Religion
11:13 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Romney Campaign Focuses Spotlight On Mormons

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 12:13 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Like John Kennedy before him, Mitt Romney faces questions about his faith, as well as politics. And like Roman Catholics in 1960 and African-Americans in 2008, Mormons find themselves in an unaccustomed spotlight.

Once persecuted and often marginalized, a presidential nomination represents both unprecedented acceptance and sometimes uncomfortable exposure. We want to hear from the Mormons in our audience today. What's it like to be Mormon right now? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Peter Bergen reviews "No Easy Day," the new book by one of the Navy SEALS on the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. But first, what's it like to be a Mormon right now? And we're going to begin with a caller, and Sonny's(ph) on the line with us, Sonny calling from Grand Rapids in Michigan.

SONNY: Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

SONNY: You know, I found that this political season, knowing that there would be a great deal of media attention on the church, I was honestly a little bit nervous, being a Mormon myself, and very devout and practicing. But I found the conversation to be both fairly accurate and very respectful, which was a little bit surprising, but I'm very grateful for that.

CONAN: What, in particular, has impressed you?

SONNY: Well that they haven't jumped to judgments about what certain doctrines mean. They present the doctrines and the practices of Mormons, but they don't make judgment valuations about those things. They just present the facts, for the most part, without making quality judgments.

CONAN: And when you say they, you mean us, the news media?

SONNY: The media, yeah.

CONAN: And that's I take it not entirely been your experience with the news media and Mormonism?

SONNY: No, it has not been, and, you know, even across the spectrum from left to right, politically, it seemed to be the case, as well. So I have to, you know, extend my gratitude to those across the political spectrum for their overall respect for the way that they've approached this topic.

CONAN: And when you watch, I presume you will, Mitt Romney speak to the nation tonight, do you expect to hear him speak about his religion?

SONNY: I hope he does. I hope he does. You know, I think that there was a feeling that it's going to be something that may cost him votes, but, you know, we need to - we need to see who Mitt Romney is, and this is a vital and intricate part of who he is and what's shaped his life. And there's nothing to hide there. In fact, there's a great deal to be gained by displaying that.

CONAN: Do you expect to be among his supporters?

SONNY: I already am, yes, but not because of the religion, but yes, I am.

CONAN: Not just because of the religion.

SONNY: That's right.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much.

SONNY: OK.

CONAN: 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And here's an email we have from R.D.(ph) in Ogden, Connecticut: I'm a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and a registered Republican, although I'm much more of a centrist than most Republicans. Early in this presidential election season, I heard of many who would not vote for Romney due to his religion.

This offended me on several levels. On the other side of the coin, I've have many acquaintances assume that I would be voting for Romney because I am a Mormon. This offends me, as well. Any single issue of race, religion or one isolated issue should never sway anybody's vote. I'm still waiting to see what Romney's plans on doing as POTUS is elected. I'm hoping he'll open up more on his taxes, his leadership style and his plans before I hand the reigns back to the GOP. The last Republican president and Congress, did us no favors.

Well, joining us now from Salt Lake City is NPR correspondent Howard Berkes. Howard, always nice to have you on the program today.

HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Great to be with you again.

CONAN: And I can understand the emailer's discomfort by people assuming he would vote for Romney because he's a Mormon, but on the other hand, statistically, that's probably a pretty safe assumption, no?

BERKES: Well, you know, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life actually surveyed about 1,000 Mormons nationwide, last fall - so this was before the shakeout of the primary season - and at that point, the - let's see, it was 86 percent of those who were surveyed favored Mitt Romney. That's also when there was another Mormon in the race at the time, John Huntsman, the former governor of Utah.

So it's a safe assumption to say that most Mormons will be voting for Mitt Romney.

CONAN: And again, four years ago we were looking at African-American institutions and - like the black church of course and organizations like the NAACP. Let's put that same kind of question on Mormon institutions. Will they rally around Mitt Romney? Will they provide organizational assistance?

BERKES: No, I mean, the Mormon church is very clear as an institution, that it does not weigh in to partisan political politics and especially when it comes to the notion of supporting any candidate. The church issues statements every election season - whether we're talking about the general election, the presidential election or local elections - in which it says members are not to use church facilities or church resources to promote politicians, whether they're Mormon or not.

