Times & Seasons, one of the major Mormon blogs, has named former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Mormon of the Year for 2008. Not a big surprise, given his candidacy for the presidency. In fact, a colleague of mine asked who the other contenders might be, and all I could think of were Stephenie Meyer (the author of the "Twilight" series) and David Archuleta (the "American Idol" runner-up). It turns out that they, plus Romney, were three of the five candidates; the other two were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Here's the explanation from Times & Seasons:
"During 2008 Romney concluded the most credible presidential campaign of any Mormon to date and dominated the U.S. national news early in the year like no single Mormon has in recent memory. He garnered a great deal of both praise and criticism, gaining him significant endorsements as well as important detractors. Remarkably, his supporters included many Evangelical Christians, which helped break down the unfortunate views of some Evangelicals toward Mormons. Also on the international scene, numerous press articles mentioned Romney’s membership in the Mormon Church, thus contributing to the image of the Church abroad.
Romney was not merely a very visible Mormon, however; his Mormonism was a major influence on the course of his campaign, in both positive and negative ways. Many called for Romney to distance himself from his religion, as JFK had done many years earlier. Instead, Romney responded by articulating the values he shares with many other Americans, which his faith supports, and by articulating the importance of all faiths in the life of the nation. Romney’s public image was inextricably tied to his Mormon beliefs, and this faith, which drove a myriad of storylines, appeared to contribute to the unease with him as a candidate, helping to derail his presidential hopes."
(Photo, by Alex Wong/Getty, shows Romney during a taping of "Meet the Press" at the NBC studios in Washington on 12/14/08.)