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Kenneth Woodward

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 9 months ago

Kenneth Woodward

 

HUGH HEWITT: Pleased to welcome now to the Hugh Hewitt Show Kenneth Woodward. For 38 years at Newsweek, he’s been the religion editor there for that long a period of time. Mr. Woodward, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: My pleasure.

 

HUGH HEWITT: I want to start with the important stuff. You’re from Cleveland.

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I am.

 

HUGH HEWITT: Are you an Indians and Browns fan?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I am.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right. Well, you’ve got two points in your favor. Where’d you go to high school there?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, there’s only one.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: (laughing) Which one is that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, if you don’t know from my telling you that…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: St. Edwards?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Huh?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Are you a St. Edwards guy?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Never.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Oh, just checking. I’m from Warren, so I really don’t go up to Cleveland much.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, there’s only Ignatius, and there’s everything else.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, yeah, but we only…the Warren teams would only go up there to beat Cleveland teams, so that’s why I asked. Then you went to Notre Dame. Are you still a practicing Catholic, Mr. Woodward?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: No.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I learned how to do it.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: You learned how to do it and you’re done?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, no, I do it, but why is it that only Catholics have to practice? Ever hear of a practicing Presbyterian?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yes, yes, I know many practicing Presbyterians.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, well, I’ve never heard of them called a practicing Presbyterian. I’ve heard of observant Jews.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So you’re an observant Catholic?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yes, I’m an observant Catholic.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right. I want to talk to you about your New York Times piece today…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Okay.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: …because it was jarring to me. The Presidency’s Mormon Moment. And I know you’ve been covering religion a long time. Do you have any Mormons who are friends of yours?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Close friends?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, so…and have you ever been inside one of the temples before they were consecrated?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Nope. Well, I can’t tell you. You know, I would have done that less out of curiosity than out of duty.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: The Mormons I would tend to meet with would tend to be journalists and academics. I mean, I used to go…are you familiar with the Sunstone, the Mormon magazine?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yes.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: All right.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And with Meridian.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: All right. I’ve addressed their conference a couple of times, so you can get a different kind of Mormon at those places.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What I want to talk to you about are some of the statements made in your New York Times piece today, as whether or not you personally subscribe to them. For example, Kenneth Woodward, do you personally believe that the Mormon Church is clannish?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I think as a generalization, that’s true. And I don’t mean is so much negatively. If you can remember when Italians couldn’t get into an Irish union, never mind blacks getting into a white union, preserving jobs for their friends and so on, that’s a kind of thing that I’m talking about. I’m thinking about…but more importantly, look at their history. You know, they were people forged on an exodus, with a huge amount of intermarriage, a strong sense that the world was against them, and also, a Church as welfare state, the food in the basement, that kind of stuff. Now they do look after each other. I was talking to a friend of mind, a classmate, who was a National Security Advisor in Nixon’s administration. And we were talking about just that thing. They’ve got people in at a certain point, and certainly after a while, more Mormons were coming in and so on.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now who was that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I’m not going to go into that, because it was a private conversation.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, because I…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: You can look it up.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, I knew most of the Nixon people, and I just don’t remember a Mormon being there, but a lot of Christian Scientists in the Nixon White House.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, Haldeman was a…was he Christian…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Christian Scientist.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Christian Scientist.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Sure, yeah. No, I think they are, and what I try to say in the piece is there’s a reason why. I mean, to me, the truest line in there is a good Mormon is a busy Mormon. And so that…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Do you believe that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: …they do keep you busy if you’re a devout...especially males. I mean, how else did they get the…what was it? One night a home alone? They used to advertise that in Reader’s Digest. That’s because the men were out so much being…taking care of the Church.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So you really believe a good Mormon is a busy Mormon?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay. How about, do you believe that…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, their whole theology is 19th Century busyness. Don’t you understand? Even when you go to Heaven, you don’t get to relax. You keep working there.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: You also wrote that their Mormonism leaves little opportunity to cultivate close friendships with non-Mormon neighbors. Now I’ve got a lot of Mormons who are pretty good friends of mine, so that just didn’t ring true with me. Is that…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I think they’re changing, and I think it’s possible, but less so because of busyness. They’ve opened up a lot more, at least in the years that I’ve covered them.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well now, you and I grew up Catholic, and you know, you’ve got the Knights of Columbus, you’ve got the parish hall duties, you’ve got to go and teach the CCD, you’ve got to referee the kids’ Saturday basketball league. You know, Catholics are pretty busy, too. I don’t want to give up any…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, they’re not nearly as busy as they used to be. Believe me.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, that might be the case, but…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: …is it fair…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: No, I think this is a lot…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Mormons are busier than Catholics?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: …more so. The lay priesthood has a lot to do with it.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But Mormons are busier than Catholics?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, I think so, especially today’s Catholics.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right, how about this line. To many Americans, Mormonism is a Church with the soul of a corporation. Do you believe that, Kenneth Woodward?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Do I believe that?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I think that’s a pretty good description. I bounced it off a few Mormons, and they laughed and said yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, what do you mean by it?