For Mormons, the Romney campaign offered a complex set of emotions. On one hand, it opened up many opportunities to share their beliefs with others and to help people realize there was more to Mormonism that Brigham Young and the pioneers. The media gradually became better informed about the faith and that helped them write more accurate stories. On the other hand, some people worried that people would assume everything in Romney’s platform was official Mormon doctrine or that people would base their feelings about the church on their feelings about the candidate.
In general, however, most Mormons feel the “Mormon moment” has been beneficial to the Church. It has opened up conversations about the doctrine and made people curious. Curiosity often leads to noticing when Mormons are mentioned as doing something in the modern world, such as serving those in need. The many articles that have appeared in the media have made people aware of beliefs that are not always as different as they might have heard and they have helped people understand the thoughts behind the more unusual beliefs.
When articles are inaccurate, many Mormons step in to correct mistakes in the comments. The Mormon moment has motivated more Mormons to share their beliefs through blogs, comments on articles, social media, and ordinary conversations. As a result, they have become better versed in the more difficult topics that hold no real importance to ordinary Mormons because they don’t impact eternal life or salvation, but seem to fascinate those who are not Mormon. They are more experienced in sharing their beliefs.
Mormons see the idea that a Mormon could come so close to the presidency as proof that it has come a long way since the days when Illinois made it legal to kill Mormons or the government tried to keep a Mormon from accepting his seat in the Senate. It gives them hope that people will look past the gossip and rumors to see real people who are living moral but essentially ordinary lives, trying to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Mormons are family-centered and Christ-centered. They devote much of their time to these two aspects of life. For Mormons, who believe family life continues beyond the grave, it is essential to build a loving family strong enough to last forever. They spend time in family prayer and scripture study, family fun, and family service. They strive to emulate the life the Savior lived, as evidenced by the Mormon Helping Hands program that has so fascinated the media, or the storehouses that feed the hungry. Mormon charity includes programs to take care of their own members in need while also running other programs that help regardless of a person’s faith. The media has become more aware of these programs as they’ve searched for new ways to talk about Mormonism.
While the church remains firmly neutral on the subject of candidacy, regardless of the faith of the candidate, it has welcomed the opportunity to share its beliefs about religion—but not about Mitt Romney– with those who would listen.
What is ahead? Mormons have always shared their faith, carried out service projects, and done the work of the Lord. None of that will change. It is possible, however, that they will do it with more opportunities to have people watch with accurate knowledge, rather than with a bias based on gossip.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.