Study portrays Mormons as outsiders looking in

(RNS) In some ways, Mormonism is the ultimate American religion. Born in America, it was unveiled by an American prophet who believed God inspired the Constitution and the Garden of Eden bloomed in Independence, Mo. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown from six members gathered around a charismatic New Yorker named Joseph Smith in 1830 to nearly six million believers in the U.S. alone. Richard Ostling, a religion expert and co-author of the book “Mormon America,” calls Mormonism “the most successful faith ever born on American soil.” But even as a devout Mormon leads the GOP field for the presidential nomination and the award-winning musical “The Book of Mormon” plays to overflow crowds on Broadway, a new survey portrays Mormons as strangers in their own land.

Would Mormons try to influence a Romney White House?

WASHINGTON (RNS) When Switzerland passed new employment rules that ban foreign religious groups from sending unpaid missionaries, 13 Mormon members of Congress pleaded with the Swiss ambassador for an exception. The Swiss ambassador sent a respectful, yet perfunctory, letter in response, and while some meetings took place, the rules went forward. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and a Mormon, called it “very disappointing.” But for some, the fact that Mormon lawmakers waged the battle at all is troubling, and they point to it as evidence that if elected president, Mitt Romney may use his post to promote his faith and protect its interests. “I think it is a very serious problem that would arise if he is president,” said Fred Karger, a gay rights activist from California who is running a fringe campaign for the Republican nomination.