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, there is a corporate side to it. I think the communal and communitarian side that was pretty, how would you want to say, pretty radical in the 19th Century. The old Mormonism, if you will, had issued in a very strong corporate style.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Are they kind in giving?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Are they kind in giving? They probably are kind in giving, but the one doesn’t exclude the other. You can also be corporate giving, you know?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And so, are you trying to suggest that they’re not really believers in what they attest to believe in?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, no, there’s nothing in there to suggest that at all.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right. When you write Mormons like to hire other Mormons…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What do you base that on?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, the Mormons that I’ve known. And there’s a good side to it. I think I put it in there, unless it got cut, but you lose a job, and there’s a network there than you can appeal to. I’ve seen it time and again.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: How about Mormons are perceived to be unusually secretive? Where’s that come from?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, that’s the easiest one, and notice I put perception, and I explain in the next sentence or two why that’s the case.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But again, that’s an empirical statement.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And is it based upon a survey of your acquaintances? Or is it a data set that is not in the op-ed piece?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I think it’s almost every time you find somebody writing about them, you get that objection that they can’t go into the temple. Usually, it comes up when somebody marries, and you go to the Mormon wedding, and you can’t go inside. Or it comes up in gee, I couldn’t make it to the opening of the temple, and now that, you know, it’s been blessed, or whatever they do, now that it’s an operating temple, I can’t go in it.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Do you think they’re unusually secretive?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah, more so than most other religions that I know.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Which religion is more secretive than Mormons?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, I don’t know. That’s kind of a silly question, actually.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Branch Davidians?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I wouldn’t consider them a religion at all. That was a genuine cult, you know? I don’t know, maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses, although they’re out proselytizing a lot. I had…but I think the…this is the only tradition I know where you can’t walk in off the street and go to one of their temple services, and I understand their reasons why, and I explained in there.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now you say that Church members are told not to disclose what goes on inside of temples. Now that’s not my experience. What do you base that on?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Everything I know.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But I mean, have you ever asked them anything that they wouldn’t tell you? Are you aware of any specifics…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Of course.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What…give me a specific.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: For instance, in a marriage ceremony, you get bound for all eternity when you get married in the temple. Am I right?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yes.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Okay, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. But if you say okay, once you go behind the veil, what goes on, can’t tell you, not supposed to tell you, okay? Now I respect that.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Wait, I’m honestly not tracking you. What don’t they tell you?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: They don’t tell you what the ceremony is behind there. You can go to the anti-Mormons, who sort of tape these things, and you get, I’ve listened to it one time when I was washing the car, and you can get the talk with Eloheim and Jehovah, and all of that kind of stuff. I mean, it’s a very, it’s, from one point of view, it’s a very interesting and very practical thing, because they’re locating their marriage in a much wider circle. They’re locating it within a whole myth, and I don’t mean by myth, I think you understand what I mean, myth as a form of where you came from, and where you can go, you know? Spirit children of divine parents, and maybe someday you become the divine parents yourself.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now when I went to the temple in Newport Beach, California, before it opened, they took un into the marriage sealing room, and they disclosed every detail about the wedding ceremony. Do you think that they were holding stuff back from the gentiles?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I think if you had that experience, you’re the only one I’ve ever known that ever did.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right, so it’s possible you’re wrong, though?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Hey, it’s always possible I’m wrong.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, you and me, both. We’re both from Ohio. It always happens. We were wrong about the Florida games twice this year. Let’s talk about…you write that this attitude has fed anti-Mormon charges of secret and unholy rites. Now I know that people make those charges, that’s true, but do you believe that they are secret and unholy rites?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I believe they’re secret for all of the reasons we’ve just been discussing. I don’t think they’re unholy, but that’s been the charge, and that’s why I put it that way.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Other than marriage, which you mentioned, since you used the plural, what other secret rite is there?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, you know what I think? I mean, I think people feel about them as some people feel about secret Masonic rites and things of that nature. And after all, there’s a strong link between Mormonism and masonry.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But when you…did you have something specific in mind when you wrote secret rites other than marriage?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I think that anything that goes on in the temple, the fact that it’s closed…I mean, people go there to seal people for all eternity and so forth.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, like…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: There’s not a lot of talk about that. I’m talking about the dead.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, but that’s not secret. I mean, that’s actually been very controversial in the past, and they stopped doing it about Jews.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, they know they’re doing it. They know they’re doing it, you just don’t go in and see them do it.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So it’s closed. You don’t mean secret, you mean closed.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, what about when you write the Mormons…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I don’t see the distinction you’re trying to make between secret and closed. I’m saying when things are closed, this…and what’s the verb in there, huh? Perceived.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: In secret, okay? There’s not a lot, short of them going inside the confessional in a Catholic Church, that anybody else can’t walk in and see.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, you’ve just named one, but there are probably others.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, and the reasons are not that they’re secret, okay? The reason is that it’s private between two people.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, next paragraph. Any journalist who has covered the Church knows that Mormons speak one way among themselves, and another among outsiders.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Uh-huh.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now I’m a journalist. I’ve covered the Church for more than ten years. I just don’t think that’s true. Can you give me a counter-example?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: All right, well then…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I do, so there you are. I mean…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, but you wrote any journalist.