Now What for the Mormon Moment?

By: Jeff Spector
November 11, 2012

Well, at least the election is over. No matter who you wanted to win, you couldn’t be sad that the robocalls, the TV and radio ads and the junk mail have stopped. If you were in a swing state up for grabs, it was non-stop, day and night.

So, now what for the Mormon moment? Do we go back to being that obscure sect that no one knows much about, or are we in the mainstream?  Do more people now have a favorable opinion of the LDS Church than before?

If you look at the exit polling from CNN.com, it appears that many more people, mostly white, who seemed adverse to Romney because of his religion, bit the bullet and voted for him anyway.

So for the very religious, those that attend services weekly, those who are Protestant and those who are white, Romney got their vote.  I can’t tell if the Mormon vote is included in the Protestant vote or in other.   We know the Utah and Idaho Mormon vote went to Romney.

Now, I realize, as I am sure you do, that evangelicals, who are adverse to the Church on doctrinal grounds or because they have been told to be, will probably continue to be. For every Billy Graham who changed their position on the Church, there will be at least 5 or 10 Robert Jeffress’ who will continue to beat their anti-Mormon drum. Though even Jeffries changed his tune after Romney became the nominee. According to Fox News, in my state of Colorado, 74% of evangelicals went for Mitt Romney (Colorado Springs is ground zero for Evangelical Christianity). Similar polls show the same results across the country. That is pretty remarkable given the kind of talk that went on during the primaries.

There have been a number of very favorable articles in the mainstream media about the “Mormon Moment such as from Dan Merica of CNN. Most are, in effect closing out the “Mormon Moment.” But, just as Johanna Brooks is quoted in the CNN article, “There have been many Mormon moments, and there will be many more to come…” I completely agree with statement. So I got to thinking, what were the Mormon moments leading up to this “Mormon Moment?”

First, I recall that during my time as a Ward Mission Leader many years ago, we were taught that it takes about 9 positive encounters with the Church for someone to be really interested. So I got to thinking, is that also what it takes to be considered part of mainstream society? Let’s do an inventory.

Mormon Moments in History

  1. Joseph Smith Runs for President. Certainly, the founding of the Church and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was not much of a Mormon Moment because not many knew about it. It seems that Joseph Smith gained some measure of wider spread attention when he ran for President.
  2. The Murder of Joseph and Hyrum – This seemed to make the national news from what I can tell. So I suppose this is a Mormon Moment.
  3. The Passage of the Tucker-Edmunds Act – Passed by the US Congress in 1887 disincorporating the Church and outlawing polygamy. In 1890, the US Supreme Court upheld the seizure of Church property under the act.
  4. 1890 Manifesto –Officially disavowed the continuing practice of plural marriage in The Church. Issued by Church President Wilford Woodruff in September 1890. Accepted by the Church in General Conference, October 6, 1890.
  5. Utah Statehood – The 1890 manifesto began to clear the way for Statehood. Brigham Young and Apostle Amasa Lyman had proposed the massive State of Deseret in 1849, which incorporated Utah, Nevada and parts of California. President Zachary Taylor sort of liked the idea and wanted to put all of California into the state in order to balance power between free and slave states. Ultimately, the whole idea was rejected and polygamy stood in the way of Utah Statehood. As a condition, Utah had to write a polygamy ban into its constitution and statehood was officially granted on January 4, 1896.
  6. Reed Smoot Hearings – Reed Smoot, An Apostle, was elected to the US Senate in 1902. However, over the next 4 years, a battle ensued in the Senate as to whether to seat Senator Smoot or not. The battle centered on his calling as an Apostle and association with the Church. However, there was more to it than just that. Over the next 4 years, hearings were held regarding the Temple Ceremonies focusing on whether an oath of vengeance was taken against the United States for past grievances. The entire Temple ceremony became part of the Congressional record as a result. Smoot denied taking such an oath. And, while the investigating committee recommended against seating Smoot, the full Senate voted to seat him and Smoot served until his defeat in 1932.
  7. 7. President David O. Mackay – More than any other Church president before him, President MacKay was the icon of the Church during his tenure. Many would say, it was he who brought the Church out of obscurity. With his flowing white hair, white suits and lack of facial hair, he was the face of the Church for 19 years. In this period, the number of members and stakes in the LDS Church nearly tripled, from 1.1 million to 2.8 million, and 184 to 500 respectively.
  8. 1978 Revelation on Priesthood – Extending the Priesthood to all worthy males was a worldwide event, both in and out of the Church. It made front page news in most major papers in the US ad some around the world. While the Church was seemingly under pressure to act, many know that this was under consideration for some time. It was finally President Kimball who received the revelation that made the Priesthood available to all worthy males.
  9. 1993 Excommunications – Also known as the September 6, this action was also a well-publicized event. Not exactly a positive Mormon Moment.
  10. 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics – The Church played a large role in these Olympic as did some of the Church’s positions on things like drinking alcohol. The question was how could a state like Utah, which makes it so hard for someone to get an alcoholic drink host a worldwide audience who likes to drink?  Well, I guess they made it work. Not only did the Church use the Olympics as a missionary opportunity, albeit somewhat low key, they supplied thousands of volunteers, with their unique foreign language skills, to help guests and man the event. It was a win-win-win-win for the Olympics, Salt Lake and the state of Utah, The Church, and, of course, some guy named Mitt Romney.
  11. 2008 President Race – As a result of his Governorship of Massachusetts and his successfully running of the Olympics, Mitt Romney decided to run for President. Along with that, came the scrutiny for being a Mormon candidate (remember, Joseph Smith, Ezra Taft Benson and Romney’s own Dad, George). However, this time, the Church was really brought to the campaign, for good and bad. Mitt even had to make a Kennedy-style speech to distance his political career from his Church membership and its influence. It was all pretty short-lived as he withdrew in February 2008. But the stage was set for 2012.
  12. 2012 Republican Nominee, Mitt Romney – It was a bruising Republican Primary season, where Mitt’s Mormonism really came to the forefront. The Religious Right initially rejected him as a viable candidate because he was a Mormon, supporting every other weak and ineffective candidate over Mitt. Eventually, through the Primary process, Mitt outlasted all other to secure the nomination. Much was written and said about the Church, good and bad, true and false. And while the Church maintained its official neutrality, many members did not, giving Romney testimonies during Church, disparaging and denouncing President Obama and promoting Romney during lessons. They were also very involved in the political process outside of Church, which is their right and civic obligation. But, it was sad to see, Church member’s lack of Christ-like civility, respect and charity toward a duly elected official and our national leader, in spite of differences. The Church’s own statement following the election is the model for us to follow.

