Since he announced his plan to run for president, debate and conflict seemed to centralize around the religion of Republic candidate and almost-president Mitt Romney. It is not a little-known fact that Romney is a Mormon. However, I don’t agree that Romney’s religion is as big of a deal as some would have us believe. As a Utah resident and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think much differently than most.
More than 40 presidents have served in the White House since the founding of our nation, and all of them have had varying religious views. I would be surprised to know of anyone who knows even a majority of their religions.
That is not to say that there haven’t been a few exceptions. Many will remember hearing about the Catholic controversy during John F. Kennedy’s time as president. However, even that drama was passed by quickly. In general, the religions of the presidential candidates are secondary to the bigger issues of their political platforms and agendas. The same should have held true for Romney.
Of course, I’m not saying that religion doesn’t play a big role in a presidential election or term. Ideals that often stem from religious views, whether we like it or not, play a crucial role in the actions of all politicians. However, there seems to be a strange idea among many Mormons — especially those in Utah — that Romney’s campaign created a giant magnifying glass that hovered over the most intricate details of our religion.
Ironically, the majority of the attention I saw given to Mormons because of Romney’s campaign were from Mormons themselves. There are plenty of people who obviously do not fit into this category, but I have heard several people say something to the effect of, “I don’t want Romney to be president because it might bring negative attention to the church.”
It is no secret that the LDS church has never been one to shirk attention. On the contrary, we send out teenagers in droves to spread our message. We invite all to learn about the church and its teachings. It is an important part of religion and politics to be open. Shunning attention implies that there is something to hide. I firmly believe that the LDS church does not have anything to hide.
On the other hand, I don’t think that the wide stream of attention the LDS church received is what some have made it out to be. Though there has been an increased curiosity nationwide about the LDS church, there are many factors that are playing into the increasing popularity of the church, including, but not limited to, the rapidly growing baptism rates, the economic power of the church, the newest announcement about the change in missionary age and the continued humanitarian efforts of organizations within the church.
All of these things and Romney’s campaign combined still do not measure up to the attention that people think the LDS church is receiving. Sure, I recognize the significance in Romney almost becoming the first Mormon president. But he was certainly not the first Mormon in the spotlight and would not have been the first president to come from a lesser-known religion.
If attention is directed at the Mormon church, then great. We have never shied away from it in the past and I do not see how it would be productive to do so now. However, it is important to realize that many times the attention and attacks on the LDS church might very well stem in part from Mormons’ own imaginations.