Mormons contemplate the scrutiny and criticism they will face if Mitt Romney runs for President. When Romney ran for the Senate in 1994, he faced "almost daily to potshots that his religion was racist, then sexist, then backward, then clannish with designs on ruling the U.S. if not the world." Nowadays, the church is "more proactive":
[LDS President Gordon B.] Hinckley has also downplayed the more unusual elements of the faith. He has dismissed the pre-1978 ban on blacks becoming priests and the practice of polygamy, which ended officially in 1890, as "in the past." He has written inspirational books without using any Mormon language. He welcomed the world to Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics.Aren't all religions mysterious if you look closely? Normally, in politics, we just hold religion at a distance. We expect the candidates to have some religion but refrain from talking much about how the religion's beliefs interweave with the candidate's political thinking. But there is a move that can be made against a candidate that drags religion into the campaign and tries to stir up prejudice:
All of these efforts may help Romney, who could hardly look more All-American. His answer to questions about underwear could be an ad he once ran that showed him bare-chested on a beach.
"If you listen to Mitt and [President Hinckley] long enough," says [journalist Ron] Scott, "you might conclude that Mormons are really just Episcopalians who wear funny underwear."
But some members are wary that in an effort to explain the LDS faith to a critical audience, officials may end up watering it down.
"Downplaying temple garments? What else do we want to demystify and de-weird for the sake of gains in popular opinion?" asks Steve Evans, a Seattle attorney who helps run the Mormon blog bycommonconsent.com. "I'm all in favor of clarifying misconceptions, but eventually I am worried that we lose something vital."
Romney got a taste of it in his 1994 attempt to unseat Edward Kennedy in the Senate.Of course, President Kennedy said what he said because he was the one who was being attacked. He doesn't deserve special credit for taking the high road. The high road was best for him, and he might have taken the low road if it was better. But it was the high road.
Despite his brother's famous speech saying that a person's religion should be off-limits, Kennedy "played the Mormon card so relentlessly and cynically that even the leader of Boston Catholics, Cardinal Bernard Law, indignantly wrote that the lessons John Kennedy taught the country about a man's religion have 'been lost on President Kennedy's youngest brother, but salvaged by Mister Romney,' ''