Leaving the Fold
James W. Ure, editor
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
[p.143]Paul Rolly attended Uintah Elementary School, Wasatch Junior High School, and Skyline High School in Salt Lake City. “I was sort of a juvenile delinquent in high school, so I agreed to go to junior college military academy in Lexington, Missouri, called Wentworth, where I found out I liked learning.” Graduating from Wentworth, Paul returned to Salt Lake City and graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He started as a copy boy at The Salt Lake Tribune, working on staff for ten years. Then for three years he worked at the Salt Lake Bureau of United Press International before returning to the Tribune.
At the Tribune he has been an obituary writer, night police reporter, general assignment reporter, assistant business editor, assistant city editor, legislative, state government, and political reporter, as well as having served a stint as business editor. Since the early 1990s he has been writing the “Rolly and Wells” column for the Tribune with JoAnn Jacobsen Wells. He also writes a behind-the-scenes Sunday column, “The Rolly Report.”
Paul is recipient of a Freedom of Information Award from the Soci-[p.144]ety of Professional Journalists (S.P.J.) for a series of articles he wrote on corruption in Daggett County. He is also winner of a first place S.P.J. Award for reporting on the LDS church’s role in killing the “Fun Bus” bill in the state legislature. He has served as president of the board of the Utah Headliners Chapter, S.P.J.
Paul has a ruddy complexion and steady, dark eyes. We sit across from one another in a booth at Lamb’s Grill, two doors south of the Tribune’s downtown Salt Lake City offices. The interview takes place over breakfast. Paul wears a bleached denim shirt with a black turtleneck, and his gray-streaked brown hair is parted almost down the middle, with waves flowing back from his forehead. I’ve forgotten a blank tape, and am wondering if I’ll be able to find one at 7:30 in the morning. Then I remember the cassettes in my car, and I sacrifice a Prokofiev for Rolly.
Paul begins, and as he talks, a piece of fried egg remains poised on his fork for fully five minutes before he finally consumes it.
I miss my writing.
You’ve got community demands on you now as a columnist?
Yes. Jo—JoAnn Jacobsen Wells—and I speak a lot. Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, all of that stuff.
You were born in San Francisco.
I was born actually in Sausalito. Almost underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a little army fort on a little peninsula on the Sausalito side called Fort Baker. It’s closed now. My dad was a career army guy.
In 1948. My mother was a WAC [Women’s Army Corps]. My parents met in New York. My dad retired from the army when I was nine months old. He’d been in the army for twenty-two years. So he was twelve years older than my mother when I was born. At the end of the war, he was stationed in the Philippines after we took them from the [p.145]Japanese. His career was basically in the military police service. And he was an associate or assistant commandant of a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines. Then he stayed there for some time after the war, because it took a while to process the Japanese and send them home. He came back to the states several months after the war ended. He and my mother got married about a year later. My mother grew up in Salt Lake. My dad was an orphan and kind of grew up all over the place. He joined the army when he was sixteen years old, and the army was basically his life and his family.
He wasn’t from Utah?
No. He grew up in an orphanage in Pennsylvania. Anyway, they got married. His last assignment before he retired was in California. That’s where I was born. Then as soon as he retired, he had to think about what he was going to do in civilian life. My mother was from Salt Lake City. She had two brothers and her father died within a three-year period, so she wanted to come home to be close to her mother. I was nine months old when they came back to Salt Lake. Then my dad embarked on a bunch of careers. He was very, very political in the Democratic Party. My grandmother was a very staunch Mormon—she was a product of polygamy—from Spring City, Utah. She came from this very devout, pioneer-type Mormon background. For my mother, by the time she got to be an adult, the church wasn’t important to her, although she’d been brought up in the church. She was basically Jack Mormon. When she married my dad, it completed that break, because my dad was totally non-religious … never had any respect or anything to do with the Mormon church.
Did he denigrate it?
Yes, he made fun of it. He was pretty abrupt to ward teachers who would come over and try and convert him. So I grew up in a schizophrenic way because I spent a lot of time as a small child with my grandmother. Both my parents always worked. From the time I was in kindergarten, I can remember getting into Uinta Elementary School, getting out of class on Fifteenth East, taking a bus downtown, and then walking to my grandmother’s place in the Belvedere Apartments. Everybody in the Belvedere Apartments was Mormon. They all belonged to the same ward; they were all old.
