Mormon Media Observer: Election — regardless of result — a cause for Mormons to celebrate

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 11:00 a.m. MST

A second instance was when I read some of Mark Twain’s "Roughing It." Twain, usually very funny, wrote, “With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here [of ending polygamy] — until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically ‘homely’ creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, ‘No — the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure — and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.’”

These anecdotes demonstrate that most news organizations misunderstood us, and much in popular fiction — often written by the most famous writers of the time — denigrated us.

But three generations of prophetic leadership, of hard work, of being true to our religion has effected a generous change in the national psyche. Sure, people still sometimes mock, but much of the press is fair and generous. And we tell our own story well, too.

Whether or not Mitt Romney wins the election, whether or not his winning is a good thing for the country, it is worth noting how far the nation has come in respect to this remarkable religion.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, there is a verse about bringing the church out of obscurity. I used to think that obscurity meant little more than simple visibility. Now, I believe it comprises something even more. In my study of Mormons and the media, I have observed that Latter-day Saints have always been a visible curiousity in the press — since before the church even started — but one always hidden by falsity and innuendo. What happened was that the coverage obscured what it was we really believe — the way a dirty window obscures a rich panorama.

But in recent years, the windows have opened. Latter-day Saints are known increasingly for who they really are. The coverage in recent years, while imperfect, is increasingly accurate. This election, win or lose for Gov. Romney, is a cause for celebration. Latter-day Saints are coming out of obscurity and darkness.

And that's a joyful thing.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

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