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Posted 21 May 2001   For week ended May 18, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 14May01

By Kent Larsen

Most Influential in Utah are Mormon

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Deseret News yesterday started a series of articles on the men it has identified as the most influential and powerful in Utah. The five-part series, to be published daily through Thursday, will include an article on each of the three men considered the most influential of all, and articles identifying other influential Utahns.

The News articles identify President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the most influential Utahn, based on the results of a survey of 30 Utah residents it believes "understand how the business, political, educational, religious and cultural power levers are pulled in the state." The survey results, which include answers to seven issues, were collected and compiled to lists of the top three, an unranked group rounding out the top ten, and a second-tier group, also unranked, that round out the top 20. The newspaper also sponsored a poll by Utah pollsters Dan Jones &Associates, which complied responses from 607 individuals in Utah to also determine who are the most influential and powerful people in the state.

The Deseret News' survey of 30 influential Utahns chose Utah Governor Mike Leavitt as the second most influential Utahn, following President Hinckley, and Billionaire Jon M. Huntsman Sr., third. But the results of the Dan Jones telephone poll differed slightly, choosing first Governor Leavitt, then President Hinckley, followed by US Senator Orrin Hatch. Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson was fourth, ahead of Huntsman, who was fifth. In the Dan Jones poll, all seven people listed in the newspaper, including also SLOC CEO Mitt Romney and US Senator Bob Bennett, are male, white and of Mormon heritage, and only one, Mayor Anderson, is not currently an active LDS Church member.

Yesterday's coverage included a profile of President Hinckley, who the Deseret News says had a talent for handling the media that it matched by few people. This ability, says the article, was evident in his early life, when as a young missionary he spoke in London's Hyde Park, along with fellow missionaries, "We didn't baptize many people in London in those days, but Elder Hinckley was a knockout in those street meetings on Hyde Park corner," said Wendell Ashton, a friend and companion, in President Hinckley's biography, "Go Forward With Faith," by Sheri Dew. "We learned to speak quickly on our feet, and Elder Hinckley was the best in the bunch. He gained tremendous firsthand experience defending the church and speaking up courageously for its truths."

Elder Neal A. Maxwell says this ability has served the Church well, "The Hyde Park experience; visiting with an (English) publisher (who was misrepresenting the LDS faith); going on ("60 Minutes") with Mike Wallace, or the Larry King show. . . . He does well with the media. He is not afraid of them. He respects them but is not afraid."

To illustrate the influence of the top three it is profiling, the Deseret News looked at their behind-the-scenes effort to fight crime in the state. The effort, coming after 18 months of gang shootings and prostitution arrests in the headlines of the Salt Lake newspapers, united Huntsman, Gov. Leavitt and President Hinckley to change laws and get more resources to fight crime in Utah. As a result of their efforts, the US provided Utah with more agents to deal with immigration problems and more agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to fight some of the gang firebombings. The effort also put LDS missionaries in inner-city Salt Lake areas, got tougher laws passed in the state, more prison beds and intervention in the community.

Former Salt Lake mayor Ted Wilson says that sometimes this united power is necessary, "Sometimes a problem is difficult enough, it chooses the most powerful to deal with it. This is kind of like the Utah way of doing things. Some problems so rattle us, we want all sectors to work together. But we're a conservative state. We don't want government to do everything. So we work like this -- church, private business, government -- to accomplish something."

The article also makes plain that Huntsman, at least, prefers to work on this kind of problem from behind the scenes. Regarding the crime problem, Huntsman says, "I spent two years meeting with community leaders and activists, with Sen. Hatch, the governor and various church leaders to do all in my power to lower the crime rate. It was a high priority for me, and quietly, behind the scenes, I spent a lot of time and effort in focusing on crime problems."

But local attorney Pat Shea says that with the increasing diversity in Utah, putting together this kind of cooperation is increasingly difficult, "Whether it's the SLOC dispute, the takeover of First Security (Bank), the Tribune/Deseret News fight, light rail . . . all these divide the community." But Huntsman is able to bridge many sides, "Very few people -- Huntsman one of them -- could talk to all parts of the community."


Who runs Utah?
Deseret News 13May01 T2
By Lucinda Dillon and Bob Bernick Jr.: Deseret News staff writers
Behind-scenes efforts helped cut crime rate

Pres. Hinckley has most clout
Deseret News 13May01 N2
By Lucinda Dillon and Bob Bernick Jr.: Deseret News staff writers

Most powerful? Leavitt tops poll
Deseret News 13May01 T2
By Lucinda Dillon and Bob Bernick Jr.: Deseret News staff writers
Pres. Hinckley is a close second in Utah survey

Finding the top 20
Deseret News 13May01 T2


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