[p.146]At the corner of State Street and Social Hall Avenue.
Exactly. I was the star of Belvedere Apartments, because I was five, six, seven years old. All these people were in their seventies and eighties. My grandmother knew everybody in the apartments. They went to church together. A lot of them had worked in the Church Office Building together. My grandmother worked in the Church Office Building—her career. They always really liked me, and they always had candy for me. So I was having a really good time there. I knew exactly what apartments to knock on in the Belvedere and who had the best stashes of candy. My grandmother also took me to dinner a lot at the Hotel Utah, at the coffee shop. She knew David O. McKay, the president of the church at the time; Hugh B. Brown who I was brought up to believe was some messiah because he was a Mormon general authority and a Democrat. My grandmother was a New Deal Democrat even though she was a very staunch Mormon. My parents … their religion basically was really the Democrat Party. But then my mother would make me go to church, pretty much to appease her mother. So I would go to church, and at the breakfast table and dinner table I would hear the opposite from what I heard when I would go to church, because most of the people at church were Republicans and conservatives. I would go to church and hear about how people like my parents were evil people and had the devil inside of them. When I got a little older and could start thinking for myself, I basically reached a crossroads where I had to decide whether my parents were bad people or whether the people in the church were full of shit. I chose the latter. Part of what helped me along with that decision was, from the time I was about ten or eleven years old, I noticed things when I’d go to church that I didn’t like. I still believe that the Mormon young boy’s clubs, and Primary, and then Mutual, and then Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, can be the most vicious, mean groups of people around.
When I was a kid, my parents didn’t go to church. That was complicated by the fact that my Cub Scout leader was also the ward teacher assigned to my family. He would come over and try and get my dad to go to church, because my dad had no religious affiliation. Because I went to church, they felt that he could be a prime guy to convert. My dad basically told them to leave him alone. In fact, he very bluntly told [p.147]them to leave him alone. So this guy decided to take it out on me, because I was this helpless kid. So I go to Cub Scouts, and then this guy would single me out for things. You know, my uniform wasn’t right, I wasn’t paying attention. You know, I’m not a good member of the church, I had my eyes open during the prayer. Then the other kids in Cub Scouts would pick up on this. Couple that with the fact that I was the only kid in that group whose parents didn’t go to church, I got picked on a lot.
At that age peer groups can be so important.
Yes. We moved when I was eleven, and we moved into a brand new neighborhood where homes were just being built—out in Holladay, out by where Skyline High School is. At that time there were still mostly fields. New construction was just happening, so all the homes were new. I happened to be on a block where probably half the families were Catholic.
By then you were baptized?
Yes, I was baptized when I was eight.
Because your mother …
Because my mother thought that was important, and basically she wanted to do it to appease her mother. Even though my mother didn’t go to church, and she didn’t like it for her—in fact, she couldn’t stand it, going to church.
But she sent you?
Made me go. So some resentment developed that way. Plus, it was interesting, because when I was eleven and twelve years old, there were several Catholic families on my block. One of them, the Smiths, had a boy a year older than me and a girl a year younger than me—they had about four or five kids. They got to be very good friends of my parents. The mother was very, very beautiful. She died of a brain tumor. The dad mourned. He developed a fairly serious drinking problem right around that time because he had a hard time losing her.
