Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches
Date: August 4th, 2013

What happens when a Catholic journalist walks into a Mormon church service just a few weeks before a presidential election involving a highly-visible Latter Day Saints’ candidate?  Jeremy Lott, author and editor of (among other sites), joins us in-person at the Match Coffee & Wine Bar in Duvall, WA to recount his interesting investigatory trip to a Mormon ward back in September of 2012.  Being a “stranger in a Mormon land” (the title of an article he penned for The American Specator), he is able to observe things that the typical insider might otherwise miss.

Despite appearing unannounced, and carrying a reporter’s notebook, Jeremy was greeted warmly by the local worshippers.  The first thing he noted, though, was the lack of religious imagery in the main worship area although the hallways were decorated with murals of Jesus.  He categorizes the people he meets as “earnest amateurs” — i.e., people who are not specifically trained in seminaries but who serve in unpaid and part-time leadership positions, and who have a deeper knowledge of their own faith than the typical Protestant or Catholic in the pews.  We cover the nature of the sermon, which that week focussed on spending more time with family and less time with Facebook, and also included a presentation of how to react to media presentations of Mormonism.  This latter topic was understandable given the intense scrutiny their faith was receiving due to Mitt Romney’s presence in the presidential campaign.  Jeremy also noted that the service was less liturgical than other Christian services, yet they had a typical amount of singing.

Following the first service, which lasted about an hour, Jeremy then continues his investigative journey by attending one of several Sunday School classes held at the congregation.  He chose what best could be called the “Mormonism for Beginners” class that was populated by fifteen other participants.  Jeremy makes an interesting observation based upon his experience in this class; Mormonism is a fascinating mix of the Catholic critique of Protestantism and the Protestant critique of Catholicism.  He also discusses the encounter he had with the instructor after class relating to the Nicene Creed.  When prompted to reflect upon this whole journalistic foray into a different religion, Jeremy’s big take-away from this excursion was rather interesting; he noted that he better understood what it was like to be a Jew in a Christian environment.  You will have to listen for his reason for this observation about halfway through the interview.

At the halfway mark, we turn to another story that has been making headlines in the news and that Jeremy has been following closely — the new papacy of Francis I.  Jeremy starts out by defending Tony’s use of Francis the First.  Whereas your adorable host took a beat down on Facebook for using the Roman numeral after Francis’s name — with people claiming the first pope to use a new name never uses the numerical moniker — Jeremy notes that this all changed with John Paul I.  So, some of you are historically correct, but things be a changin’ at the Vatican.  And this is where we pick up our discussion with Jeremy providing an overview of the new pontiff’s first six months.  He comments on his leadership style, his public image, and how he has dealt with a few recent scandals that have come to light.  This includes an interesting observation relating to cats in the papal apartments and the washing of women’s feet.  We also hear Jeremy’s reflections from his Catholic community on how the new pope is perceived.

The final portion of our interview covers a few other things happening in the religious world, including an increasing focus on mental health issues in the Southern Baptist community and the rise of religious “nones.”  But what Tony really wants to know is what the world’s ugliest church is. recently featured two articles on religious structures that … well … just might prove to be a bit brutally ugly (see links below).  Despite the audio format of our podcast, we bring you vivid descriptions of these holy horrors and provide you with the opportunity to view them yourself at RealClearReligion and RoR’s Facebook Fan Page.  Listeners are encouraged to post your favorites (or “least favorites”) when it comes to spiritual architectural disasters.  Recorded: July 26, 2013.


RealClearReligion — a great place for all your religious news!  (You can also link to RealClearScience and RealClearBooks here too.)

“Stranger in a Mormon Land,” by Jeremy Lott in The American Spectator.

Ugly Churches and Even More Ugly Churches on  Submit your pictures on RoR’s Facebook Fan Page.

William F. Buckley (Christian Encouter Series), by Jeremy A. Lott.

In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue, by Jeremy A. Lott.

The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency, by Jeremy A. Lott.

I’ll Never Forget It: Memoirs of a Political Accident from East Baltimore, by Marvin Mandel, Jeremy Lott, and Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.

Match Coffee & Wine Bar in Duvall, WA.


Jeremy Lott on the Media’s Pope-O-Rama.

Jeremy Lott on Real Clear Religion.

Jeremy Lott on Episcopalians, Ex-Athiests, Health Care, and German Circumcision.

Jeremy Lott on America’s Shifting Religious Election Coalition.

Michael McBride on the Economics of Religious Leadership.

Michael McBride on Religious Free-Riding and the Mormon Church.

James Felak on Picking Pontiffs and Pope Francis I.

Thom S. Rainer on Bapist Conventions and Church Health.




5 Responses to “Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches”

  1. Bill says:

    I object to your making fun of little store front churches. Maybe they can’t afford better. Or maybe they feel that there money is better spent on spreading Christianity or helping the poor or feeding the hungry, you know the things Christians are suppose to do, instead of spending the money on a nice building.

    The other ugly churches are the result of letting famous architects design churches. The more famous the architect the worse the building.

    • tonygill says:

      Sorry about that Bill. We were having some fun with some ugly architecture. I share your feelings about storefront churches, as the one I attend actually meets in a public high school. The “storefront” church that we were referring to, though, was one that was a megachurch that looked like a Home Depot. Check out the pictures at

  2. […] Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches. […]

  3. […] Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches. […]

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