A View from Mormon Land
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- the Mormons. Not being Mormon but having lived most of my 53 years in Utah, the seat of the religion, I would like to offer a perspective on having a Mormon as President of the United States.
This question takes on a greater sense of importance with recent reports that the de facto American political truce against attacks on a candidate's religion has been breached by means of a telephone campaign slandering Romney's Mormonism.
I grew up in rural Utah, in a town that was (and is) about 80% Mormon. I went to college in another rural Utah town, somewhat more cosmopolitan because of the university, but the non-student population was still about 80% Mormon. After two post-college years in Massachusetts, I returned to the Salt Lake City valley, which is now around 52% Mormon.
While working as the CEO of the company I co-founded upon returning to Utah, I have hired many people, Mormon and non-Mormon, and have had both working at all levels of the company. Given a lifelong exposure to and interaction with members of "The Church," I have one very solid observation to make: Mormons are no different from non-Mormons.
Mormons do have some unique religious rituals, but so do other religions. They have religious requirements to wear certain articles of clothing (called "garments"), but other religions also have their strictures regarding articles of clothing. Like any religion, there are good Mormons and bad Mormons; the vast majority are law-abiding, God-fearing, decent, honest, hard-working people. A few are slimy, knife-you-in-the-back scumbags.
Two cultural aspects of Mormons that seem unique are: (1) all young Mormon men are expected to serve a two-year proselytizing mission when they turn 19 years old, and most do (a few of the women do the same when they turn 21), and (2) particularly in Utah, where they are the dominant religion, their lives revolve around their religion and congregations ("wards") far more than for most of us.
Regarding the missions, the result of this church obligation is that most young Mormon men (and a few women) are more cosmopolitan than their peers, and many speak foreign languages, as these missions range all over the world. At my business of 95 employees, we had speakers of not only English, but also French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Swedish, Spanish, Hmong (Laos), Japanese, Vietnamese, Icelandic, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, and no doubt several others.
Mitt Romney served his LDS mission in France, and he certainly became more sophisticated by living in France for over two years.
Regarding Mormons' lives revolving around their church, it took me a while to understand this. For example, over the years, my wife and I had many executives and employees of my company over for dinner parties on occasion. Never once in thirty years were we invited to dinner at a Mormon's home*. At first I took offense at this, until I realized the reason: for active Mormons, their lives revolve around their church almost every day of the week. They go to church on Sunday, but during the rest of the week their social activities also involve their church: proselytizing, teaching current members, charitable activities, working on stake (church) farms, working at Deseret Industries (Mormon thrift stores), Relief Society (women's charitable group), directly helping ward members going through difficulties, serving as lay clergy of the church (Bishops, Elders), serving in a variety of administrative capacities, running Mormon-based Boy Scout troops, etc.
How we Gentiles (the Mormon term for "non-Mormon") react to the dominance of the religion depends on each individual. I learned in college that there was no point in dating Mormon women (those who are active generally will not marry a non-member) and no point in trying to arrange regular social activities with Mormons. That said, although I am not religious, I am happy to live in a community where those of the dominant faith believe in self-reliance, honesty, helping those in need, tolerance, etc. I have no doubt that if I were to suffer some personal catastrophe, my many Mormon friends would not hesitate to offer a helping hand, even knowing I am not of their faith. The only price I pay for having so many Mormon neighbors is an occasional knock on my door from the local missionaries, which is easily handled as they are not pushy.
Some Gentiles resent Mormons, though they choose to remain here. Some resent the politics (as you can imagine, Utah is a very conservative state), and some resent the feeling of exclusion. I am sure there have been legitimate cases of business discrimination based on religion, although I never saw or suffered it. I know of men who hate the Mormon Church due to having their hearts broken by a Mormon woman, and I know of ex-Mormons who hate the Church due to the pressures they were subjected to while growing up. I even have heard of cases where a family disowned a member who left the Church. And yet, these issues are hardly unique to Mormons.
Having read the Book of Mormon (which reminds me of Mark Twain's quip in Roughing It -- that if you took out all occurrences of the phrase "and it came to pass," it would be called the Pamphlet of Mormon), and having read some of the anti-Mormon literature that "reveals the secrets" of their Temple ceremonies, I can only say that I find Mormons, as human beings (not theologically), to be indistinguishable from members of other modern Judeo-Christian religions.
We have now suffered through nearly four years of an utterly incompetent, Islamophilic president desecrating and destroying much of what most of us hold dear about this country. Though as a libertarian I do not fully agree with Mitt Romney's politics, the thought of having him as a Mormon president of the United States is a very comforting one indeed.
Jim Elwell is a retired electrical engineer and business owner/manager currently living in Utah.
* There was a single exception to this statement, but it included me only tangentially.