From Mitt to Musicals: A Mormon Moment Postmortem

We are pleased to have the bloggers from experttextperts as our guests over the next few weeks.

I, Casey Walrath, graduated from BYU with a BA in History in 2010 and, finding that my degree is underappreciated in the job market, currently work in IT while blogging on the side. I’ve been married to my wife (and co-blogger) Brooke for just over two years. We currently live in Idaho while she finishes school. My primary goal at this point is to not live in Idaho or Utah longer than necessary. 

Now that the Mormon Moment has subsided (at least until Tagg 2020), I’ve been thinking about what it all meant. What did the spotlight do for us as Mormons? What did it do to us? Webster’s dictionary defines “moment” as “the expected value of a power of the deviation of a random variable from a fixed value,” and like many of you, I have indeed felt moments of power, value, and deviation over the last five or six years. In the interest of sorting things out, I’ve written a stray few observations for public benefit to help us all grasp what “The Mormon Moment” was about.

-Willard “Mitt” Romney began everything with his upstart 2008 presidential run. Romney’s deep pockets helped him survive early challenges, but he was eventually defeated in the GOP semifinals by the veteran John “Maverick” McCain. Undeterred, Romney returned in 2012, sweeping aside all challengers to set up a finals showdown with Barack “Mr. President” Obama. Obama seemed vulnerable after a difficult season and a Romney blowout in debate 1, but when the series returned to National Security Arena for debates 2 and 3 the President’s home field advantage helped him recover. From there Obama rode a solid defense and a superior ground game to a decisive 332-206 Electoral College Championship. Some disillusioned Romney supporters believed backup Paul Ryan could have won the competition, while others argued that Romney was too conservative. Still others attacked the media for biased refereeing. Romney accused the President of delivering cheap shots, but admitted that “mental mistakes and turnovers” ultimately made the difference.

-Romney preferred to campaign on the economy rather than on his faith, but Mormon historians noted parallels between the Romney campaign and Joseph Smith’s 1844 presidential campaign, most notably Romney’s repeated and sometimes puzzling criticism of Obama as the “worst president since the inflexible, uncompromising, and withering Martin Van Buren.”

-Besides the presidential race, another polarizing event was the LDS Church’s support of Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman only. Despite millions of Mormon dollars spent Prop 8 was overturned by a judicial ruling. The Mormon vote, meanwhile, was split between supporters and a small but significant minority of sexually naive members who wondered why anyone would oppose Happy Marriage.**

-Further controversy arose from remarks made by BYU professor Randy Bott to the Washington Post about black people and the priesthood, comments many Mormons found embarrassing and borderline racist. The situation worsened when Bott called a press conference to clarify his views: While approaching the stage, the professor tripped and fell into a nearby fireplace, covering his face in dark soot. Half blinded, he mistakenly grabbed a fried chicken leg from an unattended KFC bucket, mistaking it for a microphone, and stumbled toward the podium. Just then Bott’s phone rang and his ringtone, a 30’s ragtime hit, blared. Meanwhile, the press mistook his floundering for “some kind of comic dance routine” (AP), and the ensuing remarks were drowned out by boos.

-While the Mormon Moment brought many insightful glimpses into LDS culture and doctrine, not all coverage was positive. Leading the way for Mormon critics was HBO’s Bill Maher, who scathingly attacked Romney and Mormons alike. While most Mormons tried to ignore the criticism, others responded that nobody likes Bill Maher because he is dumb and rude and has big ears, so who cares what he says? Stupid mean people can’t hurt our feelings anyway. Plus he’s adopted.

-The Mormon Moment also led to the rise of new Mormon spokespeople like Joanna Brooks, whose articulate, faithful, and feminist beliefs gained widespread attention. While Brooks was never censured by Church leaders, she received sharp criticism from some self-styled defenders of the faith, who argued that she ought to follow Church leaders more closely. Sources indicate that the critics still do not see the irony in this.

-Mormonism made inroads into pop culture as well, notably through the crass yet heartwarming hit musical, “The Book of Mormon.” A follow-up, based on Mitt Romney’s life, is currently in the works, with musical snippets leaked for If I were a Richer man, Ohio!, and (I Built That) On My Own.

-Finally, Mormons dominated Hollywood as the allegorical Twilight Saga reached its stunning conclusion. Edward finally completed his “mission” when he “converted” Bella to vampirism (read: Mormonism), helping her put off the “natural man” and assume the sparkly (glorified) mantle of immortality. Also, Jacob (a Lamanite) was involved somehow. Twilight’s impact was so enormous that the LDS church had to lower its minimum missionary age just to meet the influx of new investigators.

