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X-Mormon Lead Writer Newsweek Mormon Moment

While many members of the LDS Church appear to be giving a pass on a series of controversial stories on Mormons in the current issue of Newsweek, I cannot.  A closer examination of the content that is finely woven throughout this project, reveals a strong underpinning that is intended to create further skepticism about Mormonism.   One cannot help but question why a ridiculous caricature of Mitt Romney suddenly appears only days after he announces his run for the highest office in the land.  Nor can it be ignored that the the lead writer on the cover story, Mormons Rock, is a former Mormon who has made public remarks disparaging the Church in the past.


This Mormon package is supposedly Newsweek’s attempt to highlight the current Mormon Moment that the Church is experiencing, by profiling successful LDS members and their faith.  But as I read the cover article, the best I can see as its purpose is an intended, failed attempt to encourage mainstream America to take a closer look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members -- namely Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.   

The Newsweek stories come right on top of another controversial article of last week, suggesting that Mormons are dangerous and that a vote for a Mormon is a vote for the Mormon Church -- meant to strongly discourage evangelical support for the likes of Mitt Romney, or any other LDS candidate.

These various articles, and others, appear to be lining up to emphasize exactly what the other one purports.  And in my opinion, this isn't looking too good for any member who runs for a public office.

It should not be seen as ironic then, when we hear that the latest polls have Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat among registered voters, with Romney in the lead at 49-47%.  Also reported is Obama's disapproval rate, currently at 59% -- an all time high!  These are serious reasons for President Obama to be concerned about his job security, also for those who support him.

Getting back to Newsweek...

As you can see, Mitt Romney's head has been superimposed over top of the head of a Mormon missionary, in this poster from the incredibly irreverent and blasphemous play The Book of Mormon Musical.  You already know my feelings about this play.  Bothersome, to say the least.  Was this meant to mock either Mitt Romney or the LDS Church?  What’s your reaction?  

It has required some deep pondering on my part to figure out what I dislike most about all of this, but here it goes...  Lets begin by looking at those who are creating, as of late, these various types of media off of the LDS Church and its prominent members -- and then we will begin to see a clear picture for their actual motives - besides money.  These motives become quite apparent when we take a look at the end products.  Problem is, that in nearly every circumstance, these very same people end up frankly denying their intention for doing what they have done -- this because they have been called out in some way -- insisting that they never intended to offend faithful Mormons, or distort our beliefs to the general public, etc...  And they seem to be getting away with taking this quickie-apology approach.  And why not?   They don’t need to concern themselves at the brief lashing they receive (from a minority) as long as they actually accomplish their original mission.  Which they seem to be on the road to doing, quite effectively.

So, who are "these people"?  Well, in every case the majority of these are a part of the liberal mainstream media who are masters at using their voices to discredit, mock, distort and offend people of faith -- and in this case, Mormons.  Yup,  I'm on the conspiracy theory/sensationalism train today!  And I can't deny it.  This is a train that I rarely ever ride, but here I sit...  But let me just say, I don't like being here, particularly when it puts me somewhat in opposition to other members that I respect.  I don't expect everyone to agree with my perceptions -- and that's fine.  But lately there's just too much for me to ignore, any longer.

As I see it, now that Mitt Romney has announced his official run for the U.S. Presidency, the claws are fully coming out.  It's apparent that the groundwork has been well laid and now is the time to strike!  The liberal media are part of, what I believe, is a concerted effort to discredit Mitt Romney, a republican, by extorting every common distortion of the LDS faith to either create concern in the general public, or to resurrect these concerns from 2008.

Once again, one is compelled to ask more questions...  Why would the secondary type placed at the very top of the cover article suggest that Mormons have conquered Broadway?  This suggests that the Church endorses this play.  Why bring up Big Love, a show founded in a practice that the LDS Church distanced itself from over 100 years ago?  The Book of Mormon Musical and Big Love both having derogatory and blatantly distorted messages about Mormonism.  Are these to be considered as part of our Mormon Moment?     

As I read, and re-read multiple times, the Newsweek article Mormons Rock -- of which many Mormons have no problem, I found consistent hypocrisy in what Newsweek suggest to be its purpose for their Mormon Package.  Which I might add is quite confusing when applied to this article. (to highlight the current Mormon moment that the Church is experiencing, by profiling successful LDS members and their faith)

Of particular interest to LDS members are McKay Coppins, who describes himself  as "a practicing Mormon" and head writer, Walter Kirn, who is a former Mormon.   Wikipedia informs us that Kirn was the  recipient of the 2009 William Law X-Mormon of the Year Award.  From what I've been able to garner, Kirn’s motives legitimately can and should be in question.

