Randy Jernigan: A Reputation That Precedes Him

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Mormon journalist and author Randy Jernigan finds himself living an unexpected life

Randy Jernigan is the CEO of his own news publishing company, founder of one of america's foremost literary award programs, and a celebrated features writer for such magazines as In Touch Weekly and The Star Magazine, but thats not how most people identify Randy.

"Oh, you're that mormon writer?" some news-maker will blurt out right in the middle of an interview when they realize just who they're chatting with.

Jernigan is far better known for his religion--and his ethics. "I'm proud of the fact that I have a reputation for being a decent sort of guy," admits Jernigan. "People I interview or do business with have usually already heard of me--what I stand for and what I won't put up with. They know that I'm LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) and I wont stoop to gossip, so they have a tendency to pour out their souls to me and feel comfortable doing it. That's a good things for a features writer," says Jernigan with a cocky smile across his face.

"That's why Randy's had such success in the business," confides Walter Baran of the Fox News Channel in New York, and one of Randy's close personal friends. "A lot of news makers trust Randy--they feel at ease with him. His reputation preceeds him and so many times when a celebrity wants to bare his soul to the world they call Randy Jernigan," Baran says.

Jernigan is everywhere confronted with his religious reputation, whether from questions emailed him by strangers to his home office in Utah, or in the middle of an interview with a celebrity or political figure. "Just the other day I was doing a phone interview--the girl was very big in the music business and had really messed up her reputation by pulling off some really stupid stunts--she stopped right in the middle of the conversation and wanted to know my opinion about what she had done, and how I thought she could correct it. She wanted to talk about personal things--off the record of course. I think she just needed to chat with someone neutral--someone she felt she could trust. I was glad she felt comfortable with me," he said.

But Jernigan goes on to explain that, for the most part, he's living an unexpected life. "I never thought I'd be a writer--or a mormon for that matter," says Southern--born Jernigan who's father Curtis was raised a Southern Baptist and mom Barbara the daughter of an Assembly of God preacher.

"I had heard a lot about the Mormons growing up in the South--and most of it was not very positive. There was a lot of misconceptions about the Church in those days. I remember once when two elders came to Grandpa's door once when I was visiting for the weekend. Things got loud," says Jernigan. "Grandpa accused the two missionaries of being devils and having horns unde their hair. Never in my life did I ever suspect that one day I'd end up a Mormon missionary preaching LDS doctrine door to door," Jernigan says with a chuckle.

Jernigan became better aquainted with the LDS faith as a teen in his high school library. "I hated to go into the lunchroom--I was teased a lot because of my weight so when lunch time rolled around I'd just go to the library and read," remembers Jernigan. "I was fascinated with religion and I think I'd read just about every book in the library on the subject. And I remember the book that changed my life--Religions In America. It was a great book that outlined a lot of different faiths and what made them unique." Jernigan recalls that right away he was attracted to the Mormon belief system. "The first thing I noticed about the Church was that the set up and structure of the church was very near what I had read about in the New Testament. That appealed to me. I had always believed that the church should mirror the setup that was in the new testament and I had never found one that did--that is until now," says Jernigan.

And the more Jernigan studied the tenets of the faith along with the Bible, he became convinced that the LDS Church was what he had always been looking for. But convincing family and friends was another story.

"Of course, as always, there has to be opposition in all things good," says Jernigan. He had to wait to join the Church until his 18th birthday because Mom and Dad just wouldn't have it. "We're not going to have a Mormon in this household," he was told more than once--and as for the interview Jernigan here refused to elaborate any more on the subject except to add, "joining the Church was the best decision I've ever made--everything good in my life stems from that decision."

And something else unexpected--Jernigan is still single at the ripe age of 42. "He always expected to be married right after his mission," says close friend and church member, Inez Holifield. "Right after my mission I expected the perfect girl to be waiting for me as soon as I stepped off the plane--but I couldn't find her anywhere," laughs Jernigan.

The question, "why aren't you married," slaps him in the face all the time. And to deflect an awkward moment Jernigan will retort a usual, "no ones had good enough sense to marry me yet."

As Jernigan explains it, "I've never been one to put marriage on the back burner like some other guys I know. It's always been my number one priority--and I still believe it's just around the corner for me," he explains. "but until then all I can do is just be my best self..."

As is usual for anyone, Jernigan has had a lot of ups and downs. But in the face of all those ups and downs--unexpectedly Jernigan concedes he's living a rich, full life.

"My life is good and I wouldn't change places with anyone."

By T. J. Hathaway/Latter Day Messenger

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Lyle McCafrey
Latter Day Messenger
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