For Latter-day Saints, 2012 offered plenty of reasons to stay glued to the news. More ink was spilled about the Mormons than ever before. Buzzfeed said this was the year it was “cool” to be a Mormon. We had not one but three Latter-day Saints running for president of a nation (Romney, Huntsman and Samake). Media everywhere announced that this was the Mormon moment, and then Pew Forum said according to its research, the “Mormon moment” was over. We think it is just beginning.
Here, according to Meridian editors, were some of the most intriguing LDS stories of the year. These are not in any particular order, but are counted because they have major significance.
Not included were noteworthy moments in the lives of prominent members. Jabari Parker as a high school athlete made the cover of Sports Illustrated, David Archuleta decided to go on a mission, Stephanie Meyer had more movies made of her books, and, of course, media had a heyday trying to figure out who we are. Meridian’s own story about the cultural celebration at the Kansas City, Missouri Temple dedication became the topic of President Monson’s October conference address (which was a notable moment for us.)
1. Mitt Romney runs for president of the United States
When Mitt Romney first ran for president in 2008, most Mormons were surprised at how openly negative the press was about Mormons. Some noted that the Church and its members were the only minority it was still politically correct to malign and many said they would not vote for a candidate who was LDS.
Things took a different tone in the 2012 race. The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism reported, “A striking feature of the 2012 race for the White House – a contest that pitted the first Mormon nominee from a major party against an incumbent president whose faith had been a source of controversy four years earlier – is how little the subject of religion came up in the media.” Just 1% of the campaign coverage by major news outlets focused “on the religion of candidates or the role of religion in the presidential election.” Only 6% of the election-related stories contained any reference to religion.
More impressive, “white evangelical Protestants voted as overwhelmingly for Romney (79%) as they did for Republican candidates John McCain in 2008 (73%) and George W. Bush in 2004 (79%). Indeed, white evangelicals voted as strongly for Romney as Mormons did (78%), according to the Pew Forum analysis of exit poll data.”
2. Media Declares this the Mormon Moment
A bunch of events and people converged to bring on this “Mormon moment”, a term coined by an unknown journalist. Among those were prominent Latter-day Saints who suddenly seem to be everywhere from bestseller lists to corporate boardrooms to magazine covers (and, of course, reality shows). What is particularly noteworthy is how savvy the response of the Church has been to all this.
To the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon”, the Church has responded by putting ads in the playbill with faces of Mormons and quotes like “The book is better.”
Mike Otterson, director of public affairs for the LDS Church noted “There will be times when we need a thick skin. We may also need a sense of humor. Our claims are most convincing when our actions are in tune with our own beliefs.”
The I’m a Mormon campaign has spread to many American cities and Meridian noted http://www.ldsmag.com/article/11828 the mormon.org has had 15 million visitors to the site in the last 12 months.
3. Yeah Samake runs for president of Mali.
Yeah is not only the only Latter-day Saint in Mali, he is also a candidate for president, running on a platform of integrity and accountability. The election was to have been held last April, but a military coup happened just days before the election. In great danger, Yeah stepped forward to calm the rebellion. He is working, now, for fair and democratic elections to be held next April.
What happens here is vital for the entire world as a new nest of al Qaeda operatives has emerged in northern Mali and threatens the security of all nations. This is a hot spot for a Latter-day Saint to find himself in.
4. Emilie Parker killed at Sandy Hook.
Sandy Hook was a massacre of babies, of children with bright eyes and futures-and every death was an agony for all of us. Added to that heartbreak was the death of Emilie Parker, a 6-year old, who was remembered by her father Robbie Parker when he talked to the media on the steps of an LDS meetinghouse and said, “She was the kind of person who could just light up a room…and I am blessed to be her Dad.”
5. Missionary age is changed
Not since the statement about the rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple has the LDS membership responded with such noticeable gasps to a prophet’s General Conference announcement. When President Thomas S. Monson revealed in Saturday’s morning’s session that the age requirement for missionary service would be lowered to 18 for men who have graduated from high school and 19 for women, the ripple across the Church was immediate.
No stranger to our culture could have understood the implications of this, but Latter-day Saints saw this as a major announcement that especially impacted young women who were sometimes wary of leaving at 21. Many mission presidents were told to brace themselves and expect their missionary numbers to rise to 250.