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Huh?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: You wrote any journalist who has covered the Church. So…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, you would be the exception twice then. First, your story of the temple that you talked about, and now that you feel that nobody’s ever talked any differently to you.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But I mean, the temple wasn’t consecrated when I went in.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Uh-huh. I understand that.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I think they do, because they have a slightly different language, okay? And that’s been one of the problems when they…that’s the point of that paragraph. I’m sure you realize.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But can you give me an example of how they speak differently to each other?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Because they use Mormon, they use Mormon language very often among themselves. There’s…there’s stuff out of the Mormon scriptures, which is peculiar to them.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, is it…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: And I think they use them in different ways, that’s all.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, if you were, for example, a Kabbalah student, would you say the same thing, that Kabbalists speak one way among themselves, and another among outsiders?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I think to some extent, every religion’s got its own language.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, that I agree with. But does that, is that worthy of the comment that they…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah, it’s worthy…well, no, I mean it more than that. They talk differently to each other than they do to outsiders. Not only that, orthodox Jews do it, other people do it. No question. The problem comes, as the way I described it in the piece. The problem is when you use language equivocally. And I was citing the example of talking about Romney talking down in South Carolina.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now last…one of the closing paragraphs you write, actually, it’s about five graphs from the end. Finally, there’s the question of authority in the Church of Latter Day Saints, and what obligations an office holder like Romney must discharge. Like the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church has a hierarchical structure in which ultimate authority is vested in one man. But unlike the Pope, the Church’s president is also regarded as God’s own prophet and revelator. Every sitting prophet is free to proclaim new revelations as God sees fit to send them, a form of divine direction that Mormon missionaries play as a trump card against competing faiths. First of all, the Pope can invoke infallibility, can he not?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Not the same thing at all. That’s interesting you asked that question, because the Times wanted to ask about that, too. The only time the Pope has made an infallible statement since the Pope became infallible was in 1950, where he took a belief that had been around for centuries, and added to it, and said that this is part of the…you have to be believed, a fidae, an article of faith. And before he did that, he asked the opinion of his bishops, which was quite extraordinary. Do you think this will float, is this is something I ought to do. So it’s a very different kind of exercise, you know?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But when the prophet…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: No relationship whatsoever. None whatsoever. The doctrine of infallibility having been used, I’m just giving you an example, having only been used onece, is hemmed in and circumscribed in an extraordinary way. I’m not suggesting that any first president, prophet and revelator of the Church can act on a whim. I don’t think they have done that, and I don’t think they do do that, although I was around when Spencer Kimball got his revelation with respect to the blacks, and being eligible for the priesthood. It was under…there was pressure, although not like there was on polygamy in the times past, and I think there was a certain urgency, and I think there was a certain suffering on his part. And I suspect he talked it with the other members of the first presidency, too. But in fact, he can do that, and he is open to that.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So how is infallibility different from the prophetic word that Mormon prophet has?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, first of all, he doesn’t sit down, infallibility is something that, in the Catholic tradition, is inherent in the Church first, and is exercised only in an extraordinary situation by the Pope himself. And as I told you, it’s only happened once, which makes it quite extraordinary, and it’s been around for what? 150 years? Something like that?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But it could be used again by Benedict, or any successor pope, as often as he sought to invoke it.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, not unless you read…no, no, no. It’s…there are a lot of, what do I want to say? There’s a lot of steps that have to be done before you can do it. You just can’t wake up one morning and say I’m going to teach this infallibly, okay?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Can prophets wake up…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: So…no, it doesn’t, and by the way, it’s not a revelation.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But can prophets wake up and simply announce a revelation without any other steps?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah, they can, because…and that’s why I’m saying…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Had they done that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I don’t know if the Mormon missionaries ever come around to your house, but they have to mine, and they say wouldn’t it be nice to know that there’s somebody who was in constant contact with God, and through whom God reveals His will? There is no way the papacy fulfills that definition. It’s just not seen that way. But anyhow, go ahead.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Do you think there’s a greater threat of the prophet in Salt Lake City controlling a president than the Pope controlling a president?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I don’t think there’s a threat in either direction.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: I agree. That’s why I’m wondering why this emphasis on the revelatory authority of the prophet versus the infallible authority of…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Because it is different, and because…I don’t know if you read the whole exchange between Professor Bushman, Richard Bushman at Columbia, and…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Damon Linker in the New Republic?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: And Damon Linker…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yes, yes, I have.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: All of that stuff turned on that, and Linker was saying this is theoretically possible. And I’m saying yeah, the conception of it is such that it could happen. But I don’t think it would, and I think furthermore, and that’s my point, one…his whole idea was too abstract. Bushman was right on that, as a matter of fact.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now do you think that…did you read Jacob Weisberg’s piece in Slate?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Did I? I don’t remember. I don’t know.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Have you read my book yet?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Nope.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay. My question for you next is…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Sure.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: …if someone had written that the Jewish faith is marked by clannishness, and that Jews don’t develop close relationships with non-Jews, and that a good Jew is a busy Jew, and Jews in synagogues…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, that’s not true. A good Jew is not a busy Jew.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But I’m just saying if they had written this, or that the Jewish synagogue has the soul of a corporation, or Jews like to hire other Jews, or Jews are perceived as secretive, or Jews are told not to disclose what goes on inside the synagogue, or that Jews have unholy rites, or Jews speak one way among themselves, and another among others, would you consider that person bigoted, Mr. Woodward?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: [No.]

