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11 January 2012

Republicans Warm To Romney’s Mormonism

January 11, 2012

Sky News

Joanna Brooks, the writer behind the Ask Mormon Girl blog, told Sky News: “During the general election campaign we will see increased scrutiny of the Mormon faith.

“Most Americans are unfamiliar with what Mormons believe, so this increased publicity will go a long way towards creating greater understanding.

“But I don’t think his Mormonism will work against Romney in the voting booth. Partisan divisions are far stronger in the US than antipathy towards Mormonism.”


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Will Mormonism Ever be Accepted in America?

January 10, 2012

Opposing Views

So Mormonism, the only truly American-born major religion, finds itself front-and-center in the public spotlight, whether indented or not. I’ll spare readers the history lesson and will assume most folks know the basics of what Mormonism is about. But there are some key points on which most people’s discomfort with the faith seem to rest.

For one, there’s the whole polygamy thing. Though Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both advocated for, and practiced, polygamy (AKA, plural marriage), the church has since distanced itself from this practice. Though most assume this rejection of polygamy is strategic – if not legally necessary – Mormon leaders claim today at least that they view the practice as morally wrong.

Also, to put it gently, the Mormon church has a spotty record with ethnic minorities. Though current media ads depict folks of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, most folks recognize that non-Anglos have historically been seen as “less than” by the Mormon Church.


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Mormon Missionaries Balance Politics, Proselytizing

January 10, 2012


If campaigning for Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire sounds like hard work, try going door to door on primary weekend for Jesus.

That’s what Elder Taylor Bayles is doing in Exeter, N.H. “Elder” is a religious title the Mormon Church gives this missionary even though he’s just 20 years old. His canvassing partner is Elder Kyle Hodson, who’s 21. The two blond, conservatively dressed young men acknowledge that they tend to attract attention when they go door to door. “Generally, walking around New Hampshire in a suit and tie with a name tag makes you in the spotlight,” said Bayles.

They keep a rigorous schedule, sometimes from 10 in the morning to 9 at night, talking to people about the Mormon faith. But in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, there’s something else people want to talk to them about: which candidate they support.


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Door To Door In N.H., Mormon Youth Get 1 Question: ‘Huntsman Or Romney?’

January 10, 2012

WBUR (Massachusetts)

As Sriskandarajah reports on All Things Considered, most canvassers wear candidates’ buttons and carry campaign signs.

But these two young men stand out for having neither. Elder Taylor Bayles — he’s just 20 years old but given the religious title of “elder” by the Mormon church — and his partner, Elder Kyle Hodson, who’s 21, walk around in suits and ties to do their work as missionaries.

They joke about being asked the same question over and over by Granite State voters: “Huntsman or Romney?”

As Sriskandarajah reports, “It’s a question they can’t answer, despite the fact that Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney are both Mormon.”

As Bayles puts it: “The church has a longstanding policy of neutrality as far as candidates and parties; as representatives we mimic that neutrality. But we are people, we do have opinions. We just choose not to voice them during these two years that we serve.”


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‘Mormon moment’ pops up in Harlem land spat

January 10, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)

At issue is the former home of the LDS Church’s Harlem congregation, which The Times describes as “a crumbling, windowless, one-story building on 129th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue and the grassy vacant lot beside it.”

In 2005, the church erected a spanking new building around the corner but retained ownership of its earlier site. Now Mormons are ready to sell that to a residential developer and neighbors are balking. They want to keep the rare open space as a community garden, with the “ramshakle” building for neighborhood parties.

“The Mormons find themselves torn between two charitable missions — the global social-welfare projects that go hand in hand with its energetic proselytizing, which proceeds from the sale will support,” writes Anne Barnard, “and the needs of Harlem, where the mixed-race congregation has achieved a hard-won measure of acceptance despite the church’s fraught history with African-Americans, who were barred from the church’s ministry until 1978.”


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Mormon Church Accused of Gentrifying Harlem

January 10, 2012

New York Magazine

Manhattan’s Mormon community has been roiled by the controversial sale of “a crumbling, windowless, one-story building on 129th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue, and the grassy vacant lot beside it,” the New York Times reports, with the church opting to sell to a big developer instead of local community groups. With similar properties selling for as much as $1 million nearby, church leaders in Utah decided that, in this case, funding their global mission outweighs what some see as the local good. “The more condos you build, the more expensive it becomes for the little guy like me,” said a neighbor.