So, those are my Mormon moments and take on the whole question. I think we have reached the 9 positive encounters, so maybe, we are now accepted into the mainstream.

Here’s to Moments to come.

29 Responses to Now What for the Mormon Moment?

  1. Collin on November 11, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    You should have also mentioned liberal Mormons constantly trashing Romney. I remember Harry Reid even calling him a bad Mormon.

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  2. Jeff Spector on November 11, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Colin,

    why would I do that when that is not what my post is about?

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  3. Jettboy on November 11, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Why wasn’t and isn’t Harry Reid a Mormon Moment? That still gets me confused. Its not like he believes differently than Mitt Romney religiously speaking. Almost every attack on Mitt was an attack on Reid who just piled on himself.

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  4. Collin on November 11, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    Jeff,

    Your description of the Mormon moment only describes bad behavior by conservatives. You are not presenting the full picture, IMHO. The Mormon moment also included the Reid vs. Romney feud that was more or less a tribal feud between liberal and conservative Mormons that went public. Much more interesting than somebody bearing an inappropriate testimony.

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  5. Collin on November 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Sorry, got cut off. I see more Mormon moments like that in the future especially as the US shifts leftward on social views.

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  6. FireTag on November 11, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Jeff:

    I’m not sure your list includes nine encounters, particularly if they have to be POSITIVE encounters. I didn’t even know what a couple of them were without reading the explanation. So, I think Mormons will need more to be accepted in the American mainstream, IF that is where Mormonism WANTS to go.

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  7. mh on November 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    If Jon huntsman becomes secretary of state and candidate for president inn four years, that could make am interesting Mormon Moment.

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  8. Will on November 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    You forgot Joanna Brooks going on her apology tour.

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  9. Nef on November 11, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Harry Reid should be considered a Mormon Moment too. He was there before Mitt and is still there were he is after him. Not to forget, he is the face of the liberal mormons, and yes dear Republicans we are your brothers & sisters too.

    On the otherside I would call Glen Beck an very akward Mormon Moment.

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  10. Will on November 11, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Harry Reid is an embarrassment to the Mormon movement

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  11. Nef on November 11, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    Joanna Brooks, what did she wrong?

    Hate it or love it, but she does more for promoting the church instead of radicals whinning about the end of the world.

