New York Post columnist Maureen Callahan recently tried to explain to her readers the ecclesiastical implications for Mitt and Ann Romney and their activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if the family ends up living in the White House.
Callahan cited several sources in her column, although there is nothing officially from the LDS Church. Too bad. Even if she had just gone to the church's Newsroom website, specifically prepared as a media resource, she might have avoided some glaring misrepresentations of LDS Church doctrine, policy, practice and procedure.
Callahan wrote: "There are 136 Mormon temples in the world, though most members worship at one of the thousands of smaller churches " She erred by suggesting LDS temples and meetinghouses are functionally interchangable, going so far as to say that "there are rooms for Sunday services" in the temples – which is simply not true. In fact, LDS temples are closed on Sundays. On the Newsroom website Callahan would have found articles explaining Mormon worship services and the respective purposes of temples and chapels.
"Sunday services last three hours, and begin with the hour-long 'sacrament,' their version of communion, with water swapped in for wine," Callahan wrote. "That's followed by another hour of sermons, delivered by rotating congregants, and a third hour in which men and women split up to pray and converse in small groups." Close, but not quite, as Newsroom articles on how Mormons worship and what to expect at an LDS worship service would have clarified.
Callahan speculated that if Mitt Romney is elected president, he would "attend the same chapel as Harry Reid, located in a leafy, well-to-do suburb of Maryland, a 20-minute drive from Capitol Hill. The optics of a sitting president walking into an unassuming brick building, mixing with and being ministered to by fellow congregants from different backgrounds, would be the best free advertising the religion's had since the Osmonds." For the record, the LDS meetinghouse locator associated with the lds.org website indicates that the White House address – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. – falls within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the church's Washington D.C. 3rd Ward, which currently shares a meetinghouse with the Chevy Chase Ward, the ward that Sen. Reid attends. However, the DC 3rd Ward will move into a new meetinghouse on 16th Street in Washington, D.C., this fall. Church officials have indicated that until it is officially determined that an LDS family will be moving into that address, no decisions will be made as far as meeting attendance, home teaching, visiting teaching and other church assignments are concerned.
Callahan wrote about going to the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors Center, talking to young female missionaries who "wear calf-length skirts, flat shoes and an indefatigable air of energized piety." Then she added: "Less than two hours after my visit – despite giving staffers only my first name and filling out no paperwork – I was startled to get a voicemail on my cell phone from someone identifying himself as a prophet, saying that he'd like to 'start interceding for your life' and asking me to call an 800 number to join a prayer circle." Callahan blithely linked the two events, inferring that the phone call came as a result of her visit to the visitor's center. The Newsroom article on the LDS missionary program would have told her that missionaries are referred to as "elder" and sister," not "prophet," and that their work has nothing to do with "interceding for your life" or organizing "prayer circles." And common sense should have told her that there's no way the missionaries could have come up with her cell phone number based only on her first name.
There are other issues within Callahan's column, most of them similarly mixing a little truth with a lot of misunderstanding — most of which could have been avoided with a few clicks on the LDS Newsroom website.