Mormon leader presents family history to Obama
Washington » Mormon Church leaders presented President Barack Obama with a detailed family tree in five leather-bound volumes Monday during a private meeting in the Oval Office.
The 30-minute sit-down was the first time Obama has met with Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Monson was escorted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the highest ranking Mormon in the government, and LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks, the chairman of the faith's genealogical committee.
LDS leaders have made a tradition of presenting presidents with genealogical breakdowns, giving similar reports to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but none have been as varied as Obama's, whose mother was from Kansas and whose father was from Kenya. Previous ancestral examinations have uncovered Obama's Irish and German lineage as well.
"President Obama's heritage is rich with examples of leadership, sacrifice and service," Monson said. "We were very pleased to research his family history and are honored to present it to him today."
The bound volumes include details about multiple generations of his family going back hundreds of years.
In a brief statement, Obama said he enjoyed meeting the Mormon leaders and appreciated their gift.
"I'm grateful for the genealogical records that they brought with them and am looking forward to reading through the materials with my daughters," he said. "It's something our family will treasure for years to come."
The meeting, arranged by Reid, was closed to the press.
Afterward Reid released a statement that thanked the Mormon leaders for sharing the nearly 14-million member faith's passion for genealogy.
"Recognizing the president and first lady's deep regard for family, I am honored that our church can have any part in documenting their family history," Reid said.
He also noted that Obama and Oaks discussed their interest in the law. Both men taught at the University of Chicago law school. Oaks went on to become a justice on the Utah Supreme Court before resigning to become a Mormon apostle.
While it was the first time Obama met face-to-face with Monson, they have talked on the phone at least once before. Obama called Monson in January 2008 to offer his condolences after then LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley died. At the time, Obama, then a candidate for president, was slated to visit Utah. He canceled out of respect for Hinckley's funeral. Monson succeeded Hinckley as the faith's president.
Monson has had experience with American presidents before, spending nearly an hour with President George W. Bush at the LDS Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City. During the May 2008 meeting, they discussed U.S. foreign policy, Middle East peace, the economy and energy, according to Bush's press secretary Dana Perino.
Monson and a few other top LDS officials also received a private tour of Air Force One during Bush's brief visit to Utah.
After Obama won the presidency, Monson dispatched two of his top lieutenants -- apostles Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Russell Ballard -- to attend the inauguration. They also participated in a prayer service with the president the next morning at the National Cathedral.