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Taking a cue from Time magazine and other news organizations, an LDS blog is asking participants to name the "Mormon of the Year."
Unlike its secular counterparts whose editors typically choose the person to be honored, though, this selection is open to the LDS public. The contest's creator, Kent Larsen, laid out some ground rules for participants at timesandseasons.org.
First, he said, let's exclude LDS presidents, considered by the faithful to be "prophets, seers and revelators." If not, those men would be named Mormon of the Year every year.
Larsen, a publishing executive in New York City, also proposed eliminating LDS apostles for the same reason, saying, "I'm afraid the designation would just rotate among them."
Beyond that, though, the possibilities are diverse, he said.
Larsen suggested five high-profile members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, Jet Blue founder David Neeleman and pop singer David Archuleta.
Each has represented Mormonism to the broader world, yet had a unique path to fame, from politics to publishing, airlines to "American Idol." Larsen also welcomed additional nominations and, at times, the debate grew intense. Commenters discussed how "Mormon" a person was and how a candidate's public image matched their private behavior.
"If the vote is purely on the amount of coverage the church received as a result of the person's activities, I don't see an alternative to Mitt Romney," one contributor wrote. "If, however, it includes consideration of whose activities were the most positive and least negative, I would agree with Kevin and vote for [country singer and "Dancing With the Stars" two-time winner] Julianne Hough. I can't think of a more strictly positive example with such wide coverage."
Later in the thread, though, some challenged Hough as a positive role model.
"She said in a magazine article that she was a virgin and would remain that way until marriage and then retracted that comment when she started seeing a tour mate who was 10 years older," another contributor wrote.
Other Latter-day Saints recommended by contributors for consideration include:
» Retired NFL quarterback Steve Young and his wife Barbara. She publicly opposed California's Proposition 8 because she supports equal rights for gays.
» Brandon Flowers, the church-going, eyeliner-wearing lead singer of The Killers.
» Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the newest 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency.
» Elder Marlin Jensen, the official LDS historian who oversaw the Joseph Smith Papers project, and Darius Gray and Margaret Blair Young, who produced a documentary about LDS blacks and the church's priesthood ban.
Larsen plans to allow voting to continue through Monday night.
The Mormon blog bycommonconsent.com has proposed naming the Gentile of the Year, or the non-Mormon who had the greatest impact (good or bad) on Mormonism in 2008.
Candidates nominated by Ronan James Head, a British Mormon, include:
» Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose anti-Romney remarks irked many Mormons
» Catholic Archbishop George Niederauer, who got the Mormons involved in Proposition 8
» The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, whose raid on the YFZ ranch in Texas kept Mormon polygamy in the spotlight.
"As with Mormon of the Year, I'm fair depressed that non-American names do not readily spring to mind," Head writes on the blog. "I'll nominate one anyway: Massimo Introvigne, director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, whose opposition to 'anti-cult terrorism' continues to offer meaningful support to minority religions in Europe."
- Peggy Fletcher Stack