Other newspapers report on 'Mormons in America' poll by Pew Center

Published: Friday, Jan. 13 2012 2:52 p.m. MST

Thursday's release of a new Pew Forum Survey of "Mormons in America" created headlines in newspapers and online journals all around the world.

Many of those who reported on the survey tried to take a broad approach to the survey's findings. The Washington Post wrote that "the first major independent poll of U.S. Mormons describes a conservative, devout community highly concerned about being accepted even as it embraces beliefs about gender roles, premarital sex and religious commitment that are well outside the mainstream."

The Post also presented to its readers an interesting graphic representation of the survey, and a Mormons in America photo gallery.

The New York Times lead indicated the survey of Mormons in America "finds that while one of their own is making unprecedented progress in a bid for the presidency, many feel uneasy in the spotlight, misunderstood and unaccepted in the American mainstream."

"Despite this, a majority of the Mormons polled said they believed that acceptance of Mormonism was rising and that the American people were ready to elect a Mormon as president. It is a sunny outlook for a religion that is consistently ranked near the bottom, along with Muslims and atheists, on favorability surveys of various groups."

The Los Angeles Times wrote: "Call it the Mitt Moment, the Mormon Moment — by whatever name, this would seem to be a pretty good time to be a Mormon in America. And it is, according to a survey of American Mormons being released Thursday, even though many church members say they still face discrimination and hostility."

And the Chicago Tribune introduced readers to the survey this way: "Most Mormons believe their religion is not well understood by Americans and many sense hostility but a survey done as Mormonism gains political and cultural prominence shows they are also optimistic that tolerance of their faith is rising."

Other publications were more prone to focus on certain elements of the survey.

The Guardian in the United Kingdom led its story on the survey with the fact that "one-third of Mormons in the U.S. believe that American voters are not ready to elect Mitt Romney, or any other member of their church, as president." Fox News also focused on Romney in its lead for the story, indicating that "America could be standing on the precipice of the 'Mormon Moment,' according to a new survey that says most members of the religion believe the country is ready to elect a Mormon president."

The Politico blog site led with presidential politics: "With Mitt Romney leading the Republican presidential field, a detailed new poll of Mormons is shedding light on a community that feels ambivalent about whether the country is ready for a president of their faith."

And the Boston Globe reported: "With Mitt Romney, formerly a leader in the Mormon Church, considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, 56 percent of Mormons in America say they believe the country is ready to elect a Mormon president, according to a Pew Research Center study released today."

The LDS Church prepared its own story on the survey, posted on the church's LDS Newsroom web site. Its lead: "Mormons' faith, beliefs and practices translate to satisfaction with their lives according to a report studying members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States released today by the Pew Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life."

And Michael Otterson, managing director of the LDS Church's Public Affairs Department, wrote in his regular blog on the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog site that the survey "delivers some fascinating data."

After going through much of that data, he focused on the fact that less than a third of respondents think Mormonism has entered America's "mainstream."

"I suspect my fellow church members are not much bothered by that," Otterson wrote. "Because 'mainstream' is a modern term, it isn't found in scripture, and the scriptural inference of what God truly values is quite the opposite. God appears to be more interested in using the word 'peculiar' to describe his people … It is this sense of distinctiveness that Mormons cherish."

Mormons, Otterson continued, "want acceptance, but not assimilation. No church leader I have ever heard preach has suggested that Mormons should drop their distinctiveness — the very characteristics that the pew study identifies — in order to become more popular with the world at large."

In the end, Otterson said, "social currents will flow the way they will flow, but Mormons won't follow the course of least resistance. In the mainstream or out, Latter-day Saints will strive to be good Mormons, true believers, kind neighbors and faithful friends."

Email: jwalker@desnews.com

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