About his award, Kirn posted this comment on Main Street Plaza:

“i pledge on my honor as a former holder of the lowest class of the aaronic priesthood that my candidacy is real, that i have honestly solicited votes in the accepted traditions of american self-promotion and solipsistic attention-mongering, and that those who’ve voted for me are also real. i might add that by urging them to vote for me i have brought this fine website many visitors from the highest to the lowest social echelons who might never have found it otherwise, which makes me a sort of evangelist to be thanked rather than an interloper to be questioned or reviled. dang right i want this distinction. what’s wrong with that? having suffered through the anti-masturbation campaign revved up by the church in the late seventies, i also believe that i’m fully qualified to represent… screwed up people everywhere.

It's difficult to put myself in Coppins’ position as a team player on this project.  I had the opportunity to raise a few of my concerns with him.   He strongly disagreed with me.  He claimed to have no clue about what I am suggesting.  Fine.  To his credit he did ask me to give him specific examples of what I meant?  I chose not to, due to his initial response.  Instead, I decided to continue working on this post.

I'm not sure if Coppins is just too close to the project, only sees his own intentions, or just refuses to look at or acknowledge other's possible motives?  I trust that his motives were to be a credible resource on Mormonism.  But I also feel that he can only speak for himself and not assume that other team authors feel the same.  However, one can only imagine what the article would have been without his influence.  So thanks, McKay, for the good that you are able to accomplish in this arena.   Your work is much needed.

On a side note - Coppins did author, solely, the excellent profile on Elizabeth Smart!

It seems only fair that I should explain what I mean when I say:  The liberal media are part of, what I believe, is a concerted effort to discredit Mitt Romney, a republican, by extorting every common distortion of the LDS faith to either create concern in the general public, or to resurrect these concerns from 2008 -- as applied to the Mormons Rock article.  OK, I will confess that this statement is a bit over the top...  but not much.  

Here again, another question must be raised --  why so much emphasis on digging up the past?


One need only to begin reading Mormons Rock before they are met with the first of an article filled with one after the other stinging darts, intended to strike at the very center of what many in the general public perceive to be negatives of Mormonism -- and in this case predominately Romney.  (if you haven't already read the article yourself, now would be a good time)

I will proceed to quote the article in various places throughout and add what I perceive to be the underlying MESSAGE ---

"But there was one challenge—a challenge that could alienate the kind of Republicans who vote in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina—that Romney didn’t address: his Mormon faith."

TRUST

"In recent weeks NEWSWEEK called every one of the 15 Mormons currently serving in the U.S. Congress to ask if they would be willing to discuss their faith; the only politicians who agreed to speak on the record were the four who represent districts with substantial Mormon populations. The rest were “private about their faith,” or “politicians first and Mormons second,” according to their spokespeople. The evasiveness extends even to presidential candidates."

SECRECY - I find it interesting here, that it is inferred that every politician that was invited to respond gave one of only two responses, "according to their spokespeople".


"The more moderate Huntsman, meanwhile, has repeatedly deflected attention from his Mormon roots, telling NEWSWEEK in December that religious issues “don’t matter” and that the LDS church doesn’t have a monopoly on his spiritual life."

MORE SECRECY

After pressing reasons for Romney and Huntsman to explain their Mormon faith to the people, the article goes on to emphasize strong reason why some people will most likely not vote for a Mormon candidate.  Adding to their reasons - POLYGAMY.

Then we have three in a row subtlety woven mentions about our WEIRDNESS, SPECIAL UNDERPANTS, and MAGIC SPECTACLES.

And then this...

"Those inclined to think of Mormons as a band of zealots bent on amending the Constitution to outlaw cappuccino may never be convinced. But the rest of us might benefit from hearing the country’s most prominent and influential Mormons tell the truth about their faith: that the distinctiveness of the Mormons is actually the secret of their success."

The truth?  As if they currently are lying?  Again, this reemphasizes the issue of SECRECY with Mormons and our faith.  It is intended to do exactly that.  The message is loud and clear -- don't TRUST a Mormon!  And TRUST is at the very heart of any presidential election.  If the ability to TRUST an individual can be undermined, however subtle, then the opposition wins.  It's that simple.

