Sleepless in Salt Lake City

By Cottle, Michelle | Newsweek, June 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

Sleepless in Salt Lake City


Cottle, Michelle, Newsweek


Byline: Michelle Cottle

How the Mormon church is handling the media frenzy.

If you thought Team Obama was having a rough time figuring out how best to handle Mitt Romney's presidential run, consider the plight of the poor Latter-day Saints.

Despite the growth and gradual mainstreaming of Mormonism in recent years, the church is still regarded by many as disconcertingly exotic. Now, with the very real possibility that one of its own could wind up in the Oval Office, the LDS finds itself scrambling to adjust to life in the global spotlight.

The church's public-affairs office in Salt Lake City is ground zero for the chaos. Michael Otterson, the LDS's chief spokesman, says he and his colleagues' lives have been "consumed" by media inquiries. Extra staff has been hired. Reporters tag along with churchgoers to services and invade their homes for Monday family evenings. But even with these reinforcements, he says, non-election-related outreach efforts are dwindling, and staffers constantly joke about who's getting the least sleep.

On June 18, Otterson will be in Washington, D.C., for a luncheon with many of the nation's top political journalists to discuss, as the event's title puts it, "The Promise and Peril of the Mormon Moment." It is the sort of outreach the church is doing, as the campaign rolls along, to demystify the faith, says Otterson. "You only get to understanding if you have conversations."

One bright spot: U.S. journalists are more informed about the basics of Mormonism than they were when Romney ran in 2008. Says Otterson, "We're not getting as many dumb questions" (for instance, that whole polygamy thing). …

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