Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Contemporary Mormonism : Latter-day Saints in modern America

The City Of Zion
Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

Huntsman, who out-campaigned and outspent his opponent, is the son of the senior Jon Huntsman, an industrialist and philanthropist who provides Church president Gordon B. Hinckley with a corporate jet for his travels. The candidates agreed on many issues, but Huntsman supported tax breaks for private school education, backed the state constitutional amendment toughening Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, and focused on jobs and the economy. After the election, he vowed to look at the state 's moribund tax code, simplifying taxes, giving breaks to small business, and matching other states' economic incentives. He said the state lived in "splendid isolation" to economic realities and that he would look at the restrictive liquor laws as part of an aggressive campaign to boost Utah's image and its economy. He wanted to play up the people 's work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit and the educated, tech-savvy work force. He predicted big changes.

Another deep tension in the divided city came to light during Salt Lake City's newspaper wars between the Church-owned Deseret News and the critical, Gentile-owned Salt Lake Tribune. One has long spoken for the Church, the other for the opposition. The Tribune, begun in 1871 by Mormon dissidents, had been owned since 1902 by silver magnate and U.S. senator Thomas Kearns and four generations of his descendants, now the McCarthy family. The Tribune is the most powerful non-LDS institution in the state. In 1997, the family and other owners agreed to a profitable stock swap, exchanging the paper and some voting stock in the cable giant Tele-Communications Inc., or TCI, for TCI common shares. TCI had been founded in part with money from the Tribune in the 1950s. The paper's management would remain the same, and the family would buy the paper back in a few years.

In the course of events, TCI was acquired by AT&T, which did not want the newspaper, but any sale was complicated by the joint ownership of the Newspaper Agency Corporation, which has printed both the Tribune and the News for fifty years, an economic collaboration. The papers share presses, circulation crews, and advertising staff. The McCarthy family wanted to buy the Tribune back, but the News had to approve the sale, making the business fight a religious issue. An AT&T memo summed up the dispute: "Family wants to buy assets back. NAC [the press operations] not transferable . . . . Church will not consent because it hates family . . . . Family may not have the dollars."

In 2000, AT&T divested itself of the Tribune selling to a Denver operation, MediaNews Group Inc., for $200 million. The horrified McCarthy family tried to stop the sale, not wanting to lose the paper, fearing Media- News would soften Tribune editorial criticisms of the Church. But neither federal judge nor the Federal Trade Commission saw any reason to block the sale. After months of litigation, the courts ruled the sale valid, saying the McCarthys knew the risk of losing the paper when they agreed to the stock deal. The Deseret News, in the meantime, was happy with new owners at MediaNews who supported their plan for morning publication, a plan the Tribune had opposed. MediaNews promised to "serve all of Utah and be beholden to no one." As their president Dean Singleton noted, "We view this as business people. . . . They (the McCarthys) view this as a generations war against the Mormon church. That's the difference."

Tribune readers watched the paper closely, fearing that the critical edge would disappear. Singleton predicted rosy futures, increased circulation and advertising for both papers. He acknowledged the cultural divide in Salt Lake and pledged that the Tribune would bridge it, not make it wider. "It has been a 'them-and-us' situation. The Tribune is now committed to being a newspaper for all cultures."

In a later chapter of the ongoing conflict, publisher Singleton disapproved of the Tribune 's handling of the case involving Elizabeth Smart, the kidnapped Mormon teenager. Two reporters sold salacious and inaccurate information to a supermarket tabloid, offending the family and their sympathizers. The reporters were reprimanded, but many thought the punishment insufficient. Singleton swept into town, apologized to the family, fired the reporters, and moved out the Tribune's long-time editor, James E. Shelledy.

Until this incident, the divided city had been united by the Smart case. The Smart family, beautiful, talented, prosperous, and virtuous, would seem to have been insulated from the evil forces of the world. Yet their home was invaded and their daughter stolen away by a homeless eccentric, the self-styled street preacher Brian David Mitchell, castigated by both the LDS Church, which had long since excommunicated him, and by the Gentile community, which considered him representative of the regressive, deluded, fundamentalist aspects of Mormonism at its worst. Both the LDS and Gentile communities condemned this mystical deviant, but Singleton's action seemed to side with the LDS community.

The city as a whole enjoyed the spotlight turned on Salt Lake during the three-week period when the 2002 Winter Olympic Games visited Salt Lake City, but the tensions of Mormons with the world at large were frequently exposed by reporters filing their stories. The media coverage before and during the Games illustrates how other this place was considered to be. Even as Utah tried to redefine itself as a modern metropolitan center with supreme ski resorts and spectacular natural beauty in contrast to the older straight-laced, Puritanical Mormon image, the news stories still opened with jokes about polygamy, the Church's dubious Christianity, and the problems of getting alcohol. Lawrence Wright, in a long piece in The New Yorker, described the Church in faint praise as "a young wellscrubbed, and ingratiating religion." A hundred years ago, he noted, this had been "the most persecuted creed in America." Now it was "perhaps the country's most robust religion." His piece made frequent forays into plural marriage and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the skeletons in the Mormon closet.

Long before the Games actually commenced, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee was discredited for bribing members of the International Olympic Committee and their families, an extortion organizers understood as the price for hosting the Games. The bribes were medical operations, jobs, and stipends for young people. The scandal exposed, the SLOC leaders resigned and a new committee rose under Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts head of Bain, Ltd., and a turnaround specialist who had challenged Ted Kennedy for a Massachusetts senatorial seat. The Mormon Romney, who took over the scandal-plagued Games, noted that Utah had let the country down, and he vowed to stage a great event.