Right. He had a proclivity toward that kind of lifestyle anyway. So [p.148]here’s this sort of hard drinking guy who just lost his wife, has kids my age. He’s very into sports. His kids went to Judge Memorial High School when they got older. They went to parochial school all their lives. He was a coach in a Catholic youth organization football league, and his kid was the quarterback. Here was a guy who had these problems. And, of course, if you’re brought up as a Mormon and stuff, you look at a guy like him and think he’s a piece of shit as a human being. He was the warmest, nicest guy to me you could ever imagine. He’d take me with him to the football games. They had father and son things at St. Ambrose that he would take me to as well. Everybody there was really nice to me. I mean, I could never be a Catholic. But by the time I was ten or eleven the whole notion of church was just something I didn’t want to pursue. It was a negative force to me. I wasn’t interested in any church. But it wasn’t lost on me that the people who were the nicest to me when I was a young boy were Catholics who had drinking problems. The people who weren’t nice to me and who I thought were cruel and vicious were Mormons who lived this so-called righteous lifestyle. So as I grew up and got older, I became very anti-Mormon. My dad was pretty anti-Mormon, so I got that influence a lot, even though on the other side I loved my grandmother very much, and I got a heavy dose of Mormonism from her. When I became real negative toward the Mormon church, it never affected my affection for her and my love for her and a lot of her friends who were so good to me when I was a little boy. I think that influence enabled me to soften my feelings as I got a little more mature toward the whole thing and have an understanding toward the Mormon mentality, even though it’s something that I can never imagine myself embracing.
My first marriage lasted twenty-one years. I don’t know how this happened because, at the time I got married, I was very anti-Mormon. I was twenty-three years old, and I was at the height of my anti-Mormon period. I had a habit of making fun of Mormons, making fun of BYU, told BYU co-ed jokes, and all that. But I met and married a woman who, even though she wasn’t real active herself, came from a blue-blood Mormon family. To give an example: My wife’s great-grandfathers were Joseph Fielding Smith and Heber J. Grant, both past presidents of the church. On her mother’s side, her grandmother’s brother was LeGrand Richards. That’s what I married into. It was very strenuous the first few years. But even though I’m divorced from her, I still have [p.149]affection for my in-laws. Her brother’s kids still call me Uncle Paul. There’s a good relationship there. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a real affection for them, and I see the goodness in them. When we were first married, it was a strenuous relationship because they, like most staunch Mormons in Utah I’ve known, basically have very strong opinions about everything. Their opinions are such that if you don’t share those opinions, you’re not only wrong, you’re evil. I never could handle that. A lot of times I’d become exactly what I hated, and that was an intolerant person who went out of my way to give shit to somebody who didn’t believe the way I did—and that is to give shit to Mormons. This arrogance that they had … I actually would be the same way, except in the opposite direction. My in-laws, for example, were staunch Republicans, so even when I knew better, I would taunt Republicans, taunt conservatives, taunt Mormons. I remember comments I used to make about Ezra Taft Benson. All my life growing up, Ezra Taft Benson was like the anti-Christ. Suddenly I’m married and I’m in my in-laws’ house, and Ezra Taft Benson is like God. So there was a bit of a culture shock that I had to deal with, because I’m suddenly having Sunday dinner with my in-laws and the whole conversation is just the opposite of everything that I’d been brought up to believe. As I got older, I softened and then became more tolerant.
I think that’s helped me as a reporter. You hear all the time that the news media is supposed to ignore the Mormon church as a social and political institution. I disagree with that. The Mormon church is the most important social and political institution in Utah, and if you’re going to be a responsible reporter, you can’t ignore the Mormon church.
Besides that, it’s fascinating.
Yes. So I’ve got a strong feeling that way. The fact that I spent so much time with people whom I came to love, people who were very staunch Mormons and came from the point of view that the Mormon church can never do anything wrong, and nobody should ever criticize it or question it. I spent a lot of time with people with that mentality. These are people who for a good part of my adult life were very important people. On the other hand, I grew up with people who questioned everything about the Mormon church. One of those people was my mother who’d been brought up a Mormon herself. So I’ve [p.150]had very close, long-term associations with those opposite points of view.
Did you ever feel conflicted?
From the time I was twelve years old, it was clear-cut to me. I kept going to church until I was sixteen, but I didn’t like it and I had no respect for it and had no respect for the people who were there teaching it. So I never had internal conflict.
Did you ever rebel openly?