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: You wouldn’t?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Nope. I’m a disciple of…who is it? Don Rickles. Don Rickles was wonderfully…he had no use for PC stuff, and he told ethnic jokes and so on, and got away with it, and relieved a lot of…made people laugh at these things.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, you’re not telling jokes about Mormons…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I think, as a matter of fact, you can’t…I don’t tippy-toe. So no, my answer to you says no, I don’t.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Do you…but you’re not telling jokes in this column. You’re raising what you consider to be serious issues.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I’m raising what perceptions are of Mormons.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And now I’ve got to go…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: And you know what? It has probably been said true of Catholics in the past, they had their own parochial school system which is divisive, and they keep to themselves, and all that kind of thing.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And was it wrong to say that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: To the extent that it was right, it was okay to say that. I don’t think they were divisive, because they had a larger sense that you could have more than one…that the public school system was run by and for Protestants, which was true in its inception for a long time.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So where’s the dividing line…you’ve been covering religion for a long time, Mr. Woodward.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah, longer than you.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What’s the dividing line between bigotry and journalism?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, Heavens, what a question. What a question.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: What is it? I mean, could we indulge any of the protocols of the elder of Zion? Because this is kind of like the protocols of the elder of new Zion.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I think you’re wrong, that’s all.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, but what’s that...

