Living in the limelight

June 25, 2007 | 41 comments
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Sometime on or before November 4, 2008, the Romney campaign is going to tank. (Dwelling too long on the possibility that he won’t tank is not good for the cardiac health of both his supporters and his opponents, so we’ll ignore that possibility for now.) After the Romney candidacy is no more, how are we Mormons going to make people notice us? Maybe at first we wished all the commotion would go away and life would go back to normal, pre-Romney, pre-SLC Winter Olympics, but eventually all that attention becomes addictive. At some point soon–if we haven’t reached it already–we’ll want to be the subject of documentaries. Having presidential campaigns insult us, and then apologize to us, is heady stuff. It confirms for us, at the highest level, our contradictory foundational myths that we are uniquely persecuted and uniquely loved. Are you sure you want all the attention to end?

Craving the spotlight tends to shuffle our priorities. Who needs rapprochement with the Evangelicals, when odd doctrines will get you on the cover of Newsweek? Let’s talk Kolob! Polygamy, theocracy, and horrible fates for outsiders? Yeargghh! It’s our ticket to HBO and movie screens near you. C’mon. There’s got to be another documentary in here somewhere. Just get us back on camera and we’ll say whatever you want. Please?

So, what do you think all the attention will do to us? And who is going to be the Mormon media meal ticket after Romney?

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41 Responses to Living in the limelight

  1. Russell Arben Fox on June 25, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Who is going to be the Mormon media meal ticket after Romney?

    Oh, probably some otherwise ordinary Mormon academic, living in Germany, piddling around on some research project, who in his spare time will write a Harry Potter-type bestseller that features a bunch of crazy European kids with magical powers who travel around in a van having adventures, solving crimes, fighting off the continuing lurking hairy menace of Cain, and baptizing people. It’ll take young readers by storm, completely transform the debate over whether or not Mormonism is an “American religion,” the Vatican will condemn it, unbalanced evangelicals in Kentucky will claim it encourages Satanism, bookstores throughout the world will throw “Elder Peter” parties whenever a new book is released, faux-missionary outfits will be big hits at Halloween, hundreds of millions of dollars will be generated by the film adaptations (which will spark enormous controversy when the actor playing the title role of Hans Peter will, before production on the fifth film, perform nude on the stage in a revival of “Oh Calcutta!”), and the former academic will retire, now the wealthiest expat in all Europe, stating that he and his wife intend to spend the rest of their lives serving missions and combining their love of youth fiction and medieval texts through writing a series of “Encyclopedia Brown” books (they will have bought the rights) which take place in 13th-century Antwerp.

    That, or that constitution hanging by a thread thing. I can’t decide which.

  2. Ardis Parshall on June 25, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    It won’t be anything predictably historical, because after the Utah War commemoration of 2007-2008 we run out of sesquicentennials for a while (it’s kinda hard to get excited by the anniversary of not taking part in the Civil War, or of the safe arrival of yet another wagon company). People should be burned out on Mountain Meadows by then, except for a few megalomaniacs who have built their lives around it on one side or another.

    My guess is that it will be some spectacularly foolish or mishandled statement or behavior or publication of some Mormon who has as yet not hit our radar, something that is brewing even now in some basement or office, with everyone involved utterly oblivious to the consequences of what they are innocently contemplating.

  3. Adam Greenwood on June 25, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Laser battles on Pluto!

  4. Wilfried on June 25, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    I like the 13th century Antwerp part, but 14th will be better. Starting on 11 July 1302.

  5. Russell Arben Fox on June 25, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Ah yes, de Guldensporenslag! I could see our medieval detective having played a central role in mucking up the French cavalry’s plans.

  6. Tito on June 25, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Doesn\’t matter. Romney’s in for keeps. That’s my vote.

