It has been a good year so far for the LDS Church.
Two of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And, “The Book of Mormon” Broadway musical took home nine Tony Awards.
Understandably, the church had nothing to do with these separate coincidences. But the way it has handled the spotlight brought about by these events has been commendable.
The institution, its leaders and public affairs office have made all the right moves.
So far both Mitt Romney, the undisputed frontrunner in the race for the GOP nomination, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, have avoided addressing their faith much. It will be interesting as the campaign goes on to see if the “religion card” gets played more heavily by their opponents and critics.
To us, and other observers, Romney and Huntsman appear to be two of the more reasonable candidates in the Republican field.
The church, as its usual political position, has remained neutral. Regardless, the conduct and support of the two candidates so far reflects positively on the church.
As for the profane “The Book of Mormon,” it has been the way the church has reacted, that has been praiseworthy.
When it was first announced that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the Emmy-award winning “South Park,” planned to produce a musical satire with that title, the church had no official response. Then prior to the play’s opening in February, the church released a brief statement that has been oft-quoted since:
“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
No righteous indignation; no militant victimization; no call for boycotts or censorship.
Even Parker was impressed, and said so in subsequent interviews.
The church is now taking the public relations effort one step further by starting an ad campaign in New York targeting theater-goers. With Madison Avenue sophistication, the church has purchased advertising on the Times Square digital billboard as well as taxi cabs ferrying patrons to and from the popular play.
The church has had some PR gaffes in the past — most notably its handling of criticism over its support of California’s Proposition 8 — but there have been no missteps with these recent events.