That is frowned upon, officially. And I should add that there is a distinction made on moral issues. So those who are thinking for example about Proposition 8 in California, the ballot measure about gay marriage, the Mormon church would have seen that and does see that as a moral issue, not necessarily a political issue.

But when you get to political candidates, the church is clear about that. Now that said, you know, there is a network of Mormons around the country, networks of Mormons around the country - it is an easily identifiable and easily organized group. But given the sentiment that's out there, anyway, so many Mormons favoring Mitt Romney, it's not necessary to organize them. They're going to be opening their pocketbooks, these people who are very excited about Mitt Romney's candidacy because of his political beliefs and his candidacy because of his faith, which is their faith.

There's not a need to organize them and to do anything with them as a group.

CONAN: Joanna Brooks joins us now from member station KPBS in San Diego. She's the author of "The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith." And she's a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches. Nice to have you back with us.

JOANNA BROOKS: Pleasure to be here.

CONAN: And is it an unalloyed triumph to be a Mormon right now? Is it vindication?

BROOKS: Well, you know, all partisan questions aside, whether you're a Mormon Democrat or Republican, there's no question this a really significant moment for Mormons in American history. I mean, for 180 years, our faith has been an object of curiosity, sometimes ridicule, sometimes open antagonism. And now we're seeing our story, our Mormon story, told as a part of the American story, a human story of faith, the kind of story I try to tell in my book.

CONAN: And that is - well, that's got to feel pretty good.

BROOKS: Yeah, I mean, it does. I was reflecting seeing - you know, I'm not a Mitt Romney Mormon. You know, I'm a Democrat, but seeing Ann Romney on stage the other night, even listening as a progressive, I was struck this is the first time I've seen a Mormon woman on a national stage since Marie Osmond. I mean, it's a big deal.

We see ourselves - still in the media, we're still seen as polygamist wives, and so to see someone take the podium and speak, you know, about her convictions, about her successful family, that's significant. And tonight's programming at the convention will also be significant. We're going to hear not only from Romney but from rank-and-file LDS people about the acts of compassionate care Romney has rendered to them that Mormons do render to one another just an everyday expression of the faith.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in, this is Susan(ph), and Susan with us from Provo, Utah.

SUSAN: Yes, thanks for having me.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

SUSAN: Yeah, so you can count me among the 14 percent of Mormons who don't plan to vote for Romney. And it's interesting for me that I'm discovering that amongst people who I talk about this, who are members of my church and who are not, there is an expectation that I would be voting for Romney and that I would be a member of the GOP.

And so when I told them there's not, there's almost this sense of betrayal that I sometimes detect. And I - it's kind of surprising. It shouldn't be that way, but for some reason it feels that way at times.

CONAN: So you're feeling pressure to conform?

SUSAN: Yeah, in a respect. I mean, I think a lot of members' support for the GOP probably stems from social issues more than fiscal issues. And so not voting for Romney, in particular, seems like a rejection, maybe, of social issues that the church supports that also align themselves with the GOP party platform.

CONAN: Let me go back to Howard Berkes for just a moment and back to that survey. The issues that Susan is mentioning, are Mormons in alignment with the conservatives on all of those?

BERKES: Absolutely. Again, this is based on this Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey of 1,000 Mormons nationwide last fall. Seventy-nine percent said, in that survey, that they believe sex between unmarried adults is morally wrong. Seventy-four percent believe that abortion is morally wrong. More than half said that drinking alcohol is morally wrong.

And also in that survey, you know, Mormons - the Mormons who responded to that survey, 66 percent, two-thirds, called themselves conservative. Only - less than 40 percent of the general public is willing to identify themselves as conservative.

So I think what Susan says is precisely right. There's an identification with the social issues and with conservative issues, and so yeah, if she's seen as not supporting Mitt Romney, then she may also be viewed as not supporting what some may believe is an agenda that fits with a Mormon view of the political world and of the social world.

CONAN: Susan, how does that manifest itself?

SUSAN: Awkward silences.

