This article in the Washington Post explores how the perception of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has changed over the past six years since Mitt Romney’s presidential runs increased media interest in and attention on Mormonism.
A few key points from the Q&A article with Michael Otterson and Michael Purdy of Church Public Affairs include the following:
– It’s a lot more clear now that the Church is politically neutral. (See this article or this video for more information on the Church’s political neutrality.)
– The focus in the media has shifted from Mormon beliefs to Mormon life — “what…Mormons actually do, how … they live their lives…. [How the] religion tends to shape the behavior of its adherents for the better…. There is a very direct correlation between having a belief and not being passive about it. It should motivate you to do differently,” Otterson explains. This is key to what being Mormon is about, and more people understand that than they did six years ago. “People are getting a clearer picture of what Mormonism is at its core rather than what are these little things I hear out in the ether that other people have tried to use to define us,” Purdy says.
– There is less misunderstanding and more acceptance of Mormons as “a contributing part of society, along with the rich mosaic and tapestry of all the other religious faiths in this country.”
– We hope there is understanding also, however, that we don’t want to be perceived as “just another church.” Otterson explains: “[T]he reason that we are growing, we think, is because of … distinctive elements [of our faith]. We don’t want to be part of the sort of amorphous mass, we want to stand out.”
The interview happened before the outcome of the election was known, but this message is an important one.
I still think it’s very important to recognize that the church has no interest in political leverage or influence. Neutrality has been very well established. Whether or not there is a Latter-day Saint in the White House that doesn’t change, the church’s mission is what it has always been to preach the gospel in 170 different countries. So that doesn’t change for the church. And I think it really is surprising for people to learn that the church leadership really hasn’t been focused on this at all. They have been doing what they always do. We have 58,000 missionaries out there doing what they always do. The election is completely irrelevant to 99.9 percent of the church’s work.
Read Mormons thoughts on the mission of the church.