Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the presidency has put Mormonism back under the public spotlight in ways that Latter-day Saints find sometimes insulting, sometimes probing, and often laced with misconceptions. Comments in the press have ranged from Slate editor, Jacob Weisberg, saying that Joseph Smith was a con man and if Mitt Romney believes in such a hoax “I don’t want him running the country” to charges that if Romney were elected, he would take orders from the prophet.

Some of the nation’s leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla, in May 2007 for the Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life where Richard Bushman, emeritus professor at Columbia University and author of several books about Mormon history, discussed the topic “Mormonism and Democratic Politics, Are They Compatible?”

He addressed Mormonism’s shift from being 19th century radicals to 20th century conservatives, and then addressed a lively and spirited set of questions from the nation’s top journalists, including John Fund from The Wall Street Journal, Ken Woodward from Newsweek, Sally Quinn from The Washington Post and other representatives from NPR, Beliefnet, The New Republic, ABC News, The Chicago Sun-Times, U.S. News and World Report and The Boston Globe.

Bushman’s answers are enlightening, intelligent and a model for how to field even difficult questions with aplomb. They are an excellent example of how Latter-day Saints can define our culture and religion in a world where others are often thrusting their own definitions upon us.

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