Mitt Romney

Why did Latterday-day Saints change brands? That news story (oh no) may be linked to doctrine

Why did Latterday-day Saints change brands? That news story (oh no) may be linked to doctrine

In the months since the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the attempt to tone down use of the word “Mormon,” I have heard two questions over and over from people outside the Latter-day Saint fold.

Yes, that sentence was somewhat long and awkward, for obvious reasons.

Question No. 1: What are they going to call The Choir.

Question No. 2: Why did Latter-day Saints leaders take this step, at this moment in time, to change their brand?

If you are interested in that first question, a long, long feature story in The New York Times — “ ‘Mormon’ No More: Faithful Reflect on Church’s Move to Scrap a Moniker” — has a fabulous anecdote that shows up at the very end. Here we go:

For many Latter-day Saints, the most important cue came from the church’s iconic musical organization, known since 1929 as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The group was on tour in Los Angeles last year, singing in Disney Hall, when a bishop asked choir leaders to begin thinking about new names.

At first many performers felt “a little uptight” about the idea, said the group’s president, Ron Jarrett. … They mulled options: the Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, the Tabernacle Choir in Utah, the Tabernacle Choir of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and finally landed on the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Still, the group had to manage a swath of legal issues, like how to protect copyrights and recording labels all made under the former name. Products and recordings made before 2019 will maintain the previous legal name, but new ones will not.

“For me, it has been an opportunity to really evaluate who we are and what we stand for,” Mr. Jarrett said. “I was able to say, ‘I will follow a living prophet, and our music will remain the same.’”

The singers have retired their catchy nickname, the MoTabs. They are trying out a new one, Mr. Jarrett said: the TCats, or TabCats.

I think legions of headline writers would embrace that kind of short, catchy, option, should the church’s leaders come up with an unofficial official nickname. After all, you may recall that use of the “LDS” brand was also discouraged, along with the big change in the status of “Mormon.” The Times story notes the practical implications online:

The church’s longtime website, LDS.org, now redirects to ChurchofJesusChrist.org, and Mormon.org will soon switch over, too. In May, the church stopped posting on its @MormonChannel Instagram feed and encouraged followers to move to @ChurchofJesusChrist instead.

OK, but why did this change happen?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Yet again, another take on those evangelicals and Donald Trump, this version from an insider   

Yet again, another take on those evangelicals and Donald Trump, this version from an insider   

Political reporters, pundits, and party strategists trying to understand U.S. evangelicals sometimes seem like David Livingstone or Margaret Mead scrutinizing an exotic jungle tribe they’ve stumbled upon. Analysts especially scratch heads on how those nice churchgoing Protestant folks could ever vote for a dissolute guy like Donald Trump. 

(Standard terminology note: In American political-speak, “Evangelicals” almost always means white evangelicals, because African-American Protestants, though often similar in faith, are so distinct culturally and politically.) 

That Trump conundrum is taken up yet again by a self-described “friendly observer/participant” with evangelicalism, Regent University political scientist A.J. Nolte. His school’s CEO, Pat Robertson, proclaimed candidate Trump “God’s man for the job.” Yet Nolte posted his point of view on Charlie Sykes’s thebulwark.com. This young site brands Trump “a serial liar, a narcissist and a bully, a con man who mocks the disabled and women, a man with no fixed principles who has the vocabulary of an emotionally insecure 9-year-old.” Don’t hold back, #NeverTrump folks.

Nolte, a Catholic University Ph.D. who belongs on your source list, did not vote for the president and remains “deeply Trump-skeptical.” He considers evangelicals’ bond with Trump  “unwise” in the long term and “almost certain to do more harm than good.” He thinks believers’ Trump support “is shallower and more conditional than it appears” and even muses about a serious primary challenge. The Religion Guy disputes that, but agrees with Nolte that evangelical women under 45 are the most likely to spurn the president next year. 

Nolte offers a nicely nuanced version of outsiders’ scenario that “existential fear” on religious-liberty issues drove Trump support in 2016 and still does.

Is this irrational?

Nolte says evangelicals have “a valid concern that religion and religious arguments will be pushed out of the public square altogether.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Post-election storylines: Five religion angles as dust settles from Midterm voting

Post-election storylines: Five religion angles as dust settles from Midterm voting

Good morning from blue America!

I mean, I guess Oklahoma — where I live — is still a red state. But my congressional district just flipped, electing a Democrat for the first time in 40 years in what The Oklahoman characterized as “a political upset for the history books” and FiveThirtyEight called “the biggest upset of the night” nationally.

