Who to Watch for MOTY?

May 11, 2012 | 29 comments
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Can you remember everyone who has made the news during the past year? Neither can I. As a result, when we get input each December about who should be “Mormon of the Year,” there is, I think, a bias towards recent events. If a Mormon showed up in the news during the last quarter of the year, that person is remembered. But if the person made the news only during the first quarter, no one remembers them. So what should we do?

This post is my attempt to even out to some degree that problem. If we look now at which Mormons have made the news so far this year, we won’t forget them in the last part of the year. At least, that is the theory. Your comments and criticisms are welcome, of course.

This may be one of those years when the choice seems very obvious. Its hard to dispute the fact that Mitt Romney has had a huge impact in the news so far this year. But this misses one of the fun parts of the Mormon of the Year designation—discovering Mormons you don’t know about who have made some kind of impact in the news during the year. Its not just about naming the top guy on the list, its learning about the rest of the names as well.

Romney is such an obvious choice that, for the purposes of this post, he is banned from being mentioned from this point on. Instead, let’s put together a list of those who, based on what has happened so far this year, we should remember in December. OK?

To get us started, here are a few of the names I think have made or will have made a significant impact by the end of the year:

  • Joanna Brooks—The columnist and academic self-published a memoir, subsequently picked up by a major book publisher, and attracted significant attention for her Religion Dispatches column from fans and detractors on both ends of the political spectrum.
  • Bryce Harper—The outstanding baseball player selected #1 in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft made his major league baseball debut with the Washington Nationals and promptly played at or above expectations. Should he keep up this level of performance, he is a strong candidate for rookie of the year.
  • Gordon Moon, of Duchesne, Utah — LDS Bishop who was accused of failing to report a sexual assault. IMO, the case probably did more to publicize how local leaders should handle potential abuse cases than
  • Gay BYU students & Mormon parents of gays — For their viral videos attempting to reduce gay suicides.
  • Mia Love — black, conservative GOP politician running for a seat in the U. S. House of Reps.
  • Larry Echohawk — former head of the U S Bureau of Indian Affairs who accepted a call as a General Authority at April Conference.
  • Neon Trees — Provo-based musical group made headlines because of its objections to alcohol and tobacco ads and sponsorships at their concerts around the world.

[FWIW, I left off the names of two men who have been or are being prosecuted for financial frauds and whose Mormon beliefs hit the media because I’m not sure how readers will react to them on the list.]

Who have I missed?

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29 Responses to Who to Watch for MOTY?

  1. Last Lemming on May 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    If I’m not mistaken, Jon Huntsman made the news during the first quarter of the year. In fact, it was during the first quarter of the first quarter of the year. But not since, so I guess that wouldn’t count.

  2. Last Lemming on May 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Oh, and aren’t general authorities ineligible?

  3. Sam Brunson on May 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    This year may be a little on the early side, but Jabari Parker has recently become the fourth non-high school senior to win the Gatorade National Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year award, and is a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year. But, since that award is given in July, and because he’ll still be in high school next year, he’ll potentially be less on the radar come December.

  4. Anon on May 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    OSC supported the defense of marriage prop in North Carolina.

  5. Anon on May 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    GB (not Geo. Bush) named to The Hollywood Reporter’s Digital Power 50, alongside Zuck Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, et al

    http://www.mediabistro.com/mediajobsdaily/glenn-beck-my-first-big-break_b10943

  6. Kristine on May 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Matt Bowman

  7. lucy on May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Prof. Bott

  8. Jax on May 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    As a sports fanatic I’ll be watching Harper all season and will be keeping an eye on Jabari Parker’s recruiting/commitments and awards.

    If things in Mali ever clear up we could include our honorable mention from last year who has not lost his chance at the presidency…

  9. Kent Larsen on May 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Last Lemming (1 & 2), you are correct on both counts. Huntsman should be included and Echohawk should not.

  10. Sharee Hughes on May 12, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Why does the Mormon of the Year have to be someone in the news? There are many people who quietly make a difference in their own wards, stakes, communities, whom we could consider. Of course, the person doing the nominating would have to describe why this person should be the Mormon of the Year. Just a thought.

  11. Brandon on May 12, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Isn’t that guy running for president a Mormon?

  12. Alison Moore Smith on May 12, 2012 at 9:05 am

    FYI, the case against Bishop Moon was dismissed a couple of days ago.

    I think the candidate that shall not be named is so obvious as to make the discussion moot, but I second Sharree Hughes point and would love a non-famous person to win.

