We’ve been hearing for a while now about the so-called “Mormon Moment,” a singularly insipid moniker for the period of time beginning roughly around the start of Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president in 2008 and probably now drawing to a close with his defeat this year. His non-stop candidacy over those years, combined with his role as a faithful Church member and leader brought unprecedented attention to the Church. This led directly or indirectly to all kinds media spotlights on the Church and gave rise to or influenced other cultural touchstones including political issues, a broadway musical, television shows and documentaries like The Mormons on PBS. Arguably, the attention even may have influenced some changes in longstanding Church policies and/or practices.
As this period presumably is drawing to a close with the end of Romney’s candidacy, it will be interesting to see the effect that this increased attention has and continues to have on the Church and the public. I suspect that it has been mostly positive for the Church, as the Church has taken the opportunity to deliver new messages on what the Church is and is not, as well as updating its image. Will the end of Romney’s candidacy mean that the Church will fade back into relative obscurity, or will Mormonism continue to be a presence on the national and international media stage? Time will tell, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the best and worst that came out of this time period.
My favorite part of this cultural phenomenon is the Book of Mormon musical. Irreverent, even profane, but fun and lovable nonetheless, this piece of pop-cultural song and dance fabulousness signals a certain coming-of-age for the Church. Mature people and institutions have to be able to withstand some fun being poked at them, and this musical did that in a pretty loving way, as only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can do. Even people who don’t like the musical have to admit that it shows a ton of talent and, though it may not be a good representation of current beliefs and practices of the Church, in tone and spirit it got a lot of things right and is actually really funny.
My least favorite part of the past few years of media attention has been the ridiculous pontificating by know-nothing media talking heads like Lawrence O’Donnell who, without even the pretence of citing sources, presume to comment on the history and origins of Mormonism. No religion ought to be demonized in the national media by pundits speaking out of their butts, and the past few years had no shortage of this kind of thing. I will be glad if the end of the “Mormon Moment” means at least some respite from this kind of media trash-talking.
What are your nominations for the best and worst of this cultural phenomenon?