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: You’re welcome to think that. That’s fine. I don’t really care, you know…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: I understand that, but what would you advise a journalist, a young journalist at Newsweek, is the…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Know what they’re talking about. And I do, so…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But I mean, is there an appropriate level of scrutiny here, or indulgence of stereotypes, which you would consider off limits?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I don’t consider any of those stereotypes. You know, and I actually like stereotypes, because you don’t have them unless…there’s always something true about stereotypes, that’s all.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Now when you write that many people believe that to many Americans, that Mormonism is a Church with a soul of a corporation, let’s focus on that.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: You know what that’s a play on? Do you read G. K. Chesterton?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yes, but not in a while.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Okay, well, one of his, probably his most famous phrase was, call America the nation with a soul of a Church.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Okay, I do…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yes, it is corporately structured.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: No, not that. I’m going to many Americans. The sentence begins with to many Americans. What do you base that on?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, come on. What do you want me to say? 562,000 Americans, as opposed to 57, 14…you know…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Just a level, just a level, just sort of a rough number.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s the image of it, and that’s the way I put it. I think you know that.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: No, but I mean, how many is many? I’m sure that some people believe that. But at what point…what do you think? How many, what percentage of Americans do you believe believe that?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I don’t know. Am I supposed to know?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, I think you write something in the New York Times, you ought to have something to back it up.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Hey, look, you know, you’re kind of unbelievable. Look, what did you want me to do? Run a survey before I did it? Of course I used many. I could have used some. I think that’s true.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Could have used a few.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: And you’re really picking at something. I mean, you know, you’ve got a bug up your butt about something, I don’t know.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: (laughing) No, I think it’s a pretty bigoted piece, Mr. Woodward.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I mean, you really do.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: I really think it’s a bigoted piece.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Yes, a lot of people do think that. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, okay?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: But I think it’s a fairly bigoted…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Now if you don’t think so, that’s fine.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: No, but I think it’s a fairly bigoted piece that does great injury to…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, you obviously have made that point. And I think you know, I think you’re wrong, that’s all.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And so if a bunch of Mormons wrote you that they were offended by it, would you take into account…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I expect someone to, yeah. I expect them to do that. I expect somebody will.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And that won’t bother you?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Not particularly, no. Not unless they’ve got a good argument to make, better than yours.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: At what point do stereotypes begin to drive religious bigotry in ways that hurt the society at large?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I don’t know, because I don’t indulge in those kind of stereotypes?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So what’s the difference between Mormons hiring other Mormons and Jews hording money? Both stereotypes. What’s the difference?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, I don’t think Jews horde money.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So it’s just…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: But I do think…I know Mormons hire other Mormons.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So it’s the Gospel according to Woodward?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: And it’s not a negative…hey, you know what? It’s not negative. It’s not negative. It’s perfectly understandable, okay?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: And if Mormons told you it was negative, would that matter to you?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Nope.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So it is the Gospel according to Woodward. I mean, this is St. Ignatius High School all over again. I know where this comes from. But this is like on high. Are you open to the argument that maybe this was tremendously offensive to Mormons?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I’m open to the argument, yeah. So what?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: All right. So what? I guess not. Kenneth Woodward, I hope you’ll come back and talk again. I found it to be extraordinary, but I appreciate you’re willing to spend time with us on this. I just think that…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: I know what you think.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: If you went through and substituted Jew for Mormon, it would be one of the most…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Oh, that’s too simple-minded. It really is too simple-minded.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Why, because…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: There are groups…have you ever been around the Greek Orthodox?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Why, are they secretive, too?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: They are an ethnically based Church. And it’s to be expected. Not secretive…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, what do they do that’s…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Not secretive.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Are they secretive?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Not secretive, no. You supplied the word, I didn’t.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: So what’s…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Greeks, Greeks feel more comfortable with other Greeks. Greeks often, unfortunately, I’ve seen this in the orthodox world, are…they’ve had a considerable rubbing against, say, the Russian Orthodox, all right? It’s part of the history.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Can you give me any…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Just there. It’s there in society.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Can you give me any…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: You seem to find this extraordinary news. I don’t.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: How about Irish Catholics? Give me a couple of things to go by on those?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Well, they used to be, but not much anymore, because…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: They were drinkers, right?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: They’ve lost a lot of…

