This will come as a shock to you, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I know, I know. You have not heard of this before now, and it will take a while to adjust.
Obviously, I'm being facetious, which happens about once every thirty seconds in each election cycle, but my main point is this: After all the attention paid in this campaign to Mitt Romney's religion, voters still don't feel like they know the man.
So this week we will learn more.
According to today's Politico, Romney "has not discussed being a Mormon at great length on the campaign trail, and the convention is set to be a major depature from past practice." For his speech on Thursday night, Romney plans to discuss his religious faith. He'll be doing this against the advice of Sen. Orrin Hatch, a fellow Latter-day Saint who thinks he should focus single-mindedly on the economy.
But Thursday's not the only time Mormons and their religion will take center stage. This evening, Republican congressional candidate and Tea Party It Girl Mia Love will get national exposure not only for her platform, but for the presence of racial diversity within Mormonism.
That's not irrelevant in a campaign that has suffered some rough criticism of Mormonism and its history, including its diffcult legacy of racial discrimination.
As Max Mueller reports in today's Religion & Politics:
[Love's] speech, delivered during the much-coveted primetime television coverage, will be the biggest moment in the young political career of Love, a Republican congressional candidate from Utah’s Fourth District. It will also serve as the introduction for most Americans to the woman whom many prominent Republicans, including the GOP presidential ticket itself, expect to be a leading voice in Congress for years to come.
Love might be the most talked about Republican congressional candidate in 2012, with numerous appearances on Fox News and CNN, and profiles in the New York Times and Washington Post, as well as lots of exposure on conservative political blogs. Yet so far, more than her Tea Party politics, it is her unique biography—she’s a Haitian American woman and a Mormon convert—that has garnered most of the attention. If elected, she will become the first black Republican woman in Congress. As one longtime Utah political observer told me, “If Mia Love wasn’t a black, Mormon, conservative woman, no one outside of Utah would have ever heard of her.”
Love isn't the only Mormon with visibility at this week's GOP convention. Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins reports that others include Ken Hutchins, a retired police chief and longtime Romney supporter who will deliver Thursday's invocation, and various members of the Romney family.
All this positive focus on Mormonism is a far cry from the 1856 Republican convention, which openly denounced Mormonism and polygamy, citing plural marriage as one of the "twin relics of barbarism" that, alongside slavery, were a blight upon the American nation.
Republicans 156 years ago would have liked to erase Mormonism from the earth. Tonight, they're poised to celebrate it.