With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, Jr. in the pursuit for the Republican endorsement to run against President Obama, there have been some --and I can only assume most if not all are Latter-day Saint adherents-- who are calling such a quest 'The Mormon Moment'. The capitalization is intended to suggest that this contest to hold the Office of the Executive of our grand Republic exemplifies the arrival of Mormons onto the national and indeed the world political stage; as if this time is the superlative moment of acceptance for a sect that has pursued the executive office since its inception and has repeatedly failed.
Yet this latest 'mormon moment' is but one of a list in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that have caught the attention of the American population:
The introduction of Mormonism in 1830 must be viewed properly as the first 'Mormon moment', regardless of the fantastical and clearly debunked claims made by its founder, Joseph Smith.
1843 was the year that polygamy was codified as doctrine among the Latter-day Saints, although it had been practiced at least by Joseph Smith more than a decade earlier. It wasn't the date of when polygamy started, but the practice itself that caught the eye and ire of those Gentiles who lived among and near the early Mormons.
The Mormon exodus of 1847 is another stage in Mormon history that perhaps defined Mormon partisans greater than any other, for both good and for ill. The over-zealous and violent persecution of Mormons was not justified, the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum were clearly murderous in intent; but the event has left a germ of a persecution complex that blossoms fully whenever Mormonism is critiqued, regardless how sharply.
September, 1857 is a 'Mormon moment' that the Saints would clearly rather forget, unjustifiably so. The events in a small glade in idyllic southern Utah over a century and a half ago are still raw to the descendants of the Baker-Fancher party, who met death far too early at the hands of a mob that can only be described as self-righteous and self-loathing fanatics who murdered in the name of their god.
1890 can be seen as a year of progress of a kind for Mormonism when the official --and by definition, doctrinal-- repudiation of at least temporal polygamy was put forward by the Mormon hierarchy in October. That's not to say there is evidence to suggest that polygamy was covertly taking place in the Utah Territory and was sanctioned by the church headquartered in Great Salt Lake City.
The same could also be said of the events of 1978, when the Latter-day Saints finally allowed full faith and fellowship to black Africans, some fourteen years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act.
The excommunication of Sonya Johnson in 1979 for her position on the Equal Rights Amendment garnered world-wide media attention, much more so than the 1993 excommunication and disfellowship of The September Six: Mormon feminists intellectuals and historians who opined alternative doctrinal views from that of 'the brethren'.
And as late as 2008, the hierarchy of the Mormon church directed its rank-and-file members to donate --to the sum of over $20 million to defend the California ballot initiative entitled: Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment, otherwise known as Proposition 8.
Now enters Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, Jr. No doubt they will quote Article IV Paragraph III of the United States Constitution which bars the enactment of a 'religious test' for high office. More to the point, they would be unwise not to quote it. Yet they have to bear in mind the following: the electorate have the right and will exercise said right to establish individually any set of criteria they deem fit --oafish or not-- to decide their choice of candidate for president; they would also have to concede that if those who vote against them solely on their 'faith' are being narrow-minded, then ipso facto so are those who vote for them simply because they share the same church membership.
If either candidate is supported and elected in the primaries by the Republican Party to be on the 2012 ballot, then they should be aware that the next big hurdle for Mormonism will be the opening of the temple doors. Suddenly the long-waited 'Mormon Moment' has its fissures. Will conservative Christians and non-believers and a well-read and educated electorate choose to vote for someone who claims a faith that is off limits to critique; that holds ceremonies that they deem are so sacred that they are not available for public or intellectual critique? Doubtful. Romney and Huntsman should be wholly aware there are no sacred cows in politics.