(LAUGHTER)

SUSAN: But I don't experience, necessarily, any outward social blackballing. Amongst people who don't belong to the church, there is sort of a sense of surprise. Amongst members of the church, I just - they usually just avoid the issue and don't bring it up anymore. I think there is a high sense of conformity that is in the community, and so I don't - I mean, it's sort of like they don't know quite what to do with me as an anomaly.

I mean, the thing that I would like to see is maybe more of an open discourse amongst members about, say, why I'm not supporting Romney rather than just seeing it as maybe an outward rejection of our society and of our beliefs.

CONAN: Joanna Brooks, have you prompted some awkward silences?

BROOKS: Absolutely. And it's fair to say, it's fair to remember that the church has a long and complicated political history that through the middle of the 20th century, many Mormons were Democrats, Utah Democrats, so - I mean, Utah voted four times for FDR, even though - in the 1930s - even though church leaders advised against it.

There's a strong rightward push that takes place in the middle and late 20th century. But still, I really hear what Susan is saying about a circling-the-wagons mentality among some LDS people, especially in the Inner Mountain West. And we've got to get ready for hard questions that are going to come our way as the campaign enters its final serious stages, both of our faith and its history, and of Mitt Romney.

I mean, how exactly does he square his values as a compassionate Mormon person with some of the financial policy - economic policies he's advocating? Those questions are going to come up.

CONAN: Susan, thanks very much for the call.

SUSAN: You're welcome.

CONAN: And stay with us if you would, Joanna Brooks, and Howard Berkes. We want to hear from Mormons in the audience today. What's it like to be Mormon right now as a member of the faith gets ready to accept the party's presidential nomination at the Republican National Committee in Tampa tonight? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm Neal Conan. We're talking about this Mormon moment. Mitt Romney run for the White House has put his faith and his church in the spotlight, an unaccustomed spotlight. A Pew survey earlier this year that we've mentioned a couple of times found that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints make up a little less than two percent of the U.S. population.

Just under half said there is a lot of discrimination against Mormons in this country. Still, some 56 percent said the American people are ready to elect a Mormon president. Today we want to hear from Mormons in our audience. What's it like to be Mormon right now? 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Just click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests are NPR correspondent Howard Berkes and Joanna Brooks, senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches. She wrote "The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith." And let's go to Steven(ph) and Steven on the line with us from Miami.

STEVEN: Hi thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

STEVEN: Hi, I work for the Republican Party of Florida, and I'm a Mitt Romney supporter. I go to FIU. I do - I am a Mormon, and we have - I grew up in a family full of Baptists, and I'm the only Mormon after two generations from my dad's side, coming back into the faith.

CONAN: Are you a convert?

STEVEN: Yes, I'm a convert, and - but up the line, I've had family that were LDS.

CONAN: I see, but do you find yourself feeling a little isolated there in Miami?

STEVEN: No, not really. There's a high Catholic percentage here. It's a very, I guess you can say, religious town in some way; and also a liberal town, at the same time, because of South Beach. But having to explain the things to family and stuff is a little hard because it gives a little bit extra attention to the things that I believe in. And still, coming from the South - because I'm not originally from Miami, I'm from Georgia - that I have to explain to people what I believe.

And even still, some people say we're polygamists, and we got rid of that over 100 years ago.

CONAN: And interestingly, though, as you have to explain it to people, in a way, doesn't that clarify your thinking and reinforce your thought?

STEVEN: Yes, it does.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much for the call, Steven, appreciate it.

STEVEN: Thanks so much, have a good one.

CONAN: And Howard Berkes, Steven's saying though he had Mormons up the line in his family, as a convert, Mormonism is the, I think, second-fastest-growing religion in the country.

STEVEN: It is a fast-growing religion because part of the faith, fundamental to the faith, is the notion of proselytizing, of sending out missionary. That happened from the very beginning. It's why the faith grew as dramatically as it did from very small beginnings. And so you have a faith that reaches out and that touches people with its message of a restored Christianity.

You know, Mormons believe that their version of Christianity is the true version of Christianity, and that they restored it to the Earth. And many people find that to be an attractive message, the message of prophecy in modern times. Sainthood in modern times appeals to some people.

