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'Will Mormons save America?' and other media stories

There has been a lot of news involving Latter-day Saints in the news

from around the world. Here's a sample of coverage.

Will Mormons save America?

Slate columnist Josh Levin takes a look at the end of America and speculates which group could help save a nation. His conclusion — Latter-day Saints could help save the republic. Levin

wrote: "While the Mormons have never put their survival skills to the

test during an authentic apocalypse, they have faced down continual

threats to the religion's existence. Shortly after Joseph Smith's bank

bubble, most of the Latter-day Saints consolidated in Missouri; the

Missourians, fearful of a group they perceived as clannish, issued an

extermination order that forced the Mormons out. In 1839, the LDS

Church moved on to Nauvoo, Ill., where more amenable state officials

briefly allowed the group to govern themselves. Five years later,

Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob of settlers angered by the Mormons'

quasi-theocracy and church leaders' polygamy. "Zoom forward to

today, and the Mormons have transformed, incredibly, from vagabonds to

the epitome of old-fashioned American values. Seen as honest and

incorruptible, Mormons are recruited in great numbers by the FBI.

Dubbed by Harold Bloom 'perhaps the most work-addicted culture in

religious history,' they have proved spectacularly successful in both

secular and church business. (1999's Mormon America: The Power and the

Promise pegged the church's assets at $25 billion to $30 billion.) They

venerate the traditional family unit, rarely divorce, and live as much

as a decade longer than the average American. They are just like us,

only they're always on their best behavior."

While I am not sure about some of the stereotypical statements, Levin

does touch on beliefs that are strengths, but also seems to overplay

beliefs he sees as quirky.

Mormons and healthcare reform

The Christian Science Monitor and PBS have identified 12 voter groups in America. One of these is "Mormon Outposts "

— counties where Mormons have a large proportion of population. One of

the newest surveys shows that Mormon outposts are most likely to oppose

President Obama's healthcare reform plan. Monitor writer Dante Chinni highlighted a Mormon Outpost in Burley, Idaho:

"Burley is not a wealthy community. The median household income hovers

around $33,000 a year, and there are few signs of the boom that spurred

growth in many communities during the early part of the decade. The

town relies heavily on agriculture, and most everyone in town

acknowledges that lack of health insurance is real problem.

"There are a lot people here without it," says Mark Mitton,

Burley's city manager. "But if you ask most anyone if they would rather

keep the current system or have the government get involved, they'll

take the way it is."

"The abiding philosophy toward government in this town that is more

than 50 percent Mormon is pretty simple: the less, the better. That

goes double when the government entity involved is from Washington,

D.C. Adherents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)

— the official name of the Mormon church — are known for being

conservative and opposed to big government in general. But that

attitude is evident throughout the area and among people of all

religious backgrounds."

Welfare program

The Boston Globe

ran an interesting article about the LDS Church's Welfare program and

the rising use of Bishop's Storehouses. Here's a couple of key


"No money changes hands, because the consumers, by and large, have no

jobs. It is the Mormon church's version of a food pantry, where many of

the packaged goods and even the frozen meat carry the church's own

private label, Deseret, and the operation is financed by tithing and

periodic fasting by church members. The facility, called a bishop's

storehouse, is a key part of a vast Mormon welfare system that is

largely without parallel in the world of religion. And now, in yet

another indication of the toll the recession has taken on the United

States, usage of Mormon storehouses is up by an estimated 30 percent,

according to church officials in Utah and Massachusetts."

For better or for worse

It's interesting how the world media continue to play up Jon Huntman

Jr.'s faith. On Tuesday, Huntsman was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to

China, after giving up the Utah governorship. For example, the China Daily

mentions that Huntsman worked as a missionary in Taiwan. There is

little mention of faith in coverage any of the other ambassadors

appointed by President Obama. For better or for worse, the religious

affiliation seems important to journalists. In this case, it may be for

the better and shines light on the fruits of the church's missionary