SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons in Utah and across the nation were thrilled by the prospect that one of their own might occupy the highest office in the land.
That won’t happen now. But Mitt Romney came closer than any other Latter-day Saint since that once-beleaguered brand of Christianity burst onto the American scene in 1830.
"For many Latter-day Saints, it was a surprise that a Mormon candidate was able to make it as far as Mitt," said Stuart Reid, a Mormon and a Republican state senator from Ogden, Utah. "He’s done more than any single person in recent church history to share with the general public what a Mormon is, putting up a very positive image about Mormons and creating interest in our faith that was unprecedented."
Despite the defeat for Romney, Mormonism came out a winner, said Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.
"It developed a thicker skin in the eyes of the world," Barlow said, "and the world could see that a Mormon who runs for office isn’t, by definition, a nut case."
Overall, most observers say, the Romney candidacy was a net positive for his Utah-based faith.