Salt Lake City, heart of Mormonism, is 2013's National Bible City
While many Christians may not see Mormons as Bible believers, the National Bible Association sure does.
The New York-based group has chosen Utah's capital headquarters of the LDS Church and the heart of Mormonism as its National Bible City of 2013.
The Judeo-Christian association was established in 1940 to "encourage everyone to read the Bible ... in every sector of society regardless of religious or political distinction."
To those who question lumping Mormonism into that tradition, the group's president, Richard Glickstein, simply asks: "Do Mormons read the Bible? Then they are part of the tribe."
"Mormons do read the Bible," explains Philip Barlow, chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, noting that the Good Book makes up half the church's four-year scripture-study curriculum.
In fact, the King James Version is part of LDS canon. Of course, members believe in additional scripture as well, including the faith's signature work, the Book of Mormon.
Barlow, who recently wrote a new preface to his 1990 volume, "Mormons and the Bible," points to the results of a 2010 Pew survey on biblical literacy, in which Mormons topped all other Christians.
At the same time, he says, the Bible's place among the LDS faithful has been slipping in the past 20 years.
Ever since the later 1980s, when then-church President Ezra Taft Benson urged members to read and study the Book of Mormon, that work has been quoted and cited more often in LDS meetings.
"The Book of Mormon has eclipsed the Bible," Barlow says, "in the consciousness of the Mormon people."
So how was Salt Lake City picked as National Bible City? Some time ago, LDS leaders approached the Bible group, asking that the city be considered for the honor.
"I did a little research on the city, talked to people and reached out to different religious groups," Glickstein says. "Our trustees made the decision."
One of those trustees, Ahmad Corbitt, is an LDS stake president in Cherry Hill, N.J., and an area director for the faith's public affairs, Glickstein says, but he removed himself from the decision-making process.
Interfaith concert coming
The National Bible Association is sponsoring a free "Concert of Praise" on Nov. 23 in downtown Salt Lake City's Mormon Tabernacle with "Touched by an Angel" star Roma Downey and producer Mark Burnett, who brought the miniseries "The Bible" to TV audiences around the world. The two have now produced a film, "Son of God,' due in theaters in February.
Other participants include: Cantor Emanuel Perlman, hazan at Baltimore's Chizuk Amuno Congregation, "Singing Sensations," a youth gospel choir from Baltimore, Brigham Young University Singers and the University of Utah LDS Institute of Religion choir.
The association also will host a Bible reading Nov. 25 by Gov. Gary Herbert and other political and business leaders at the Utah Capitol.