Journalists can't believe how great it is to be in Utah. An Associated Press story from last Friday said, "Niceness is the theme of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, where locals jump to offer directions and even National Guardsmen pause from pawing through bags to smile. Smiling faces are all over Salt Lake City."

Good-natured excitement and unbridled enthusiasm, said Time, seem to bubble from both Olympic employees and the public.

Where does this general happiness come from? The Associated Press guesses it's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which claims about 70 percent of Utah's population. "There's no original sin in Mormon theology," the article says. "And if the whole apple thing wasn't Adam and Eve's fault, maybe people are not so bad."

This impression is probably just fine with Utah citizens, who had worried about the coverage the state and the Mormon church would receive when put into the world spotlight. Before the games, The Salt Lake Tribunereported that bad publicity had already started.

"The world's media is ripping us, dredging up the old Mormon clichés, reinforcing the stereotypes," the paper said. "It's a legacy of bad press that goes back more than a century."

The Washington Times also reported on the fresh criticism being leveled at Salt Lake City, citing a recent Saturday Night Live skit in which two skiing Mormons attempted to convert an athlete mid-competition.

"However harsh the early publicity," the Times reported, "most Utahans are convinced the Olympics will do their image more good than harm."

Knowing that many journalists had already dubbed the games "The Mormon Olympics," the church's plan was to clear up misconceptions about its faith while lying low to not attract bad press.

The ...

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