Last week, Washington Post reporter Sandhya Somasshekhar wrote that the high-profile Mormons in politics and media — think of the names Romney, Reid, Huntsman and Beck — are helping advance the understanding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The original article, found here, weighed between differing attitudes that the faith had finally "arrived" and that public opinion and mistrust still remained.
Since that time, the Post asked its "On Faith" online contributors — representing a diverse collection of religious thought and practices" — to respond to the question: "If conservative Christians and Mormons share a political agenda, why do suspicions still plague Mormon politicians?"
The responses from Post panelists have been coming in over the days since.
In "Mormonism's moment," the Post's Sally Quinn compiles a captivating cross-section with key excerpts from Welton Gaddy, Louisiana pastor and Interfaith Alliance leader "Keep the focus on candidates' capabilities, not their faith"; Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish center for Leadership and Learning onfaith."Americans want their president to be 'one of us' "; Chicago Theological Seminary professor Susan Brooks Thistlewaite "The Mormon branding problem" ; Barry Lynn, minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State "Only qualifications matter" and Michael Otterson, director of public affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "Mormons speak for the faith".
A dozen others weighed in. To quote each would make an already lengthy list even more cumbersome, so here's a look simply at the headlines of their remarks. Perhaps the panelist's name or summary headline might attract your interest and result in a close for closer reading:
Richard Mouw, president of the Fuller Theological Seminary, offers a look at the "Long history of hostility between Mormons and evangelicals."
Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, ponders "Mormons and evangelicals as blood brothers?"
Rajan Zed, presdient of the Universal Society of Hinduism, writes of a "Tendency to distrust the unknown."
Susan K. Smith, a Yale Divinity School graduate and award-winning author, says her attitude is in "My prayer for our presidents."
Jordan Sekulow, director of policy and international operations at the American Center for Law & Justice says "Surely a Mormon can be president."
Russ Gerber, manager of the Christian Science Committees on Publication for The First Church of Christ, Scientist, writes of "One antidote to mistrust."
John Mark Reynolds, director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, offers "The Christian case for Mormon values."
Nathan Diament, director of public policy for Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of American, wonders if 2012 will be "Mormons' 'Joe Liberman' moment."
Indian journalist and Mahatma Gahdi grandson Arun Gandhi calls it not a Lieberman moment but perhaps "Another JFK moment."
Herb Silverman, founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America says "We should judge their politics, not their religion."
Max Carter, minster and director of Friends Center at Guilford College, calls for o"Faith in the individual candidates."
And in his "Mormons speak for the faith," Otterson concludes: "Like any major faith, the church will always have its critics, and it's probably that the larger we get the more of those critics there will be. Ultimately, it is the church's own people — all of them, not just the more prominent — who will play a crucial role in increasing understanding among the public as a whole."
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other non-Post media links today.
Along the same lines of election-year attention directed to the LDS Church, Mormon writer Mark Paredes — whose "Jews and Mormons" blog is a regular feature on JewishJournal.com — offers a two-part series "Mormon Q&A for the Upcoming Presidential Election." Part I is here and Part II here.
From "Jane Austen Connects with Mormon Women, According to Austen Bio Sales," author/editor Howard F. Clarke saw that book sales of "Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, a Family Record" in the Salt Lake City area exceeded any other U.S. location by an 8-to-1 margin. The moral of the story, he says, is the morals of Austen's stories.
The Northville, Mich. Patch takes a look here at a couple of local young men returning after serving their missions — one in Arizona, the other in Chile. The report provides a lengthy offering from a hometown-newspaper perspective on missionaries, missions and the return home of two friends.
The Albany, N.Y., Times Union reports here on the LDS Church being denied by the city's planning board in its bid to demolish a vacant Catholic middle school and building a new church meetinghouse on the site it recently purchased. Some opponents want to retain historic buildings; other suggest the LDS Church renovate and move into a smaller, vacant Catholic church building across the street.
From the South Pacific and Pacific.Scoop.co.nz comes this posting simply titled "Of missionaries and bicycles," featuring Veronica Irobeni, the first woman from the Solomon Islands to serve a full-time mission
The post comes straight from LDS public affairs in New Zealand but still provides some interesting insights from Irobeni's service, such as her learning to ride a bicycle while in the New Zealand Auckland Mission.