(Neighboring Kansas turned a little blue, too, electing a Democratic governor.)

Religion angle? In advance of Tuesday’s midterms, we asked here at GetReligion if a post-Trump rise of the religious left was a real trend or wishful thinking.

Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, which Democrat Kendra Horn won in a nail-biter, was one of the places where a group of progressive evangelicals called Vote Common Good that toured the country brought its bus. The Oklahoman’s pre-election story noted:

If Horn, an Episcopalian and Democrat running for Congress, is to do what others claim cannot be done — namely, defeat Republican Rep. Steve Russell on Nov. 6 — she will need to make inroads with a voting bloc that has helped propel Russell's political career: evangelicals.

What role did religious voters played in Horn’s upset win in one of the reddest of the red states? I haven’t seen reporting on that angle yet. No doubt, changing demographics in the Oklahoma City area played a role, as did the rural-urban divide, but perhaps suburban evangelical women turned off by Trump did, too? Stay tuned.

As we begin to digest Tuesday’s outcomes across the U.S., here are a handful of religion angles making headlines or likely to do so:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Hey journalists: If you wanted to find Latino Trump voters, where would it be smart to look?

Hey journalists: If you wanted to find Latino Trump voters, where would it be smart to look?

If you want to start an argument, post-Election Day, here is one of the many questions that you can ask: How many Latino voters backed Donald Trump?

The Washington Post political team has been all over this issue, asking: Did 29 percent of Hispanics actually vote for Trump? Was this just a matter of "rural" Latinos, whatever that means, swinging his way?

This is a very, very hot-button topic. During live coverage of the Florida results you could hear a "this is like 9/11" shock in the voices of the on-camera talent (I was mostly watching CNN) as they realized that a smallish, but significant, percentage of the state's complex Latino population was going to back Trump.

As a former resident of West Palm Beach, I looked at the numbers and thought to myself: (1) The Cuban vote alone cannot explain what is happening and (2) someone needs to ask this question: What percentage of Latinos in Florida have converted to evangelical and Pentecostal forms of Protestantism?

So here is the question journalists should think about as we look at another piece of Washington Post coverage on this issue: If you were going to look for Latino Trump voters in Texas, where would you start looking? 

Start with this exercise: Click over to the full blog post and look at the screen shot of this particular Post story, located at the very top of my text. What is the first thing that you see in this image?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Dear Washington Post editors: Ask some orthodox Catholics why THEY oppose Trump

Dear Washington Post editors: Ask some orthodox Catholics why THEY oppose Trump

You knew this story was coming sooner or later, in The Washington Post as well as in every other mainstream news outlet. The understated Post headline: "Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem."

Of course he does. I mean, let's think it through.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that the majority of Catholics and ex-Catholics who oppose their church's defense of ancient Christian doctrines on sex, marriage, the defense of life from conception to grave and related issues are going to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that Catholics who say they support those teachings, but have not defended these doctrines in public life or even a voting booth since, oh, 1973, are going to vote for Clinton.

Raise your hand if you are surprised that millions of Latino Catholics are going to vote against Donald Trump.

So far, it's easy to do the math. So what is the interesting question in this piece of news? Hint. You will not find the answer in the Post piece that is currently getting lots of promotion. First, here are some key facts right up top:

Yes, the man who once feuded with the pope (how soon we forget that actually happened) is cratering among Catholics.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Increased press scrutiny of Ben Carson will involve his Seventh-day Adventism

Increased press scrutiny of Ben Carson will involve his Seventh-day Adventism

Four polls in Iowa give candidate Ben Carson a solid lead over his rival Donald Trump. “The Hill” observed October 26 that this now raises “the possibility of Ben Carson becoming the Republican presidential nominee,” although he “has not yet faced real scrutiny.”

Inevitably,  scrutiny will include Carson’s well-known and devout affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church,  a topic the New York Times just examined. There will be more, of course, if his numbers stay high.

Of course, Trump pulled that part of Carson's into the spotlight, telling a Florida rally, “I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

Challenged about questioning a candidate’s religion, Trump said he had nothing to apologize for because “all I said was I don’t know about it.” But of course his words contrasted his “middle of the road” mainline Protestantism with   a faith people don’t know about, slyly suggesting there’s reason for wariness and relegating Carson’s creed to the cultural margins.

Note that SDAs number 1.1 million in the U.S. plus Canada, compared with 1.7 million in Trump’s Presbyterian Church (USA).

