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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. Jim

    Off to the hair salon with you Ann. I see roots. Can't have any of that. One must be the perfect Stepford wife. And when you get back get in place on the bed.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  2. coyoteliberty

    Neither the campaigns or outside groups made muich of Romneys Mormonism, to thier credit, but you need to look no further then your own answer blogs, CNN, to see an ugly undercurrent of bigotry and intolerance spewed by the left as part of a cynical and no holds barred attack on anything that they could about Romney, no matter how ugly or how untrue.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  3. John

    I'm a recent convert to the LDS family, but I've known Mormons my entire life. What my journey has taught me is that the LDS group is really not any different than any other group of humans. From the outside it may appear as if we’re a bunch of stuck up white conservatives, but the reality is we are no different than anyone else. We have the entire spectrum of personalities within our faith just like all large groups of people. I believe the main difference in our family of faith is that we aspire to adhere to a higher standard. The truth is many of us fail to live up to our own standards on a daily basis. But we continually renew our covenants with the Lord and never give up on being the person God intended us to be. Lastly, not all of us voted for Mitt Romney. President Obama was clearly the better choice and the people’s voice has been heard. When I joined the Church I was told that our political choices were our business, and that the Churches stance on government is to support whatever administration is in power. I believe our members have much soul searching to do regarding their politics. Many members including higher ranking members have said terrible things about our President and this is just wrong. Many members tried to influence our vote during services which is also wrong. Jesus taught socialism, and so does the LDS Church, but these teachings are thrown out the window when partisan politics rule the majority of our membership. I very sad truth about my our Church, and a truth I pray we can change.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      What's a Mormon? Wasn't there something about them recently. Something about a White Horse? Not really important, I guess. There are so many little religious groups out there who can keep up?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  4. Smeagel4T

    The Mormons should put forth a candidate more in line with Christianity and less of a Mammon worshipper.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  5. Jackie

    Thank God!

    November 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Sane Person

    Mormonism only survives due to childhood brainwashing, like all religions. No grown adult suddenly decides to convert to Mormonism.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • coyoteliberty

      Bigotry and intolerance right on cue. The LDS church -which I don't happen to be a part of, by the way – is one of the few religious faiths actually growing membership and it's rate of adult conversion is quite high. They have a very good percentage of new converts drawn from the ranks of the educated, finacially well off and successful. They also are becoming an incredibly diverse faith, with a huge part of their growth being in Latin America and Africa.
      It's okay to disagree with something but is it really necessary to be diagreeable to do it or to so deliberatley and knowingly mis-state facts?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Dave31093

      I did. And so have thousands of others.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Let me get this straight.. You were a non-Mormon adult, you heard about planet kolob, Jesus and satan being brothers, god living on an unknown planet with his wife, secret underwear, black people being cursed..... And you decide "yeah, this all seems logical and true"? And you said you were an adult at the time?

      November 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  7. Sean

    Not sure why the author thought htis would "end" a Mormon "moment." Anyhow, for all that's said about it, the Gospel of Jesus Christ isi a tremendous blessing in my and my family's life. The more I study and apply the teachings in the Book of Mormon and the Bible, the better life is. People will talk in endless circles about opinions of everything. If someone wants to know what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know and feel, one need look no further than that free copy of the Book of Mormon on the shelf (or online, you can download audio for free at lds.org). It is important that we think foor ourselves and make our own decisions in matters that affect our eternal welfare.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      How about the Journal of Discourses?
      There are some lovely sentiments from Brigham Young in there.
      He was such a loving, tolerant Prophet.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • ldean50

      Brigham Young? Isn't he the church prophet that order the robbery and slaughter of more than 120 members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train known as the Mountain Meadow Massacre? The temple in Salt Lake City, as I understand it, was built by the monies stolen from wagon trains traveling to CA... The Aiken train was another one. Infants and children had their heads smashed in with rifle butts, or their faces blown off by Mormons disguised as Piute Indians. Wonder how many "Cowboy vs. Indian" slaughters were actually perpetrated by Mormons vs. Gentiles?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Not too mention Joseph Smith's criminal and con artist history. The Mormon church was founded by swindlers...it has no integrity.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If you can just ignore all the repeated calls for violence, racism, hatred, intolerance, and vendettas against all of the United States, you'll see that Brigham Young was really a nice guy.