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  12. Jeff Spector on November 11, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Firetag,

    You raise an interesting point. We called ourselves a peculiar people and set ourselves apart for many years, trying to isolate ourselves from the “world.” now we re trying to live in the world, but not be “of the world.” and perhaps we cannot have it both ways.

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  13. Jeff Spector on November 11, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    mh,

    I liked Jon Huntsman but realize he is outside the mainstream of the current republican party. Perhaps as they re-tool, he might fit somewhere. I’d like to see him run again.

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  14. Douglas on November 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Jeff, well-thought-out post! I wouldn’t waste time critiquing it, you seem to identify well events that mark the rise of the LDS in the eyes of the American public.
    Your own “response” (#12) illustrates one of the problems that Mitt had in duking it out politcally with his primary opponent, the incumbent who “made his bones” (politically speaking, I realize in Chicago many have done it literally but I’ve heard no credible accusations of a modern-day St. Valentine’s day massacre at the behest of BHO) in his career as a Chicago alderman. BHO knew well how to carry out a political streetfight, whereas Mitt seemed to be content to use his fists when a Tommy gun was needed. Now, I realize that Mitt likely didn’t want to compromise Gospel principles to get elected President, and if he’d have rather lost than even give appearance of same, well said of him. However, even the Savior did say to be as wise as SERPENTS while being harmless as doves. Methinks that too frequently we LDS get so caught up in being “harmless” that we’ve become feckless as well.

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  15. Badger on November 11, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Jeff, it’s good to see you posting again.

    Regarding #11, the 2008 Presidential Election, Proposition 8 deserves to share top billing with Mitt Romney. At least in California, and perhaps in other states, I think it got more attention than Romney’s candidacy (his 2008 candidacy, that is), and I think for many it became the first thought brought to mind by “Mormons in politics”, and perhaps even just by “Mormons”. In 2012, it has undoubtedly been eclipsed by Romney’s more recent candidacy.

    Leaving its merits aside (as I’m sure you would prefer that I do in commenting on this post), the thing I’ve found most striking about Prop 8 is the vast between the ways the young (say, just turned 18 in 2008) and old (say, general-authority age) thought about it. In each group there are, of course, “yes” and “no” voters, but if you listen to how they reached their decisions, it’s as if the young and old voters were living in entirely separate universes.

    It’s a very large age difference, of course, so some differences in outlook are inevitable on any subject, but I thought that Prop 8 stood out as a special case.

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  16. Douglas on November 11, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    #`15 – Badger, the generation gap is hardly a new phenomenon. Even Cicero lambasted the Roman youth and wondered if they would carry the Senatorial banners as heartily as he perceived that he and his colleagues did.
    As regarding Prop 8 and the whole gay thing, one of the troubles is that Gospel principles (ergo, sex outside of marriage, including all homosexual activity, has been proscribed by the Lord and we are accountable to Him for it) are countered by not only the current popular culture (gays are not merely “tolerated”, or considered an acceptable “alternative”, they are practically celebrated). For example, my sixth-grade daughter has a “gay” friend, a fellow sixth grader! Now, how in the hell can or should any sixth grade child be defining their respective sexualities when half of them don’t even have hair one in their most precious respective spots? As that most wise philosopher and sage, one Elmer Fudd would say, “Deres sometin’ scwewy goin’ on ‘woud here!”
    I’d say the best, or at least the most defining Mormon moments, are yet to come, because we’ve got a lot of work to do!

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  17. FireTag on November 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    Jeff:

    It does seem hard to have strong “one way” influence on the world. A contact with the world that is strong enough to influence it will also let outside influences in.

    Douglas:

    I have been going through the exit poll data today and computing the “moment” of the various divisions of the vote that went against Romney and for Obama (i.e., the size of the voting block x the percentage vote differential) You see all of the divisions you’d expect — sex, age, race, urban/rural, religion, class, etc., and they are substantial in many cases.

    However, the STRONGEST moment is that “moderates” joined liberals somewhat in isolating conservatives. Yet, there is other data (from spatial voting studies) that the population considered Obama more extreme than Romney. I can only deduce that Obama was successful in tying the Republican brand around Romney so that a good fraction of moderates were rejecting the party even more than the candidate. Every distraction from Romney’s message by a Republican seemed to reinforce the “poison brand” problem.

    But Romney was the best Republicans had. The moderates would have torn any of the others apart, as they would have Romney if he’d tried to pull a little more Captain Moroni. The country has chosen by a small margin, but determinedly, to pursue Obama’s course.

