Mormonism's moment

Saturday, February 12, 2011; B02

Below is an excerpt from "On Faith," a daily online religion section sponsored by The Washington Post. Each week, Sally Quinn engages figures from the world of faith in a conversation about an aspect of religion.

With former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney both though to be gearing up for a run for the presidency, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has again found itself answering questions about what these two prominent members believe. If conservative Christians and Mormons share a political agenda, why do suspicions still plague Mormon politicians?

Keep focus on capabilities, not faith: The question that each and every one of us should ask about faith during an election season is: Does this candidate have a strong commitment to protecting religious freedom in this country? If the answer is yes, the faith or belief system of that candidate is not important.

- Welton Gaddy leader, Interfaith Alliance

Americans want their president to be 'one of us': The real challenge lies is widening our sense of who counts as someone with whom we can identify personally, our sense of who "we" are, our image of who is included in "us."

- Brad Hirschfield rabbi, president, National Jewish Center for Leadership and Learning

The Mormon branding problem: As Mormon political figures rise in prominence, it is inevitable that Americans will come to know more about the faith than just the Glenn Beck variety or the stereotype of polygamy.

- Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite professor, Chicago Theological Seminary

Only qualifications matter: There really is only one question that needs to be answered: Can you faithfully execute the laws of the United States, or is there some religious view you hold that you believe transcends that duty?

- Barry Lynn minister, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Mormons speak for the faith: Americans don't look to high-profile politicians, such as Majority Leader Harry Reid, or to former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr., to understand our faith. Neither do they look to personalities like Glenn Beck, who touches on his faith occasionally but who doesn't claim to speak for the church or other members. I suggest that people are much more likely to dismiss stereotypes after associating personally with their Mormon neighbors or colleagues at work - the people they know best.

- Michael Otterson head of public affairs, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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