Soon, the Mormon Church began posting its videos on YouTube — 22 so far. One clip, for example, showed Mr. Ballard, the church apostle, answering the question “Are Mormons Christian?” It has drawn 26,000 views. By contrast, a cartoon clip from “The God Makers,” a 1980s film that mocks Mormon beliefs, has been viewed 945,000 times.
Mr. Ballard’s call for more new-media activism inspired dozens of new Web sites. On Politicalds.com, several Mormons of different political views write about the presidential race. Founder Mike Rogan, of Chandler, Ariz., says he started the blog “to combat some specific misconceptions about Mormons,” including that all Mormons are “conservatives with a mindless ‘sheep’ mentality.”
Mr. Hitchens, the best-selling author of “God is Not Great,” wrote last fall that Mr. Romney owed voters a discussion about “the mad cult” of his church. Similar commentaries inspired Ryan Bell, a Salt Lake City attorney, to start a Web site, Romney Experience.com last summer. “Every faith has wacky doctrines,” he says, adding that the press seems fixated on his faith’s more sensational side.
Mormon fury boiled over after Mr. O’Donnell’s appearance on the “McLaughlin Group,” when he called Mr. Smith a proslavery criminal and rapist. He said Mr. Romney “was” a racist because he was a member of a church that discriminated against blacks until 1978.
Mr. Bell and others responded on their Web sites that church founder Mr. Smith, who faced many charges in his turbulent life, including treason, was never convicted of any crimes. (At least one Mormon historian says he was found guilty of a misdemeanor as a minor for fraud, but others say incomplete court records make it impossible to determine.)
The allegations about blacks stung the most. Many Mormon historians say Mr. Smith welcomed blacks from the church’s inception, had ordained some blacks, and ran on an abolitionist platform for president in 1844. Blacks were barred from being church leaders, they say, by his successor, Brigham Young. Many Protestant churches, Mr. Bell pointed out, were segregated well into the 20th century. In 1978, the church lifted the ban on blacks becoming leaders.
While I consider this an important article, I found it frustrating because it did not really plumb the depths of the source of the concern. The first, as I have said before, is not Mr. Romney’s Mormonism, but his truthfulness about it. The second, which is the most glaring failure of the article, is the issue of what Mormons actually believe (much of which remains carefully hidden in a number of instances from the public, and which was the screamingly silent omission from Mr. Romney’s Texas speech on religion and public life). This is then not about the harsh spotlight, but about legitimate scrutiny and concern which should be present in the same way for every candidate–KSH.
Update: The Deseret Morning News has a related article, “With Romney out, Utahns in quandary” which is also worth perusing and which includes the following:
Many Mormons interviewed in the past months about why they support Romney insisted his faith alone wasn’t the reason they wanted him to become president, citing everything from his family values to his ability to tackle economic issues.
“First and foremost, I support Mitt Romney because I think he’s the man with the right qualities,” said Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who traveled to Boston to help raise money for Romney. “Secondarily, he happens to be a Mormon.”
Herbert acknowledged that he and other Mormons feel “gratitude and pride” seeing a fellow member of the faith in the national spotlight. But, the lieutenant governor said, Romney’s candidacy has also made it clear not everyone is ready for a Mormon leader.
“There is probably also a realization that Mormon bigotry is out there still in the country as we’ve seen it bubble up. There is still some work to do,” he said, to show that Mormons are “acceptable people to be your neighbors and your leaders.”