As the race for the Republican nomination commenced in 2011 featuring two prominent Mormons, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, the stage was set for the media to examine the Mormon religion. From NBC to the Daily Show on comedy central, Mormonism became a topic of discussion and debate across the nation.
Denise Burnett, a senior in peacebuilding from Washington, spoke of the positive affects in her life. “Doing my internship abroad this summer, I saw an influx of interest and recognition of the LDS Church with Mitt Romney’s role in the U.S. presidential election. I feel this has opened up a lot of opportunities for the church and brought a lot of missionary experiences.”
Harry Smith of NBC News reported on the church’s welfare program on Brian William’s “Rock Central” and spoke about the love and care Mormons have for others. He said, “We met these different people from so many different walks of life. You would not be able to distinguish these people from any other walk of life except for their total commitment to their faith.”
On the sports front, Notre Dame’s Linebacker and Laie’s own Manti Te’o was voted second in the Heisman Trophy race and inspired people with his positive attitude and perseverance on and off the field. Daniel Lawler, a senior from Utah, said Te’o’s “inspirational heroics off the field showed us it’s what you do when the storm comes that defines you as a man. His story touched many lives and his play on the field echoed what kind of man he was off the field.”
High school athlete, Jabari Parker also made headlines last year. He was only the 13th high school athlete to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine and appeared on “Good Morning America” with Katie Couric. His Mormon faith was on display, as seminary and missionary service was shown and discussed in his interview. “He seems almost too good to be true,” commented Josh Elliot, co-host of “Good Morning America.”
American Idol star David Archuleta was featured in Rolling Stone magazine singing with other missionaries at the LDS General Conference. The magazine attached the caption: “David Archuleta harmonized with fellow aspiring Mormon missionaries in Utah before leaving to spend two years on a religious mission in South America. Hardcore!”
Along with Archuleta’s “hardcore” devotion, other Mormons alike have made the perception of Mormons change for the better. Toby Redd, a junior in finance from Washington, spoke of the new perception of Mormons. “People think Mormons are more normal now. They don’t think of us as a crazy cult anymore because of all the exposure this year.”