This may seem like a good time for Mormons in America. Mitt Romney, the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is a Mormon, as is John Huntsman, another candidate in the race.
It seems clear now that many republicans and independents will be willing to vote for a Mormon candidate regardless of religion. Support for these candidates could be interpreted as acceptance of Mormonism on a wider scale perhaps never before seen in the U.S.
But according to a poll just released by the Pew Forum on Religion and the Public Life Mormons aren’t feeling the love. Nearly half of those surveyed believe they are subjected to discrimination and many feel they are particularly targeted for criticism by Christian evangelicals.
The survey also revealed that though Mormons are deeply rooted in American life, they still feel marginalized and outside of the American mainstream. Not surprisingly, most Mormons polled consider themselves more conservative than the public at large except on the issue of immigration where they are more moderate than most white evangelical voters.
As marginalized as they feel, a large majority of Mormons in the poll said they are optimistic about public acceptance of their church.
Why do Mormons still feel marginalized and misunderstood? Is this typical among most religions, or unique to Mormons? To what extent might this “Mormon Moment” help or hurt this feeling Mormons have of being outside mainstream American life?
Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University.