      November 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  8. MacInBlack70

    HEY ROGUE PLANET and HUH?

    If you read my post accurately you'd see that I stated " then the American people can decide to IMPEACH the obstructionist congress member(s)! " The American people decide along with the president if they want the change of seat of the obstructionist. These decisions that affect the American people that pay these obstructionist salaries have a right to be heard AND served what is in their best interest!

    November 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  9. GetReal

    I'm pretty tolerant of a lot of religions, but not Mormonism or Scientology. Both are cults, control their members' every move, and are totally false in their beliefs. The major religions are all based on some form of truth – mixed in with some made-up stories. But the Book of Mormon is pure fabrication. The only truth in there is that Joseph Smith actually did exist. And that's about it.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Sean

      hum. We certainly were affected quite differently in our study of the Book of Mormon. Well, I guess everyone holds Joseph's name for good or ill around the world.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Jonah

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based on the teachings of Christ and the New Testament. Christ founded his church on apostles and prophets. Ephesians 2 states: "19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
      20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
      Apostles and prophets are absolutely essential because they hold the keys to the priesthood. If the apostles all die, the authority is lost along with revelation; we no longer know the mind and will of God and Christ is no longer the "chief cornerstone". False teachers and priests arise and we are "carried about with every wind of doctrine". Paul taught in Ephesians 4: "11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
      12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
      13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
      14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
      Without apostles and prophets we cannot come to a "unity of the faith" nor be perfected in Christ. Without a prophet who speaks authoritatively the will of God, only confusion can reign as people argue what God meant and uninspired men tamper with the holy scriptures!

      Christ taught in John 15: "16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you." Christ intended that he, himself, would be at the head of his church through revelation. That is why a man must be chosen of God through revelation to represent him and to preach his holy word – a thing that protestant churches totally lack because they apostatized from the Catholic church and which the catholic church cannot claim either because the first pope was a bishop, not an apostle, and to this day can claim no authority from living apostles.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Jim

      Hey Jonah. Nobody cares. Blah blah blah.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Mark

      Jonah, is that babbling you do as a religious fanatic to make yourself feel better?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • RT

      @getreal I understand your stance, but as a very, very, very inactive Mormon, I just need to say you are wrong. They cannot control the lives of it's membership. Parents may try to control the lives of their children, but that is hardly something unique to Mormonism. As I mentioned, I don't have great feelings towards the church. I was raised in it, attended BYU, and in my post college years decided that the stance the church takes on social issues does not coincide with what I feel is right. But at no pont did I, as a woman, get the idea that I was being controlled. Pushed in a direction that was unsuited to me, yes (I LOVE having a career and children. I love my non-mormon husband. I think gays should be allowed to marry. etc), but controlled in word and deed? Hardly. My mormon spies (my visiting and home teachers) were and are good people who wanted friendship. They weren't reporting my every non-LDS drink of sweet tea, shot of tequila, dropping of the Fbomb, or taking of their children to planned parenthood to get on birth control to the bishop and area authority. That is just not how the church is. They did care about my family, my welfare, and my mental health as I started a family. They loved my husband and included him even though he wasn't a member. And at no time did they attempt to "indoctrinate" him- Mormons are good people- good people just like the rest of america who happen to love their god, and their community. Let them be. Stop with the cult nonsense. Go to a meeting- they are open to everyone and just meet them. You don't even have to say hi- but watch them with their families, listen to how they talk and do it with an open heart. These are good americans- no matter what side of the political fence they are on (and it certainly isn't my side).

      November 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • cryofpaine

      "Truth"? So you've talked face to face with God, shaken his hand, and he told you that the Mormon religion is false, and all other Christianity is true? If not, then you have no basis to claim "truth". You have faith, belief, but absolutely 0 proof. For all the proof you have, the Bible could be nothing more than some kid's bedtime story.

