The Mormons attempted to defend themselves and committed an atrocity of their own, the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 (for which the militia leader in charge was tried and executed by the Mormons). But most of the time, the group was on the defensive. Throughout its first seven decades, the sect was harried, persecuted, expelled, reviled and chased across a continent.
The practice of polygamy stirred hostility. As a Jew though, I cannot help noticing that Mormons were also hated because they seemed to prosper economically, because they rose to the top of organizations they joined and because they were so loyal to one another.
Outsiders can surely be fair-minded enough to acknowledge that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gets results. Utah has the nation's lowest levels of welfare dependency, child poverty and single parent homes. Its students are among the top scorers in the nation, despite relatively low levels of education spending. It ranks highest for contributions to charity by the wealthy and among the lowest for incarceration and cancer rates. Prominent Mormons established the Marriott hotel chain, Jet Blue and Bain Capital (of course). Mormon Americans invented the television, word processing and the hearing aid, among other things. Mormons have distinguished themselves in entertainment, sports and politics -- where they have risen to prominence in both parties.
Polygamy having long since been discarded, anti-Mormon bias today, ironically, often focuses on the LDS Church's opposition to same sex marriage. During the contest over California's Proposition 8, which limited marriage to the bond between men and women, opponents sought to intimidate Mormons who contributed financially or otherwise to the initiative. While there has been speculation that Mitt Romney's faith might suppress support among Republicans, a recent Gallup survey found that Democrats(27 percent) were more likely than Republicans (18 percent) to say they would not vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
Mormons are obviously the wrong kind of minority. Oh, they've been persecuted. But through a strong work ethic, self-discipline, traditional morality (Yes, there's an irony there, but get over it) and group cohesion, they have triumphed for themselves and for the country. The first Mormon president would be a milestone. But don't hold your breath for the applause.