Meridian reported that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “I’m bordering on giddy.”
Why is the Church making this change? Elder Holland said, “It means that God is hastening his work, and he needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an increasingly dark and fearful world.”
See the video Sister Missionaries Unite.
6. A year of temple dedications.
In 1836 Latter-saints were driven out of Jackson County at the hands of a mob. In 2012, not far away, a temple in Kansas City, Missouri was dedicated, a remarkable event in a place packed with memory.
Our photo essay captures the beauty of this temple where Mormons were once rejected. Part of the power of this event took place the night before at the youth cultural event where 3,000 youth gathered and saw a miracle.
The JumboTron, hanging from the ceiling of the Kansas City auditorium, was the glue to the show, with video segments and narration between dance numbers. Though they had only one day for the entire group to practice together, the Jumbo-Tron not only didn’t work, but no technician could solve the problem.
The 3,000 youth knelt together and prayed a powerful, Spirit-filled prayer and 15 minutes later the technician came and said they had stumbled upon the solution by “dumb luck.” This is one of our favorite stories ever.
In addition to the Kansas City Missouri temple, these additional temples were dedicated this year. Buenos Aires Argentina temple, Brigham City Utah temple, Calgary Alberta temple, and the Boise Idaho temple. They are a reminder that no matter how difficult the times, the Lord’s Church will roll on until it fills the whole earth.
7. Groundbreaking for the Provo City Center Temple
We put this in its own special category because so many tears were shed when the historic Provo Tabernacle was burned to the ground. What would happen to the remains hung in the balance until the Church announced something even better for the site. The remaining structure would be rebuilt into a temple. At the May groundbreaking Elder L. Whitney Clayton quoted the Psalmist: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
8. Church Launches Christmas Ads in Times Square
When you think of Times Square, you think of enormous moving billboards advertising the latest in Babylon. That’s why the Church’s decision to launch Christmas ads in Times Square was so refreshing. Instead of the usual trivial flash, the Church’s ads read “Christmas is family,” “Christmas is love,” “Christmas is worship,” “Christmas is service” and “Christmas is Jesus Christ.”
Read the article here.
9. Church pledges to support religious freedom.
At a conference of religious and civic leaders in Washington DC, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, that the Church was willing to put in work and treasure to join others to stand against the incursions on religious freedom.
The church-goer, sitting in the pews, may not yet see the erosion of religious freedom, because he or she has not yet been personally affected. Yet, Elder Clayton noted,
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that the concern for protecting full, robust religious freedom is fully justified. Losses suffered at the federal, state and local levels are very real and threaten the religious freedom of the nation as a whole.
“These losses,” he said, “range from subtle manipulation of language to overtly coercive regulations and imposition of penalties for the exercise of conscience. Freedom of conscience is our most precious and personal right. Over time the loss of the right to follow our conscience will ultimately become a devastating personal loss to every American and to people across the world.
“We believe that we must wisely and appropriately resist the effort of the squeezing hand of government to control our consciences.” Read the article here.
10. Mormon Helping Hands
Who is often among the earliest responders at a disaster? The Mormon Helping Hands, donned in yellow t-shirts and bearing no hidden agenda. For instance, more than 28,000 MHH volunteers have given of their time, totaling over 275,000 hours, to the recovery efforts and in assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Read article here.
The Mormon Helping Hands also showed up in Cambodia, East Africa, California, Hawaii, Idaho and many other places.
11. Bonus: Pew Forum Study on Mormons
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published the first major study on Mormons in America in January 2012. Their findings were not essentially surprising.
They summarized, “Many Mormons feel they are misunderstood, discriminated against and not accepted by other Americans as part of mainstream society. Yet, at the same time, a majority of Mormons think that acceptance of Mormonism is rising. Overwhelmingly, they are satisfied with their lives and content with their communities.”
12. Bonus: LDS Church launched new website about same-sex attraction
A new website, www.mormonsandgays.org, launched in 2012 by the LDS Church gives a clear message: No one should be more loving towards those with same-sex attraction, than members who have the gospel of Jesus Christ and understand that it is a Christian imperative to “Love one another.”
Read our article here.