Mormons’ Mainstream Moment

Matthew Bowman argues that the increased scrutiny from Romney's presidential campaign forced the LDS "to grapple with issues at a pace far more rapid than it is accustomed to" – and that this was a welcome development:

The attention Romney has attracted has forced the church to consider in new light issues that too often have gone unaddressed. In February of this year an elderly professor of religion at Brigham Young University repeated to a Washington Post reporter a number of ugly, racist theories as to why his church did not allow members of African descent into the Mormon priesthood until 1978. Most of them had been endorsed by church leaders in the 19th century, and some still circulate among grandparents and naïve Sunday school teachers. The leadership of the church has never repudiated them. But after the professor's words were reprinted in the Post, the church promptly issued a press release denouncing them. It was not the definitive rejection from the pulpit many Mormons hoped for, but it was a surprising step forward that would not have come had not reporters had reason to call a religion professor at BYU.

The church confronted a similar situation when Jews protested the practice of proxy baptism. Though several times the church had agreed not to baptize Holocaust victims by proxy, the controls erected to prevent members from doing so were lax until stiffer regulations were put in place after increased scrutiny earlier this year. Even the church's "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign emphasizes virtues that the church is not normally known for—diversity in ethnicity, lifestyle, and nationality. Though the campaign's depiction of Mormonism may a bit more aspirational than accurate, its existence demonstrates that the church has embraced a sense of cultural nuance, and has begun to think of itself as a participant in American cultural pluralism.

The Dish throughout the year scrutinized the Mormon Church's controversial teachings and troubled history. Go here to read the discussion thread on "Religion, Race, And Double Standards". Another thread, "Where's The Line Between A Religion And A Cult?", can be read here. To see how Romney dealt with confrontation over his faith, go here and here.