This final of three posts, covers Times and Seasons reader Last Lemming’s suggestions for Mormon of the Year for the years 1990 through 2007. We already posted on Monday his picks for 1950 through 1969 and on Wednesday 1970 through 1989. I suspect as these posts get into more familiar and more recent territory, more of you will have comments and suggestions about who Last Lemming suggested and who should have been suggested instead.
As I mentioned on Monday, I received this unexpected and fun email message from Times and Seasons reader Last Lemming after we began selecting the 2008 Mormon of the Year. He had made his own selections for Mormon of the Year for each year since 1950!
I found the list fascinating, an entertaining look at Mormons in history over nearly 60 years, and really quite an impressive bit of work to pull together so much information. Last Lemming describes his criteria as follows:
I have generally followed a no-General-Authorities rule, except for McConkie (who was not acting in his G.A. capacity) and, arguably, Barbara B. Smith. Otherwise, I was very flexible. [Those selected] could be classified into three categories: 1) those influencing Mormon culture, 2) those representing Mormonism to the world, and 3) those influencing the broader culture in ways not necessarily linked to their Mormonism. I tried to limit [those selected] to people who were active at the time of their cited accomplishment. (Some, like Frank Moss, I would stand by even if he wasn’t really active because his accomplishment was easy to identify with his Mormonism.)
I have used my 20:30 hindsight when [making selections] (I can’t claim 20:20 hindsight when I can’t even fill all of the years). I have not attempted to guess who might have won had Times and Seasons been around to conduct a vote. Also, there are a fair number of people who could have won in any number of years. I generally picked them in a year in which they had some notable accomplishment and little competition.
I did not pick anybody twice, unless their contributions were in different areas. Thus, I gave George Romney two mentions (one for his business activities and one for his political activities), but gave Mitt Romney only one (nothing he did at Bain qualifies, and I treat his Olympics adventure as the beginning of his political career, not the end of his business career). With regards to businessmen, I generally cited them for giving away their money, not for earning it. Marriott is an exception, but the Books-of-Mormon-in-the-rooms phenomenon makes him different.
By posting this list, it is not my intention (nor that of Last Lemming, according to his email message submitting this information) to actually select anyone for these years. Rather, I’m posting this in part as a way for those of us who remember a portion of these people to remember, and for those who don’t to learn, and, undoubtedly, a something to be discussed.
I welcome your comments and suggested alternatives. On this particular portion, mostly before my time, I have a few alternatives to suggest. I’ll make my suggestions in the first comment. I’m sure others of you will have many more suggestions.
Like many of you readers, I have mixed feelings about some of the individuals mentioned here. But I can’t deny that all of them had a significant impact, and therefore could have been, at least in retrospect, Mormon of the Year.
1990: Ty Detmer – for winning the Heisman Trophy after setting a whole bunch of NCAA passing records. (It’s not clear whether he had been baptized at the time.)
1991: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – for winning the Pulitzer Prize in history for A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812.
Runner-up: Larry Miller – for building the Delta Center (now Energy Solutions Arena)
1992: Stephen Robinson – for publishing Believing Christ.
1993: Betty Eadie – for spending most of the year atop the New York Times Bestseller List for Nonfiction for Embraced by the Light.
Runners-up: Richard & Linda Eyre – for also hitting #1 with Teaching Children Values.
1994: Steve Young – for winning his second NFL MVP award.
1995: Jon Huntsman Sr. – for funding the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
Runner-up: Richard Paul Evans – for dominating the New York Times Best-Seller lists with The Christmas Box.
1996: Bay Buchanan – for managing her brother Pat’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president, ultimately winning the New Hampshire primary and three others.
1997: Alan Ashton – for opening Thanksgiving Point with some of the money he earned from WordPerfect.
1998: Gerald Lund – for completing the The Work and the Glory series. (He would be a plausible winner in any year between 1990 and 1998, but 1998 seemed to provide the least competition.)
1999: Chris Cannon – for serving (in his capacity as a member of the House Judiciary Committee) as an impeachment “manager” (essentially a prosecutor) against Bill Clinton during his trial in the Senate.
2000: The “Doe” Family – for winning their Supreme Court case against the Santa Fe Texas School District in which they (along with a similarly anonymous Catholic family) challenged the practice of public prayers at high school football games.
Runners-up: James Sorenson and Scott Woodward – for establishing the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, which now has a database of over 100,000 DNA samples.
Preston J. Waite – for overseeing the 2000 Census and making the decision not to count overseas missionaries as Utah residents, thereby denying Utah an additional congressional seat. (He was serving as 1st Counselor in the Suitland, Maryland Stake presidency at the time.)
Rulon Gardner – for winning the Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling (heavyweight division) by defeating three-time defending champion Alexander Karelin, widely considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time.
2001: Darius Gray – for facilitating the release on CD of the Freedman’s Bank records (while serving as president of the Genesis Group).
Runner-up: Orrin Hatch – for his leadership on the stem-cell research issue in the face of strong opposition from his usual allies.
2002: Mitt Romney – for rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics and being elected Governor of Massachusetts.
Runner-up: Jay Bybee – for writing the “torture memo.”
2003: Elizabeth Smart – for surviving her highly-publicized kidnapping.
2004: Arthur “Killer” Kane – for being fascinating enough to make New York Doll, the documentary filmed about him during the year, so outstanding.
Runners-up: Jared & Jerusha Hess – for producing Napoleon Dynamite.
Ken Jennings – for kicking serious butt on Jeopardy.
2005: Richard Bushman, Gregory Prince & William Robert Wright, and Edward Kimball – for publishing the most awesome trio of Mormon biographies ever; i.e. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, and Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. (Either Bushman or Prince & Wright could have won this outright, but I didn’t want to omit any of them.)
Runner-up: Ryan Benson – for winning on The Biggest Loser.
2006: Stephenie Meyer – for reaching #1 on the New York Times Best-Seller List for Children’s Chapter Books with New Moon, the second book in the Twilight series. (She would be a plausible winner in any year between 2005 and 2008, but 2006 seemed to provide the least competition.)
Runner-up: Benji Schwimmer – for winning on So You Think You Can Dance.
2007: Harry Reid – for becoming Senate Majority Leader, the first Mormon to achieve that rank.
Runner-up: Dr. Jeffrey “Big Love” Cole (a fictional character on the TV show House M.D.) – for shattering all sorts of stereotypes, but not (unfortunately) House’s jaw.