Laurie Goodstein, religions reporter for “The New York Times,” planned to lecture at the event, but because of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, she was unable to attend. President Matthew Holland covered her spot instead.
“I think it is particularly fitting that UVU is hosting this event, given that right now we are heading in a fairly significant budget shortfall due to the missionary age change,” Holland said. “We are having our own Mormon Moment as we speak.”
Before the discussion began, a clip of The Stephen Colbert Show was screened that focused on Mormonism and Mitt Romney’s potential presidency.
According to the Stephen Colbert Show, during the presidential campaign, just 45 percent of American voters had a positive view of Mormons. Only Athiests and Muslims rated lower.
Moderator Brian D. Birch, associate vice president for academic affairs and director of the Religious Studies and Philosophy Program, came on after the four-minute clip, turning the audience’s attention to the panelists.
Panelists included Kristine Haglung, an editor of “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,” and James Faulconer, a Richard L. Evans Chair of Religions Understanding and an associate director of Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University.
Each panelist took a turn at expressing their opinion on what would become of the Mormon Moment. It seemed the idea of the Mormon Moment continuing in popularity wasn’t very likely.
“I disagree with those that think the LDS church has just begun some ‘Golden Age’ of media interest,” said Peggy Fletcher-Stack, a religion reporter from The Salt Lake Tribune. “The Mormon Moment is over, at least this Mormon Moment is.”
Like Fletcher-Stack, most audience members agreed that the Mormon Moment was finished, at least for the time.
“The Mormon Moment changed Mormonism more than it changed America,” said Matthew Bauman, audience member.
To some, this may have seemed like a problem, but for others, the possibility of a Mormon president seemed to be too much.
“The Mormon Moment in the way Mormons think about this as it’s like a dorky guy in high school and wants to a get a date to prom with the prettiest girl in school,” Faulconer said. “I was hoping he wouldn’t get the date, I just wasn’t really crazy about the early manifistations of the Mormon Moment. I didn’t think the national attention on us was going to be good for us.”
It is unclear whether the Mormon Moment will disappear as it did after the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“Was this particular Mormon Moment different?” asked Russell Arben Fox, associate professor of political science at Friends University in Kansas. “The suggestion is, yes.”
Whether or not the Mormon moment will continue is up to the public. What is known for sure is what actual involvement in the community the LDS church has. For some, what the LDS church does is clear. For others, it may not be.
“Most [Mormons] believe many reasonable things, and a few nutty ones,” Haglung said. “Mitt was at his most likeable on the night he described the way a church with a big central bureacuracy manages to make charity possible and interdependence at a local level.”