I started smoking when I was fifteen years old. As I look back on that, the reason I did that was to show people that I wasn’t Mormon. The whole Mormon thing was the main reason I did that, because I remember it took me six months to inhale a cigarette without throwing up. I went through this hell in order to get this habit which was inflicting horrible things on my body, and it was basically to show that I wasn’t a Mormon. I started drinking beer when I was sixteen. By the time I was sixteen, I used to go to church with a pack of Lucky Strikes in my shirt pocket. I wanted everybody to know. The final separation—and I initiated it—happened when I was sixteen and I had to go to the bishop for an interview to become a priest. They ask you all these personal questions in these interviews. Well, all the kids my age would go in there and they’d just lie. I mean, he’d ask them stuff, and whether they did it or not, they’d say, “No.” They did that, and everybody knew it. I think the bishop knew it. It was just this phony game that everybody played. So when I went in there, I decided I wasn’t going to lie. I was going to be absolutely truthful with this guy. I had no respect for him anyway. He eventually ended up getting excommunicated and his wife divorced him because he had an affair with the Relief Society president. These were the sorts of things that I would notice when I was growing up. It really gave me a negative attitude toward the LDS church.
So, anyway, I go into this interview. There’s a lot of small talk involved and a lot of nothing-type questions. Then you get to the tough questions, and he kind of interspersed them. The first tough question [p.151]was, “Have you ever smoked cigarettes or tobacco?” I said, “Yes.” I think I was the first person to ever say that to him—you know, looking him squarely in the eye. All of a sudden, he’s the one who became nervous. He went on this long thing about how I need to quit doing that, and the Lord loves me, and he, the bishop, loves me, and everybody loves me, and all this kind of stuff. And this was a habit that I needed to stop, and I should go home and pray about it. It’s all going over my head, because by this time in my life I’m looking at this guy thinking he’s a piece of shit. A few more small talk questions, and then we get to another tough question. “Have you ever taken alcohol?” “Yes, I drink beer when I can, and sometimes I sneak a little vodka out of my dad’s liquor cabinet. Yes, I like it.” Once again he’s shuffling his feet, he’s looking down like, “How do I deal with this kid?” And I’m not apologetic. I don’t feel remorseful at all, so he’s getting more and more nervous, and little beads of sweat are starting to pop up on him. It was clear to me that he didn’t know how to deal with this kind of honesty. Then he gives me the same rigamorole again. Everybody loves me, the Lord loves me, and go home and pray and never do this again. He’ll forgive me and I can still become a priest. So we’re going on and we’re getting to the big one. Because of my previous answers, I could tell this guy did not want to ask this question. He’s shuffling his feet, and these little beads of sweat are popping up on his forehead. He finally gets to it. He has to ask it. He says, “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with a girl?” I’m being totally honest in this interview. I said, “No.” He goes, “Phew,” sighs, and all this stuff. Then I said, “But I’d really like to.” That pretty much was the final straw that severed me from the LDS church.
Then I married this woman who was from this very blue-blooded Mormon family. She had a million cousins whom I liked, who were very nice, and they were very nice to me, and we had cousin parties. They were fun and I enjoyed them. I was the only guy there who hadn’t gone on a mission. My wife and I were the only couple there who wasn’t married in the temple. But they were pretty nice to me anyway, for the most part. There were a couple cousins who were jerks. I developed a softening in that marriage. Then I had kids. I had four kids, and, of course, they had heavy Mormon influence from all their cousins and grandparents and everything else. In some ways, they had the same upbringing as I did, because they had me there to kind of pum-[p.152]mel their little brains with Democratic philosophy and liberal philosophy and principles and anti-Mormon talks. Then at the same time their Mormon influence was strong because they had so many relatives who were very, very Mormon, and they spent so much time with them. They all had cousins their own age and they were all their best friends growing up. It’s interesting. My two boys aren’t Mormon. My two girls are very Mormon. My daughter got married in the Mormon temple. I’ve got another daughter who went on a mission to Russia.
Did you help pay for it?
I paid for half of it.
You talked about your anti-Mormon days in your twenties. Clearly you’ve mellowed since then …
I see a lot of sincere, wonderful, nice people in the LDS church today—who are as good a people as there are. My daughter married into a very Mormon family, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the family she married into. I don’t think she could’ve married into a better family, and they’re really wonderful to her, and they’re really nice people. When my daughter became engaged to this boy, his parents wanted to get to know me, and I wanted to get to know them, because we were going to share our children. So I had them over to dinner, and they had us over to dinner, and I really liked them. My former in-laws, even though I was kind of mean to them when I was younger—I have come to respect them and have warm feelings for them. In my adult life, I’ve gotten to know people who are staunch LDS who I really like. When I was young, it wasn’t like that. Even the people who were good in the Mormon church—and I still feel this way—that I was treated very badly by a lot of Mormons when I was younger. At the time I saw it as an exclusively Mormon trait to be cruel. As I’ve gotten older, I see that more as a typical trait among particularly boys when they’re in their puberty years, where there’s a tight-knit club—when they’re thrown together in any kind of a tight-knit club where they have this common club mentality. Now I don’t think it’s an exclusive Mormon trait. At the time, I did.