Let me give you one more quote.  In fact, this is the very last thought readers are left to consider -- with a little help from the authors, which I will include:  

“But now Salmon has decided to run in 2012 for his old congressional seat—and he’s refusing to “hide” from his heritage. “Our Mormonism is fundamental to who we are, whether in business, politics, or our daily activities,” he says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I love to serve and would love to serve again. But if I have to shade over who I am and what I really believe and how I think to be successful, then I don’t want to be successful.”

Please note the word "hide", as if to infer that this is precisely what the authors have made manifest in the article and now want to make sure the reader has not missed.   They conclude by using another members personal statement to suggest this should be the position of all Mormon politicians.  Bullseye ---> TRUST and SECRECY!

These are only a few examples from this article riddled with negative suggestions intended to strongly lead the reader...

Now, do I believe that this article was meant to bash the LDS Church?  No, I do not.  However, I do believe that the Church gets in the way, therefore affected, by the intent to discredit an individual member of the Mormon faith, because of his faith -- which again is emphasized throughout the entire article.   Nevertheless, I don't worry about the Church.  I have a testimony of this work and the ability of the Lord, with the help of His people, to use all opposition to ultimately build.  

To this reader, the article presented an ongoing list of past and current criticisms and hopeful concerns that the public does and should have about Mormonism -- but most important, a potential Mormon president.

As you continue to read the article on your own, with this perspective, I believe that it will become evident what the underlying message is intended to be...  Mitt Romney is not to be TRUSTED because he is a Mormon! (after all, look at every reason you should not, as we've listed them right here to remind you)

I said last week that I have no position on any candidate at this time.  I didn't vote for Mitt Romney four years ago.  So this post has nothing to do with supporting Mitt Romney, or anybody else.

What I don't think is right, is that the liberal media is getting away with these kinds of tactics and the public seems to be letting them get away with it - over and over again.  Perhaps many buy into the flimsy excuse that no harm was ever intended -- or they truly don't see the harm?  

The better we are able to identify these tactics by the liberal mainstream media, the more effective we will be at expressing our opinions in the public arena -- of which we must.  If something doesn't feel right, even when many others are saying it is good -- that's a red flag!  That has been my experience.  Things are never that simple when it comes to religion or politics -- and to think otherwise is to be snoozing on the naive train.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Michael Otterson posted this week at ON FAITH, an open letter to Warren Cole Smith -- the author of the above mentioned article suggesting that a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the Mormon Church.  I wish I had Brother Otterson's  skill and finesse for expressing my own thoughts.

In many ways I think it is easier to call out those who are blatant about their intentions --  much more so than those who take a more subtle approach and then hold fast to their complete innocence.  

I particularly appreciate what Michael Otterson had to say here:

Who decides, Warren, that one religion is acceptable and another “false and dangerous”? Do you? Does the church that you attend? Since you aren’t calling for Mormons to be legally barred from the highest office in the land, is your idea just to effectively marginalize Mormons and make it impossible for them to run for office? Do you feel the same way about other faiths that are different from yours? Catholics, perhaps? Isn’t there something called Article VI, a constitutional provision that forbids a religious test for political office? “…No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” What does that mean – what has it ever meant – if it doesn’t apply in a case like this?

In my opinion, many of the principles and intentions that Otterson identifies in his letter, could also be applied to the Newsweek’s Mormon Package.

You can read his entire letter HERE.


So what do we do about this apparent Mormon Moment that we are experiencing right now?  Do we take it as an opportunity to discuss what Mormons DO believe with others?  Do we speak out when we see injustice in the process?  Perhaps we turn a deaf ear to any criticism of the Church, or candidates and avoid all possible conflict?  

I don't have specific answers.  I imagine that for each of us it will be a different experience depending on our comfort level and inclinations to act.  But what I do hope is that ACT we DO!  I seriously doubt that anything I have written will change much for others.  But for me, I am confident in moving forward with a continued desire to accomplish some genuine good along the way...


tDMg
Kathryn



Newsweeks Package: The Mormon Moment

Cover Story - Mormons Rock
Elizabeth Smart Profile - Saved By Her Faith
Everyday Saints
Mormons Take the Stage



17 comments :

  1. Thank you for putting your thoughts from digital pen to digital paper. Your words are very thought-provoking and needed in this discussion. Brovo.

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  2. Though I can sympathize and maybe even empathize with what I believe you have accurately written; I still wonder "so what?". Other than another round of being a good example to our neighbors and willing to answer questions as they come up and follow what we are reminded of in conference, I say "carry on". Let those forces combine as they see fit but as for me and my family having done all we will continue to stand. In short, I guess it doesn't get me to exercised...yet.

