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
"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.