“Mitt Romney has shown that Mormons are as devoted to this country as much, if not more than, any other group,” said Hatch, who cited a tortured past in which “the government didn’t come to the rescue of the LDS church when people were being killed in Missouri and Illinois and elsewhere. It was as though they didn’t belong.”
For a faith that initially emphasized separation, maintaining an essential distinctiveness while belonging has become key.
Mia Love, a congressional candidate and the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, appeared in the “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign. A Mormon black woman (“We call it the trifecta” said her campaign adviser), she took a break from rallying her volunteers in a room decorated with a Romney cardboard cutout to reflect on the potential for history. “What is great about this country is the fact that people like Barack Obama, people like Mitt Romney, are able to run for president,” said Love, wearing a “Be Calm and Vote Rom” T-shirt. “Anyone can serve, regardless of their race, religion, gender.”
At the mouth of Emigration Canyon, a bronze statue of Brigham Young looks out onto the Salt Lake Valley from atop a towering monument marking the spot where he pronounced, “This is the right place.” Down the road, the members of the Monument Park congregation filed into their church for Sunday services.
Mike Anderson, the congregation’s bishop, paused from counseling a teenage member of the congregation to note that in Detroit and Boston and other cities he has lived in, people have often looked at him as less than normal. “I feel kind of normal,” he joked.
Down the hall, Gae Haynie, the congregation’s 81-year-old librarian, sorted papers under portraits of past and present church prophets, baptism scenes and paintings of Joseph Smith. “We have risen from tough times,” she said. “They hated us. And look what we have now.”