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.

Westboro Baptist Church first gained notoriety in 1998, when members picketed at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered because he was gay.

Since then, the members have protested at the funerals of public figures such as Elizabeth Edwards, children killed in bus accidents and soldiers killed in war. Shirley Phelps-Roper, the church spokeswoman, says the members want God to punish Americans for tolerating homosexuality. They picket funerals to make people angry, she says: They want people to reject God and be condemned to hell.