As a writer, for most of every day I work alone, at least in terms of human companionship, although what I do is observed by our three dogs and two cats.  Thankfully, in regard to my professional activities, their communication skills do not extend to writing, proofing, or commenting upon what I produce.  This means that I’m relatively isolated from much of the activity in that area of the United States where we live, Utah, otherwise known as the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret.  At times, periodically, events of such a pointed nature surface that even I cannot escape such reminders of the omnipresent theocracy.

Two months ago, it was the pronouncement by the theocrats – or one of the theocracy’s General Authorities, as I recall – that the LDS Church firmly opposed any change in the state’s highly restrictive and often ludicrous liquor laws.  Needless to say, although a number of legislators had suggested bringing the laws into the twentieth century, thus only being a century or so behind the rest of the nation, the legislature immediately decided against considering any changes.

The second reminder arrived with the Monday morning paper, the Salt Lake Tribune.  As part of the paper, there was a “32-Page Special Section,” under the Tribune letterhead, and with no indication that it was an advertising section, entitled “Commencing With a Mission,” featuring the color photograph of a good-looking male high school student who will be skipping his high school graduation ceremony in order to begin his two year LDS church mission.  Only inside the edition next to the page numbers is any indication of the purpose of the section, and there the words “LDS Conference” appear.  In short, the “Special Edition” consists of 32 pages specific to the Mormon Church and its biannual faith-wide General Conference.  The section has ads, just like the rest of the paper, and while some clearly have an LDS slant [more about those later], every story is LDS-themed.  It’s clearly not an advertising insert.

I certainly would have expected such an insert if I subscribed to the Deseret News, which is owned and operated, if through LDS subsidiaries, by the LDS Church – but because I’m anything but of the LDS faith, that is why I subscribe to the Tribune.

As for the ads, some were the “normal” types for tankless water heaters, vacation destinations, eyeglass providers, and furniture stories, etc., while others were clearly aimed at missionaries, advertising the best “missionary suits” and garb or offering “missionary discounts” on luggage, as well as a few others tailored toward church-related goods  The ad that I found screamingly objectionable was the full-page spread by Utah State University, perhaps because the lead “point” in the listing of USU’s features was that it boasts the “World’s Largest LDS Institute Program.”   I have trouble when a state-supported, state institution receiving federal funds advertises in a religious supplement about its religious capabilities… and those capabilities are limited to a single faith.

Somehow, I can’t imagine the Los Angeles Times printing, or getting away with printing, a special supplement devoted to covering Scientology, especially in such a flattering fashion, or the Boston Globe printing a similar section on Christian Science… or state universities in either California or Massachusetts advertising their support of a specific faith.

But then, California and Massachusetts aren’t semi-sovereign theocracies.


9 thoughts on “Reminders”

  1. D Archerd says:

    Assuming that the LDS Institute Program at Utah State is a student-run, externally supported organization similar to the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) that is also active at many universities, it seems like the college is not crossing the “separation of church and state” line by highlighting something that would be a selling point about student life to their target market.

    And while you’re undoubtedly right about the likelihood of the LA Times running a 32-page special section about Scientology, etc., it’s also true that Scientology doesn’t interest anywhere near the percentage of the population in LA that LDS does in Salt Lake City. Again, one can hardly blame them for catering to their marketplace.

    While I can sympathize with your feelings common to anyone who is a minority in the place where they live, the fact is you did choose to live in Utah, a wonderful and beautiful state despite the overwhelming presence of what is to many, myself included, a decidedly odd religion.

    1. I have to disagree on the issue of USU crossing the line, but that’s a matter of opinion, at least until or unless it’s litigated. Much of what the LDS Church does in Utah has been declared unconstitutional when attempted by other religions in other states; the difference here is that the issues in Utah have never been litigated –except they will be on the issue of gay marriage. As for choice in living here… yes, it’s absolutely beautiful, but the state remains a semi-sovereign theocracy, and that’s not a matter of opinion.

    2. Oh… and by way of explanation…The LDS Institute program is a church-funded, church sponsored institute on campus with a required religious course of studies for LDS students in good “religious” standing, i.e., effectively mandatory for LDS students. It is not student run, but church run. There is an institute on-campus or across the street at every state college or university in Utah.

      1. Lawrence says:

        A correction if I may. Attendance of LSD Institute is not considered relevant to “good standing” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Strongly encouranged? Definitely. A benchmark of measurement? Never in my experience as a lifetime member.

        Thank you again for your continued work here and in your literature.

  2. D Archerd says:

    I guess the real test is to substitute “Islam” for “LDS” in any of these questions and see what people’s reaction is then.

  3. Wine Guy says:

    My reaction is about the same either way.

  4. Tom says:

    The presence of an exclusive religion seems still to be at odds with the United States Constitution. One can almost hear Quaeryt, or someone, say “there is a lack of balance”.

    1. Robert says:

      I seem to be hearing that more in (what I imagine is) Justen’s voice, but I certainly agree with your sentiment.

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