|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has
received plenty of coverage as part of the Olympics
currently being held in Salt Lake City. The following
is a short clip from a longer article written by Frederick
Kempe for the Wall Street Journal. The
full-text of the article can be found on the WSJ site:
To some, it will be the Mormon Olympics,
for the dominant religion of this Olympics' host state, and
all the press attention showered upon it. The pre-game
reporting in European newspapers focused on Utah's sordid
history of polygamy and martyrdom and its arcane drinking
laws. With the torch lit, however, folks saw another side to
this quintessentially American religion.
Spectators were wowed by the calm, easy
friendliness of the 25,000 volunteers (75,000 had applied to
serve), the majority of whom are Mormons. International
Olympic Committee officials gave them perfect 6.0 scores,
and said their own surveys show Utahns scoring even better
than the much-praised Australians in Sydney. And it's harder
slushing around for 16 days in winter cold than handing out
sunblock in T-shirts and shorts.
One was thanked so often by the volunteers
on the way to and from events that one feels as if
attendance had been at their personal invitation. The
church, which runs the world's most extensive missionary
program, showed itself to be a master of the soft-sell.
Almost every foreign team had some returned missionaries as
their interpreters, drivers and guides; yet according to all
reports they didn't talk about their faith unless asked.
"They conducted themselves in an
exemplary fashion," says Michael Payne, IOC marketing
director. His local driver, a Mormon, spoke of how he'd
adopted six Ethiopian children after bringing up six of his
own. Another volunteer, a seamstress, did last-minute
alterations for Canadian and Australian team uniforms.
"We wanted people to know we weren't such a strange
people," said Allen Young, a retired psychologist who
at age 72 was showing folks to their seats every night at
the figure skating center. "Church people like to
volunteer. We believe in serving our fellow man."