Students in Penn’s Latter-Day Saints Student Association, which was officially recognized as a student group last December, have a unique perspective to share regarding the election.
Many LDSSA members believe that Republican and Mormon candidate Mitt Romney helped familiarize the population with their religion, but agree there are still many questions left unanswered.
Nursing junior and Co-President of LDSSA Liz Harbuck spoke about recent media coverage of Mormonism revolving around misconceptions instead of shedding light on the core beliefs of the religion.
For example, in an interview with Ann Romney in October, Whoopi Goldberg incorrectly stated that followers of Mormonism are not allowed to fight in the armed services. Romney then corrected her.
“A lot of the reasons that Mormons have been in the media so much more have been misconceptions like the Book of Mormon and South Park episodes, which don’t really explain what we believe but put the name out there,” Harbuck said.
“I think we’re making progress, but it’s clear that there’s still progress to be made,” College senior and LDSSA member Joseph Cloward added.
However, the presence of Mormonism in the media, whether accurate or not, has helped spark conversation about the religion.
“Over the last four, five years, it’s become a lot more mainstream, a lot of misconceptions have been clarified, a lot of questions have been answered and we’ve just had more interaction than has been the norm in the last couple of decades,” College junior and LDSSA member Alex Judd said. He added that compared to 2008, the average American is more familiar with Mormonism.
While Mormonism may have received more media attention as of late, the Pew Research Center found in a survey conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 2011 reports that 19 percent of voters were uncomfortable with Romney’s religion.
Judd doesn’t believe that this statistic was very influential at the polls a few weeks ago.
“In the beginning a lot of people said that they weren’t comfortable voting for a Mormon candidate, or they thought that was going to be a problem and that was going to be a deciding factor in their vote, but the campaign ended up being about other issues,” he said.
Moving on from the election, LDSSA, which had 16 undergraduate members when it began last winter, has more than doubled its membership this year, is expanding their presence.
At “Meet the Mormons,” an event that took place last month, LDSSA was able to clear up misconceptions about their religion. They are holding weekly services on campus and taking trips to temples on the East Coast.
The Latter-Day Saints temple in Philadelphia may help them in this endeavor. The temple, to be located on 1739 Vine St. near Logan Square, is anticipated to be completed in 2015. It intends to help unite followers of the faith in the Philadelphia area and allow LDSSA to further its commitment to engaging with the Mormon community.