Friday, November 2, 2012

What Romney's Run Means For Mormonism

Win or lose on Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney has already made history as the first Mormon to win a major party presidential nomination.
But has his race for the White House changed Americans' perceptions and stereotypes of the small, insular but fast-growing religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
And, by extension, has Romney affected how Mormons view their place in the nation?
Two noted Mormon experts we turned to as the 2012 presidential campaign draws to a close said that they see national perceptions of the religion emerging largely unchanged by Romney's run, but that perhaps it has helped Mormonism shed a bit of its mystery.
"I think the general reader has become more educated about Mormonism, and some of its reputation for strangeness has worn off, though it retains its deserved reputation for difference," says Kathleen Flake, author of The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle.
"Certainly, more people will have heard of it," says Flake, a Vanderbilt Divinity School American religion professor. "But with few exceptions, what they have heard pro and con seems remarkably similar to what was being said in the 1970s."
Matthew Bowman, author of The Mormon People: The Making of An American Faith and an assistant religion professor at Hampden-Sydney College, says he has come to a similar conclusion.
"The main obstacle to integration for any religion in the U.S. is, simply, size," Bowman says. "Fear and antagonism toward Catholics in America declined in tandem with the growth of the Catholic population in the U.S."
"Mormons," he said, "still make up only 2 percent of the American population; they likely still have hills to climb."
Read the rest here

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