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How do you know that?

January 10, 2012

Get Religion

The angle chosen by the Times seems like a legitimate one. A rare public dispute between a local congregation and the Mormon hierarchy fits my definition of news. I kept reading, however, to find the source and context to back up the lede’s claim that this situation is unique.

But no experts — inside or outside the faith — are quoted to illuminate readers on the general practices and approaches of local members and the Mormon hierarchy in such situations. Readers are left to take the Times’ word for it that Mormon leaders prefer to handle such disagreements behind closed doors.

To be clear, I don’t doubt that they do. But as a reader, I expect the paper to provide evidence — to clearly show how its reporters and editors know what they claim. You are supposed to tell readers things like that.


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Top Ten Anti-Mormon Statements by Public Figures in 2011

January 11, 2012

PR Web

MormonVoices, a volunteer group dedicated to providing accurate information about the LDS Church, has released a list of the top ten anti-Mormon statements made by public figures in 2011.

“Our intent in compiling this list is to both hold people accountable for inappropriate statements, and to help others see that certain claims about the LDS Church are incorrect,” said Scott Gordon, a managing director of MormonVoices.

“Individuals in the public eye have a responsibility to avoid prejudice and misinformation when speaking about religious beliefs. Religious bigotry is simply not acceptable, and people are starting to see that common claims about Mormons are actually untrue and prejudiced,” continued Gordon.


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Exit poll fun: Catholics, Mormons, and the Rich

January 10, 2012

Washington Examiner

Also, 77% of self-described evangelical or born-again Christians voted for either a Catholic or a Mormon.


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Fire damages building at Mormon temple in Westwood

January 10, 2012

Los Angeles Times (California)

Investigators were trying to determine the cause of a fire that damaged a building early Tuesday at the site of the Mormon temple in Westwood.

The structure was a house under construction on the church grounds, according to an official at the landmark property, the Los Angeles California Temple.

“It was going to be a house for the mission president,” said Fay Smith, a missionary who works in the public affairs office. “Its blackened ribs are still standing.”

Firefighters arrived shortly after 1 a.m. and put out the blaze in less than 30 minutes, according to City News Service. No injuries were reported.


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Fire damages building at Los Angeles Mormon temple

January 10, 2012

Mercury News (California)

A pre-dawn fire Tuesday badly damaged a building under construction at the nation’s second-largest Mormon temple, and arson investigators were trying to determine the cause.

The blaze was reported in West Los Angeles. It took 48 firefighters less than a half-hour to douse the flames, Fire Department spokesman Matt Spence said.

He did not know the extent of damage, but televised reports showed large sections of wood framing were charred black.

The fire did not damage the existing Los Angeles California Temple, a 257-foot-high building dedicated in 1956, or its 13 acres of grounds.


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Fire damages building at LA Mormon temple

January 10, 2012

San Francisco Chronicle (California)

A pre-dawn fire Tuesday badly damaged a building under construction at the nation’s second-largest Mormon temple, and arson investigators were trying to determine the cause.

The blaze erupted just after 1 a.m. in West Los Angeles and 48 firefighters doused it within a half-hour, Fire Department spokesman Matt Spence said.

Because the blaze occurred on church property, the Fire Department’s special house of worship arson task force was called in to investigate, Spence said.


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UPDATED: Fire At Mormon Temple Burns Building On Church Grounds

January 10, 2012

Brentwood Patch (California)

Firefighters were on the grounds of the massive Mormon temple in Westwood early Tuesday morning extinguishing and investigating the cause of an overnight fire that damaged a building that was under construction.

No one was injured in the fire and no other buildings were reportedly damaged. The affected building, a residence for the mission president, is about 4000 square feet, located behind the temple and the visitors’ center. Some of the residence’s frame still stands, blackened by the flames. An adjacent building, a residence planned for the temple’s president also under construction, was not damaged as much. Most of it still stands.

