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Mitt's bid: Would his loss crush Mormon backers?

Published November 5, 2012 9:11 am

Politics • Romney victory is key for those fasting and praying.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Some Mormons have fasted and prayed for Mitt Romney. Others have donated piles of cash. And busloads have traveled to Nevada and Colorado to campaign for the Republican presidential nominee or spent hours calling potential voters.

So what happens if Romney — the first Mormon heading a major-party ticket and the faith's best shot at the White House so far — loses the Nov. 6 election?

For some Mormons, Romney's bid is more than just a political contest, it's almost a matter of religious destiny, an event rooted in the faith's belief of the major role Mormons will play in saving the world in troubled times.

"In some ways, it's just as simple as having your culture, your faith voted on," says Joanna Brooks, an LDS author. "Especially for Mormons in the American West, Mitt Romney presents the most prominent mainstream face of Mormon culture."

Downside • Come Election Day, Romney could win the White House, breaking through the glass ceiling several Mormons have attempted before. But if he doesn't, the disappointment felt by the losing side could be more devastating for millions of faithful nationwide.

"I never stopped to consider that God had put him here at this time to preserve America, but it could be," says Candace Salima, an Orem Republican and Mormon who adds she has been fasting and praying for Romney to win. "I believe that if Mitt Romney does not win the election on Nov. 6, we will finish our slide all the way into a European socialist democracy."

Salima says a Romney loss would be painful for more than just Mormons, but notes the sting may hurt most for the faithful who believe the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired and that Romney, as a member of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believes so, too.

White horse 'prophecy' • While it's not official church doctrine, some members of the LDS faith have cited the so-called White Horse Prophecy, a lore that in the last days Mormon elders would save the Constitution that would "hang by a thread."

Romney told The Salt Lake Tribune years ago that he doesn't buy into that prophecy, though his candidacy at a time when the nation is facing unprecedented debt and polarization has prompted many Mormons to get involved at levels never before seen. For Melanie Cortez, a Mormon from Thousand Oaks, Calif., a Romney win would put someone in the White House whom she can trust and who she believes will help restore America to the "gift from God that it is.

"We are a people who understand that we have some control of our destiny — that if we're righteous people, and we put in righteous people, that things will go better," says Cortez.

"If it's overwhelmingly against us and it goes the other way, if Obama is re-elected and he continues on the path as he has before, that might be like a dark in the light, and evil in the good, then that's our destiny."

Many Catholics were no doubt upset in 1928 when one of their own, Al Smith, lost his bid for the presidency, and elated in 1960 when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic president.

Romney is the 11th Mormon to run for president and the first to head a major-party ticket.

Upside • David Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame and a Mormon, says he doesn't imagine a Romney loss would translate into a change in how Latter-day Saints interact in the public square.

"My own sense is that Mormonism is pretty resilient," Campbell says. "It's proven that time and time again. I would not expect any sort of retreat from American culture the way Christian fundamentalists retreated" after the Scopes "monkey trial" in 1925, when the theory of evolution went on trial.

In the alternative, some Mormons argue that they've already won — whether or not Romney pulls it out on Election Day.

"For him to win or lose, either way, Mitt Romney has done a lot of great things for his faith and Christianity," says Keith Kruder, a Utahn who has traveled to Nevada to stump for Romney. "He has really opened the door for folks to look beyond what they've been told" about the LDS faith previously.

The same goes for Shandi Elise Hill, a Mormon and a Washington, D.C., lobbyist who says she's done her best to turn out votes for Romney in her Alexandria, Va., neighborhood.

"At the end of the day," Hill says, "it's only been positive feedback from folks who didn't know much about the church."

tburr@sltrib.com