More Homegrown Angst 

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“Who Are We?” bleated a banner headline on the front page of the Mormon church-owned Deseret News recently.

The answer, of course, is the same anyone gets when traveling outside of the state: Nobody cares. But many in Utah believe that Galileo was wrong—we are the center of the universe, or pretty darn close.

The D News went so far as to hire pollster Dan Jones to do a national survey, asking over 1,000 people chosen randomly across the country what is the first thing that comes to mind when the word “Utah” is uttered. Unfortunately, a significant group drew a complete blank—absolutely nothing came to mind. Utah? What’s that?

Another group believed that Utah was a medication to combat pattern baldness. And no surprise—some people said that Utah was famous for polygamy. Now where did they get that idea?

For those of us who believe we ought to be center stage in the Great American Drama, the recent Tom Green bigamy trial was not good news—no siree bob. Not only did every news outlet under the sun cover the Provo trial, but then that big mouth polygamist went on national news and talk TV programs calling himself a fundamentalist Mormon.

It was enough to drive Scott Pierce, the TV critic at the Deseret News, nutty. “Where in the world was Matt Lauer on Monday morning?” Pierce wrote. “Well, America’s favorite morning news host was in Clueless Land.”

Pierce was peeved that Lauer didn’t draw the distinction between a polygamist who calls himself a fundamentalist Mormon and a real Mormon who shuns polygamy. And to show he wasn’t alone, he called up KSL News Director Brink Chipman (that’s his real name) at the LDS-owned station, for an incredulous quote: “I guess what you don’t expect are those kinds of gross mistakes in the context of interviews.”

Dumb ol’ Matt Lauer, how could he possibly make a mistake like that? It’s only been a year or so since LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley went on Larry King Live to proclaim that “polygamy isn’t doctrinal.” And except for Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants Mormon scriptures, he’s right.

It comes with no small dose of irony that it was Gov. Mike Leavitt’s brother who brought the latest spate of bad PR down on Utah. David Leavitt, the Juab County prosecutor, might like to take a Mulligan if he had the opportunity. It was only three years ago that his brother proclaimed in a statement he later recanted that plural marriage might be constitutionally protected.

No doubt, there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to polygamy. Many believe that Tom Green is the first polygamist to be prosecuted since the early ’50s. But let’s not forget John Singer, who was hunted down like a dog and shot in the back by law enforcement at his small farm in Marion, Summit County in January 1979.

Maybe Tom Green got off easy.

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