Barbara Bradley Hagerty

The Mile High Gliding facility at the Boulder Airport in Colorado is one of Carol Fiore's favorite haunts. And it's a perfect day for flying: clear, breezy and with a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains.

Fiore used to fly gliders regularly, but a few years ago she stopped. Flying them had become painful.

"I felt, in a way, that I was searching for something that wasn't there," Fiore says. "I was looking for that laughter and that incredible time that I had flying with Eric, and he wasn't in the plane with me. I was by myself."

This is a story about loss and meaning. It's the story of a boy who died and a mother who tottered at the precipice of despair. It's about faith — not in God, but in the ability to build from ashes.

Mitt Romney refused to mix religion with politics in this year's presidential campaign, but that didn't repress people's curiosity about Mormonism. His candidacy brought the homegrown faith into the spotlight.

Patrick Mason, a professor and chairman of the Mormon Studies program at Claremont Graduate University, says attention paid to his faith has been twofold. On one hand, it's been good for attracting new converts. On the other hand, it's turned Mormonism into something of a cultural punch line.

Many religious conservatives thought this might be the year of an evangelical comeback, when voters would throw President Obama out because of his support of same-sex marriage and abortion, and his health plan's birth control mandate. It didn't work out that way.

"I think this was an evangelical disaster," says Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Americans elected Barack Obama to a second term Tuesday, with the president capturing or on the verge of winning all of the key states that had been at the center of his hard-fought campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.

"Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you," Obama said early Wednesday at a speech before thousands of supporters in Chicago. "I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president.

As Americans go to the polls, one of the closest presidential races in years may be determined by a state in the Midwest and a hurricane named Sandy.

After a campaign that has cost some $6 billion, the two candidates are in the same place they started: with President Obama a smidgen ahead of challenger Mitt Romney, so close that differences are in most cases statistically insignificant.

Hannon Young was listening with only half an ear during the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints earlier this month when Church President Thomas S. Monson started talking about missionaries. But then Young perked up — and froze, as Monson declared that women no longer have to wait until they are 21 to go on their missions. They can begin at 19, he said.

"You could hear an audible gasp throughout the whole conference center," says Young, a freshman at Brigham Young University. "It was just this wave of shock."

Fifty years ago, Pope John XXIII launched a revolution in the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council opened on Oct. 11, 1962, with the goal of bringing the church into the modern world. Catholics could now hear the Mass in their local language. Laypeople could take leadership roles in the church. And the church opened conversations with other faiths.

For American nuns, Vatican II brought freedoms and controversies that are playing out today.

Religion used to be everywhere in the presidential elections. George W. Bush courted conservative believers in 2004. In 2008, Sarah Palin excited evangelicals and — unexpectedly — so did Barack Obama.

What a difference a few years make. In 2007, then-candidate Obama used evangelical language to describe his Christian conversion: He was a young, secular community organizer who occasionally visited the local Chicago church, when one day he walked to the front of the sanctuary and knelt before the cross.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon died Sunday at age 92. The controversial founder of the Unification Church was known for attracting young converts in the 1970s and for conducting mass weddings.

Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 to a poor family in what is now North Korea. His life took a dramatic turn on Easter Sunday, 1936, when, he says, Jesus appeared before him. As he told cartoonist and interviewer Al Capp, Moon recognized Jesus from a vision he had had at age 3. Moon said he spoke with Jesus in Korean.

"We carried conversation with mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart," Moon said.

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