A lot of buzz in the regular and online media about Mitt Romney’s run for the White House being a Mormon moment. Some say even with Romney’s defeat the Mormon moment isn’t over; that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has finally claimed its legitimate place in the religious landscape of America.
Some make their case for legitimacy by pointing to the coalition of Roman Catholic bishops and evangelical Christian groups that supported Romney for president. Not so fast. There’s more to this coalition of strange bedfellows.
It could be as simple as, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Issues of abortion, contraception, gay marriage and perceived religious persecution by the Obama administration seemed to bring this unlikely group of folks together for a common purpose: to defeat President Obama.
It could also be a drive to restore power in this country to white male leaders which, not coincidentally, happens to dominate Mormon, Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant leadership.
Romney did well with born-again evangelical, white Roman Catholic and white Protestant voters, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Life. Obama won big among non-white Roman Catholics, black Protestants, Jews, people of non-Judeo-Christian faiths and the “nones”—those who have no religious affiliation. For the first time in a national election, some have observed, a coalition of minorities carried the day.
But local elections signaled a demand for change among the electorate. Voters are sending five women to the U.S. Senate, including the first openly gay senator, bringing to 20 the number of female members; the most ever. Four states passed referenda supporting the civil rights of gay citizens to marry. A ballot question was approved in Maryland extending in-state tuition benefits to children of undocumented residents.
November’s election could be seen as the failed, last gasp of a threatened white male power structure to restore its control of government and society. And it’s the word, “restore,” that will resonate with Mormons and anyone who has lived in Utah, Idaho, Arizona or wherever LDS have strong social influence.
The basic tenet of the Mormon faith is that Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, was given the job by God to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ since his followers had become apostates since the first century of the Christian era. The restored gospel is the main mission of the LDS Church.
A super-PAC funded by several wealthy Mormons not surprisingly chose the name, “Restore Our Future.” Large contributors reportedly included members of the Marriott family and two executives of Nu-Skin, a Utah-based company selling dietary supplements and skin care products. Nu-Skin is the former employer of Rep. Jason Chafetz, R-Utah, now representing the Congressional district where the company is headquartered.
And it should be no surprise that another high profile Mormon, Glen Beck, dubbed his Lincoln Memorial speaking event in 2010, “Restoring Honor.” So it makes sense that any Mormon believer will see his—and it is his--duty to not only restore the gospel of Jesus Christ, but restore this country to some former glory it enjoyed in their version of history. You see, Mormons also believe the U.S. Constitution is a divinely inspired document, taking the idea of American exceptionalism to a whole new level.
The Mormon moment may have come and gone. Changing demographics of the USA may have finally brought to reality the “melting pot” of America. This election may be the tipping point for a country that no longer has a white ruling class. And I, for one, see that as progress.
The Rev. Dan Webster, an Episcopal priest now living in Baltimore, served parishes in Utah and was news director of KUTV, Salt Lake City. He is a former producer and deputy bureau chief at NBC News’ Washington bureau.
More On Faith and 2012:
Religion News Service:Report: White Christian voters no longer hold keys to the White House
David Gibson: What’s next for religious conservatives?
Otterson: What lies ahead for Mormons?
Thistlethwaite: Compassion in chief: Why Obama won