Actually it was Carson who started the religion warfare in September, saying his own devout faith is “probably is a big differentiator” with Trump, and that if Trump is sincere, “I haven’t heard it. I haven’t seen it.” Unlike Trump, Carson later apologized.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

How did the Mitt Romney era affect the status of the Mormon church?

How did the Mitt Romney era affect the status of the Mormon church?

KEN ASKS:

What has been the impact on Mormons of the burst of intense attention they received during the Romney presidential bids?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

This was posted before Mitt Romney took himself out of the Republicans’ crowded 2016 steeplechase. But this is a good moment to analyze the era when his presidential ambitions brought new attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed “Mormon” or “LDS”).

Not that he’s disappearing. Romney remains a player and conceivable vice president, Treasury secretary, or other official if the G.O.P. wins next year -- unless his church appoints him one of its ruling “General Authorities” in Salt Lake City.

Romney is no run-of-the-mill churchgoer but has held responsible posts in this clergy-less denomination that’s led locally by laymen serving part-time. He has been the “bishop” (equivalent of a pastor) in his own “ward” (congregation) and president of the Boston-area “stake” (akin to a Catholic or Episcopal bishop). He is an ordained “high priest,” the LDS ecclesiastical rank below patriarch, seventy and apostle.

The former governor’s prominence should have burnished the faith’s P.R. image. He personifies attractive virtues Mormons most like to display: clean living, hard work, probity, public spirit (e.g. taking charge to save the 2002 Winter Olympics), generosity in donations and private help, patriotism and faithful commitment to church and family.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Mitt Romney is still a Mormon: The Washington Post takes a shot at the 'pastor' vs. 'bishop' question

Mitt Romney is still a Mormon: The Washington Post takes a shot at the 'pastor' vs. 'bishop' question

Back in the 1980s, when I was working at The Rocky Mountain News (RIP, maybe) in Denver, I was in regular contact with press officials in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both locally, especially during the building of the Colorado temple, and those working in the big white tower in Salt Lake City, Utah.

We frequently discussed issues of newspaper style and how the church's unique beliefs were handled in the mainstream press. We didn't always agree, of course, but I knew where they were coming from. We had many discussions, for example, about what to call the leaders of local and regional Mormon flocks. The key: Mormons don't have professional, full-time clergy in the same sense as other churches. The word "ordain" isn't used in the same way.

Thus, it has been interesting to follow the many interesting comments on my recent post about the New York Times story covering the ongoing political and religious pilgrimage of Mitt Romney. The key reference was right near the top:

WASHINGTON -- A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.
Believing that Mr. Romney, a former Mormon pastor, would be most receptive on these grounds, the Republican made the case that Mr. Romney had a duty to serve, and said Mr. Romney seemed to take his appeal under consideration.

It seems clear to me that Mormons have, in recent years, continued in their efforts to find ways to talk about their lives in language that is less foreign to other Americans. Thus, rather than saying that a local LDS leader was the "bishop" of his "ward," it is becoming more likely that -- when talking to outsiders -- Mormons are more likely to say that some is the "pastor"  of their local "church" and THEN go on to explain the differences.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Do Mormons now officially have local 'pastors,' simply because Romney once said he had been a 'pastor'?

Do Mormons now officially have local 'pastors,' simply because Romney once said he had been a 'pastor'?

Mitt Romney is in the news again, which means it's time for people to argue about whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, well, you know, normal and safe and whatever.

This leads us to a really interesting question linked to a New York Times piece that ran the other day: Is it a mistake when journalists print a factually inaccurate statement about a religious believer, yet there is evidence that they were quoting -- without saying they were quoting -- the believer himself?

The discussion starts here:

WASHINGTON -- A prominent Republican delivered a direct request to Mitt Romney not long ago: He should make a third run for the presidency, not for vanity or redemption, but to answer a higher calling from his faith.
Believing that Mr. Romney, a former Mormon pastor, would be most receptive on these grounds, the Republican made the case that Mr. Romney had a duty to serve, and said Mr. Romney seemed to take his appeal under consideration.
Three years ago, Mr. Romney’s tortured approach to his religion -- a strategy of awkward reluctance and studied avoidance that all but walled off a free-flowing discussion of his biography -- helped doom his campaign. (The subject is still so sensitive that many, including the prominent Republican, would only discuss it on condition that they not be identified.)

Veteran religion writers will spot the problem quickly: Mormons don't have "pastors," if that noun is a reference to ordained clergy who work for the church as their calling and vocation.

Please respect our Commenting Policy