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  3. @Hygge -

    You're welcome. I do hope you're right. It's been quite interesting to hear such positive response by so many members and very little recognition of the underlying message the Newsweek cover story is actually sending.

    @Dallas -

    That's a question that individuals must ask for themselves, as I suggest in the close of my post. In my opinion, awareness is a wonderful thing. It has the ability to clarify that which we see down the road, often more so than what we are currently viewing.

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  4. Hoorah! I spent a good deal of time the other day in Facebook conversations (two different threads), and didn't come near saying it this well! LDSNana & Otterson make a great team!

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  5. @LaurieBee -

    Thanks! I will confess, that as soon as I started seeing parts of this Mormon Package coming through my feeds, I immediately went to read the cover story. (which was early in the day before conversations took off)

    On first read before I knew what others were saying, I made the decision right then to step away from general conversations to enable me to stay with my initial feelings, not be swayed, and continue to ponder throughout the day and into the night.

    I'm glad I took this approach. I think it enabled me to send my message with clarity. Well, at least I hope so:)

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  6. Interesting. I just read it. The article is really back and forth on pro-Mormon and anti-Mormon. You'd think with one of the writers being a practicing Mormon that they'd get some of the details right like not going with the word "underpants" and not acting like the musical was something that came from the church. There were some good things said, but I think you're right about the underlying negativity & skepticism.

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  7. @Emily -

    It is interesting how they wrote the article. Much of what they wrote was seemingly benign, and yet they were artful in weaving through the general tapestry much of the more sensational terms and concerns that make good print --- but more importantly to perpetuate misguided perceptions of Mormon beliefs and practices.

    It's hard for me to respect a source that does not have the journalistic integrity to not succumb to using such terms as you mentioned. Wouldn't it have been nice if they could have at least referenced the correct term of "temple garments"?

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  8. I'm glad you have shared your thoughts on this -- I think it's important to be able to discuss different opinions and hear different perspectives.

    I engaged this project in a little different way. I guess maybe it's because my expectations are a little lower for a magazine like Newsweek. I felt the net message was a call to the politicians to open their mouths more, and also tries to acknowledge some of the good in our faith.

    That said, I can see how you feel the article sort of feeds some of the frenzy more, because it does pick some weird ways to talk about some of our history and practices.

    I'm not really convinced it's the politicians who should be doing something about it, though. I do think, however, that this can still end up being a net positive -- especially if we as members continue to try to help people understand who we really are and what we really believe.

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  9. I just need to compliment the rest of the commenters here. You all said at least something that made me think. Very good input. As for Kathryn? That goes without saying. She intelligently articulated her case, despite the fact it might not be the most popular viewpoint in some circles. Well done! I think I will re-up my membership in the @ldsnana fan club. I expect my shirt and decoder ring in the mail soon.

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  10. @Mormon Women -

    Your tempered thoughts are always most appreciated. And I too, have now read many different thoughts on this package -- much of which I agree. And I don't disagree with your take on the article, actually. However, I just see a strong undercurrent meant to lead readers to an unfavorable conclusion about potentially having a Mormon president.

    As I mentioned in an above comment, I purposely did not read Deseret News, Mormon Times, etc… particular when I saw the headlines. I immediately withdrew my attention.

    As I was discussing this article and how I felt about it, I told my husband that I think many members haven't really read it --- and I mean read it. I believe that we do have a tendency to think anything a Church publication puts out there is a positive -- and I'd say nearly 99% of the time, it is. When members see Mormons Rock! as the headline of a Church publication that = Stamp of Approval! Add on that a National magazine is saying it, well then this must be good? Lo and behold many are using the "share" feature to pass the good news around, when in fact (as it is long) they have only scanned the article. The tendency to want to jump on the bandwagon and celebrate the good news, sends a viral message that we can accept this as "good".

    I'm not suggesting this happened to everyone, but I do believe that the power of influence is often underestimated and we are all vulnerable to this happening to us.

    Now, few are willing to admit or even look at the possibility that perhaps mingled in what is good, there is a negative message with an intent that is not that difficult to see -- if you're willing to really look.

    Frankly, I don't have high expectations for a publication like Newsweek. They are blatantly liberal. Nor was I shocked or dumbfounded when I read the article. You know how I handled the cover when it first came to my attention. In fact, I never shared any of this in my feeds.