A Los Angeles Fire Department House of Worship Task Force, part of the department’s counter-terrorism unit, was dispatched to the scene for an arson investigation, but that is the standard response for any fire at a religious site, said Matt Spence of LAFD. It is not known whether electric equipment was at the construction site at the time, and an estimate of the cost of the damage is also not available.


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Mormon prophet George Albert Smith overcame depression, other demons

January 10, 2012

Standard Examiner (Utah)

This year Latter-day Saints are studying the teachings of the 8th church president, George Albert Smith. Albert Smith was the first LDS prophet who was monogamous, ending the hierarchal tenure of polygamy. It can be argued that his time was a transition from “ancient” toward “modern” leaders of the LDS Church. (I’m 48, and was born during the tenure of Albert Smith’s successor, President David O’McKay.) Mormons are taught that George Albert Smith was “sickly” at times, and that his health was improved, by his own acknowledgment, through the power of prayer. But his battle with severe depression, which incapacitated the apostle for more than two years, is not mentioned in its proper context, but only as physical ailments.

As blogger J Stapley points out in the bycommonconsent Mormon-themed blog, that’s not all the facts. (Read) To opine that George Albert Smith might have suffered from mental disorder is not unfair to him, nor is it an insult to the late LDS prophet.

Ultimately, it’s a story of triumph for Albert Smith, who was able to resume his life and work after his breakdown, that included depression and anxiety, and continue working for almost 40 years.


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Senor Romney? Candidate’s Mexican roots revealed

January 10, 2012


The report said the Romney clan first went across the border to practice polygamy, a former Mormon custom that was outlawed in the United States.

“He’s got a great pioneer heritage starting with people that crossed the plains going from Illinois to Utah, and then on from Utah down to Mexico,” said Leighton Romney on NBC.


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NBC’s Taibbi Highlights Mitt Romney’s Polygamist Ancestor and ‘Controversial’ Mormon Faith

January 10, 2012

Media Research Center

Taibbi then noted: “In fact, Mitt’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, led that first expedition to escape not persecution but prosecution for polygamy, what Mormons called ‘plural marriage.'” Later, Taibbi cited one of Romney’s Mexican cousins on the issue: “Mike, a church school administrator here, says Mitt should just tell the whole story, even about the family’s polygamist past that died with the great-grandfather Miles.”

Proclaiming that Mitt Romney has “publically ignored” his Mexican roots, Taibbi further asserted: “It’s the Romney family’s roots in the Mormon religion that remain controversial in Mexico, as in the U.S.”


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France recalls Romney warmly, despite his attacks

January 11, 2012

Lebanon Daily Star “He was a strapping fellow, very charismatic,” said Andre Salarnier, a 79-year-old member of the Mormon chapel in Talence, near Bordeaux. “He often came to eat with us. He loved my wife’s Breton pancakes.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has not caught on in France, where it has only 36,000 followers among 14 million worldwide, but Romney and his fellow missionaries worked hard for their rare conversions.


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Divine dispatches: a religion roundup

January 11, 2012

The Guardian (United Kingdom)

With former missionary Mitt Romney looking like a clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination, you’d expect an upsurge in interest in Mormonism from Americans curious to know more about the faith of a man who could end up as president. And so there’s been debate about whether Mormonism is a form of Christianity, spotters’ guides to Mormon celebrities, and speculation as to whether Mormons would have undue influence over the White House. Unfortunately for the churches PRs, it’s the not entirely reverent musical by the creators of South Park, not the presidential candidate, that accounts for an otherwise encouraging spike in use of the search term “Mormon”.


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Gayest US town? Surprise: It’s Salt Lake City

January 10, 2012


Forget San Francisco (18th) or New York (not even on the list) — the gayest city in the U.S. is Salt Lake City, Utah, according to The Advocate, the gay and lesbian newsmagazine.
Rather than rely on the U.S. Census tabulation of gay and lesbian populations, which inevitably yield San Francisco as No. 1, The Advocate used different measures to establish “per capita queerness” — including a city’s number of teams entered in the Gay Softball World Series, gay bookstores, openly gay elected officials and semifinalists in the International Mr. Leather Contest, which is held every year in Chicago.

“While those unfamiliar with the Beehive State are likely to conjure images of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, far-less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred,” the magazine says.