  7. Bill MacKinnon on June 25, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Ardis (#2), you’re just growing tired from all that housework! Of course there are lots more sesquicentennials to celebrate with potential for notoreity:
    ** 2011: Completion of the transcontinetal telegraph line in Salt Lake City, with its immediate destruction of the iconic Pony Express and all those controversies about Brigham Young’s interception of telegrams as well his development of nefarious wire codes for communicating in confidence with Thomas L.J Kane.
    ** 2019: Completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit with all those Mormon accounts payable stuffed in the UPRR’s financial files for grading work done in — gasp! — Echo Canyon (see Utah War sesqui. files)..
    ** 2018: Publication of the first book in the notoriously failed Deseret Alphabet (a system that permits us to now dub the sweep of Mormon history from the 19th through 21st centuries as a matter of Read-Reed-Reid.

    And then there’s…

  8. Ardis Parshall on June 25, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Aw, shucks, Bill, how can either my feather dusters or your Deseret Alphabet books possibly compete with RAF’s imagination? I’m gonna go crochet another tea cosy, and you can tidy up that stack of intercepted messages.

  9. MikeInWeHo on June 25, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Next up for media attention? Big Love surpasses The Sopranos in popularity. Polygamy becomes trendy among urban liberals. Polygamous leaders relocate to Northern California. Oakland Temple is sold to the FLDS.

    re: 1 Btw, Russell, missionary outfits already are popular at Halloween. You’ll always see several at the big outdoor Halloween street events held in NYC, SF, and LA.

  10. Nick Literski on June 25, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    #1 Russell:
    You forgot to mention that the book series you describe will also spur at least three press releases from LDS headquarters, denying specific doctrines long taught within Mormonism as mere “speculation by a few early leaders.”

    #6 Tito:
    Given what you’ve shared about your life elsewhere, it boggles my mind that you would support Romney for POTUS. It’s as if a person with blue eyes started campaigning for a politician who wanted to deny voting rights to people with blue eyes.

  11. Geoff B on June 25, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Count me among those who don’t think Romney’s campaign will tank. But if he does, perhaps the media will start doing profiles on how weird it is that we have a Majority Leader who is Mormon.

  12. Bill MacKinnon on June 25, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    MikeInHo,
    Re #9, uh, have you taken in the Halloween parades in NYC (lower Fifth Ave, through Greenwich Village) and San F. (Castro St. District) in recent years? I sure didn’t see many “missionary outfits” on display during the festivities although the, er, “companions” were out in full-force.No data available re doings or attire in L.A. on Halloween.

  13. John Williams on June 25, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    An A-list Hollywood crew (not Mormon film makers) should do a PG-13 feature film on the Mark Hoffman scandal of the 1980s.

  14. Bob on June 25, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    An all green Jello buffet opens in Las Vegas.

  15. Seth R. on June 26, 2007 at 12:10 am

    Jeffrey R. Holland starts channeling Bruce R. McConkie – during an interview on 20/20.

  16. MikeInWeHo on June 26, 2007 at 2:37 am

    re: 12 Absolutely, I have been to all 3 in the past ten years (and what self-respecting HMH–highly mobile homosexual– hasn’t?). In every case, there has been at least one pair of faux LDS missionaries. Sometimes their name tags were pretty lame (made of cardboard painted black), sometimes seemingly real. In all cases, it was two gay guys playing around with what they perceived to be the homo-eroticism of the situation. So you have them holding hands, kissing, etc. Surely some here remember that highly inflammatory B&W photo exhibit in SLC on the same theme a few years ago??

  17. Jonovitch on June 26, 2007 at 5:32 am

    A friend of mine who\’s an area Institute director made an interesting comment a few weeks ago, wondering if the MMM movie/books, Romney campaign, Big Love, etc., will have the same effect on the Church that the Godmakers movie had. I asked him what effect that was, and he said the baptism/membership numbers went up. I don\’t know if there\’s a direct correlation between the two (I don\’t know if his assertion is even accurate/true) but it makes sense. There\’s no such thing as bad publicity.

    Personally, I haven\’t been fielding any more questions from curious friends, yet, other than those already in the Church, so I think a lot of this new awareness is self-awareness. I just don\’t think MMM, Romney, Big Love, etc., is on the big radar screen yet. *We* all know/hear/read plenty about it, but I just don\’t have the feeling that our neighbors perceive the same mediastorm that we do.

