How did the Mitt Romney era affect the status of the Mormon church?


What has been the impact on Mormons of the burst of intense attention they received during the Romney presidential bids?


This was posted before Mitt Romney took himself out of the Republicans’ crowded 2016 steeplechase. But this is a good moment to analyze the era when his presidential ambitions brought new attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed “Mormon” or “LDS”).

Not that he’s disappearing. Romney remains a player and conceivable vice president, Treasury secretary, or other official if the G.O.P. wins next year -- unless his church appoints him one of its ruling “General Authorities” in Salt Lake City.

Romney is no run-of-the-mill churchgoer but has held responsible posts in this clergy-less denomination that’s led locally by laymen serving part-time. He has been the “bishop” (equivalent of a pastor) in his own “ward” (congregation) and president of the Boston-area “stake” (akin to a Catholic or Episcopal bishop). He is an ordained “high priest,” the LDS ecclesiastical rank below patriarch, seventy and apostle.

The former governor’s prominence should have burnished the faith’s P.R. image. He personifies attractive virtues Mormons most like to display: clean living, hard work, probity, public spirit (e.g. taking charge to save the 2002 Winter Olympics), generosity in donations and private help, patriotism and faithful commitment to church and family. Add to that striking success in business, which was central to Democrats’ attacks against Romney but probably didn’t hurt public perceptions of Mormonism.

Back in 1960 the Gallup Poll found 21 percent of U.S. adults wouldn’t vote for a Catholic as president, even if well qualified. Yet John F. Kennedy just managed to edge Richard Nixon in the popular vote, by 17 hundredths of one percent. Many surveys since show a decline in opposition that is now close to nil for a Catholic, or a Jewish, black, or female president.

As for a Mormon in the White House, that question first arose at the point when Mitt’s father George was emerging as the chief rival to Nixon for the 1968 G.O.P. nomination. Gallup asked whether respondents would vote for a “well-qualified” nominee “who happened to be Mormon” and 17% said no. Since then Gallup has asked that question seven more times with remarkably unchanging results. In 2012, 18% were still saying no, without significant variation among Protestants or Catholics.

Why this segment’s stubborn wariness toward a Mormon?

Continue reading "How did the Mitt Romney era affect the status of the Mormon church?" by Richard Ostling.

Please respect our Commenting Policy