Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is the Mormon Moment Over?


No sooner had Mitt Romney lost the presidential election than various pundits and journalists began to declare that the "Mormon moment" was over. Certainly, Romney's candidacies in 2008 and 2012 brought about increased visibility and often scrutiny for Mormonism. Since its founding less than two hundred years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been often ridiculed, attacked and misunderstood by a skeptical and American public. But as Americans learned more about Romney through the campaigns, many wanted to better understand his faith and what impact it might have on his presidency. Owing to that interest, the American media landscape cultivated a robust and largely informative conversation about all things Mormon, including its baptismal practices, the church's missionary efforts, the status of Mormon women and African-Americans, and the faith's history regarding polygamy. "What Do Mormons Believe?" has read the headline of numerous articles of late.
But while Romney's presidential ambitions no doubt magnified popular interest in Mormonism, observers are wrong to declare the "Mormon moment" over now that Romney has been denied the White House. This heightened interested in Mormonism preceded Romney's bid for the highest office, and the cultural, political and religious significance that modern Mormonism has achieved in the last decade guarantees that this Mormon moment will long outlast the temporary prominence Romney enjoyed.
Some commenters have quibbled with the notion that this Mormon moment has been a unique phenomenon or even a solely American story. Joanna Brooks, author of the recent memoir "Book of Mormon Girl," observed that "there have been many Mormon moments, and many more to come." Brooks also noted to me that whatever public visibility the LDS Church has enjoyed in the U.S. of late needs to be considered within the faith's "new global reach" that is spreading Mormonism through countries around the world. Indeed, to think of an American "Mormon moment" is to lose sight of the much more significant international developments the LDS Church is carrying out through its proselytizing efforts and its institutional expansion.
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