Nobody thought America would elect a Catholic president, then in 1961 John F. Kennedy was sworn in as our 35th President. Of course, his election was mostly purchased by his father through mafia connections, but that’s beside the point.
Catholicism is a historic religion whose beliefs and practices were generally known and accepted among the American population. But America is skeptical of Mitt Romney’s “mysterious” religion.
Why America wasn’t concerned about electing a President who is a devoted disciple of a minister who teaches extremist anti-American doctrine is the real mystery.
If America decides to make their decision about Mitt Romney based on the common rumors and folk tales that float around about the LDS Church and its members, then I can see why they would be worried. If we truly are the non-Christian cult whose members have horns, practice polygamy, and anxiously await revelation from the jail cell of Warren Jeffs, then there’s certainly reason for concern.
Few people outside the LDS Church know what we’re really about. (There are people inside the church who don’t know either.) But if people really want to know, they should go to true sources.
If you want to find out how to make a souffle do you ask a mechanic?
If you want to find sports statistics do you go to HGTV.com?
Then explain to me why people will go to the half-naked guy painted white and wearing angel wings standing on the corner of Temple Square handing out anti-Mormon brochures to get information about the Church.
But, informed accurately or not, I think America would elect a Mormon.
Because in the past, during a time of crisis America trusted a Mormon with another important title – Miss America.
During the 1984 Miss America Pageant we all impatiently waited for host Gary Collins to say the disclaimer given every year, “If for any reason the reigning Miss America is unable to fulfill her duties, the title will go to the first runner-up.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda, Gary. That never happens. Just announce the winner already! We chewed off our fingernails in anticipation.
“And the new Miss America is . . . Vanessa Williams!” She made history as the first African-American Miss America. Ten months later she made history again as the first Miss America to get the boot. The disclaimer we all thought was just a ploy to increase anticipation of the winner announcement actually had to be implemented.
Scandal shook the Miss America organization and its good name when explicit photos of Vanessa surfaced in Playboy magazine. The organization had worked hard to distinguish itself as a scholarship program and not just a beauty pageant. It prided itself on the promotion of women as educated, talented, and well informed and did not take kindly to their spokesperson selling herself as a sex symbol. (This was before their ratings started to tank and they opted to put contestants in teeny bikinis to skank across stage.)
Vanessa turned in her crown, title, and fabulous prize package and exchanged it for a lucrative career in the music/movie/television industry. First-runner-up Suzette Charles took over and reigned for the remaining seven weeks.
A record 100 million viewers tuned in for the 1985 pageant to watch the drama unfold.
Who could follow such a scandal?
Who was worthy of the enormous task to reestablish and uphold the reputation of the Miss America organization?
The Go-To Girl was . . . Miss Utah, Charlene Wells – a student at Brigham Young University and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sex sells, but standards come in for the save.
Charlene was beautiful, poised, talented and educated, like every Miss America is. But her victory at that particular time said something about what Americans do know about Mormons.
Whatever holes may exist in the general population’s knowledge of our beliefs, they do know enough about our high standard of living to believe we can usually be counted upon to uphold values that promote stability.
Our nation is in crisis. The reigning Mr. America is wearing his title like a rock star instead of acting as a responsible leader when our nation’s core values are at stake.
America is ready for a Go-To Guy.
I think Americans would elect a Mormon President in 2012 for the same reasons they crowned a Mormon Miss America in 1985. America might question our faith, mock it, and even be afraid of it, but deep down they admire it.
We are ready for the new Mitt America.