  18. RayB on June 26, 2007 at 6:18 am

    Maybe we could revive Doug Stringfellow.

  19. jimbob on June 26, 2007 at 11:15 am

    “Given what you’ve shared about your life elsewhere, it boggles my mind that you would support Romney for POTUS. It’s as if a person with blue eyes started campaigning for a politician who wanted to deny voting rights to people with blue eyes.”

    Good heavens, Nick. Does every thread have to be about SSA?

  20. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Who’s talking about “SSA,” jimbob? That’s just a silly catch phrase, invented by right wing protestants, and bandied about by those who don’t want to admit that homosexuality exists (well, and by gay men who are so full of self-loathing that they can’t acknowledge their own orientation).

    Regardless of what group Romney finds it politically expedient to target (this week…), the fact remains that he has actively sought to write discriminatory provisions into both the federal constitution and the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachussetts.

    Of course, I’m not being entirely fair to Tito. He needs to periodically make a public showing like this, so that BYU doesn’t kick him out for appearing to “advocate” his own civil rights.

  21. Adam Greenwood on June 26, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Oh, brother.

  22. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    …Where art thou?

  23. Ray on June 26, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Ditto, #19 & #21 – and every similar unrecorded groan.

  24. jimbob on June 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    “Who’s talking about ‘SSA,’ jimbob?”

    You are. Over and over and over again. Even where it is–at best–tangentially relevant, like here. Surely one can be gay and still have some other intellectual interests outside of the context of being gay.

    Now back to my right wing protestantism–a term, by the way, which is a silly catch phrase invented and bandied about by those who don’t want to admit conservatism exists. Or something inflammatory like that.

  25. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    The original post was about people and subjects bringing media attention to the LDS church. I can almost guarantee you that more Americans can name Mitt Romney, than can name Gordon B. Hinckley, and this will be even worse if Romney manages to win the republican nomination or actually get himself elected as POTUS.

    With all the good that the LDS church does have to offer, I would hate to see Romney become the most recognized public face of LDS-ism. So what if he demonstrates that LDS can be okay to look at, and really, really wealthy? Even at this early point in the campaign, he has demonstrated that he’s ready and willing to place political expediency above his own convictions. He completely reverses his positions, depending on which specific electorate he’s trying to impress. (One LDS woman claims that when he was running for office in Massachussetts, he admitted to her that he only advocated a pro-choice position because “the brethren” told him it was the only way he could get elected in Massachussetts—-what if she’s telling the truth?)

    Even if he could be relied upon as an honest man, one political mis-step, and he ends up bringing condemnation down on the LDS church as a convenient public scapegoat.

  26. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    By the way, jimbob, if you read what I said, you’ll find I didn’t accuse you of protestantism at all.

  27. Ardis Parshall on June 26, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I suggest we go back to Elder Peter and laser battles on Pluto. At least those ideas were not stale, tired, old, repetitive, and boring.

  28. Adam Greenwood on June 26, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Whatever. Keep suppressing dissent, Ms. Parshall, and your laser battlers on Pluto will all be white, male, heterosexualists hierarchs. Is that what you want?

  29. Margaret Young on June 26, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Did I hear someone say DOCUMENTARY??? Why yes, I have a great one in mind… (And an update for all concerned–we will finish by the end of summer. We’ll complete the rough-rough cut a week from Friday. Good things are happening to help us with distribution, which I won’t talk about yet.)

    Jonathan, I’d like to place a bet with you. I’m betting you’re WRONG about Romney’s campaign tanking. How could somebody with a George Hamilton tan tank? We need a good-looking president. We’ve already learned that presidents don’t have to be smart. Can’t they at least be handsome? So my bet is that Hillary’s campaign is the one which will tank. I’m betting the two parties will give us a choice of Romney or Obama. Vice presidents? Fred Thompson/Al Gore

    Wanna bet?

  30. Ardis Parshall on June 26, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Yes, Adam, that’s what I want for my Pluto team. Except they could be green or purple, as well as white.