    I think this will be a “learn by the things that they suffer” choice, but it is the choice.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on November 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    I would have added:
    - 2012 with Harry Reid, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney all very vocal politically.
    - Book of Mormon the Musical
    - I would also highlight Big Love and now shows like Sister Wives
    - I would add Joanna’s appearance on Jon Stewart
    - I would have included Prop 8

    These have all added to the “mainstreaming” of the church. Honestly, you can’t be a peculiar people forever. The isolation required to maintain that evaporates when you get to a certain number of members. However, I was surprised to find that Caodaism, a Vietnamese religion, has over 8 million adherents worldwide. They aren’t that far below us, IOW. And I had never heard of them until a few months ago. They were just founded in 1926.

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  19. FireTag on November 11, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    I don’t think age was that important. The “moment” for under 40 voters toward Obama was less than 40% of the “moment” for white versus non-white or for abortion being mostly legal, and in voting among the 18-29 group alone, the moment was smaller yet.

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  20. hawkgrrrl on November 12, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    Stephanie Meyer, too – forgot to add her vampire books! Your list was more political without including entertainment field, but personally I think entertainment is more influential than politics.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on November 12, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-mansfield/the-mormonizing-of-americ_b_2083125.html

    Great article in the Huffington Post today about this very topic.

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  22. Jeff Spector on November 12, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Yeah, I figured I’d miss a few. Prop 8 is a good one. Big Love and Sister Wives? Possibly as well. But anything related to the election/campaign was clearly driven bu Mitt Romney candidacy. Harry Reid was virtually unknown as a Mormon except for the Romney atention.

    I guess we could throw the Warren Jeffs/FLDS into the mix as well.

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  23. Jeff Spector on November 12, 2012 at 7:04 AM

    Hawk,

    Thanks for that reference. I should have included it. That article is the basis for my Friday post this week.

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  24. Jeff Spector on November 12, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    Douglas #14,

    The political battlefield is a dangerous one because it mixes ideology with reality. with party politics. power, influence and money.

    That is a dangerous brew!

    I’ve always maintain that the most honest person cannot operate in that environment without some compromising of their honesty, integrity and morals.

    Those that are truly unwilling to do that get out very quickly. The rest just deal with it in their own way. And some, embrace the game totally.

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  25. Mike S on November 12, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Great post, Jeff. Glad to have you back. I think the few additions proposed by hawk are good, although any list like this is always going to have some suggestions.

    For me, one of the most interesting things I heard about the election and Mormons is the percentage who voted for Romney. From an article I saw, it was about 78%. Bush received around 80-81% of the Mormon vote. It’s not much, but I do find it surprising that Bush got a higher percentage of Mormon votes than Romney.

    Great post.

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  26. Jeff Spector on November 12, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Thanks, Mike. I’d be curious to see the article that showed the percentage of Mormon vote.

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  27. Nick Literski on November 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    #14:
    Now, I realize that Mitt likely didn’t want to compromise Gospel principles to get elected President…

    Douglas, do you honestly believe that Mr. Romney did not violate LDS teachings in the course of his campaign? I honestly can’t wrap my head around how any faithful LDS member could take such a position, without a massive dose of rationalization.

    #18:
    - I would have included Prop 8
    These have all added to the “mainstreaming” of the church.

    To the contrary, the Prop 8 campaign made the LDS church look backward and bigotted to many Americans. In my conversations with friends and coworkers (both gay and straight), I hear strong disapproval of the LDS church’s political activism. The efforts of small groups of LDS members over the past year, in reaching out to GLBT neighbors via pride parades, marriage campaigns, etc., have gone a long way toward improving the opinions of GLBT citizens, but most straight people I know remain seriously unimpressed.

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  28. hawkgrrrl on November 12, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/55245720-90/percent-romney-mormon-vote.html.csp

    Jeff, the article showing Bush garnered more of the Mormon vote than did Romney. What does that mean? I’m not sure. Maybe fewer Mormons voted because they didn’t live in Battleground states. Maybe they felt Mitt was too moderate. Maybe they are out of work or worse off and bought into the class warfare pitch. Maybe they were ready for people to quit commenting on their underwear.

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  29. Jeff Spector on November 12, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    I suppose Mitt got the magic underwear vote! At least in Utah. The Intermountain Mormon community is pretty conservative and very Republican. Can’t say that for the rest of the US.

    I have some funny experiences in my Ward as one of the few “known” Democrats.

    I try to calm people down most of the time.

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