      I'm a Christian, but the biggest problem in this country, in this world, is when people claim to have absolute truth. When you make this claim, you are declaring that you are absolutely right, and everyone else is absolutely wrong, which naturally makes them either evil, mislead, or stupid. Like it or not, you live on a planet with a few billion other people, each with their own beliefs. Like it or not, your beliefs are not any more or less valid than theirs. Like it or not, we're all human, stumbling around, trying to do our best to get through this life and understand our place in the universe, and none of us, not one, has any better understanding, has any more valid claim to truth than anyone else. The only truth is that no one knows for certain what the truth is.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  10. chamillion20

    There was a lot of true information and a lot of misinformation spread– that's for sure. If someone wants good information, they should go to the source. It would be more logical to ask a Mormon what he/she believes than to ask an Evangelical preacher trying to up his numbers or CNN troll trying to pick a fight. Just sayin'.

    November 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jim

      Most people don't believe exactly,to the letter what their church teaches not to mention most relgious organizations can't decide amongst themselves what is an is not true about their books and teachings.
      Asking one Mormon what being a Morman means is a miniscule microcosm of the entire church not a true reflection.
      Ask a crazy person if he's crazy....he'll answer no...does that make it true?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • ldean50

      I would trust a Mormon to educate me on the secrets of their religion about as quick as I would trust Tom Cruise to reveal the secrets of Scientology. Just like scientology, I'm amazed at what Mormons DON'T know about their church. The higher up you go in the church, the more secrets are revealed and the more you are sworn to keeping the secrets.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  11. Magic Underpants

    Call it revenge for the Mountain Meadows Massacre

    November 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  12. Nikato Muirhead

    Many pastors have told their congregations why it is ok to vote for a Mormon.

    God's laws about life and death are most important.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  13. joe sarr

    tail between his legs,not even on straight bone in his body.........glad to see him gone

    November 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • laurie

      I highly doubt his tail is between his legs.... While he lost, he represents about half of this country given the popular vote and that should not be ignored given the growing divide is in this country. While we are a relatively young country and are certainly going to experience pains / loss / challenges that others before us have experienced.... this is an important time for common ground to be found and maintained. 30 states now have republican governors, and I agree with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison when they wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.... Let's hope we can have some more of that going forward.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Bill

    I always felt Romney did a disservice to Mormonism but not really talking about it. He treated it like it was something to be ashamed of rather than something to be proud of and to share with others. He didn't have to preach it, but he shouldn't have been so afraid to talk about his faith and what it meant to him. I'm not Mormon, nor do I really care about that religion either way. This is just an observation I took away from the campaign.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Religion and Government are like oil and water

      He certainly represented the Milk before Meat and Lying for the Lord philosophy quite well.

      November 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Susan Wilde

    What is with all the disparaging remarks?

    November 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  16. Jim

    They better keep waitin' for that acceptance cause as long as I'm alive I'll never accept that bat$#!% crazy religion and neither will anyone else with a functioning brain.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Breck

      Yup, Christianity is pretty crazy!

      November 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Breck

      I must apologize...my comment was mean spirited and just plain nasty. Very much like Jim's.

      November 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • PHOTOMAN67

      WWJD?

      November 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  17. Moon

    I can't believe that almost half our country believed in this hack. So glad he's not President. We moved on! Hate lost on Tuesday.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • KingEx

      Well said

      November 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • ldean50

      I agree. Hate DID lose on Tuesday. well said.

      November 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Citizen

    You need to look up the White Horse Prophecy, and Joseph Smith's palns for the United States. Quite a lot of Mormons still work in washington

    November 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  19. sir_ken_g

    They were a cult – still are.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • PHOTOMAN67

      As are christianity, islam, judaism, etc., etc., etc.

      November 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  20. Magic Underpants

    Boo Hoo. Poor little momos run home crying back to Utard!

    November 9, 2012 at 12:38 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.