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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has entered a new era after Mitt Romney^BENT^0027^EENT^s run for president. His candidacy illuminated a changing landscape for the religion.
AP Religion Writer
Stan Way, a Latter-day Saint from Jasper, Ala., had just finished dinner out with some Mormon missionaries when he noticed a car slowing as it approached.
The missionaries were wearing the traditional white shirts and dark ties that identify them as Latter-day Saints. It was about a month before Election Day, when voters would decide whether Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon major party presidential nominee, would become the first Mormon president.
The driver stopped and lowered her car window. "Hey," she said, "it's a good time to be a Mormon!" Then she drove off.
"We stood there in shock," Way said. "That usually doesn't happen in Alabama."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has entered a new era after Romney's run for president. His candidacy illuminated a changing landscape for the religion, where Americans are growing more curious than fearful about the faith, and allies can be found even among Christians with deep misgivings about Mormon beliefs.
"After this, it's hard to say the Mormons are really outsiders," said Jan Shipps, a scholar of American religion and expert on the LDS church.
No one would argue that prejudice and misunderstanding have disappeared. And many wonder how long the new tolerance will last beyond the election. But over the years since Romney first indicated he would try for president, there have been signs of real progress.
Mormons no longer stand alone against insults to their church; leaders of other faiths join them in protest. Christians who once spoke about Mormonism only to condemn it, now also acknowledge the church's dedication to family, charity and community service. Until recently, prominent Christian preachers risked their standing in their communities by appearing at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. That backlash has since diminished.