Recently, there have been several letters to the editor published in the Deseret News falsely accusing me of being hostile toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its members. These accusations have not only been false; they have been mean-spirited, hurtful, and reflective of a biased attitude toward those who do not share the same beliefs as the writers. One has to wonder about the depth of religious or humanitarian values shared by people who so recklessly misrepresent my statements and views.
After I advocated that there be visual images portrayed to the world during the Olympics in addition to (not instead of) the LDS Temple, I was falsely portrayed in a Deseret News editorial page cartoon of trying to exclude the Temple from view. Likewise, when I have advocated a reform of some of the more bizarre aspects of Utah's liquor laws (like the private-club membership requirements), I have been accused of being anti-Mormon. Recently, the Deseret News has published a series of letters falsely representing that I "rail against Mormons" [Craig Norton's letter, Feb. 20, 2002]; that I want everyone who enjoys going to plays, operas, symphonies, and concerts (which would include me) to "stay home or move to an Amish community" [Valerie Barrett, Feb. 20, 2002]; that I have implied that one needs to drink alcoholic beverages in order to have fun [Virginia Folsom, Feb. 20, 2002; George Weight, Feb. 20, 2002]; and that I have called on LDS people to move away from Salt Lake City [Benjamin D. Horne, Feb. 21, 2002].
I have never said, implied, or thought any of those things. In fact, my views - and many of my public statements - are just the opposite. I value my Mormon heritage - and the heritage of our city and state. I respect members of the Church of Jesus Christ, just as I respect people of any religion. I am adamantly anti-tobacco and feel very strongly about the need to prevent the abuse of any substances. My record on these issues is clear and consistent.
For instance, I have stated, "We would be making a huge mistake not to show the world the LDS Temple, as it is one of the defining cultural icons of our city. ("Mayor not against temple," Des. News, Dec. 22, 2000.] I also said, "Anybody coming to Salt Lake City and not experiencing The Church of Jesus Christ would be missing out. It would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Vatican." ["Rocky revels in 'selling' the city," Des. News, Jan. 29, 2002.] When asked by foreign journalists about whether the LDS Church controls the state, I responded, "This idea a lot of people have that they run things . . . is absolutely untrue." [Id.] I also noted, "The welfare work The Church of Jesus Christ does in this community is extraordinary." [Id.] Several times, I have referred to The Church of Jesus Christ as being "very generous" for supporting the Medals Plaza. [Id.] These statements are hardly "railing against Mormons;" rather, they reflect the tremendous respect I have for the Church of Jesus Christ and its members.
I have been dedicated to bridging the divisions between people in this community, particularly those based on differences in faith. As a co-convenor, along with Jon Huntsman, of Alliance for Unity, I have worked hard to identify what causes divisiveness in our community and how best to bring people together. I noted [Des. News, Sept. 17, 2001] that members of the Alliance for Unity can do no better than to revisit the remarks of President Gordon B. Hinckley at a July 24 Pioneer Day celebration, when he pleaded "for a spirit of tolerance and neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths."
Before one sends a letter to the editor, he or she would be fairly expected to be correct about the facts. And before maliciously denigrating another's character or beliefs, one might well consider the admonition of the Alliance for Unity: "Differences need to be aired, and problems resolved, in an atmosphere of courtesy, respect and civility. What separates a healthy, diverse community from a divided one is the level of respect and understanding of our differences."