As a reporter, what do you see happening with the church and with Utah today?
[p.153]I think the church has more of a positive influence than it does a negative influence. There are some aspects of a negative influence. But, you know, I don’t see that from the top so much. I think when Ezra Taft Benson was the president of the church, even though he was incapacitated his last few years, it became very right wing. I see [church president Gordon B.] Hinckley as a calming, moderating influence, and I actually have a lot of respect for Gordon Hinckley. I think he’s probably a great man.
Do you think there’s a connection between being inactive in the church and being liberal?
I think there’s a relationship there, and I think in Utah you’re going to find a lot more Jack Mormons who are liberal than you are who are conservative. Conservatism, I don’t think it’s an institutionalized thing. I just think it’s something that a great many individual Mormons have, and then it becomes kind of a club thing or a group thing in the ward environment where they talk about it. You know, you’re growing up in a church that says you can’t be a liberal and be a Mormon. I know a lot of Mormon Democrats. Kelly Atkinson, for example, who tried to run for Congress. Grant Protzman and Scott Howell [state legislators], who are active Mormons, get shit in church for being active Democrats. Now the other side of the coin is they get shit in the Democratic party for being Mormons.
With Gordon B. Hinckley as church president, do you think any inactives will return to the church?
Maybe some. It depends on where you are in your Jack Mormonism, you know.
Could you ever return to active Mormonism?
No, there’s no way I could ever go back to Mormonism. On the other hand, I’m already in a position where I in many ways support Mormonism. My missionary daughter, for example. I’m sure that my grandkids born to my daughter who just got married are going to be brought up very Mormon. That’s going to be important to my daughter, and it’s going to be important to my son-in-law, and I’m going to make sure that I won’t do anything to interfere with that. I’ll even be careful not to share my personal beliefs about that with my grandkids, [p.154]because I wouldn’t want to interfere with my daughter and the way she wants to bring up her kids. But I personally could never do it. I’ve got my own beliefs.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Yes. I do consider myself a spiritual person.
Do you believe in a higher power?
Yes, and I believe in an afterlife, and I believe that things we do in this life can affect our afterlife. I’ve kind of got my own set of beliefs that aren’t based in any religion, but they’d probably be closer to Buddhism than anything else.
I don’t rule out the possibility of reincarnation. I believe there’s a life force. Just like electricity, just like any physical force. I look at the natural beauty of the world. And I look around at the interdependency of life in the food chain, and how every creature on this earth has some kind of a purpose, and it’s all interrelated with all the other creatures. I don’t believe that could happen haphazardly. I believe that there’s a natural law that has made it that way, and it’s an intelligent natural law. Then I look at the difference between our species and all the other species, and I believe there’s got to be, for lack of a better word, a soul or whatever—some kind of a force that creates that. I think that that force still lives after our bodies die. So that’s my belief. I believe there’s a higher power or a god, or whatever you want to call it … you know, an intelligent force that makes sense of it all.
If I were Gordon B. Hinckley, what would you say to me?
I wouldn’t have a lot to say to you. You know, I respect you, and to the very important people in my life you are a prophet. To people who are extremely important, whose opinions I will always be respectful of. I think you’re a nice man. You don’t have any spiritual power or control over me, but that’s okay. I’m sure it’ll be okay with you, too.
What about his ability to create political change?
