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Matthew Bowman received his Ph.D. in American religious history from Georgetown University in May 2011, and a master's in American history from the University of Utah. His dissertation, "The Urban[…]

According to Matthew Bowman, author of The Mormon People, Mormons have “a fairly well developed sense of persecution and a sense…that the nation might be hostile to them.” That is why, Bowman argues many Mormons are “uncomfortable with Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency.”

Matthew Bowman: A lot of Mormons, I think, are uncomfortable actually with Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency.  There is a sense in the church—and this goes back to the 19th century when in the 1830s the state of Missouri issued an extermination order saying that the Mormons have to be driven out of the state or all killed, and this was given by the governor to the state militia; Joseph Smith was killed in Nauvoo; the Mormons fled to Utah; then the federal government followed them there and stamped out polygamy through arrests and tearing all these families apart and all of that—Mormons are really . . . have a fairly well developed sense of persecution and a sense that people don’t really understand them, that the nation might be hostile to them, that they could be again, at any time, made fun of or attacked or so on and so forth.

A lot of Mormons feel that Mitt Romney’s campaign is sort of inviting that.  So there are many Mormons who say “You know I wish you weren’t running at all.”  “I wish he was not going to be president.”  Now there are others who say “Well, this is good because this gives us a chance to really unpack all of this stuff and work through all of this baggage and really become American in a sense, you know, prove to the country that they don’t have anything to fear from us and to prove that we are actually fully American.”

In 1904 a Mormon apostle was elected to the Senate and he entered the Senate from the state of Utah, and there were three years of hearings over whether or not the Senate would seat him because he was a Mormon and what—he had divided loyalties and there was this big brouhaha.  The Senate debated this for three years.  Eventually he was confirmed.  He took his seat and he turned out to be an utterly boring middle of the road Republican senator who helped cause the Great Depression.  That proved to a lot of people, well yeah, the Mormons are not going to try to undermine the Republic.  They are going to be just like anybody else.  They are going to be boring Republicans like Orrin Hatch is today, right?  

But for the Mormons there is still some apprehension about what Mitt Romney’s election might mean for them, if it would be a good thing or a bad thing. 

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd