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LDS members divided about Romney-based media spotlight

Published: Tuesday, May 29 2012 5:02 p.m. MDT

Two prominent news sources on two continents are reporting that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are of two minds when it comes to the wide media spotlight washing across their religion as a result of the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.

In a story in the Boston Globe on the day Romney was expected to win delegates in Texas that would clinch the Republican nomination, a variety of LDS Church members weighed in on both the pros and cons for recent media fascination with all things Mormon.

"For Mormons, this is a potentially volatile moment," writes Globe reporter Matt Viser. "They are deeply proud that their faith's most prominent adherent, Mitt Romney, is steps away from a presidential nomination and could push the faith further into the mainstream of American life. With these feelings, though, comes a nagging fear that their beliefs, often misunderstood, will again be subjected to scrutiny, even ridicule, on a national scale."

The story includes interviews with a number of everyday Latter-day Saints as well as more prominent members of the faith, including Michael Otterson of the church's Public Affairs Department, BYU political science professor Quin Monson, author/blogger Joanna Brooks, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and former Utah senator Bob Bennett, who said he believes the intensified spotlight "will be good for the church, because many people around the world have really weird ideas of Mormons. To have someone who is well-educated, successful in his career, successful in his family have this high a profile sends the message to the world: The Mormons are not the crazy cult that many of you think we are."

However, not everyone quoted in the Globe story is similarly enthusiastic.

"It's something we're afraid of," said Steven Goaslind of Sandy. "It's a mixed feeling for a lot of people. Hopefully the world's gone beyond the bigotry."

Meanwhile, on BBC News, reporter Paul Adams indicates that the Mormons he talked to view the intensified media scrutiny "with plenty of hope, and not a little apprehension."

"We all do look to Mitt Romney to carry the banner for us," said Steven Densley, a Salt Lake City lawyer who is associated with the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR). "We don't want him to embarrass us. We want him to be a good example of what it is to be a Mormon."

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and a former competitor with Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, told the BBC that in order to understand the current uncertainty among some Latter-day Saints, "it is important to understand how the religion evolved."

"The core ethos was to escape persecution," Huntsman said. "Their development model was based on a very insular, inward-looking civilization, one that feared the outside."

Which is why one unidentified Utah journalist told Adams: "Some Mormons are dreading" the upcoming presidential campaign.

As with the Globe story, the BBC report left the last word on the subject to Bennett.

"I'm thinking back to my Catholic friends when John Kennedy was elected," he said. "They said we have at last removed the stigma that says that no Catholic can ever be elected president of the United States. I think that same degree of satisfaction will be found among Mormons."

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