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: We drank a lot.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: The lot of…their clannishness. Well, we did at Ignatius. I don’t know about other places.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Well, yeah, like John F. Kennedy High School in Warren right before football games, you bet. But I mean, and we were, we had all sorts of papist rituals, didn’t we?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Papist rituals? We never used the word, that I know of.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: (laughing) I’m just joking.

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: The rituals are still there, as far as I can tell.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Kenneth Woodward, I’m out of time. I very much appreciate the time. The piece is…

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Listen, never, never get into it with the Jesuits, all right?

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Are you Jesuit?

 

 

KENNETH WOODWARD: Good to talk to you, bye bye.

 

 

HUGH HEWITT: Good to talk to you, Kenneth Woodward.


April 9, 2007

Op-Ed Contributor

The Presidency’s Mormon Moment

By KENNETH WOODWARD

IN May, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, will give the commencement address at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. What better opportunity for Mr. Romney to discuss the issue of his Mormon faith before an audience of evangelicals? (He has already discussed his religion many times).

 

When John F. Kennedy spoke before Protestant clergymen in Houston in 1960, he sought to dispel the fear that as a Catholic president, he would be subject to direction from the pope. As a Mormon, Mr. Romney faces ignorance as well as fear of his church and its political influence. More Americans, polls show, are willing to accept a woman or an African-American as president than a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

It isn’t just evangelical Christians in the Republican base who find Mr. Romney’s religion a stumbling block. Among those who identify themselves as liberal, almost half say they would not support a Mormon for president. Although with 5.6 million adherents Mormonism is the nation’s fourth-largest denomination, 57 percent of respondents to a recent CBS poll said they know little or nothing about Mormon beliefs and practices. Mr. Romney needs to be their teacher, whether he likes that role or not. (No he doesn't. Religion does not belong in politics).

