Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012: The Moment of Mormon Diversity

While he officially secured the Republican nomination last March, Mitt Romney’s primary victories in January 2012 all but guaranteed that, for the first time in American history, a Mormon would be nominated to a major party ticket for president. Romney’s nomination also meant that his often misunderstood and maligned Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) would be the stuff of headlines, at least until Election Day.
When Mitt Romney gave his concession speech in the late hours of November 6, campaign staff, political reporters and pundits closed their notebooks, packed their bags and headed home. It seemed inevitable that Romney’s loss would signal the end of the 2012 Mormon moment in American public life.
But three events since the election, and two in mid December—one, the horrific death of a six-year-old Mormon girl at the Sandy Hook elementary school; the other, the Mormon feminist-led “Wear Pants to Church Day”—proved that the Mormon moment, it seems, lasted through December.
In 2012, much of the focus was on Romney’s LDS Church: its theology, its rituals, and its politics. But it wasn’t just Romney’s religion that found itself under the microscope in 2012. The Mormon people also got a lot of attention. For the American society and polity, the most important take-away from this media scrutiny should be, perhaps fittingly (and perhaps ironically), the same message of the church’s “I am a Mormon” campaign: that Mormons are just like the rest of Americans, in that they are a diverse people. Mormon Americans are straight and gay, conservative and liberal, and racially and ethnically diverse. And like all Americans, Mormons are sometimes the victims of unthinkable and heartbreaking crimes.
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