The staff of a popular Mormon blog announced Monday it has chosen embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the 2009 Mormon of the Year, even as several top Republicans called for his resignation.
During the past year, Reid was the "most visible and influential Mormon politician in the world," Kent Larsen II, organizer of the annual contest at timesandseasons.org, said in a phone interview. "What most made Harry Reid Mormon of the Year was his overall presence in the news and issues that affect peoples lives."
While Reid's faith is not discussed as much as that of other Mormon politicians, he remains an active member of his LDS congregation, Larsen noted. In recent years Reid has helped The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on some crucial issues, including helping broker a compromise between the church and the BLM over access to Martin's Cove. A fixture in Nevada politics, Reid has long advocated that one can consistently be a Democrat and a Mormon.
A firestorm erupted in recent days, however, over Reid's 2008 description of then-candidate Barack Obama as a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Reid, D-Nev., apologized Saturday to Obama, and the president issued a statement accepting the apology and saying the matter was closed. That didn't stop GOP Chairman Michael Steele and other Republicans from demanding that Reid step down as majority leader.
Nor did it alter the outcome of timesandseasons' choice.
"The Mormon of the Year designation is a recognition of the effect that the person or group of persons has had during the past year. It is not a prize or award, so nothing of value is being given to anyone as a result of this designation," Larsen said. He did caution, however, that "this recognition should not be seen as an endorsement of his political positions or aspirations."
As in previous years, the blog's 12 staff members made the selection, though they did invite readers to offer their own opinions. This year's contest attracted nearly 2,000 votes, Larsen said, with the top slot going to Reed Cowen, a filmmaker who documented the LDS Church's involvement in California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Fox talk show host Glenn Beck and former Utah governor and now U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. also fared well with readers.
Other nominees included: Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, songwriting Sen. Orrin Hatch, kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart, and frontman for the rock band The Killers, Brandon Flowers.
A competing Mormon blog, bycommonconsent.com, gave Stephen Colbert the 2009 Boggs-Doniphan Award f or the non-Mormon with the biggest impact on Mormonism, positive or negative.
"Colbert's playful but pointed coverage of the church in 2009 helped keep us in the limelight on the gay issue at a time when, reeling from the Prop 8 fallout, we might have preferred a low profile," Ronan James Head, a British Mormon, wrote on the blog.
"His coverage of the SLC Main Street Plaza 'trespassing' arrest of Derek Jones and Matt Aune, including a star turn by BYU law professor John Fee, reminded us all that sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction."
The contest was named after Gov. Lilburn Boggs, the Missouri politician who issued the infamous "1838 Extermination Order," saying Mormons should be treated as enemies of the state and driven from their homes, and Gen. Alexander William Doniphan, the militia leader who refused to carry out the order to arrest and execute LDS founder Joseph Smith and other church leaders. firstname.lastname@example.org