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An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

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Latest update : 2012-03-05

A journey to the Mormon Heartland

Mitt Romney is a Republican presidential hopeful, and a disciple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons could soon see one of their own in the White House... They are often criticized for their lifestyle and beliefs. Who are the Mormons? They make up 60% of the population of the State of Utah. Our reporters went to the Mormon capital: Salt Lake City.

A customs official inquires about our destination, stares at us, and quips "Nobody goes to Salt Lake City”.

Indeed, there is not much to see in Salt Lake City. Before the Mormons, there was nothing at all. The principal attraction of the city is the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Our challenge in making this report was to act as objectively as possible. Faith is a subject on which everyone has an opinion, but we tried not to form a preconceived one. Instead, we wanted to truly understand what Mormonism is, who the Mormons are. We therefore spent time with the faithful of the Church of Latter-day Saints, listened to them, and got them to speak to us. We met charming and welcoming people. Did they simply want to give a positive image of themselves? I don’t believe so. We met people who were convinced they were right, who understand that others may have reservations about their way of life, their beliefs and the way their church works, but who think that all these criticisms are born of ignorance – which, in itself, is comprehensible.

However, we were surprised to discover that most Mormons themselves remain ignorant, with tacit rules forbidding them to consult “anti-Mormon” literature or make contact with what are considered negative influences. For example, students from the Mormon campus of Brigham Young University explained to us that prior to the launch of the "I'm a Mormon" campaign promoting Mormonism, they were unable to access YouTube from the campus computers.

We also met several former Mormons whose faith resulted in them suffering psychologically. Some told us of painful experiences, others of tragic stories. But all of them said they were enjoying a new life since breaking with the Church of Latter-day Saints.

Throughout this report, we tried to answer a question: why has Mormonism become such a craze, and grown so much? I think we were able to shed some light on the reasons why.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows how to reassure people, both materially and spiritually. It promises security to its flock, by feeding them if necessary, helping them look for a job, or finding them a foster home. It also helps them overcome their fear of death, by promising them eternal life surrounded by all their loved ones.

By Stéphanie Brillant , Rayan HINDI

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