The late Mormon Moment was not the first and probably will not be the last time Mormons undergo public scrutiny. Still, it went pretty well given that past Mormon Moments led to expulsion from the United States, radical doctrinal and social upheaval, and the Osmonds. One thing we can all agree on is that there were things that happened and other things that are yet to happen, and those happenings are important and worth discussing until different things happen.

**This paragraph originally implied that Prop 8 failed at the ballots, which is not true. I apologize for the mistake and assure you that this article is otherwise 100% free of factual or interpretive errors.

Comments

  1. This is so fantastic. Fortunately, the Mormon Moment outlived Mitt Romney in the form of Pantspocalypse, which has prepared us for our Final Doom on December 21.

  2. I want to officially apologize for the lack of timely pants-related humor in this post.

  3. So let it be written.

  4. This is my favorite: “While Brooks was never censured by Church leaders, she received sharp criticism from some self-styled defenders of the faith, who argued that she ought to follow Church leaders more closely. Sources indicate that the critics still do not see the irony in this.”

    I think Mormons will miss the moment when we thought everyone else was talking about us. Of course, everyone else may be unaware that a Mormon moment even happened.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I didn’t understand this snippet: “Despite millions of Mormon dollars Prop 8 failed,” given that in fact Prop 8 passed. Are you referring to subsequent judicial decisions?

  6. @Kevin – That was a case of a punchline taking precedence over fact-checking. Millions of dollars spent for (at present) little tangible benefit, though I’d somehow forgotten that the judiciary was the responsible party in its demise. I shall try to get that fixed :)

  7. We Mormons will rise up and have our day again.

  8. Thank you so much for my Mormon morning laugh.

  9. I still can’t stop imagining the Randy Bott-accidental blackface part. I love it.

  10. My favorite part is probably either, …”others responded that nobody likes Bill Maher because he is dumb and rude and has big ears, so who cares what he says? Stupid mean people can’t hurt our feelings anyway. Plus he’s adopted.” OR, “(I Built That) On My Own.” I think I need lyrics to the latter. Oh, also Jacob is a Lamanite. Does this mean that Edward is one of the three Nephites?

  11. This is fantastic. Loved it.

  12. FTW.

  13. My favorite part is the whole thing. Well, except for the Happy Marriage part, which was favoriter than the rest.

  14. S. Schwarz says:

    This just confirms it: most Mormons still live in a bubble where little else beside Mormonism exists. Outside that bubble, yes, there was a slight increase in public awareness of the existence of Mormons. But with the global preference of Obama, Mormonism was basically just another weird little item in Romney’s luggage that made him unpalatable for the rest of the world. Maybe in Utah and parts of Idaho or Arizona there was a “Mormon moment”, it surely didn’t happen outside the USA. Of course I do not have any statistics about a possible increase of interest in the church in Europe, for example. I guess the number of baptisms over the next months will be a good indicator of whether this purported augmented publicity brings in any palpable results.
    Personally, I watched the tv series Big Love over the weeks of the presidential campaign. The parallels of how a polygamist made it into the Utah senate and was considered a freak danger for the rest of the Utah world and a Mormon trying his steps on the big stage were interesting to watch.

  15. S. Schwarz, if this were a serious conversation about the Mormon moment then I might point out a number of problems with your argument. As it stands, I think you just need to turn up your satire radar.

  16. S. Schwarz says:

    isn’t the going stereotype of Germans that there is no sense of humor/satire/… genetically implanted? and it gets worse as I am part Austrian… ;)
    I just wanted to point out a perspective I observed in many conversations here overseas. it was almost exclusively with church members that Romney’s being LDS even came up and then usually with a sense of pride (“one of us”, etc.) while the others couldn’t care less. Therefore I doubt a “mormon moment” really existed outside the mentioned bubble (and yes, let’s widen the definition of the bubble to church membership worldwide!).

  17. S. Schwarz, in the British press at least Romney’s Mormonism was mentioned and to some it seemed important. A whole documentary was dedicated to this question as well as numerous news reports. Obviously this would have differed from place to place but I suspect that in the UK there has been a raised awareness of Mormonism among some parts of the population, at least those inclined to read newspapers and also to watch BBC documentaries. However, of course, it is unlikely that non-Mormons think about Mormons anywhere near as much as do Mormons and so if that is the bubble you are referring to then I do not think we would disagree. Anyway, lets distract from the post any further. btw, always good to have international visitors.

  18. There was certainly a raised awareness of Mormonism in Scotland in the younger generation (those in their 20’s).

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