And of course it's those kinds of beliefs that turn off many Christians, who consider that to be an aberration of traditional Christianity.

CONAN: Joanna Brooks, in a piece you were interviewed by Barbara Bradley Hagerty for a story that ran earlier this week on MORNING EDITION, and you said some people regard those sorts of things as goofy.

BROOKS: There are aspects of Mormon doctrine, or of historic Mormon doctrine, even speculative Mormon doctrine, that do get circulated quite a bit in the media. And I heard in Steven's voice, in the caller's voice, a bit of weariness of explanation that comes with talking about things like Mormon temple garments all the time, or do you believe you're going to get your own planet, the goofy things that come up in association with the religion.

I think the promise of this moment for Mormon people, is that tonight Mitt Romney will talk about not what Mormons believe in terms of doctrine, but he will try to reveal what Mormons, the lived and practiced aspect of the faith that compassionate service that is a real part of Mormon community life that comes directly from the 19th-century communitarian impulse, in which the church is rooted.

I've experienced it myself, and it's just an important side of the tradition for people to know.

BERKES: Neal, you know, I want to make a point, here, about Mitt Romney's speech tonight and Joanna's point. You know, there is - many Mormons seem to believe, at least in my experience, I've lived in Utah for 30 years and covered the church for that long, I have Mormon friends, and I've heard many, many times, Mormons say that if people just get to know us, if they just get to know us as individuals, if they just hear from us, they will accept us, or they will be more open to us.

And that's been the focus of the Mormon Church's own I'm a Mormon campaign, that's been running nationally the last few years. And it's - and kind of, you know, Mitt Romney's speech tonight is, you could say, is kind of a chapter of that.

It's, you know, I'm Mitt Romney. He may not say I am a Mormon in the way that they do in the campaign, but he's trying to explain who he is as a person. Part of that is who he is as a Mormon. That means more than just the tenets of the faith; it means a practicing beliefs, of charity and those sorts of things.

And you'll have other Mormons speaking about Mitt Romney in that way. It's an attempt to help people get used to him, know him, sort of, as a Mormon, as an individual. And many Mormons believe that once you get to know me, you'll like me.

CONAN: Dustin Jones joins us now, on the phone, from his office in Phoenix. He's an attorney out there and an African-American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nice to have you with us today.

DUSTIN JONES: Hello there, how are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thanks. And you suddenly have two presidential candidates with whom you share core identities. Interesting times.

JONES: Yes, absolutely.

CONAN: How do you make your decision?

JONES: You know, for me, I'm biracial, and so my mom's side of the family have been Mormons since 1830, from the very beginning. And my father's African-American. So for me, it's always been an issue of trying to balance the difference cultures and different expectations.

And for me being Mormon and black, right now it's a proud moment to have an African-American president but also have a Mormon that is - has risen to this level to be potentially elected. It also presents a bit of a conundrum, because I'm not necessarily in the same political camp as Mitt Romney. Although I support him as an individual and as a person, we don't share the same political leanings.

CONAN: So again, it's interesting, we had a caller earlier say that because she's Mormon, she is expected, or at least people - other people in the church - expect her to support Mitt Romney. Is that the case with you, too?

JONES: Well, it's similar. A couple years ago, when Barack Obama was running for president, there was this assumption that because he was African-American that I was going to vote for him. And I had a lot of my Mormon friends and colleagues, you know, chiding me because they knew I was relatively moderate, and they thought that I would be leaning his way because he's black, and they would chide me for that.

And now that Mitt Romney is there, these same individuals are feeling compelled to vote for Mitt Romney, and I chide them for the same thing, that because he's a Mormon, you feel like you need to vote him, when the shoe's on the other foot from four years ago.

CONAN: Well, let me ask you about the other side of that. African-American friends, did they ask you about the church's history of racism?

JONES: Oh absolutely. I mean, it's something that I've lived with my entire life. It's something that I have to explain, and I think that a lot of white Mormons don't understand that those of us who are African-American have to explain and understand every detail of the church's decision - leadership's decision - over the - about the past in dealing on civil rights issues and dealing with the priesthood issue. So for me it's a real issue.

