Micropolis: Mormons in the City

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Lisa Higbee loves President Obama. She loves Mitt Romney too — so much so that she composed a song that she played for me in her Inwood apartment.

“Mister Romney! Mister Romney!/ You can help your country with your brave and generous ways,” she sang.

Higbee, a speech pathologist, is one of around 42,000 Mormons who live in New York City. And not all members of her faith share the same excitement about the GOP challenger.

“There are a lot of us, especially in New York, that are ready for the election to be over,” said Kristina Petersen, a biochemist who’ll be voting for Obama, “because it’s caused a lot of conflict just within members of the church.”

Despite his political leanings, Petersen said she thinks Romney's candidacy has helped demystify Mormonism for many. "I think at first the Mormon thing was a deal breaker," she explained. "People were like, 'They believe in a prophet — what is this?'"

Emily Kunz, a conservative, said it was “discouraging” to watch her faith “be called a cult, or to be ridiculed” during the Republican primary. Although she will vote for Romney in part because he’s a Mormon, she also embraces his politics.

Even Mormons who don’t plan to vote for Romney speak to his intrinsically Mormon appeal.

“He's a very successful, good-looking, well spoken Mormon,” said Lachelle Francis, 27. “And not that that's hard to find. I find that by and large, Mormons tend to be that — all of those things. But he's such a good representation of what it is to be Mormon.”

Francis is gay, and stopped attending services after the Church of Latter Day Saints declared its opposition to same-sex marriage. The church stated, through a spokesman, that it doesn’t endorse political parties or candidates.

For Mormons like Alexander Struk, the fear is that their faith would be singled out if Romney becomes president.

“I just hope that if he is elected, and he does enact an agenda that large parts of the country will probably find unappealing or unpopular, that's not conflated with his religious beliefs.”

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