2012: A tale of two Mormons

No close observer of popular culture can fail to notice the far greater mainstream acceptance of the LDS church in recent years. In 2011, the Broadway musical that leads the way with 14 Tony Awards is a largely affectionate satire of LDS missionaries in Africa called The Book of Mormon. The newly appointed president of the redoubtably secular and unabashedly liberal University of Washington is a devout Mormon named Michael Young—a direct descendant (inevitably) of Brigham Young himself.

The recent success of basketball and football teams from BYU hasn’t provoked a backlash of disgruntled paranoids who worry about LDS doctrine or conspiracies. Finally, there’s media talker Glenn Beck, who drew 300,000 participants—mostly evangelical Christians—to his 2010 rally in Washington; he may provoke passionate resentment, but very little of it centers on his Mormon faith.

There is a second reason—tactical and political—that religious questions will barely surface in Huntsman’s campaign. Unlike Romney in 2008, the former Utah governor isn’t counting on Christian conservatives as his principal base of support. In the early stages of the last campaign, Mitt maneuvered to run to the right of his major opponents. In 2008, a Florida televangelist named Bill Keller set up a website called “A Vote for Romney is a Vote for Satan.”