(Photo: © 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.)
As the election cycle draws to an end on Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Mormon Church has said it is happy that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not been dragged into politics too much, and that it is moving into "mainstream acceptance."
"For people like us it's been incredibly intense because of all the media interest," said Michael Otterson, the head of worldwide public affairs for the Mormon Church in an interview a day before Election Day. He added that they are "relatively pleased" that the church went through the campaign without "being dragged into the middle of politics."
In an in-depth interview with The Washington Post, Otterson said that Mormons are used to living their lives without much national attention. Romney's campaign generally avoided bringing up the candidate's Mormon faith, and although he talked about his values and personal convictions, the former Massachusetts governor rarely connected it directly to the LDS Church, where he served as a missionary.
"Gradually as we got into the second campaign we saw the same kind of narrative develop and it was often things like, 'Well, OK, Mormons are different so what do they believe that's different and let's talk about those differences.' And everything became about how other Mormons were. Here are the beliefs you may not be familiar with translated as kind of strange weird things that Mormons believe. And it took a long time to get beyond that," Otterson commented.
He added that over the last nine months, when the election really intensified, the media started to ask a lot of questions about Mormon practices, how Mormons live their lives, how and if they were different from the average community.
"And that was a conversation that made a lot more sense to us, because any religion tends to shape the behavior of its adherents for the better. And frankly, Mormons do that very well. There is a very direct correlation between having a belief and not being passive about it. It should motivate you to do differently," Otterson said.
"It's been striking how many media have picked up on that theme over the last few months. Part of that … has been a lot of journalists have started to go to church, to visit the churches…We think the conversation about what difference does it make in your life is a much more productive conversation to have."
The Mormon press officer could not give a definitive answer on what will change if Mitt Romney wins or loses the election on Nov. 6 against President Barack Obama, but said that regardless of who wins, the church would continue to grow a stronger presence in the American community.
"If Mitt Romney doesn't win, Latter-day Saints will still feel that the church has moved to a place – I'm going to use the term mainstream acceptance. In that we hope we are recognized now as a legitimate part of society, a contributing part of society, along with the rich mosaic and tapestry of all the other religious faiths in this country. But we have arrived in that place, no question about that," Otterson commented.