Some have predicted that the younger age requirements for LDS missionaries could cause the church’s missionary force to double in the near future — to more than 100,000 missionaries.
And if Mitt Romney wins the presidency on Tuesday, the church might need that many — and more!
Curiosity about Mormonism has increased dramatically in recent years, partially because of blips of visibility like a hit Broadway show, but overwhelmingly because of Romney’s nomination. It is hard even to imagine how much larger that curiosity will grow if he is elected. And the curiosity could be worldwide.
We wanted to get this column in before the election so that we could put it in the form of a prediction, and the prediction is:
If Romney wins, the “Mormon Moment” will continue for the foreseeable future.
As we speak and present to people in various parts of the world, we find a curiosity factor about Mormonism that is double or triple what it was a year ago, and it could increase geometrically if Romney is the next president.
We think the awareness-sequence would be something like this:
1. The LDS Church gets on people’s radar because they know it is Romney’s religion. People who would have always ignored the LDS Church can’t quite ignore it anymore.
2. The somewhat stiff and forced “let me impress you” candidate Romney morphs into the confident and competent “let me do this job” President Romney.
3. As the worldwide media covers every aspect of the new president, the personal attractiveness of Mitt and Ann and their five boys and their families becomes ever more evident, and people everywhere want to know why they are the way they are.
4. The intrigue turns at least in part to the family’s religion, and, particularly in the traditional hundred day “honeymoon" of a new president, focuses on attractive doctrines like eternal families and on the results and “fruits” among practicing members like low death and divorce rates and high health and education rates.
5. People pay more attention to the Mormons that they may have met and see the missionaries less as people to avoid and more as people who might be able to answer their questions.
In short, if Romney is elected this week, life as we know it for Mormons may be quite different. And parents who live in this community — in this central place of Mormonism — whether they are members of the LDS Church or not, would do well to give their kids an accurate picture of what the LDS Church is and what it may become.
Of course, it will not all come up roses. As curiosity increases, so will criticism, and for every person who asks a sincere question, there will be one who asks a cynical one.
But the fact is that both the positives and the negatives will increase dramatically, reminding many Mormons of a scripture that says the church will, in the latter days, “come out of obscurity.”
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who are in demand throughout the world as speakers on parenting and life balance. You can visit them anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.ValuesParenting.com.