“I live 10 miles due north of the White House in an extremely liberal area,” he said, noting that two prominent Romney critics — Reid and historian/blogger Greg Prince — are members of his LDS stake. “Our local church leaders are constantly reminding us that discussions at church should focus on the gospel, but politics is always there, sometimes less subtly than others. I fear that with a Mormon president — especially a Republican — this will only get worse.”
Jo Ellen Ashworth isn’t worried about that. Her ward in Bountiful, is decidedly less political. Besides, she says, “I have no feeling of pride or vindication or acceptance that a member of the church might be elected president — I don’t care what other people think about me and I don’t care what other people think about the church.”
“I just hope,” she continued, “that Mitt Romney is a good man and not just a good politician. I hope he has communication with God. I hope he can hear the voice of the Spirit. I hope he has the courage to do what the Spirit tells him to do. My fear is that he will be just like all the previous presidents — which, if you’re a member of the church, isn’t good enough.”
And that, for Linda Grimmett of Arlington, Texas, is more important than the election of a Mormon president.
“I think it’s huge to have a member of the church be the president of the country,” she said. “But that isn’t the most important thing. It isn’t enough that he’s a good Mormon. For him to make a difference, he has to be a good president. I think it will help that he is a prayerful man and that he will seek the guidance of Heavenly Father. But we all have our agency. We all make choices. Having a Mormon president could be good, or it could be all for naught. It just depends on the choices he makes as president.”
One thing is certain about a Romney win in Tuesday’s election, Bowman said: More interest in Mormonism.
“There are a lot of Mormons who are ready to leave ‘the Mormon moment’ behind,” he said. “There is a sense of exhaustion, to the point where it almost feels like everything that can be said about the LDS Church has been said. But if Romney is elected there will likely be another wave of coverage of the church, really granular type of stuff, going into great detail about the church and its history and its policies and practices and how the Romney family fits into all of that.”
“I don’t think the scrutiny will go away,” Flake added. “Mormonism is still a very foreign belief system to most Americans. People are likely to look at Romney’s actions and seek an explanation for them in his Mormonism. Mormonism is so exotic there will still be reporters who want to investigate the Mormon dimension of Romney’s psyche and policies, regardless of whether he’s perceived as a good president or a bad one.”
But if that leads to discussions that dispel myths and open honest dialogue, “that’s awesome,” Castleton said.
“If Romney gets elected, I will be very interested to see how a Mormon White House is run,” said the Utah Democrat. “I suspect alcohol and coffee will be served, and some of the faithful will be appalled by that. And it will continue to frustrate me when most commentators (on Mormonism) get it wrong.
“But,” she concluded, “there is one thing that a Romney presidency will not be for my brothers and sisters in the church, whether they are Republicans and Democrats: It won't be boring.”
In compliance with Deseret News policy, comments will not be posted on political stories and editorials from now until the polls close Tuesday, Nov. 6.
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