I believe Mormon leaders have as much right to state their political opinions as anybody else. I’ve written about this where sometimes people of the Mormon church abuse that right or abuse that power because of the enormous power and influence of the Mormon church [p.155]over the hearts and minds of a great deal of the population. It’s when they try to affect political change secretly, because they have spiritual power, or whatever kind of power you want to call it, over decision-makers. An example, an illustration of what I’m talking about, is a story that I wrote in the 1980s that I won an award for in investigative reporting. It had to do with a bill that was before the legislature that was called the Fun Bus Bill. In Utah it’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle. But this bill would’ve made an exception for the buses that go out to Wendover and the limousines and chauffeur-types of services where if you’re not driving, and you’ve hired a chauffeur-type limousine or a bus or whatever, you can drink in that vehicle because you’re being chauffeured by somebody else. It had the support of everybody. It had the support of Governor Bangerter; the economic development people liked it because it probably would help tourism. Law enforcement liked it because it probably would help get the drunk from behind the wheel and in the back of a chauffeured vehicle. So everybody liked it. The thing sails through the committee, sails through the house, goes over to the Senate, and all of a sudden it sits in the Senate Rules Committee for six weeks. The reason it sat in the Rules Committee for six weeks is because a couple people in the Mormon church told a couple of influential Republicans in the Senate that they didn’t want that bill to pass. But they didn’t say so publicly. Nobody said anything about it publicly. Finally, enough pressure was put on the Rules Committee that forced them to kick the bill out. It comes out on the board the last day of the session. It comes out about ten o’clock in the morning, so it’s got all day sitting on the board. The Senate addresses bills in the order they appear on the board. So they’re getting close to voting on this bill. Well, you know, nobody wants to vote against this bill publicly, because it’s going to make them look stupid because everybody in the world supports this bill, including Governor Bangerter and law enforcement, and nobody’s ever spoken out against it. So two key senators got a call from Dick Lindsey and Bill Evans of the Mormon church saying the church doesn’t want this bill passed. Steven Reese, one of the guys who got the call—the other guy was Arnold Christensen, the president of the Senate—Steven Reese got up and said, “I move that we circle the bill because I’ve got a couple of questions. I want to see what the other state senators …” They vote to circle the bill and move on to other [p.156]bills. Well, it’s getting later and later in the evening. Omar Bunnell—a Mormon, as well—goes over to Reese and says, “When are you going to uncircle this bill?” He says, “Well, I’m still checking on it.” It was a ploy to kill this bill without ever voting on it. So Bunnell kept raising his hand to be recognized by the Senate president so he could make a motion to uncircle the bill and vote on it. Christensen ignored him. For two hours he ignored Bunnell, never recognized him. Bunnell was never able to make the motion, and the bill died. Then I found out about the telephone calls and did a series of stories on it. Now that’s bad. When that happens, I think it’s the press’s responsibility to point it out and to make it public. On the other hand, I think that if Dick Lindsey and Bill Evans and Gordon B. Hinckley and anybody else, if they wanted to stand up and say, “I believe this way,” I think they’ve got every right in the world to say that. I think that the hierarchy of the LDS church in recent years has been very responsible in the way that it has tried to remain neutral, and they send out a statement every year telling members to vote their conscience, and any way they vote is okay. They take no position or anything else. I think there’s more pressure put on members at the ward level. I don’t really fault the hierarchy of the LDS church for that. That’s individual. Human beings are human beings. And Mormons are human beings like everybody else and suffer the same frailties.
Back when you were sixteen, you were smoking, drinking, not living the Word of Wisdom. Do you live it today?
I drink coffee, but that’s it.
No beer, no tobacco?
No, no alcohol.
Was it hard to stop smoking?
No. I quit smoking when my first son was born. It was interesting, because I started smoking when I was fifteen. He was born when I was twenty-five, so I was a heavy smoker for ten years. When I made the decision to quit smoking, I quit smoking. I didn’t do patches. I didn’t cut down. I didn’t do anything else. I just quit. That was it. Then I never smoked again, and that was twenty-six years ago. When I quit drinking, that was more complicated because I’d gotten a DUI. Then I [p.157]realized that maybe I had a problem, because I was drinking a lot. So I quit drinking. But I had to make the decision that I needed to quit drinking. Once I made that decision, I quit. I didn’t go through AA and all that other stuff. But I used to get drunk a lot. I’ve got memories of feeling out of control and some days wondering what I’d done the night before—if I did anything bad, did anything to offend anybody. One of the things I really love about not drinking is the feeling of always being in control. In fact, I’ve become addicted to that. I like to go to bars and watch the Utah Jazz on a big screen. I go to bars a lot because a great deal of my work is finding out things that are going on and talking to movers and shakers and talking with people behind scenes. The best place you can get that kind of information is in a bar. Usually the people I go in there with will be drinking alcohol, and I’ll be drinking soft drinks. I have a distinct advantage. I love the feeling of going home and knowing that I did nothing to embarrass myself or embarrass my employer or embarrass anybody. Another great motivator for never drinking again is the knowledge that if I ever did anything like getting a DUI, it would make the front page of the Deseret News. I’d make the day of everybody over there. I’d never want to give them the satisfaction.