 

Among the reasons Americans distrust the Mormon church is Mormon clannishness. Because every worthy Mormon male is expected to be a lay priest in voluntary service to the church, the demands on his time often leave little opportunity to cultivate close friendships with non-Mormon neighbors. (This is not true.) A good Mormon is a busy Mormon. (This is not true. What does this mean? What do simplistic slogans like this mean, except to over simplify and mischaracterize?) Those — like Mr. Romney — who serve as bishops (pastors of congregations) often find it difficult to schedule evenings at home with their own families.

 

To many Americans, Mormonism is a church with the soul of a corporation. (People call corporations soulless. Are Mormon's soulless? Do we not cry? He says, "to many Americans" as a way to avoid saying that he doesn't think we have the soul of a corporation. I have never heard that said before. Who are these Americans, besides himself, who think this? Is it now acceptable to repeat stereotypes of minorities? Should I write an OP Ed suggesting that Barak Obama needs to address his race's tendency to do drugs, be lazy or violent. That this all stereotypes are good, and have some truth to them? No. You should not pre-judge people by the groups they belong to, or expect them to have to convince you that they do not possess the negative aspects of their group. It is our responsibility to judge people as individuals.) Successful Mormon males can expect to be called, at some time in their lives, to assume full-time duties in the church’s missions, in its vast administrative offices in Salt Lake City or in one of many church-owned businesses. (And so should non-successful Mormon. Every single person who goes to church has some calling. Most people start with a small calling. They teach in primary, or work in Nursery. People with more time (because of better financial situations) are able to give more time.) Mormons like to hire other Mormons (he says this like it is a fact for ALL mormons. He says it as though everyone doesn't like to hire people like them. And he says it in a way to accuse Mormons of un-ethical workplace behavior, when Mormons represent about 3% of the population. Mormons are discriminated against in the work place much more than they discriminate), and those who lose their jobs can count on the church networks to find them openings elsewhere (wow, I wish I had that when I lost my job twice in my first two years out of college, but like a dope I used career builder and monster.com. I've been a Mormon all my life. Why didn't someone tell me about this "network" that will help me find a job elsewhere?). Mr. Romney put those same networks to effective use in raising part of his $23 million in campaign contributions.

 

Moreover, Mormons are perceived to be unusually secretive. (Our doctrine has secrets, but are you really going to stereotype about the personality of Millions of Americans? Do you think that you can use the words "Mormons are perceived" and it totally removes any responsibility on your part for repeating negative stereo-types?)Temple ceremonies — even weddings — are closed to non-Mormons, and church members are told not to disclose what goes on inside them. This attitude has fed anti-Mormon charges of secret and unholy rites. Already in his campaign, Mr. Romney has had to defend his church against beliefs and practices it abandoned a century ago. That some voters still confuse the Latter-day Saints with fundamentalist Mormon sects that continue to practice polygamy and child marriage is another reason the candidate should take the time to set the record straight. (That is not his job. He is running for president. His beliefs on these things will not affect his actions).

 

But Mr. Romney must be sure to express himself in a way that will be properly understood. Any journalist who has covered the church knows that Mormons speak one way among themselves, another among outsiders. (OMG! We are so scary aren’t we? How can he say this? We are liars? What a piece of junk hit-peace. Is he saying that we talk differently to each on ON SUNDAY, WHEN WE ARE AT CHURCH, or all the time? Well we have different doctrines. Wouldn't he expect Jews, Catholics, and Muslims to all talk differently at church, than what he is? A Catholic). This is not duplicity but a consequence of the very different meanings Mormon doctrine attaches to words it shares with historic Christianity. (Oversimplification. Lack of specifics. What is he talking about?)

 

For example, Mormons speak of God, but they refer to a being who was once a man of “flesh and bone,” like us. (Oh, you mean like in Luke 24:39 when Jesus said; "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye dsee me have" or Eph. 5:30 that says, "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones?" They speak of salvation, but to them that means admittance to a “celestial kingdom” where a worthy couple can eventually become “gods” themselves. The Heavenly Father of whom they speak is married to a Heavenly Mother.