CONAN: Of course the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints is hardly the only largely white institution with a history of racism.

JONES: Oh, obviously.

CONAN: So as you come down to this moment, do you have - I'll use the word, faith, that this is going to be something of a blessing, that this conversation is going to open up?

JONES: I think any type of spotlight that we can shine on the church is a good thing. I think that our former leadership has really striven over the past 100 years to become accepted, become mainstream, to be a part of the fabric of Americana. And I think that this opportunity to have Mitt Romney up there and speak is a good thing. It's a welcome thing.

I think that there's a lot of members of the church that are afraid of this scrutiny, afraid of answering questions. But in this day and age of Google and the Internet, you can't hide from anything. So being able to have answers to questions, being able to explain the decisions that were made with respect to the civil rights issues in the '60s and the church's position on those, the position of the church in the '70s on ERA, Equal Rights Amendment, these are issues that were real, the church had a hand in that.

They obviously have a hand - they've been involved in Prop 8 today. The church is in the spotlight, and we can't run from it. And this is actually something we wanted. So now that it's hear, we really just need to accept it.

CONAN: Dustin Jones, thanks very much for your time today.

You bet, thank you.

Dustin Jones, an attorney based in Phoenix and active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, and he joined us from his office there. And Howard Berkes, minority membership of the church in this country is still very small, but as you mentioned, the proselytizing, the missions that Mormons go on, of course, that goes on all over the world.

BERKES: Right, and outside the United States, there are many non-white Mormons. There's been great success in missionary work in the South Pacific, in Latin America, in Africa. And one of the reasons there was this tension over the banning from the Mormon priesthood, of African-American males, before 1978 was because there was a great deal of success with people of African descent in Brazil, for example, and because of the difficulty in figuring out, you know, sort of what percentage of race people in Brazil are. It was hard to decipher who could and couldn't go into the temple, the Mormon temple, and who could or couldn't be a Mormon priest.

And that, you know, that's part of what led to that really earth-shattering - for Mormons - decision in 1978, a decision believed to be driven by God to open the faith fully to African-Americans and Africans of - from any country. So it is a more diverse faith outside the United States, absolutely.

CONAN: Now, let's get Tanya on the line, and Tanya's on the line from Wichita.

TANYA: Hi, Neal. I really enjoy your diplomatic program, and I just wanted to say that I just completely embrace the opportunity that I have to speak of my faith. I did serve a mission in the Dominican Republic as a woman, and enjoyed it and grew to love those people. And anyone that wants to ask me a question about it, you know, feel free. In fact, I've gone to my neighbors and said, you know, this is in the spotlight, and if you want to talk to me about it, I'm here. Any question - any weird questions you feel like you have that you want to ask, go ahead. I might not be able to answer it.

And so - and as for Mitt Romney, I haven't completely decided whether I'm going to vote for him, frankly. I really enjoyed the platform of Jon Huntsman better. I'm more of a moderate and take things from the right, take things from the left, take things from all over. So - but I - like I said, I do embrace the opportunity to share my belief system and hope that Mitt Romney will be open in that, because it's very much a part of who am I. So...

CONAN: I wonder, did the experience of going on the mission open you up? Are you a garrulous, you know, a person who likes to interact with other people on some - what some might think are sensitive subjects? Or did that experience helped you become that way?

TANYA: You know, I think I'm a pretty bold person as it is, and I don't think that I have difficulty sharing my beliefs or my testimony, as it were, of God or of the church or what I think that is true. My mother was a convert to the church. She was - she grew up in Finland. And so she's a bold woman. I think that she kind of taught us some of those different things about, you know, this is important to us, and we talk about it. And - but I think that it gave me a different perspective, I would say.

But, you know, the Dominican people are wonderful people. And just like anyone, you come to know somebody and you come to understand where they're coming from, you can love them just as you would a person who's a Mormon, a person who's from another country, a person who has a different background than you do.

CONAN: Tanya, thanks very much.

TANYA: Thank you, Neal.

BROOKS: Neal...

CONAN: We're talking...

BROOKS: Neal, I just...

