Palmyra, N.Y. — Mormonism has received increased exposure in recent months, thanks to Mormon politicians and pop culture.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John Huntsman are both vying for the party’s nomination. Both are Mormons.
“The Book of Mormon,” a musical comedy playing on Broadway, won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Prominent figures like Glenn Beck, Senator Harry Reid and "Twilight" author Stephanie Myers are all Mormon.
On Thursday, hundreds of Mormons gathered at Hill Cumorah in Palmyra. Every year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organizes a pageant to commemorate the founding of the Mormon religion.
Heather and Eddie Gist traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in this year’s pageant. They say this year, attendance may increase because of the exposure Mormonism has gotten.
“There’s so much going on that’s involving Mormons right now,” Heather says. “So I think a lot of people are interested to see what we really believe.”
Mormons like the Gists say it’s no secret that many people are not accepting of their faith.
“I think unfortunately, for a lot of years, a lot of people have heard the word "Mormon" or "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" and say. ‘Oh, those are the strange people that don't talk to anyone else,’ or they have these strange misconceptions,” Heather says.
Heather says she welcomes the attention because it could lead to more people asking about the Mormon faith.
“I think it gives us a really good chance to explain who we are instead of letting others explain for us who we are,” she says.
Benjamin King, a Hill Cumorah pageant participant, says he believes it will be awhile before Mormonism is considered mainstream, but is happy to see it get more attention.
“To see it more accepted on television and people getting the right idea about who we are, that makes me feel a lot better,” King says.
In a recent Pew Poll, about 25 percent of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate.