Eyes of world look at Church

Today weatherman Al Roker broadcasting from Reflecting pond Elder Tom Perry. Credit: Paul Barker, Deseret News

With the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City have come the eyes of the world, focusing on the Church and its members.

On Feb. 7, NBC’s “Today” show — broadcasting from Salt Lake City — featured the Church, including a live Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast from Temple Square.

During a brief report, host Matt Lauer highlighted the Church, talking of its missionary work, family history library and humanitarian efforts. He called members “honest, hardworking people with exceptional family values” and quoted, among others, President Gordon B. Hinckley.

President Hinckley said Church members welcome the Olympic games to Utah and then dispelled a common myth. “We are not weird, of course we are not weird,” President Hinckley said. “We are just ordinary people trying to do an extraordinary work.”

In closing President Hinckley summarized Church members: “We are an honest, straight forward, hardworking, ambitious, tolerant, understanding, friendly people,” he said.

The host added, “That is the image of Latter-day Saints the Church hopes will live on, long after the Olympic flame goes out.”

Also during the morning program, the Tabernacle Choir performed several moving musical selections, as well as, in lighter moments, “the wave” and “Bingo” — both at the request of weatherman Al Roker.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve briefly appeared on the show, answering questions about the choir and the construction of the Salt Lake Temple.

In the closing moments of the news broadcast the Tabernacle Choir performed a final time.

“Boy, do they have beautiful voices,” said Matt Lauer.

“Don’t they sound terrific,” answered co-host Katie Couric. “They could fill, practically, the whole state with their voices.”

Numerous other international, national, and local print and broadcast journalists have written articles about the Church, its members and many things that make them unique. Following is a notebook sketch, listing excerpts from some of the hundreds of articles written in past weeks about the Church:

  • “If there is any single impression that the Mormon leadership would like to leave on their international visitors, it is that a religion with a reputation as an American upstart has matured into a global faith. One-third of the 60,000 missionaries knocking on doors for the church are foreigners, and not all are evangelizing their own countrymen. Spaniards proselytize in Tokyo, Brazilians in Lagos and Filipinos in New Zealand.” — New York Times, Jan. 26, 2002
  • “Europeans have taken a greater interest in Utah’s dominant religion since the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City. They now rarely confuse the Mormons with ‘sects.’ ” — Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Dec. 27, 2001
  • “When you see or hear the media take a swipe at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, call ’em on it. The vast majority of Americans despise bigotry — even when it’s dressed up as journalism.” — WorldNet Daily, Jan. 15, 2002
  • “It could almost be described as a tale of two cities as a settlement which started off as the Mormon’s Utopian dream got to grips with demands of modern society. Although many of the old ways no longer exist, there is still a feeling that this is not a typical American city.” — BBC Sport Online, Jan. 16, 2002
  • “It is a fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so entwined in the history, commerce and politics of Utah that its presence at the Olympics will be inescapable.” — The St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 5, 2002
  • “The Mormons will be scrutinized in Salt Lake in ways the Roman Catholics aren’t in Boston, and the Southern Baptists weren’t at the Atlanta Games in ’96. Utah is said to be America’s answer to theocracy. Its population is 70 percent Mormon, a truth reflected in government and everyday customs and laws.” — The Journal News, Feb. 7, 2002
  • “Nobody knows yet who is going to win at these Games but it is already easy to imagine that, with their unconditional welcome and unprecedented global visibility, the Mormons cannot lose.” — London Evening Standard, Feb. 7, 2002
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