CONAN: We're talking about this Mormon moment. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Joanna Brooks, I'm sorry.

BROOKS: Oh, apologies. Sorry for butting in. I just want to add that, you know, this is an important moment for Mormons to receive questions from non-Mormons, but it's also an important moment when, in the spotlight, Mormons are sorting through our own faith, as well. It is a modern faith. It's a faith that has fielded a number of questions. It has curious and controversial aspects of its history. And as Dustin Jones mentioned a few moments ago, this is an important time for Mormons to sort through those questions for ourselves in the light of the spotlight.

We've been doing that on race. It's going to continue to happen in this last, more serious, you know, two months of the campaign. Those questions, we need to be ready for.

CONAN: Here's an email from Allan in Provo, Utah: I was a missionary in Ukraine in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president. As we spoke to people, many would show anger towards us because we missionaries were mostly Americans, and this was very distracting to the message we wanted to share with those we met in Ukraine. Usually, I would just say something like I'm not here as an American. I'm here as a Mormon. Once Barack Obama was elected, I would say, hey, we just elected Obama. Cut us some slack. And people would get excited just to hear his name, and they were often nicer to us at that point.

My fear is that if Mitt Romney's elected president, it will be more difficult for LDS missionaries abroad to distinguish themselves from the United States in countries where many may not love Americans. I worry any wrongs made by Mitt Romney would reflect poorly upon the church, not only abroad, but here in the States. And, Joanna Brooks, I wonder if you thought about that.

BROOKS: Well, absolutely. And there are places where the positions that Mitt Romney has adopted as part of his presidential platform are even to the right of positions the LDS church has adopted. For example, the church adopted and worked with Utah legislators to implement a fairly moderate approach to resolving really crucial humanitarian questions surrounding immigration in the United States. And, you know, Romney has not adopted the same moderate approach in his presidency. So, yes, there is a concern that Romney will be taken as the representative of the faith.

The church has been trying to be quite clear that, you know, it is politically neutral, but there's a danger in him being seen as the identity of Mormonism.

CONAN: And here's an email to that point from Jesse in Utah: As a Mormon in Utah, I feel so much frustrated with all the media coverage because it seems a lot of what is shared are individual members' views and don't appropriately represent what the church's doctrine teaches. I would love to see more statements from official church spokespeople. That way, I would feel better represented. Howard Berkes, is he likely to see them?

BERKES: Well, you will only see very careful statements from church leaders, because they're nervous about being seen as being partisan, being - favoring Mitt Romney, being political in this time. You know, as I said before, this is a line they do not want to cross. However, I was talking with a church official today, and he said that, you know, despite this sort of fine line that they have to maintain, they do - when they see inaccuracies, they do want to make themselves available to react.

They want to be proactive, and they have done that. They've reached out to journalists. They've hosted journalists. When they see a journalist write something that they don't think is correct, they'll reach out to that reporter. They are on the alert. Now when I say they, I mean the church public affairs department, the people who deal with the media. I'm told the church leaders, this doesn't consume them at all.

CONAN: I think your number's on their speed dial, Howard.

(LAUGHTER)

BERKES: Yeah. That's right. Absolutely. And church leaders, this does not consume them at all, is what the church spokesman say, that they're too busy leading the church. And, you know, I have to say that the current church president, Thomas S. Monson, has been basically completely off the radar when it comes to non-Mormons, unlike some of his predecessors who were very visible to non-Mormons, who interacted with media, gave interviews, Thomas Monson does not give interviews to non-Mormon media. We haven't seen anything of him. He's focused on the faith, the leaders say, and that's the way they like it. The media people will deal with issues that come up because of the political campaign, but they're going to stay away from politics.

CONAN: Well, we'll all be watching tonight to see how it goes. Howard Berkes, thanks very much for your time.

BERKES: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: NPR correspondent Howard Berkes, with us from his office in Salt Lake City. Joanna Brooks, appreciate talking to you, too.

BROOKS: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Joanna Brooks is the author of "The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith." When we come back, Peter Bergen reviews the new book by a Navy SEAL on the Osama bin Laden mission. Stay with us. It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.