Mormonism is a minority sect once persecuted by mainstream American Christians for its unconventional doctrines and practice of polygamy. It is still viewed by many as an odd cult. But a Mormon is the Republican nominee for president, and he can take consolation that if he loses, it will not be because of his religion.

That may be the biggest surprise of this election year. Freedom of religion is a constitutional principle, but it has long coexisted with widespread hostility toward certain faiths. When he ran four years ago, Mitt Romney’s affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a novelty that looked to be a liability.

Running against him then, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — an ordained Southern Baptist minister — asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee went on to trounce Romney in the Iowa caucuses.

During that campaign, in an effort to allay suspicions, particularly among evangelicals, Romney gave a speech announcing, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind.” He ostentatiously aligned himself with Christian conservatives by denouncing those “intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.”

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