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Business Week latest to link Mormons, missions and business management

Published: Saturday, June 11 2011 1:00 p.m. MDT

PROVO — For the second time in seven days, a major North American weekly news magazine is taking a close look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and trying to mesh even more those sometimes-linked alliterative "M" words — Mormons, missionaries and management.

In the wake of Newsweek's multi-story cover feature titled "Mormons Rock," Bloomberg Business Week tries to make an even more direct link in its piece titled "God's MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders."

Reported and written by Caroline Winter, the BusinessWeek feature is summarized in its secondary headline: "Many of the men who trained to be Mormon missionaries have gone on to become among the most distinguished persons in American business and civic life."

The article waves a cautionary flag: "There's a risk of stereotyping in drawing conclusions about any religion based on a sampling of its exceptional adherents, but church leaders and Mormon businessmen embrace the idea that there's a relationship between the missionary experience and success in business."

That didn't stop BusinessWeek from noting that "Latter-day Saints hold, or have held, a seemingly disproportionate number of top jobs at such major corporations as Marriott International, American Express, American Motors, Dell Computers, Lufthansa, Fisher-Price, Life Re, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Madison Square Garden, La Quinta Properties, PricewaterhouseCooper and Stanley Black & Decker."

The "God's MBAs" feature is accompanied by a "Mormons in Business" list — "names of prominent Mormon businessmen, from Jeremy Andrus to Raymond D. Zinn.

It's a similar treatment as was done last July by James Crabtree of The Financial Times of London in his piece "The Rise of a new generation of Mormons."

As is common in the case of similar articles, the three aforementioned articles offer a precursory review of LDS Church history — yet using a range of descriptive phrases from "unusual beliefs" to the more subjective of "founding myth," "weird" and "wacky."

The stories included information about deviations from LDS norms, mentioning HBO's "Big Love" TV series on polygamist families or the Broadway musical production "The Book of Mormon" and its off-color satire of Mormon missionaries.

Like the Financial Times, BusinessWeek was afforded rare onsite access to the LDS Church's Provo Missionary Training Center. The Deseret News, provided similar access earlier this year, provided a three-day series of articles on the Provo MTC in March.

Both BusinessWeek and the Financial Times concluded aspects of missionary training and missionary service were catalysts for business success — international assignments and language learning spawning multi-cultural sensitivities and global adaptability; companionships leading to the development of interpersonal skills and the combination of suffering, sacrifice and self-improvement helping instill a strong work ethic.

BusinessWeek quoted Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, a Rhodes scholar and LDS missionary in Korea in the early 1970s: "I don't think there's any more demanding profession than being a Mormon missionary."

EMAIL: taylor@desnews.com

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