Bridge-building between Mormons and the conservative movement helps explain the Reagan administration's push to hire many Mormons into the White House - which further cemented the alliance. That bond continues to lure Mormons to D.C.
Ruzicka, for one, continued in the political footsteps of her mother, arriving in Washington in her mid-20s to lead a nonprofit that promotes safe haven laws, which allow young mothers to legally abandon young children at fire stations.
Beyond hot-button social issues, U.S. Rep. Chaffetz says the Mormon faith engenders support for limited government.
"The church is very adamant about personal responsibility, and for people to voluntarily participate in service," the Utah Republican says. "There's this feeling that service is not something that should be mandated by government."
The LDS Church, for its part, insists it is politically neutral and that it avoids pressuring Mormon elected officials to tow a church line. "The church's mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians," the church's website says.
Mormon experts say the church's support for a relatively strict separation of church and state is born of the U.S. government's refusal to help Mormons in the face of early persecution.
And after being accused of setting up a rival government around the turn of the last century, the church is loath to be seen giving marching orders to LDS politicians.
The church did, however, play a leading role in passing Prop 8, California's gay marriage ban, in 2008. Church officials called it a moral cause, not a political one.
Plenty of critics disagree. But neither Mormon bishops nor church officials are known to lead the kind of church-based legislative lobbying efforts that Catholic bishops or evangelical leaders do.
Mitt Romney himself embodies the reluctance of Mormon politicians to connect their religion and their public policy positions, in contrast to politicians of other faiths.
That reluctance also appears to be born of anxiety over Americans' lingering questions and doubts about Mormonism. When Pew asked Americans last year what word they associated with the Mormon faith, the most common response was "cult."
In recent weeks, Romney's newfound position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has produced a mix of excitement and worry among Mormons. That's especially true in Washington, where politically savvy Latter-day Saints send out frequent e-mail round-ups of Mormon media coverage to their LDS networks.
"A lot of us know it's ultimately a good thing, but it's hard to feel like it's a good thing because so much of the publicity is about things you wouldn't talk about in polite company, like my underwear," says Pederson, referring to the enduring fascination with Mormon undergarments.
Like many conservatives, Pederson is suspicious of Romney.
"I don't like his waffling, to put it gently, on life and family issues," she says. "But if it comes down to Romney versus Obama, hand me the pom-poms. I'll be president of the Romney-Is-the-Best-We-Can-Come-Up-With-for-President Club."
For now, Pederson is working with the National Right to Life Committee's political action committee to raise money for the Romney effort, even as she makes up her mind about how actively she wants to promote his candidacy.
Some of her calculus is about weighing political reality against her conservative idealism. And some of it is about her next professional move. It's a very Washington place to be.