A few days ago, I was lunching with my husband and as we’ve often found ourselves of late, we were discussing the upcoming presidential election. In one sentence, I was expressing my confidence that I felt Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had an equal chance at the office, of which he agreed, and in the next I confessed my unbelief, or perhaps lack of faith, that this could actually happen. Although considered a very close race, it still seemed so farfetched that America would actually vote in a Mormon as president. Again, my husband agreed.
And apparently we were right – kind of -- Romney did not win the election. Our gut instincts were spot on and I imagine this Mormon, among Mormons, was not alone in her private skepticism. Yet I can’t get over the fact that 57 million Americans, and rising, did indeed vote for a Mormon – and what that says, to me, not only about this country, but also about my faith.
Although a Romney win, by many indicators felt within reach, it didn’t happen. However, the fact that it almost did - and with very few variables could have - this reality has changed everything for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints (Mormon) – for the good.
We now move forward into an unprecedented season of Mormonism– just like everything else Mormons have experienced throughout the entire election process– the unknown – a place of familiarity. But this time, from this moment on, Mormons in America will never be looked at quite the same.
As members of the LDS Church have taken increased opportunities to discuss their faith because of interest in Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, over time it became increasingly evident that no matter what sensitive issue came our way, be it baptism for the dead, racism, polygamy, Mormon temple worship, gender equality, etc… the chance to share our faith while clarifying Mormon teachings turned out to be a net positive.
It is still true that, as with all faiths, Mormonism will always have both our skeptics and critics -- but Americans overall have come to accept Mormons as good people of faith -- enough so that more than 57 million people cast their trusted vote on behalf of Romney, a Mormon. That is incredibly significant on so many levels. Most important, I think, is the fact that those voters likely represent a majority of those having strong, conservative moral values -- complimentary to people of all religious faiths.
This evidence clearly suggests that Mormonism, now, can and should be considered a mainstream Christian religion, recognized as one to be sought out for opinion in regard to social issues, seen by those of religious faith as moral -- and its people better known as those who commonly give charitable service to the betterment of others as an expression of their faith.
For Mormons, as a people, we tend to wear our badge of peculiarity comfortably. We have no interest, other than the hope of a general acceptance of our faith as Christian: to be considered the same as other Christian faiths. We understand that our message that boldly proclaims a restoration of the original Christian Church that Jesus Christ organized when He was upon the earth can be, at first, unsettling – and we’re perfectly all right with such reactions. We want our message to be different enough to compel the curious into allowing us to tell that story.
I now see that the win or loss of Mitt Romney in this presidential election would never have been perceived as anything but a win for the LDS Church, and its members who share the same mission: to increase our ability to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The day before the election, as reported in The Washington Post, Michael Otterson, head of worldwide public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared that overall his office is relatively pleased with how the church made it through the campaign without being dragged into the middle of politics – remaining politically neutral.
Satisfaction was also expressed of a fairly recent shift they’ve detected with media seemingly more interested in what Mormons do -- the emphasis on good works and charity versus what Mormons believe – which is often problematic. The feeling being that one’s religion shapes individuals and tends to affect behavior for the good – a thing Mormonism does very well. “There is a very direct correlation between having a belief and not being passive about it. It should motivate you to do differently,” said Otterson.
On a personal note: if I were to raise one negative coming out from this election, from the perspective of a devout Mormon woman, it would be that, at times, I found myself frustrated with how we were falsely misrepresented throughout this campaign. Far too often during discussions about women’s issues, in hopes of distorting Romney’s views about women relating to gender equality, Mormon women working outside the home, etc., reflective of Mormon policies and doctrines, the voice of the conservative Mormon woman was ignored in preference to seeking out the minority Mormon feminist voice for comment and insights – it being more sensational and potentially detrimental to Romney.
Because of this lack of genuine interest in the majority of Mormon women and what we actually think, I believe this election may very well have left the American public lacking understanding of Mormon women, our views about doctrine and policies -- through the eyes of our most prominent women.
In the end, though the final numbers of the election are yet to be determined, clearly this tight race has exposed, like never before, that Americans are nearly equal in opposing many of society’s most-debated social issues. To the many faithful conservatives, Mormons included, this fact sends a powerful message that you have a voice that has not been squelched regardless of what mainstream media would have you believe.
We still live in a country representative of a global hope that often unknowingly places religious morality at the center of our lives. And though a liberal agenda will continue to be paraded by mainstream media, the reality is that there is an equal and opposing advocacy of that which is pleasing to God.
Faith, family and freedom have been on display throughout this election process like never before. Indeed it has always been in our hearts but through modern technology we have been able to literally put it on display worldwide and can, with confidence, continue to do so!
This scenario makes perfect sense from the eternal perspective through which Mormons believe the world is regulated: that there are good forces and negative forces and that ultimately the good will win. Good, or God, will have the ultimate victory -- but not without an equal and opposing force intended to forge a people worthy of such a victory.
How comforting such understanding should be, to all people of religious convictions, that God has revealed His Hand -- not necessarily through an individual’s victory, but through the world He created and He directs. His plan and how He will bring it about is being made more evident than ever.
As a Mormon, I see great hope in the results of this election. It has brought Mormonism out from relative obscurity, now clearly to be considered a mainstream Christian religion -- and in the process have brought together many people of Christian values who have united in a cause that takes precedence over religious denomination – a victory we cannot ignore.
This is His battle and on this one, for those who have eyes to see, God is winning!
Kathryn Skaggs is a well-known Mormon blogger among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ online community. The Southern California resident and her husband have five children and 10 grandchildren.