 

Matt. 5: 48

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Luke 24: 39

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

John 10: 34

34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

Acts 17: 29

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

Rom. 8: 17

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

2 Cor. 3: 18

18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Gal. 4: 7

7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Eph. 4: 13

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Heb. 12: 9

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

1 Pet. 1: 16

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

1 Jn. 3: 2

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Rev. 3: 21

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

 

And when they emphasize the importance of the family, they may be referring to their belief that marriage in a Mormon temple binds families together for all eternity.

 

Eph. 3: 14-15

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

 

Gen. 2: 24

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Gen. 25: 8

8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.

Gen. 35: 29

29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Gen. 49: 33

33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

Isa. 51: 2

2 Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.

Isa. 65: 23

23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.

Jer. 31: 1

1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

Mal. 4: 6

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Matt. 19: 8

8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

Mark 10: 9

9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

1 Cor. 11: 11

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

 

Thus, when Mr. Romney told South Carolina Republicans a few months ago that Jesus was his “personal savior,” he used Southern Baptist language to affirm a relationship to Christ that is quite different in Mormon belief. (For Southern Baptists, “personal savior” implies a specific born-again experience that is not required or expected of Mormons.) This is not a winning strategy for Mr. Romney, whose handlers should be aware that Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals know Mormon doctrine better than most other Americans do — if only because they study Mormonism in order to rebut its claims.

 

(Mormons do not believe that Jesus is our personal savior? That is news to me! You are an ass, Kenneth Woodward.)

 

Especially at Regent University, Mr. Romney should avoid using language that blurs fundamental differences among religious traditions. Rather, he should acknowledge those differences and insist that no candidate for public office should have to apologize for his or her religious faith.

 

Finally, there is the question of authority in the Church of Latter-day Saints, and of what obligations an office holder like Mr. Romney must discharge. Like the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church has a hierarchical structure in which ultimate authority is vested in one man. But unlike the pope, the church’s president is also regarded as God’s own “prophet” and “revelator.” Every sitting prophet is free to proclaim new revelations as God sees fit to send them — a form of divine direction that Mormon missionaries play as a trump card against competing faiths. (The pope can't do that?)

 

At Regent University, Mr. Romney will address an audience of conservative Christians who regard the Bible alone as the ultimate authority on faith and morals. (The students at Regent don't believe in revelation?) Some, like Mr. Robertson, will also be Pentecostals who claim to receive private revelations themselves from time to time. But these revelations are strictly personal, the fruit of a wildly unpredictable Holy Spirit, and their recipients have no power to demand acceptance, much less obedience, from others. (That is not true. Roberts says that he receives revelation for people all the time).

 

How, then, might Mr. Romney defend himself against the charge that, as president, he would be vulnerable to direction from the prophet of his church?

 

He should invite critics to review the church’s record. The former Massachusetts governor is neither the first nor even the most prominent Mormon office holder. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah come immediately to mind — not to mention Mr. Romney’s father, George, a moderate governor of Michigan who ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1968.

 

There is no evidence that church authorities have tried to influence any of these public servants. On the contrary, the church leadership is undoubtedly astute enough to realize — as Catholic bishops did with President Kennedy — that any pressure on a Romney White House would only harm the church itself. “My church doesn’t dictate to me or anyone what political policies we should pursue,” Mr. Romney declared in New Hampshire in February. Voters should accept that declaration unless there is evidence to prove otherwise.

 

The issues above are real to many people, and Mr. Romney should take the opportunity to address them at Regent University. But none of these popular reservations about the Mormon Church are reasons to vote for or against Mitt Romney. History was bound to have its Mormon moment in presidential politics, just as it had its Catholic moment when Kennedy ran. Now that the moment has arrived, much depends on Mr. Romney.

 

Kenneth Woodward, a contributing editor at Newsweek, is writing a book about American religion since 1950. (And is an Ass).

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