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For week ended October 03, 1999 Posted 10 Oct 1999

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Not the place for a temple? Smith's gives icon the boot

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Not the place for a temple? Smith's gives icon the boot
Deseret News 27Sep99 N6
By Maria Titze: Deseret News staff writer

MIDVALE,UTAH -- In Utah, a discussion is brewing about the governmental and commercial use of the image of the Salt Lake Temple as an icon to represent the state. Aside from the image of Delicate Arch that is seen on license plates, no other image speaks so clearly about Utah. As far as tourism goes, it is, after all, the most visited attraction in the state. An estimated 5 million people visit Temple Square every year, easily twice as many as visit Lake Powell or Zion National Park.

"Sure, we use the temple as an icon in our literature," said Spence Kinard, spokesman for the Utah Travel Council. "We'll use a picture of the temple or Temple Square in most every publication we do."

"We don't feel we're pushing the Mormon Church. We're just pointing out a tourism interest," Kinard said.

However, many nonmembers don't like its non-religious use as they feel that the users are pushing religion. Some have even objected to the temple being placed in a mural of the downtown Salt Lake skyline that hangs in a local Smith grocery store. The store management acquiesced to their demands and blotted the temple out.

On the other end of the scale, members often express that they feel its commercial use is sacrilege, such as was recently found on a whiskey shot glass at a local Kmart.

"It's hypersensitivity to religion, and no, it's not specific to this culture," said Colleen McDannell, a professor of history at the University of Utah and author of the book "Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America."

"People just don't know where to place religion, especially when we're talking about an image," she said. "If a religious image can be transformed into a cultural heritage of some kind, if it can be seen as a piece of art or architecture first, a religious space second, that's something else," she continued. But McDannell says LDS icons haven't existed long enough to be so transformed.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information