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‘Gayest Cities in America’ list causes a stir

January 10, 2012

USA Today

Here’s an excerpt from The Advocate Salt Lake City write-up: “While those unfamiliar with the Beehive State are likely to conjure images of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, far-less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred. There are more than a half-dozen hot spots for men and women … yes, you can get a drink in this town.”

The Tribune said that in 2009, Salt Lake City was the first city in Utah to pass ordinances housing and employment discrimination “based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The city scored a landmark endorsement from the LDS Church, which opposes same-sex marriage. … Salt Lake City also has Utah’s only mutual-commitment registry to recognize the partnerships of same-sex couples.”


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Is Salt Lake City the ‘gayest’ town in America? Magazine says Utah capital is tops for its nude yoga and LGBT bookstores

January 10, 2012

Daily Mail (United Kingdom)

The ranking might be an unconventional choice for readers who associate the city with the Mormon church, which strongly opposes gay marriage.

Additionally, Utah is continually one of the most politically-conservative states in the country. In 2008, it voted for Republican John McCain by a margin of 28 percentage points.


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Enough Hand-Wringing About the Republicans and Religion

January 10, 2012

The New Republic

But the Republicans are my subject now. The fact is that, while Republican candidates must be “believers,” they can’t believe in the wrong beliefs. Oh, of course, they’re all Christians. But that’s where the trouble begins. Mormonism is a Christian faith. That fact is announced by its very name, its formal name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What could be clearer? But the differentiating Mormon narrative does not unfold in the Holy Land. It unveils itself in upstate New York and moves to Utah and the states of the Great Plains. It is from Salt Lake City where doctrine changes and emerges. It has living saints. There are not one but two Mormon aspirants for the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney is a pious Mormon and an honorable man, as was his father, Michigan governor George Romney who defected from his party’s support for the Vietnam War. The younger Romney carries the heavy baggage of having been CEO of Bain & Company (and other Bain enterprises) which saved some businesses from the graveyard, lost some businesses to the pit, triumphed as capitalism often does but was an intrinsic instrument of the market, in which the rise and fall of companies is an index of the rise and fall of individuals and whole regions of the country. Only Occupy Wall Street has an alternative to this system, and it is not serious.

Romney’s religion has been called a “cult” by Robert Jeffress, an Evangelical Baptist minister in Dallas. Romney’s faith is also that of Jon Huntsman, who was Obama’s ambassador to China, which was one of the few ambassadorships in this administration that wasn’t purchased for campaign cash. (Hillary couldn’t be expected to object to any of this since her husband made “money for embassies” a special attraction of campaign fundraising.) Huntsman, whose father is one of the 1 percent of OWS, is a learned man and seems not to be spoiled by his lush upbringing. Moreover, he was an able emissary to Beijing when it was difficult to be a stable emissary because the president clearly didn’t know how forward or how limp a stance we should take towards the most cynical regime on earth. Anyway, he has not surfaced much in the primaries. But two Mormons are a lot in a campaign like this. I’ve had many students at Harvard who are Mormons. They are honest, candid, smart, hardworking, and touched by the pain of others. That’s what I think motivates them to spend one or two years of their lives in service to others. Mr. Jeffress says that Mormonism is a cult. What religion, with its arcane narratives and miracles, saints and sinners, Satan and salvation is not a cult?


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Faith Perspective: Let’s make 2012 a year of hope

January 10, 2012

Door County Advocate (Wisconsin)

In early February 1846, in the face of mounting tension and opposition, William Clayton left his home, his pregnant wife and family in Nauvoo, Ill., and began the long trek westward to the Salt Lake Valley. He was part of a company that was sent to select an appropriate refuge for the thousands of Mormon pioneers who would soon make their way across the plains to escape the growing mobs and persecutions they faced in Nauvoo.

As can be imagined, Clayton faced many hardships during his travels west, including mud, cold, sickness and hunger. News was slow to reach Clayton and for two months he worried about his pregnant wife until he finally got word of their son’s birth. Shortly after receiving the news he penned new words to an old hymn known as “All is Well.”

Clayton’s “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” quickly became an anthem to the pioneers. Over the past 100-plus years, through recordings and performances this popular hymn has become closely associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; however, its message of hope is for all. It is a message of hope.


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