Is Beck Good for Mormonism?

Article excerpt

Byline: Felicia Sonmez The Washington Post

Like conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Stephen Owens is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His in-laws traveled from Utah to Washington last weekend to join Beck's rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Owens himself, however, said he has always "kind of rolled my eyes" at Beck's outspoken views.

And when the 42-year-old Salt Lake City lawyer read that Beck publicly questioned President Obama's "version of Christianity" the day after the Washington rally, he was so angry he penned a letter to the local newspaper.

"I think it's arrogant of anyone to say whether someone is a Christian or not," said Owens. "My view of that is, if someone says, 'I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ,' then they're Christian, and who am I to say, 'No, you're not,' let alone [to] the president of our country? I was offended at that."

Owens' comments speak to the mixed reviews Beck's higher profile has received among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some view Beck's rise as a sign of Mormonism going mainstream, while others worry he is a divisive figure who is unrepresentative of Mormon values.

Michael Otterson, managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that opinion on Beck is just as divided among Mormons as it is elsewhere.

"Views on Glenn Beck would be right across the spectrum," Otterson said. "It depends on where individual Latter-day Saints are. Some would embrace him completely and others would, no doubt, be at odds."

Otterson also noted that there are more than 6 million Mormons in the United States and that prominent Mormons in the political arena run the ideological gamut from Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, a Democrat, to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican.

"It really underscores that members of the church are free to have their separate political views and express them whatever way they like," Otterson said, adding Beck "would be the very first person to say that he does not speak for the church."

Philip Barlow, the Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said Beck is "something of a polarizing figure" among the Mormon community. …