By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With Mitt Romney as the Republican Presidential nominee, more attention has been focused on his Mormon religion. A contributor to a PBS special on the faith found herself very drawn to it.

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Falling in Love with Joseph Smith is alternately a history book and memoir. Author and spiritual seeker Jane Barnes describes her growing flirtation with the faith as a near-conversion she calls it.

She delves into the family and times of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, himself trying to find God in such a heavily-evangelized section of upstate New York, it was called the burned-over district, no fuel left for religious flames.

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“He’s a fantastic American original. He’s like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, only he’s a religious boy. He’s not what we expect out religious boys, but in this religious boy there’s a lot of mischief and poetry. There’s humor. There’s appetite. There’s liveliness and there’s making the Christian religion new for America,” says Barnes.

Cleary, on that last point, Mormons and non-Mormon Christians will disagree, but Barnes, at least, has found her investigation helpful in achieving personal equilibrium in a stormy world.

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