I’ll tell you one more little anecdote. About three years ago, I did a story because several Democrats who were very strong Mormons were telling me about this. It was right after Clinton was elected. The Mormon church enjoyed a great deal of influence when Reagan and Bush were presidents, especially when Bush was president, his domestic affairs advisor and his foreign affairs advisor were both Mormons. So the church enjoyed a great deal of influence. Then all of a sudden Clinton was elected, and they had no influence with the president or his administration. Suddenly many people in the Mormon church became very concerned that they were perceived too much as a one-party church. They didn’t want to be perceived that way. So some people—one of them was Gordon B. Hinckley, another was Jim Faust—met with people like Scott Howell, Bobby Coray, Wayne Owens—staunch Mormon Democrats—and told them they’d like to see more Democrats elected to public office. They didn’t say, “We would support you,” but certainly gave them the impression that they’d be very happy to see Mormon Democrats run for public office and win, because they wanted to get rid of that image that they were just a Repub-lican church. I thought that was a great story, so I started pursuing it. I talked to several Mormon Democrats who’d been talked to. I called up Don LeFevre, whom I like a lot. He’s a great guy, public relations guy for the church. I told him the story and told him I wanted an interview with one of the general authorities on this issue. They didn’t really want to talk about it because they like to leave the impression that they never have anything to do at all with politics. You know, talking to Mormon Democrats, obviously, shows they do have something to do with it. It was an issue they didn’t want made public. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t see anything evil in it or anything else, but they were a little uncomfortable with the idea of a story. But I kept pushing and pushing. Finally, I told Don LeFevre that if I didn’t get an interview I’d run the story without an interview. So he called me back, and he got me an interview with Jim Faust. I went over to the Church Office Building, met Don LeFevre at the elevator. We went up to the fifth floor, walked in. When I walked in there, he’s got his hand out to shake my hand. The first thing he says to me is, “Do you go by Richard or do you go by Paul?” ”Well, I’d never in my life used my middle name, Richard. My closest friends don’t know that my middle name is Richard. I’ve never used my middle name, and anybody who reads the paper knows that I go by Paul. But that was just his little way of saying, “I’ve looked you up, I’ve noticed that you’re a member and you’re on the books.” But it was all with a smile on his face, and it was all pleasant, an interesting way to start a conversation, because the only way he could have known my name was Richard was to check to see if I was on the membership roles. I think he said that to let me know that he’s checked and he knows I’m on the roles. I need to tell you that Faust is a great guy. I really liked him. I enjoyed my interview with him. I enjoyed my conversation with him, and we learned in that interview that he and my uncle—my mother’s older brother who died of a bad heart when he was thirty years old—were mission companions together.
Have you ever considered asking for excommunication?
No. But if anybody ever wanted to, they could do that. I wouldn’t go play their game. I mean, I wouldn’t go to a bishop. I wouldn’t do any of that stuff. Plus, I don’t want to do anything to hurt my kids, either.
[p.159]How do you think active Mormons view inactives?
It depends on the active members, because I’ve gotten to know both types very well. There are a lot of active members who view people like me as some kind of scum. I’ve got painful memories from my childhood of friends telling me they couldn’t play with me anymore because my dad smoked. When my son was a little boy, he had friends tell him that they couldn’t play with him because his parents didn’t go to church. So there are those types. But there are also very active Mormons who don’t look down on me. In fact, I think there are a lot of very active Mormons who’ve got a lot of respect for me, and they treat me that way.