Barack Obama made history as the first African-American president of the United States in 2008. This year could also be historic if GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney were to be elected America’s first Mormon president.
That milestone will involve a number of complexities.
On the campaign trail, Romney keeps his focus simple: fix the economy. But others are fixated on something else: his faith.
He would be the first Mormon president, a topic deemed worthy of cover stories by Time and Newsweek. It’s a faith not many understand.
… Even as Mitt Romney, America’s best-known Mormon, gets ready to take center stage at the Republican National Convention next week, the faith remains a mystery to many.
Romney has rarely mentioned the word “Mormon” during this campaign, so ABC News sought to address the misconceptions in a two-part series.
Part 1 can be found here. Below is the conclusion.
Very few get to go inside the giant, gleaming Mormon temples.
The Celestial Room, one of the holiest rooms in a Mormon temple, is meant to evoke the peace and tranquility of heaven.
Many of the other rooms are equally opulent. Inside the temple, Mormons wear all-white uniforms. And not all Mormons can enter. To have “temple privileges,” Mormons must be deemed chaste and must contribute 10 percent of their income to the church.
In one room, in which there is a heated, chlorinated pool, Mormons are baptized in the name of the dead so that they can have the option of converting to Mormonism in the afterlife. On one side of the pool, oxen represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
Elders Quentin Cook and Russell Ballard are two of the church’s 12 apostles, top officials who are believed to be prophets, seers and revelators.
“We know the voice of God,” Ballard said. “We know what he wants us to do.”
They discussed their rituals with ABC News — to a point — but they would not address rumors regarding things like secret handshakes.
“We don’t get into the details of that,” Ballard said.
“You’re going through a process that, which taken out of context, can seem unusual or different, but if, in the whole context, doesn’t seem that way at all,” Cook said.
When it comes to polygamy — an aspect of the faith that has sometimes drawn public focus — Mormons remind outsiders that the practice was outlawed more than a century ago. And Mormons say both men and women wear special undergarments daily as a tangible representation of their faith, much as some Jews wear yarmulkes.
Mormons say the real center of their faith, though, is family.
In the Sealing Room, Mormons don’t just get married; they are sealed for eternity. To be at the highest level of heaven, a Mormon must be married.
“The Mormon heaven is a fantastically kind of family affair,” said Brigham Young University assistant professor J. Spencer Fluhman, a practicing Mormon and author of the upcoming book “A Peculiar People.”
“It’s a family-oriented vision of the afterlife,” he said. “And so the significance of that view of heaven dictates a family-centeredness here in what Mormons would call mortal life.”
What you don’t know is the Mormons have been running the show for a long time now. They have secret underground facilities where they work with three toed aliens, or so I hear. Someone offered me proof of that once, but I declined. Some rides are not worth the price of admission.