I actually got this idea from the MormonMentality blog, but the editor of that post did not run an actual poll, and limited his parameters to actual Latter-day Saints only. The LDS Church has since posted its own choices in a news release entitled "2008: A Historic Year for the Church".
But Ive taken it one step further. I've decided to actually run a poll, which can be found on the upper right corner of my sidebar immediately beneath the Translation utility. You can choose which LDS-related news story you think is the top LDS news story of 2008.
Update January 2nd: Here are the final results of the Voice Of Deseret poll (thanks to those who participated):
Proposition 8: 7 votes
President Hinckley's death: 4 votes
Chad Hardy's excommunication: 3 votes
Mitt Romney's campaign: 1 vote
David Archuleta's American Idol run: 1 vote
Here are the choices and explanations:
(1). California Proposition 8: This is by far the top LDS news story, in my opinion. This story had it all; national reach, passion on both sides, and even demonstrations and a brief spate of minor vandalism after the election. In addition, this issue not only posed the sternest test of faith for LDS members in 2008, but quite possibly since the Sonia Johnson excommunication.
(2). Mitt Romney's Presidential Run: My second choice. National reach plus passion on both sides.
(3). Texas FLDS Roundup: My third choice. While not involving LDS people, it focused considerable attention on the LDS Church because of the common denominational ancestry of both organizations. Some LDS people spoke out and even demonstrated on behalf of the FLDS.
(4). President Hinckley's Death: My fourth choice. Any time a President of the Church passes on, it's major news to LDS people. Many non-LDS also paid tribute to President Hinckley.
(5). President Monson's Accession: My fifth choice. The accession of a new President of what has become a complex global religious operation is also newsworthy. President Monson's unusually long prior service as an Apostle added to the mix; he was an Apostle when I converted to the Church in 1963.
(6). Chad Hardy's Excommunication: My sixth choice. Not only was Hardy excommunicated, but he also had his diploma withheld by BYU, and the university also froze his credits so he couldn't transfer them to a different school. This generated widespread national interest - and another round of criticism for the Church.
(7). Apostle Joseph Wirthlin's Death: My seventh choice. This turned out to be less newsworthy; no associated controversy. But Elder Wirthlin was still one of the Church's top leaders.
(8). David Archuleta's Success: My last choice. Archuleta caught the national attention of the younger set, becoming the runner-up on the 2008 American Idol.
Comments, as always, are welcome.
Add-on: On December 24th, the Mormon Times reported that the Mormon Media Observer has selected their own Top Five LDS-connected media stories of 2008.
1. Death of President Hinckley: The death of President Gordon B. Hinckley and transition to President Thomas S. Monson generated media attention and warm appraisals in columns and editorials around the globe.
2. Mitt Romney's campaign: President Hinckley's long years of service made the presidential bid of Mitt Romney possible. The camapign exposed old stereotypes about the church and Romney.
3. Proposition 8: In terms of media coverage, California's Proposition 8 certainly raised the awareness of the LDS church both in negative and positive ways. Before the election, the news media slipped again into easy framing, by pitting "gays versus Mormons."
4. FLDS-LDS confusion: While efforts to help bring clarity to reporting in the United States, the confusion remains a much larger problem in the foreign media where the term "Mormon" is loosely used to describe polygamist groups. Of course, even though reporting has improved there are many who don't know the difference between the LDS and FLDS. In addition, AP editors in New York keep adding terms like "renegade Mormon sect" or "Mormon splinter groups" despite the fact the fact the AP Stylebook says that's inaccurate.
5. Latter-day Saints increase online: The last story selection is not about the news media, but is about how members of the church are using new media technologies to help correct, communicate and share information about their beliefs. Elder Russell Ballard called upon Mormons to start blogging. [Ed. Note: I wouldn't have included this, because the effect was primarily in-house. There wasn't really a national reaction to this story outside the LDS community.]