By Rosemary Pollock
Notable Mormons, Apostle Support New 'Alliance for Unity'
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The "Alliance for Unity," a group of church,
business, political and media leaders stood together Monday on the
steps of the state Capitol under a U.S. flag and read a statement of
unity crafted by the alliance. "We are concerned that acceptance of
diversity in Utah today is not of the scope or at the level it ought
to be," read billionaire industrialist Jon M. Huntsman and Salt Lake
City Mayor Rocky Anderson. "Our overriding goal is to help people
cross boundaries of culture, religion, and ethnicity to better
understand and befriend one another."
Alliance member, Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an apostle in the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles, acknowledged that some church members are "too
narrow." "They don't know how to accept people of other cultures,"
Elder Ballard said. "They need to reach out to their neighbors."
Citing daily newspaper reports, the Alliance claims that Utah is
increasingly fractured along religious and cultural, and political
lines. "We viewed it as things that were boiling below the surface
were starting to come to the surface," said Anderson. "That's not a
The Alliance for Unity meetings began in May with closed doors, that
were an opportunity for leaders in some of the state's former public
squabbles to set aside their differences and look for areas of common
ground. Huntsman called the first two meetings, "spirited." "At any
point in time, someone could have walked out," he said. But they
didn't and last week all 18 members signed a statement that took five
months to draft.
"Religious understanding," said alliance member and Roman Catholic
Bishop George Niederhauer, "will hopefully spread and affect how
Mormons talk about Catholics when only Mormons are in the room and
how Catholics talk about Mormons when only Catholics are in the
room." Yet, the problem extends beyond religious affiliations. Many
stand apart on issues of gay rights. "It doesn't mean we are going to
compromise our doctrine," said Elder Ballard. "The political side of
this is not nearly as critical as the spiritual, ethnic and corporate
sides," said Huntsman.
In spite of all the cooperation, not all appeared impressed with
Monday's announcement for unity. One reporter called the group's
statement "platitudinous." "Though they may sound like platitudes, we
have to start somewhere where we all agree," countered Robert
"Archie" Archuleta, a longtime Latino advocate. "Seldom do we agree
on issues," Huntsman said. "But we respect each other." "We need help
from the community," University of Utah president and alliance member
Bernie Machen added. "We're not here with all the answers."
During the July 24 Pioneer Day celebration, President Gordon B.
Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke on
the issues of bias and bigotry. "We must not be clannish. We must
never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be
self-righteous. We must be magnanimous, and open, and friendly," he
said. "We can keep our faith. We can practice our religion. We can
cherish our method of worship without being offensive to others. I
take this occasion to plead for a spirit of tolerance and
neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths."
Community Alliance Issues Call for Tolerance, Diversity
Salt Lake Tribune 18Sep01 D4
By Dan Egan: Salt Lake Tribune
Alliance is full of faith in Utah
Deseret News 17Sep01 D4
By Diane Urbani and Bob Bernick Jr.: Deseret News staff writers
Huntsman, Rocky tout new group as a beacon for unity
Statement of Purpose
Salt Lake Tribune 18Sep01 D4
Group tries to bridge Utah's religious divide
(Phoenix) AZ Republic (AP) 18Sep01 D4