Conservative talk show host
Glenn Beck, CNN talk show host who joined the LDS Church in 2000. (courtesy Glenn Beck show)
Posted: 9:22 AM- Glenn Beck is worried. He sees global news as evidence that the end of the world is spiraling toward us and God is prompting him to speak out.
    Night after night on his hour-long show on CNN H eadline News, Beck rails against Islamic extremists, Iraq war critics, advocates of immigration leniency, environmentalists who warn against global warming, abortion rights and political correctness. His style is a mixture of hyperbole, passion, wit, sarcasm and self-deprecating silliness.
    Conservative, but not partisan, Beck stakes out an extreme position, for example, then stares into the camera and asks plaintively, "Am I wrong about that?" defying anyone to take issue with him.
    "Evil is taking root and it frightens me," Beck said in a phone interview from his New York City studio. "It overwhelms me at times and drives me to my knees."
    The talk show host is no televangelist, though. He's a converted Mormon who attends weekly services in his affluent Connecticut LDS ward. And he is coming next week to speak at an LDS singles conference.
    In that speech, Beck says he will draw on his own experience as a recovering addict. He will tell them that "God works miracles, if you let him."
    That is precisely what Beck believes happened in his own life.
    Since 2001, "The Glenn

Beck Program" has been heard on more than 200 radio stations nationwide and is the third highest-rated national radio talk show among adults age 25 to 54. A year ago, CNN gave him a TV talk show and now ABC has hired him as a commentator for "Good Morning America."
    Not everyone is pleased with Beck's approach.
    He's been called a bigot, a hypocrite and a fear monger. He's been criticized for fueling animosity toward Muslims and polarizing Americans. He gets plenty of hate mail, some of which he posts on his Web site.
    Even friends like Joe Kerry sometimes disagree with Beck's positions.
    "I'm a personal injury attorney and Glenn's not very nice to us," Kerry says. "He blames us for everything - we are bankrupting America, we're killing off religion, whatever the country's problems are, we're causing them."
    Still, Kerry admires Beck for sticking to his beliefs.
    "The way he is on the radio is who he is when you meet him in p erson," says Kerry, who met Beck at church in Philadelphia. "There is no pretense, no airs.
    Beck acknowledges he comes off as bombastic, and says not a day goes by when he doesn't regret a remark he made or the way he worded a question. Last November, he apologized to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim in Congress, for saying: "Prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."
    Beck defends his frank, from-the-gut approach, though, as part of what the medium demands. Sometimes that even means criticizing fellow Mormon convert, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for his opposition to the Iraq war.
    "In TV and radio, you are turned up a little more," he says. "It is part of what I struggle with every day. I have to be an entertainer. I have to be mainstream. If I become the 'church lady' that appeal goes away, I am loud and harsh but I'm three- dimensional."
    Still, Beck sees himself as "a work in progress," more tempered in his speech, and wholly transformed from what he was 15 years ago, or even three or four years ago.
    Today, he believes, God is directing him - and watching to see if he is keeping his promises.
    Divine design: Beck grew up in Seattle as a nominal Catholic. All he knew of the Bible was that it was a nice coffee-table book. ("Who knew it had words in it?" he jokes.)
    Even without formal worship, Beck says, he always felt a deep connection to the Holy Spirit. About a month before his mother committed suicide, Beck saw her standing at the kitchen sink and heard a voice in his head say, "Go back and give her a hug. She won't be here long."
    "I dismissed it as something silly and I didn't do it," he says. "It took me a while to fully listen to such promptings no matter where they lead me."
    Beck made his radio debut at 13 and after graduating from high school, moved to Provo, where he got a job at K96 radio. Though clean-cut and all-American looking, Beck was a smoking, hard-drinking teen and didn't exactly enjoy the bastion of Mormonism. He made fun of his puritanical peers and couldn't wait to get out of there.
    Still, it was the first of many experiences with a faith that would eventually compel him to change his life.
    "God stalked me like he had a giant baptismal rife," Beck says. "I thwarted him. I led people astray as much I could but he kept putting Mormons in my way."
    In 1988, he was starting a new radio show in Baltimore when his partner backed out and he was paired with yet another Mormon, Pat Gray.
    The two became instant friends. Yet during their decade of working together, Beck's marriage was disintegrating as he was falling deeper into drug and alcohol addictions, while Gray and his family grew stronger.
    Occasionally, Gray told Beck, "You know, Glenn, there are answers out there."
    But the shock jock was having none of it. That is, until he had almost destroyed himself and had to claw his way back to sobriety with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and, he thinks, divine intervention.
    In 1998, he fell in love with Tania, who said if they were to be married, they would have to find a church home. So they began what they fondly call, their "church tour."
    Week after week, they visited various Christian churches including one where, he says, "the pastor was an atheist."
    After some urging from his old friend Gray, they agreed to try a Mormon service - even after learning that services lasted from 9 a.m. to noon.
    As they were leaving the meeting, his oldest daughter. who has cerebral palsy, said, "Can we go back there? I feel so warm inside."
    And so began the Beck's months-long engagement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The combative radio host read Mormon books so he could debate the doctrines. The couple began attending church and paying tithing, if only to prove it was all hogwash.
    Sitting in a meeting of the all-male priesthood one Sunday, Beck listened to a Mormon he had dubbed "Mr. Plastic Man" talk about the ideal of Zion, where people would come together in love.
    In that moment, Beck says, he knew he wanted to be a Mormon.
    "He was the most genuine person I had ever met. He showed he could love me the first time he met me," he says. "I had spent my whole life hating me, yet his love wasn't going to change. I want to love like that."
    Beck and his wife, Tania, were baptized into the LDS Church in October 2000. Almost immediately, his career took off.
    Television calling: For several years, Beck had been trying without success to get another job in radio. The day after he was baptized, he serendipitously found an agent and got a call from Clear Channel radio, offering him a slot on WFLA-AM in Tampa, Florida.
    There Beck's style found a ready audience and his show soon became nationally syndicated.
    Within a couple of years, Beck, moved his family, which eventually included a son and daughter, to Philadelphia to be near his two daughters by his first wife. Once again, his show skyrocketed to success, soon being aired on 115 stations from Washington D.C. to New York and Dallas.
    This led, last year, to CNN hiring Beck to provide a lively, opinionated take on news that leaned conservative.
    It's been a breathtaking journey, he says, accompanied by a lot of soul-searching and prayer.
    He hasn't met with top LDS leaders such as President Gordon B. Hinckley and has no plans to do so.
    "I'm in awe of the man," Beck says. "I would be so incredibly uncomfortable standing in his presence, I am such a flawed individual."
    But he has spoken with bishops, stake presidents and area authorities, who have occasionally counseled him about things he has said on his program. He knows Mormons tune in and make judgments about him and his faith.
    "A lot of people who listen to me have got to question how I am a member in good standing," he says.
    In a rare display of public criticism, one member of Beck's stake [like a diocese] raised his hand to oppose Beck's elevation in the church's all-male priesthood.
    Yet, he is good-natured about it all. He loves the people in his Connecticut congregation and happily serves on the ward missionary team.
    "We are new money and the people in this particular ward are titans of industry, unbelievably successful. It's a little intimidating but they are the most generous, giving, amazing people," Beck says. "They teach us that it is not about anything but service and being good to other people."
    And he keeps looking up.
    "I am so clear that it is not my talent that has gotten me here," Beck says. "The moment I stray from the path, it will all be gone." -----------
    Peggy Fletcher Stack can be reached at or 801-257-8725. Send comments about this story to