    And you're right, politicians should not be pressured in this manner to explain their faith -- and if they do not, people can continue to have the opinion that they are secretive, therefore not to be trusted. In my opinion, this is incredibly bad form.

    Again, we agree. I'm confident that from the "missionary" perspective this is a great opportunity to work harder at getting our message out. Individual members should now take this as a green light to step up their efforts to share that which the Church develops for sharing the gospel online.

    Now, for LDS politicians -- not so good. And this is exactly the intention, IMO, that the article set out to accomplish.

    Sorry for the long winded and passionate reply. Not sure what has gotten into me? : )

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  11. @ihenpecked

    I do have great commenters here. They always make me think, too! And thanks for your kind words. I do so hope that this post is regarded in the spirit of which it was "intended".

    Thanks for taking the time to comment:)

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  12. One other reason why I think some of my feelings may be a little different from yours is that I went into it looking at the whole package. You already know how I feel about the cover (thought it wasn't in very good taste and starts the impression off on a negative note, imo), and I like how Emily said that it felt like it flip-flopped between pro- and not-so-pro, but I thought the piece on Elizabeth Smart was pretty good and I really liked the Everyday Saints feature (got some good perspectives on politics and such there). So in the end, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't *more* negative, and I think it leaves some space for people to come away and think more about us than just what a Broadway play might present.

    I also wonder if some people are sharing it because it's there, not necessarily because they loved it. ??

    I'm going to be writing more about the more general topics tomorrow to share more of my thoughts about all that is going on right now, and that will include more than just politics. ;)

    ~Michelle

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  13. @Mormon Women -

    I have no objection to either the Elizabeth Smart piece, which I said was excellent or the Everyday Saints slideshow, which was completely benign.

    In my opinion the cover story sends the strongest message and that is where I have the majority of my problem. I've said very little about the cover other than to reference my feeling about the play -- which should give you some indication that I'm not a fan.

    I give credit to McKay Coppins for his influence as I'm sure that without him the package would have been much more negative.

    And yes, I do feel that it is being shared more for its viral power than actual content.

    I look forward to your post. As I mentioned previously -- I always appreciate your tempered ways:)

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  14. I had not seen the article, but was driving and caught the tail end of a segment that Michael Savage was doing on this article and Mormonism.From what I heard, you and he had a similar take. It was interesting to hear what his callers had to say. A Mormon described having experienced real prejudice. An atheist called in to voice unapologetic, nakedly hostile animosity towards Mormons.I was amazed.I don't know why.

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  15. @Christine -

    Really? I would have been interested in listening to that program. I hope you get the time to read the article when you have a minute.

    There are some strong feelings out there about Mormonism, and many are not good. Thats why I was so bothered that Newsweek played toward the negative aspects of Mormonism for the purpose of sensationalism and to undermine a potential Mormon president. It's very unfortunate, but not surprising.

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  16. Kathryn, here's the article I said I would write several days ago. Sorry for the delay. ;)

    http://mormonwoman.org/2011/06/18/thoughts-on-the-mormon-moment-part-2/

    I'm sure it's not what you might have expected, but I just keep coming back to the reality that the more exposure we get in the media, the more the responsibility is on the media consumer to do his/her homework. If people only rely on the media, they'll not get the whole picture, but I think the best way to respond to that is simply to just keep sharing in a consistent way the things that matter most. Those who are honestly seeking will find. But they will ultimatly have to do the work. Mitt can't do it for them, the Church can't do it for them (they've already done so much and continue to do all they can to make info available and to raise awareness). Alma 29:4 reminds us that God grants unto His children what they desire. I think we have to respect that some people won't want to know, and that's just a reminder that agency is part of God's plan. We will just keep sharing for those who will. ;)

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  17. @Michelle -

    Actually it is exactly what I would expect considering the conversations that we've had about all of this. I understand that you blog is specifically geared toward those interested in learning more about the Church. Whereas what I do here is to be a safe landing spot for those interested in knowing more about the Church via a simple LDS member with personal opinions that I believe correlate well with the teachings of Mormonism. I have much more wiggle room here as it is not my intention to in any way suggest that I am an official website of the Church with a duplicate message.

    And yet, I believe that my message is very much in line with where it should be as one claiming active status in the Mormon Church -- and also considers herself a very credible resource for learning about Mormonism.

    I also do my best to encourage members to reach out and share our faith -- and hopefully educate and strengthen them along the way.

    Your message on this subject was perfect for your voice. Thank you for sharing. It's a great resource. :)

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