Thousands of members of the LDS Church outraged by New York Times obituary of Thomas Monson

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Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are outraged after reading the obituary the famed New York Times posted about their President, Thomas S. Monson.

Thomas S. Monson died Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at the age of 90. He was the 16th president in the 187-year history of LDS Church and served as its president since February 3, 2008.

News agencies across the country covered his death, but the obituary released by the New York Times caught the attention of many members of the Church. 

A petition was launched on to urge the newspaper to re-write the obituary. So far more than 100,000 people have signed it.

 “Instead of highlighting the positive aspects of his life, or a neutral statement about the facts of his life, they decided to attack and disparage his character and used his obituary as a political statement against him and the Church as a whole and tweeted a click-bait headline to attack even further,” the petition says.

The petition goes on to compare Monson’s obituary to that of Fidel Castro and others. “[This is] either a direct attack or a complete misunderstanding of religions or religious people. Would they write similar scathing remarks about the Pope?” the petition says.

The Times refers to Castro as a “fiery apostle of revolution”. The first sentence of the Times’ Monson obituary reads as follows: 

“Thomas S. Monson, who as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 enlarged the ranks of female missionaries, but rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died on Tuesday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90.”

“We are asking that the New York Times formally apologize for this bias in reporting and present an honest, neutral, and balanced obituary,” the petition said.

A disclaimer at the bottom of the petition points out the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing to do with the petition. News4Utah, however, did reach out to Church officials for comment, but they have not yet responded.

View the petition here.

Nathan Cunningham from Sparks, Nevada started the petition. He sent News4Utah the following statement:

While the New York Times may or may not listen, our goals are clear and simple. Our request is that The New York Times reconsider the tone and emphasis of the obituary for Thomas Monson. We know that The New York Times is a respected news source and we know that what they publish has a lasting impact. 

We do not pretend to know their strategy or intent, but given the number of signatures that have been produced in such a short time (the petition was published Sunday afternoon Pacific Time), it is clear that there are a number of people who are united in this request.

The facts of the obituary may or may not be factual and we have no interest in trying to dispute on those grounds. However, an obituary is hardly the place to criticize a church and its policies. We do not want to stir people to anger or provide a place to vent because that is not what Thomas Monson would do. Rather, we want to honor a person that has inspired many people around the world to do good.

We will continue to make published statements throughout the petition. We are not scheduling interviews at this time, but we will consider it over the next couple days.

The New York Times drew questions from their reader’s feedback and Obits editor William McDonald responded to the criticism Monday. 

“I also acknowledge that many of those who found the obituary wanting feel we did not provide a more rounded view of Mr. Monson — perhaps his more human side. I’ll concede that what we portrayed was the public man, not the private one, or the one known to his most ardent admirers. In 20/20 hindsight, we might have paid more attention to the high regard with which he was held within the church. I think by his very position in the church, all that was implied. But perhaps we should have stated it more plainly.”

It goes on to say, “We’re not in the business of paying tribute. We’re journalists first and foremost. I think in tracing the life of a religious leader, it would almost go without saying that he or she had won the respect and admiration of those who put them in positions to lead.”

Read his full response here

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