    OTOH, I still don’t think the scope/purpose of this recognition has ever been well defined.

  13. Kent Larsen on May 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Sharee (10), wrote: “Why does the Mormon of the Year have to be someone in the news?”

    Because that is how I originally defined this recognition. Yes, you are right that there are many quiet contributors who made significant contributions.

    When I first started the “Mormon of the Year” designation (it is a designation, not an honor — like Time’s “Person of the Year” not like the “Mother of the Year”) I defined it this way:

    “Who, except for the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency, has had the most impact on Mormons and Mormonism during the year?”

    Unfortunately, we don’t have any way of looking at who has done this other than who shows up in the news. I’m open to suggestions always, but I don’t see how that would work otherwise.

  14. Kent Larsen on May 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Tell you what, Alison, I’ll define it better when Time defines their “Person of the Year” better.

  15. Jax on May 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Kent, according to your description Elder Echohawk could be included since he is NOT one of the 12 or in the first presidency. The presiding Bishopric could be included as well, no?

  16. Alison Moore Smith on May 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Time’s says:

    “…for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

    I can’t even find the original statement, without ellipsis.

    That’s similar to your definition, from what I recall, but most of our nominees don’t reflect that. Elizabeth Smart is great, but “most influence”? No. I know there’s a general leftish love affair with Joanna Brooks, but she won’t remotely have the “most influence” either. Moon? Neon Trees? Seriously?

    Of course time has used it’s POY to select “you” and, my favorite, “the endangered earth.”

    In that light, I hereby nominate “flooding of the conference center” for 2012. :)

  17. Suleiman on May 12, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Sorry Kent, with Echohawk disqualified, your list is very weak. None of them can be named by most LDS people and their influence on society and Mormons is negligible.

  18. Sam Brunson on May 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Suleiman, et al., it’s a whole lot more fun to play Kent’s game (i.e., nominate cool Mormons who’ve been in the news) than it is to complain that you don’t like the parameters he’s set. MOTY is an entirely subjective designation, but it is what it is. So ante up: who do you have who can beat Jabari?

  19. lucy on May 13, 2012 at 1:56 am

    I’m not sure if she is of the tribe of Ephraim or Manessah, but what about Elizabeth Warren.

  20. Tim on May 13, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Wait–is it members of the 12 and the First Presidency who are disqualified, or all General Authorities?

    In any case, Echohawk was not a General Authority for part of 2012, and I would argue that that should allow him to be included here. It wasn’t his actions as a General Authority that make him a candidate–it is the fact that he held a high position in Obama’s administration and then was asked to be a General Authority, making the heads of ultra-conservative Mormons everywhere to explode (anyone get a response from McNaughton on that yet?)

    On that note, unfortunately, I think we have to include McNaughton on this list. He’s been getting more attention than he deserves, but he’s still been getting the attention.

  21. James Olsen on May 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Sam, you beat me to it! And Kent, I think it’s a great game.

    Have we ever nominated the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? I meet people on the other side of the world who know nothing about the church, but know our choir.

  22. Kent Larsen on May 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Lucy (19), AFAIK, Elizabeth Warren is not Mormon, so she doesn’t qualify, regardless of what tribe she belongs to.

  23. Kent Larsen on May 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Tim (20), I’ve become confused myself. You are correct. Echohawk does qualify.

    And, I agree on McNaughton. I dearly dislike giving the man any more attention, but he is Mormon, has appeared in the news and been lampooned by Steven Colbert, and isn’t an Apostle, so he qualifies.

  24. Kent Larsen on May 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    James (21), I think the Choir was nominated one year, but I don’t remember for sure. I agree that their impact is significant and lasting, and their cumulative impact is very large. I’d say they are a worthy nominee most years.

  25. lucy on May 14, 2012 at 11:42 am

    #22 alas, two failed attempts (#7, #19) at friendly humor. Sigh.

    #4, #5 – excellent suggestions.

  26. palerobber on May 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    in addition to Card’s ongoing anti-marriage work with NOM, he seems to have been overlooked in last year’s voting despite giving the world this groundbreaking piece of lit.

  27. Jeremy Orbe-Smith on May 17, 2012 at 5:44 am

    While we’re at it, can we invent an “Honorary Mormon of the Year” award? Because I want to vote for Jon Stewart.

  28. Sam Brunson on May 17, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Jeremy, that would be BCC’s annual Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year Award.

  29. Anon on May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Not to harp but Forbes just listed Beck above Limbaugh, Cruise, and Trump in media players. http://www.forbes.com/profile/glenn-beck/