  31. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’d expect that whether Hillary or Obama win the nomination, the other will be tapped as running-mate. I could be wrong, but that combo would seem to garner the strongest democratic support in terms of campaign contributions, volunteers, etc.

  32. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Ardis doesn’t want me on her Pluto team. (sniff…) And to think we were so friendly once!

  33. Mike on June 26, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Romney is tanking? Is that wishful thinking?

    Washington Post Weekly says Romney is ahead in Iowa aned even in NH. He is raising the most money. McCain is more in danger of tanking at this point, although I think he has more grit than they give him credit for. Guili has peaked (I think) and is too liberal to win the southern primaries in the current climate of polarization and hostility. Fred is not good looking enough for many women. (Sorry, but it is true.) The rest have only a small chance even this early in the race.

    Romney is a better campaigner and politician than our current commander in chief. Bushie is a regular idiot in comparison and he still won twice, (barely).Take Ross Perot out of the equation and Democrats haven’t won the POTUS since 1976 when Jimmy Carter sold himself as the conservative Baptist Sunday School teacher from Southern Georgia who would clean up the mess Nixon and his lackey Ford made. With competition on the other side of the aisle like the ever popular and loveable Hilary (don’t y’all remember Hilary in the white house?) and Obama- who in my estimation is the one guy even dumber than the current decider, (I heard him speak recently on the radio at Georgia Tech), I think the door is wide open for someone who projects leadership and character and charisma to win.

    The way Romney will win is if he transcends beyond Mormonism. People are not going to vote for him because of his religion. Who remembers Reagan’s religion? Romney will win if he can convince people that he can run the country better than the others on a dozen fronts more important than his religion. He is doing as good as any of the others at this point.

    If elected, with our vicious nit-picking media, he will be trashed. People will hate him as much as current Democrats hate Bush and as much as Republicans hated Bill Clinton. Articles describing him as the worst President in history will be composed. His Mormonism will be a mere footnote. Vote for Romney if you agree with him on the issues, but don’t vote for him because he is Mormon.

    Remember how small and irelevant Arkansas was from 1992-2000 to the rest of the nation? Remember that Arkansas has more people than Utah and probably more people than active Mormons living in the US.

  34. Ray on June 26, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Can we lay off the stupid and biased political statements about Romney? Whether you vote for him or not, can we at least admit that he’s extremely intelligent, a master businessman and fundraiser, good-looking (as much as I hate that as a political issue) and an excellent strategist? Also, he is positioning himself to make a compelling VP candidate if he does not receive the nomination. If he finishes as the “runner-up” to either Thompson or Giuliani, that is a viable outcome.

    That’s not a commercial, since I probably won’t vote for him, but let’s at least be honest in this forum. To say that his candidacy is going to tank is more than a little delusional, and to imply that even an honest Mormon should be excluded from the White House, because bigots will blame the Church for his mistakes, is worse than evangelicals saying not to vote for him in the first place because they think he is a cultist. (Really, Nick, did you have to say that?)

  35. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Ray,
    I’m a little perplexed. I never said that Romney was “an honest Mormon.” Quite the contrary, I said that LDS should be cautious about him, precisely because he is NOT an honest man. I did not say that he should be excluded from the White House due to anti-LDS bigotry. Rather, I said that (unfortunately), a single mis-step by Romney could bring down public condemnation of LDS-ism as a “convenient scapegoat.” Frankly, I don’t understand why any LDS member would want a dishonest member of the LDS church to be such a public face of their faith. Furthermore, I never said anything about Romney being a “cultist.” You’re putting words in my mouth…or at least in my fingers.

  36. Ray on June 26, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Nick, You said the following, word for word:

    “Even if he could be relied upon as an honest man, one political mis-step, and he ends up bringing condemnation down on the LDS church as a convenient public scapegoat.”

    How am I supposed to interpret that other than the way I did? It seems pretty straightforward to me to conclude, based on what you said, that the chance that even an honest LDS man might mis-step and bring condemnation down on the Church is enough to keep you from voting for him. In other words, we shouldn’t vote for any LDS candidate, even an honest one.

