Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
Since the end of Mitt Romney's campaign Tuesday night, many experts and public commentators have begun to call an end to the "Mormon moment" for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
That might be a shortsighted view, say some experts and the church's public affairs director, Michael Otterson.
Otterson's latest blog entry on the Washington Post's website is titled "What lies ahead for the Mormons."
"Church leadership has never believed this period is merely a 'Mormon moment,’ ” Michael Otterson wrote. "They have much more of a long-range view.
"It may be years before we truly understand the impact of all of this on the church and its people, aside from any effect on the general public," he said. "The church has become more visible, more familiar, more accepted — especially among those who help shape public opinion. And frankly, we have become more transparent and for a once-persecuted minority, less defensive."
Otterson referred to an earlier blog entry he wrote for the Post in March, when he "traced the origin of that term to about the year 2000 and suggested that something much more fundamental was going on than a passing fad."
Though the spotlight on the church may dim slightly, many Mormons have found the publicity a positive thing.
“I have to say that when he first announced, I thought, ‘Not a chance, never going to happen,’ ” Daniel Peterson, a BYU professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, as well as a columnist for the Mormon Times, told the New York Times for a story the paper titled "For Mormons, a cautious step toward mainstream acceptance."
He marveled that he was wrong. “I don’t want to sound too triumphalist about it, but Mormons have had a feeling of insecurity about their status in America; we were driven from state to state. I think a lot of us see this as maybe a kind of arrival on the American scene.”
Peterson also addressed the future of the Mormon moment.
“I don’t know whether the Mormon moment ends with Romney’s presidential aspirations — it may well,” he said. “But I doubt that we will ever go into the state of complete obscurity that we were in before.”
As it is, Times writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that "Mr. Romney exposed Americans to some of the virtues of his faith — its emphasis on wholesome living, industriousness and, above all, family. Among fellow Mormons, even some Democrats, his candidacy evoked a range of emotions: pride that one of their own had the White House within his reach, relief that bigotry toward Mormons seemed to be waning, even a bit of wariness about a possible backlash if he won."
Noted demographer Joel Kotkin wrote in October that the end of the election wouldn't be the end of the Mormon moment.
"Just as President Obama’s nomination and election marked a sea change in the country’s tortured racial history, so Romney’s nomination has changed religious boundaries that have persisted for more than 160 years," Kotkin wrote on his website in an article titled, "It's Mormon in America."
The piece took a historical look at Mormons and their success in the world. Kotkin outlined ways the church will continue to be a part of the country's politics and stated, "Whether he wins or loses, Romney’s candidacy represents the beginning of the Mormon moment, not its culmination."
CNN took a different tack in a story titled "Romney's loss closes out 'Mormon moment.’ ”
"Mitt Romney’s defeat appears to close out a years-long 'Mormon moment,' a period of national fascination with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," the article said. "But prominent Mormons and religion experts say Mormons should be heartened that Romney’s candidacy appeared to help mainstream the relatively young faith."
However, in his Post article, Otterson sees the "real emergence of American Mormons, with all of their distinctiveness, into the rich mosaic of American religious life" as something historians will look back on and see as still just getting under way in 2012.
Mandy Morgan is an enterprise intern for the Deseret News, reporting on values in the media. She is a true-blue Aggie, studying journalism and political science at Utah State University, and hails from Highland, Utah.
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