Its that time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally the media’s time for reflection on the past year — the time when we see story after story on the best or most important stories of the year, or the most important person of the year (as Time magazine just named — no surprise there). I enjoy these looks at the past year, and given how much LDS Church members don’t usually know much about news that involves the Church, it seems to me these lists might be quite useful.
So let me pose the question: “Who should be the Mormon of the Year?”
Now, I do think there are some factors that should be taken into account in trying to make a selection. First, I think the Prophet should be excluded from consideration. I am NOT saying that the Prophet is not important, or even that the Prophet isn’t a good candidate for the Mormon of the Year. Quite to the opposite. My fear is that if the Prophet is a candidate, he will be selected as the Mormon of the Year every year.
We already love and respect the Prophet, so where is the advantage in making such a nomination? Doesn’t predictability turn the nomination into yet another empty and meaningless award? On the same basis I’d probably exclude the Apostles also – I’m afraid the designation would just rotate among them. Much more interesting, at least to me, is who deserves such a recognition without having the admiration that comes with these Church positions.
Another factor that should be considered is whether this recognition is about the person’s positive actions during the year, or whether it is simply about how much the person’s actions made the news. Time recognized Adolf Hitler as its Person of the Year in 1938 because of his impact, despite its negative nature. If the Mormon who makes the largest impact has made a negative impact, should that person be recognized? Or should that be some other designation? Personally, I’m not opposed to noting someone because of their negative impact, but I doubt everyone will agree with me on this.
The person’s membership in the LDS Church might be another factor. Non-LDS Church members, such as members of the FLDS Church and other organizations also consider themselves Mormons, as do many who are disaffected, inactive or excommunicated. Might they be considered also for Mormon of the Year? To those outside of the LDS Church, the difference seems minor, and the situation is perhaps analogous to our claim to be Christian. If we want to be considered Christian because we believe in Christ, despite the attempts of others to define us out of Christianity, shouldn’t we allow others to call themselves Mormon for reasons other than belonging to the LDS Church? Once again, I’m sure others will disagree with me on this.
While I’m interested in reading about your thoughts on these factors, I’m more interested in who might be considered for this recognition. So, I call for nominations. I’ve left out anyone that might run afowl of some of the above factors, but if you agree with me, feel free to suggest others that aren’t as conventional.
To get things started, I have a few names that, off the top of my head and without doing much of a search through the year’s news, might be considered:
- Mitt Romney – I know its kind of hard to reward a lack of success, but his candidacy in the past year has certainly brought attention to the Church and to Mormonism. And as far as LDS candidates for President go, he may have gone farther toward the Presidency than any other Mormon.
- Harry Reid – As the Senate Majority Leader, it is kind of hard to ignore Reid, since he is the highest ranking Mormon in government ever. He also provides a nice antidote to the assumption that Mormons must be Republicans (to say nothing of the fact that his politics are probably more in line with the vast majority of Mormons — when you take into account those that do not live in the United States).
- Stephanie Meyer – Like or hate her books, she is certainly the face of Mormonism among many people around the world, especially this year, with the first Twilight movie in theaters and news articles frequently mentioning her religion.
- David Neeleman – The JetBlue founder and well-known Mormon has started his fourth airline – this time in Brazil, bringing with it multiple profiles of Neeleman, why he was born in Brazil and how he served his mission there.
- David Archuleta – The American Idol finalist brought a lot of attention to Mormons during the show’s recent run.
I’m sure there are others who should be considered for this kind of recognition. I look forward to your suggestions, and to the inevitable criticism that this is somehow a waste of time or bad for the Church. I reject such criticisms, because, I might as well confess, my real motivation for this is: I own the domain name mormonoftheyear.com! [GRIN]