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Romney campaign draws attention to Mormon Church
As many of you know, Mitt Romney is the first Presidential nominee to be of Mormon. But has that attention been positive or negative for the often misunderstood church?
News 5's Amy West talked to Latter-day Saints in Central Nebraska separating fact from fiction about the Mormon faith.
Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate, former governor and Mormon. What's been called, the "Mormon Issue" has played its role off and on during the election,
"Mormonism is a cult and Mormons are not Christians."
Or this from the 2008 campaign?
"'This is the faith of my fathers.' And you and none of these commentators who liked this speech realize that the faith of his father is a racist faith."
Similar to John F. Kennedy and his Catholic faith in 1960, Romney has had to convince Americans that a vote for him doesn't mean a vote for the Mormon Church.
"If I am fortunate enough to become your President, I will serve no one religion, no one group," said Romney.
So has Romney's run for the White House been positive or negative for the LDS Church?
"I think it's been a positive thing because there has been more questions about the church headquarters and nationwide they're getting lots of questions just from people all over the country who want to know more about who we are and what we believe," said Grand Island 2nd Ward Bishop Jared Noorlander.
Noorlander and his family live in Grand Island where he was also recently called to serve as a bishop - a lay ministry in charge of the spiritual and temporal affairs of local members.
From his perspective, even though increased media attention to the Church could bring more scrutiny to its practices it's also an opportunity to set the record straight.
"When people find out that I'm LDS, that I'm a Mormon, they're surprised. They say, 'well, you're pretty normal.' And they've heard some misconceptions out there and they've had their image or their idea of what a Mormon is and they get to know me and they find out that it's not true," said Noorlander.
Misconceptions, like we heard from Reverend Jeffress as he introduced former presidential candidate Rick Perry that Mormons aren't Christians.
"A few people still believe that we are not Christians and actually the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is a nickname that we've been given. So, we truly believe in Christ, we believe that he is our Savior and we believe in the Bible.
Another is that people think that they aren't allowed to visit our church. On any building we have by the name of the church it says visitors welcome," said Noorlander.
While the meetinghouses used for Sunday services are open to the public, entrance into temples is reserved for church members in good standing.
That practice has led many to think of the church and its members as secretive.
But Noorlander and his wife Ralae say they enjoy answering questions about their beliefs, especially in rural Nebraska.
Out of 14 million Latter-day Saints worldwide and more than 6 million in the U.S., Nebraska is home to only about 23,000; and most of those are concentrated around Lincoln and Omaha.
"There's not too many of them here in Grand Island so we've had friends and neighbors that have said, you're the first little Mormon family that we've ever met," said Ralae Noorlander. "The biggest misconception is that we're not normal people. They think we're extremists in one way or another and they don't believe that we're just normal school teachers and doctors and dentists and neighbors."
And presidential candidates.
But even if the "Mormon Issue" has taken a lesser role this time around for Mitt Romney:
"How does your faith shape your position on abortion?"
That question from moderator Martha Raddatz during last Thursday's VP debate between two Catholic candidates demonstrates that religion continues to matter to American voters.
And if you think Mitt Romney's religion means every Latter-day Saint will vote for him, think again. Church leaders say it is officially neutral in matters of politics and does not endorse parties, candidates or platforms.
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