    Please tell me what you meant by that statement.

  37. Ray on June 26, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I just re-read #34, and I see why Nick was confused about the cultist claim. I put the parenthetical phrase in the wrong place. I meant it to address the quote in #36 – not the evangelical cultist claim.

  38. paul f on June 26, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    If an electorate is 70% pro-choice and you promise them you won’t oveturn Roe v. Wade, is that dishonest–even if you don’t agree with the court’s decision? Is it pragmatic?

    Nick’s penchant for personal attacks of Romney is dissapointing.

  39. Nick Literski on June 26, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Ray. I can see that I could have been more precise in my wording. The issue about “bringing down condemnation” was not, by any means, to refer to any and all potential mistakes by any and all LDS politicians. What I intended to convey was that, based on what I perceive as a lack of integrity on Romney’s part, he could take a mis-step resulting in a scandal over his honesty. Right or wrong, a scandal involving “President Romney” would reflect in the public eye on the LDS church, perhaps even worldwide. I’ll admit this takes a certain bigotry–after all, nobody seems to attach Bush’s deceit to his church, but LDS-ism happens to enjoy a lower level of public approval, and hence is more often targeted by that public. Is that any better, or have I just made myself even more confusing? ;-)

    #38 paul f:
    Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that Romney didn’t just promise the citizens of Massachussetts that he wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade (something a state governor couldn’t do anyway). Nor did he make any forthright statement that he personally disagreed with that ruling. Rather, he publicly declared himself as pro-choice. (By the way, I think “pro-choice” is an entirely consistent position for an LDS person to take—not out of approval of abortion for birth control, but rather out of opposing government involvement in a very personal family decision.) Now that Romney is trying to be elected to national office, he’s suddenly had some grand awakening, and reversed his position entirely. He happens to have done the same on other issues as well, each time conveniently switching sides to match the majority which he is campaigning to.

    Perhaps I misunderstand you, but it appears that you are either (a) equating pragmatism with honesty, or (b) arguing that pragmatism is sufficient to overrule honesty. I would hope that neither suggestion reflects your own real feelings. An honest man speaks the truth, or at least shuts up, and lets the chips fall where they may.

    Finally, why must my belief that Romney is a poor choice for POTUS be twisted into an alleged “personal attack?” I have indicated that, based on specific behaviors, I do not believe he is an honest man. While most LDS I have known are honest, I’m not willing to ignore Romney’s actions, and assume he is honest due to what church he belongs to. I think his lack of integrity reflects poorly on any organization which he claims fervent attachment to, whether it’s the LDS church or a bowling team. I think your accusation says much more about you, paul, than it does about me.

  40. Ray on June 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Nick, That makes much more sense.

    It is interesting for me to say this, but for a politician it might be better to be a pragmatist than an unyieldingly consistent ideologue. That, in fact, is the primary charge against Pres. Bush – a correct one, IMO. He simply refuses to question his beliefs and won’t change his mind no matter what, as opposed to Pres. Clinton – who was charged with having no morals and governing by polls.

    I would be interested in a discussion about Pres. Bush and Pres. Clinton strictly as it relates to the issue of Bro. Romney’s re-positioning based on his constituency. In the political arena, how should we view “compromise” of ideal / principle? Can one flip as long as one doesn’t flop? Can one take a position for one constituency and another for a different one without being dishonest? Are the answers to these questions any different if the candidate / official is Mormon – and, hence, a de facto representative of the Church? Should we as church members care what others think of our politicians – especially since a Romney presidency would be opposed by a Reid Senate? I think those last two questions point directly at how we view our actions and beliefs in the broader social spotlight.

    If this turns into an exchange of political diatribes, I personally won’t participate.

  41. Jonathan Green on June 26, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks to all for your comments. I think I will close this thread now, however, because I would rather claw my eyes out than continue to discuss the chances of the Romney presidential campaign. There will undoubtedly be another chance to discuss that topic before long, for those so inclined.