As a Mormon, I’m saddened that Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency. He tried so hard, for so long, but just couldn’t quite pull it off. I have many friends, neighbors and relatives who have fasted and prayed for Romney, and I am sure they are hurt and disappointed.
We don’t have a Mormon president now. But I honestly think that’s just as well. Part of our cultural narrative is that we are outsiders. We converted to the truth and were rejected by everyone else less spiritually enlightened. We were driven out of the United States and built our own kingdom of God in Deseret under Brigham Young. We were comfortable in the state of mutual rejection.
We became used to being despised and rejected, even making it a point of pride, a sign of our sacrifice and commitment to the truth. But cold comfort of being the exclusive excluded wears thin, especially in face of the temptation of being accepted by the country at large. We enjoyed the attention of the Mormon moment. We love that we are mainstream enough to be considered mostly Christian by other Christians (or Christian enough to be preferable to a Democrat). But if Romney had won, then we would have lost our outsider status.
I grew up in rural Texas. I was the only LDS kid in my graduating class. Being Mormon made me different. It defined me to myself and to others. But when I went to BYU as an undergrad, suddenly being Mormon was nothing special; I was just another LDS girl. Something that had made me unique and special now made me common. I hated it. My personal identity as a Mormon outsider reflected the Mormon narrative I had been taught about persecuted pioneers and the latter-day elect who had been given special access to God and His truth.
If Romney had won, Mormonism would not suddenly have become the dominant religion of the United States. It would not have been equivalent to my personal move to Utah. But if the leader of our country were LDS, then we would not seem so exotic anymore to ourselves (which is part of what I liked about growing up a minority Mormon) or to others. We would be less a peculiar people and more just another flavor of Christian. Not only would our religion appear more mainstream, but it would become more mainstream in practice. (I’m not sure if this is a hope or a fear.)
And so I, as a Mormon, am relieved that Romney lost. We Mormons are still safely in the tributaries on the outside of the main stream America Christianity. On the borders here, in the world, but not of the world, we are free to work to improve our nation or bemoan its decline. Sure, we wanted the seat at the table, but perhaps we can find some comfort in familiar rejection.