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The Mormon Moment

We’re in Tampa.  We’ll unpack this Mormon moment in American politics with three of the faithful at the GOP convention.

A photo made July 1, 2012, shows the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfeboro, N.H., where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended Sunday services. Romney, the first Mormon to clinch the presidential nomination of a major party, attended services Sunday with his wife, Ann, five sons, five daughters-in-law and eighteen grandchildren. (AP)

A photo made July 1, 2012, shows the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfeboro, N.H., where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended Sunday services. Romney, the first Mormon to clinch the presidential nomination of a major party, attended services Sunday with his wife, Ann, five sons, five daughters-in-law and eighteen grandchildren. (AP)

There are things, Ann Romney said last night to an adoring crowd in Tampa, that Mitt Romney does not much like to talk about on the campaign trail.  One of them is clearly his Mormon faith, at least not by name.  Fair enough.  We’re electing a secular, not a religious, leader.

On the other hand, we want to know our presidents.  Mormonism has been very important to Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney has been important to Mormonism.  A bishop in the church.  A big leader. And maybe soon, the first Mormon president of the United States.

This hour, On Point:  Faith and politics. Mormons talk about their faith and Mitt Romney.

-Tom Ashbrook

 

Guests

McKay Coppins, political reporter at Buzzfeed.

Joanna Brooks, author of the book Mormon Girl: Stories of an American Faith. You can read an excerpt here.

Jeff Benedict, contributor to Sports Illustrated and author of The Mormon Way of Doing Business: Leadership and Success Through Faith and Family.

C-Segment: Cartoonists

Scott Stantis, editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. (You can find some of his work here.)

Rob Rogers, political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. (You can find some of his work here.)

Highlights

Mormonism is a topic that Romney has ignored on the campaign trail, said Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins. A poor showing with evangelicals in 2008 in Iowa convinced the Romney camp that talking about Mormonism was not a winning strategy, Coppins said. “But that’s starting to change during the convention.”

Indeed, Romney’s status as the party’s nominee has prompted some to call for at least discussion of the candidate’s own history with the church. “He is the guy and people do want to know a little bit more about how a faith that’s been so prominent and deep in his life has made him who he is,” said journalist and author Jeff Benedict, himself a Mormon. “If he can get the anectdotes out there that illustrate how his faith has helped make him who he is, it is a win-win for him.”

Romney’s bid for the presidency is an important moment for Mormons. “This is a pivotal moment for the Romney campaign, but also for Mormons in the country,” said Mormon author Joanna Brooks. “He’s trying to introduce the country to a religion that it doesn’t know very well. That’s difficult to do.” Public perceptions also complicate Romney candidacy and his religion. There is a split in the American imagination of Mormons as either stayed, upright bureaucratic types, or renegade believers in things like polygamy, Brooks said. Those are difficult images to reconcile.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Though Mr. Romney almost never discusses it or performs it in public, prayer is a regular and important part of his life, say friends who have joined him. They describe him closing his eyes and addressing God with thees and thous, composing his message to suit the occasion, whether at a church meeting, at a hospital bedside or in a solemn moment with family and friends.”

Newsweek “Say what you will about him, but Mitt Romney doesn’t do, or not do, anything by accident. Take June 2, when the former Massachusetts governor traveled to a quaint farm in Stratham, N.H., to “announce” his foregone conclusion of a 2012 presidential campaign. Romney has to overcome several mountainous challenges before capturing the Republican nomination, and so he spent most of the day trying to reduce them to molehills.”

Buzzfeed “To do that, the campaign will break from its careful avoidance of Romney’s Mormon faith so far this year, and invite “several people who he has worked with through his church, who he’s helped with difficult times of their lives,” Schriefer said.”

Politico “Still, Romney plans to make a “reference” to his Mormon religion when he gives his speech here in Tampa, according to Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to the former Massachusetts governor.”

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