Friday, April 3, 2009

Mormons and the media: Bottom Up?

Since 2012 holds the prospect of two Mormon candidates (Mitt Romney and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman), it's useful to get into the Mormon mindset.

So what we're going to do is start with a theoretical framework for how the church works with the media, discuss whether Mormonism's a cult, and highlight some of the best sources of news for non-Mormons who want to track Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney.

As a non-Mormon, if I err at any point, please email and correct my sin.

First, The Boston Globe's religion reporter, Michael Paulson, has an insight or two about how the church responds politically, noting that it's important because "we're having a bit of a Mormon moment in culture these days", thanks to Prop 8 and the above.

No other faith group is as quick to respond to newspaper coverage as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... Paulson, who is not a Mormon and is in his ninth year covering religion for the Globe, said that rapid response seems to come from the bottom levels up — another unusual trend for churches.

(ea) Fascinating observation, b/c for a church as organized and controlled as the Mormon church, you'd think the water would flow downward.

As far as the cult issue goes, the best academic resource is Jeremy Gunn's "The Complexity of religion and the definition of 'religion' in international law."

It's interesting, but loaded with jargon. If you want a breezier run-down on whether Mormonism is a cult, click here.

The short answer is "No, Mormonism is not a cult". Evangelicals often conflate theological differences with cults, but Donnie Darko is a cult; the Mormon church is not.

Back in February, we wrote:

You'll find evangelical after evangelical who defines Mormonism as a cult solely based on doctrinal differences. And they don't want those doctrinal differences blurred. Thus, they persist in perpetuating the notion of Mormonism as a cult, and not just a competing religion.

So then, while the doctrinal differences between the two are very real, there is one common feature they share: Both Christianity and Mormonism are religions.

Third, for the best sources of Mormon political news, here are some suggestions (and note: I'm not even sure if some of these sources are Mormon).

In no particular order, here are good sources for Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman followers:

a. Glen Warchol.

b. Mormon Times.

c. David Frum's tremendous piece, "Mormons for President".

d. Voice of Deseret

e. Deseret News Politics

f. Latter Day Logic

g. Mitt Romney -- Road to the White House

h. ComMITTED to Romney

Any more, send them in.