivalent of Scientology.

    It's ridiculous to think that in order to be president of the US, you have to belong to a monotheist religion, and it has to be considered mainstream by the majority of voters.

    That said, the notion put forth in this article is even more ridiculous - that Romney being the candidate made the Mormon cult somewhat more "mainstream" than it was.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Aron Elvis

      I don't know anyone personally who didn't vote for Mitt Romney because he was a mormon. In fact I don't know anyone who cared about that fact. We didn't vote for Mitt Romney because he was wrong for the country. As Bill Clinton said, "We can't afford to double-down on trickle down."

      November 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • JARED

      Mormonism is not a cult. How do you figure that. Mormons are some of the most decent human on this earth. Mitt was one of them. He cared tremedously for others. I guess if you read and listen to the liberal news outlets they hid the fact that he gave millions to charity. He even gave his entire inherantance from his father to charity. He worked hard and earned every sent he made. How is this not a good thing. He created more jobs than Obama could ever hope to.

      You my friend are exrtreamly ignorant and that is why this county is going to hell fast.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Mormonism is not a cult. How do you figure that.'

      easy, he looked at the history, founding and beliefs of mormonism.

      and what logic do you use to claim that because a person gives money to charity it must therefore mean that his religion is not a cult?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • RoguePlanet

      All religions are someone else's "cult." Until we start recognizing that these "cults" to you are someone else's articles of faith, and start letting people believe how they want to believe, then all religion will do is polarize "them" from "us." There is no U.S. without "us."

      November 9, 2012 at 5:11 am |
  15. MaryM

    I am sure the Romneys are nice people and should not be judged on their religion. I'll tell you what. Get rid of all religion and we can be just people of the planet earth helping each other when needed.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • jeff slater

      Yes. This was actually the idea that Josef Stalin had.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      no, i think stalin's plan was to get rid of the church because of the power and influence it had.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  16. Marie

    While some may have had an issue with Mr. Romney's religious affiliation there were a great many more, myself included, who did not base our decision to not vote for him because of it. My issue with Mr. Romney was not Mormonism but the pathological lying and hypocrisy all for the love of money. He became the willing pawn in an attempt to literally buy this country, her liberties and freedoms away from the vast majority and hand the control of it into the hands of a few. Having morals is nothing to be ashamed about nor should it be cause to be ridiculed. But to assume others do not have them with the same conviction because they do not assume the same religious beliefs in the same context as others is no better either.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Tammy

      Yes, Marie
      You have hit the nail on the head!
      Thank you for making the most sense on this forum

      November 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  17. Mike

    Some in my family are evangelicals (I am not) and have said that Mormonism is a "cult". It appears from their voting that they no longer believe this. Or will they revert back to that thinking now that Mitt didn't win?

    November 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Ridley

      Mike, look for the answer in something the Pope said in a recent address, which is that humanity has entered a great darkness where it cannot tell right from wrong. A priest told me something like this many years ago, which is that the greatest problem facing religion today is not evil, but apathy. Many people have a limited understanding of religion ... they've never, for example, read the Bible. So to the apathetic, the unread, all religions seem much the same. They're complicated, and morally demanding and ... omg ... take away from Facebook time!

      Mormonism is absolutely a cult. It's most easily seen in "The Book of Mormon", which has been changed over 3,000 times since it was written in 1830, and continues to be changed. Mormons are required to believe whatever is currently said, including things that directly contradict what was previously said. Cult.

      Other aspects of it being a cult take more explanation. The word "cult" is a little fuzzy, so that makes simple discussion difficult. The Wikipedia article on cults includes a section on Mind Control, for example. If that is taken to be an important componant of cults, then my experience is that Mormonism scores high on the list of being coersive. I.e., I'd trust my kid to go alone to most religious services, but not Scientology or Mormonism.

      November 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  18. Banner O' Heaven

    Well, I'm glad they had a good "moment". Now they can go back to hiding their child brides, "uncle daddies" and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • jeff slater

      Sure, as long as you can then uncover the extermination order.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  19. Big_D

    I think the LDS church has some great parts about it. The response to Katrina will always make me respect the LDS church. But the posters who are saying our country was founded on religion are wrong. Most of our founding fathers were Deists with a well developed dislike of organized religions.

    November 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • pntkl

      I imagine they especially disliked those governments (such as their own at the time of revolution) that more often than not had leaders that found it necessary to impose behavior modification on the masses, to elicit complete control without question. I think such governments tend to be more totalitarian than fascist–talk about skeletons in the closet. I'm glad things have certainly changed, dramatically for the better (imo), since then.

      November 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  20. dscon

    and the crazy evangelicals insured a generation of Pagans.................
    too many snake-worshiping nuts?

    November 8, 2012 at 4:28 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.