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.
As with anything "unknown and unfamiliar" there is curiosity. Mitt Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ – of Latterday Saints and is a living breathing example of what a member ought to be....still not perfect, but actively doing good and taking responsibility for himself. Because there was some media coverage about his faith – many had their curiosity satisfied. And some others did not quite have all their questions answered – but found sources to get that information. He bridged a gap that existed between other Christian faiths and the Mormon faith. His actions are consistent with his beliefs. I think he is a good man.
Well said Michelle! I didn't vote for Governor Romney, but I too think he was a good man and that his candidacy did help with the mainstreaming of the Mormon faith (although several hate-filled bigots here would like to believe otherwise).
rocketscientist, that's not much of a rocket you've got there. I only like to ride the big ones.
With all the great success Romney has had in his career turning failed businesses around, and the 2002 Winter Olympics, it is heartbreaking that we won't get to see what he would have done with our nation's economy, and our international reputation. We'll never know now.
Funny how his own state did not vote for him. Same for Ryan. LOL
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA . . . yeah right....
well we saw his internation credentials when he pretty much upset each country he went to this year.
Apple– there's no way ANY GOP candidate would stand a chance in MA. The fact he was elected Gov. and turned around their billion$$ deficit speaks volumes about his ability to govern and work in a bipartisan way. Totally silly argument!
Most Republicans are not Mormons, but rather Mammons. They worship money and tax cuts
Based on a delusional story, told by a conman, and believed by morons.
The same could be said for any other form of Christianity as well.
Are you speaking of mormonism, christianity or muslims?
all sheep of a different color
Perhaps the most ignorant statement I have ever seen. Perhaps you should look in the mirror before you call others morons
J Wright to 42 million sheep. "Go back home, you have served me and Satan well!!!
You are a sore loser Franky my boy. And the reason we voted for Obama? Just to make you mad. Are you mad sweetheart? How mad are you kitchy kitchy coo?
You can go with this, President Obama, or, you can go with that...Governer Romney...I can go here, or...I can go there. You see, potato, Pototto, we called the whole thing off.
Everything said about Mitt Romney can also be applied to Harry Reid, as he too is Mormom.
You are correct doug. And now for your point?
Harry Reid didn't tie his dog to the top of a car... Mitt Romney did.
It's a corporation, just like any other "church" . . . why do you think Romney was so comfortable being in it?
i tries to join the atheists, but they told me I was not obnoxious and closed minded enough
It takes an "open" mind to believe the Earth is only 5,000 years old and that when you die, you're going to become the God of a planet all your own.
it isnt atheists that claim that every earth science discipline is wrong and insist the answer to everything is 'god did it'
it isnt atheists that claim that every earth science discipline is wrong and insist the answer to everything is 'god did it'"
The vast majority of well-educated religious folks (i.e. over about 85% or so of Americans) believe in science and don't insist that every event is due to God's will (including Mormons, they call it "free agency.").
Also, I wouldn't say every atheist is "obnoxious" or "close-minded" either. Being an atheist doesn't necessarily make someone a jerk, or, worse, a bigot. Some of my very best friends are atheists.
I thought you said I was your one and only friend
Most people dislike Mormons. Not because of polygamy, but because of the other insane Mormon beliefs.
funny, the interviewer thought Mormons were Quakers, nice research. Quakers are pacifists, except Richard Nixon who secretly invaded a neutral country Cambodia
Might want to brush up on your reading comprehension then try reading the article again.
Looks lkke 42 million ideots follow J Wright to voting booth to leaddo all the sheep to slaughter.
This from a guy who can't spell "idjit"... LOL
TIME for a President who DOESN'T believe in magic invisible characters who live in the SKY. BTW, the BILLY GRAHAM ads implied that if we didn't vote for ROMNEY, we would be rejecting GOD. Since Romney lost, does this mean that Graham will be working with God to come up with plan for SMITING AMERICA for rejecting the magic white guy with a beard?
I figured God sent Sandy - which helped Obama win. Maybe God was confused that day.
Or maybe God has another purpose in heading off the Romney momentum.
America is becoming a post-racial society. When will our country develop a post-religious political system? America was already supposed to have separation of church and state. Race and religion do not belong anywhere in politics. What counts is the content of a man's and a party's character.
one step at a time. Post-racial. Post-religious. Post-state. Post-nation. One world of people. It's a long road that starts by taking the first step.
Founded by Joseph Smith..Who after one too many adulterous relationships was run out of town at the end of a gun....
Well David, if, that is your real name, having a gun pointed, at you, will make you, you know, pause.
Well, Christopher Walken, if that is your real name, Eraserhead wants his hair back
Actually God closed the "Mormon Moment." And thank God for that!
Didn't win, but he sure made his 9 grandmothers proud...
actually it is 6 great-grandmothers
Maybe in 2016 we can have a Scientologist Moment (or a Moonie Moment).
2 Catholics Biden v Rubio? A new wrinkle emerged Thursday in the autobiography of a rising Republican star: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, was once a Mormon. Rubio, a Cuban-American who has played up his Catholic roots on the campaign trail and today attends Catholic churches as well as a Southern Baptist megachurch, was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young boy.
The reason Obama won is that there are 42 million ideots in America .
LOL did you mean to spell idiot that way?
You have it wrong......you are the one of the many idiots that fell for Romney.
Well said Frank, and that's why more college graduates votes for Obama right? Then again, what does education have to do with intelligence lol.
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.