I wanted to comment on this yesterday, but since the forums were down, it had to wait until today.
From the Salt Lake Tribune
Mormon Church leaders presented President Barack Obama with a detailed family tree in five leather-bound volumes Monday during a private meeting in the Oval Office.
The 30-minute sit-down was the first time Obama has met with Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Monson was escorted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the highest ranking Mormon in the government, and LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks, the chairman of the faith's genealogical committee.
LDS leaders have made a tradition of presenting presidents with genealogical breakdowns, giving similar reports to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but none have been as varied as Obama's, whose mother was from Kansas and whose father was from Kenya. Previous ancestral examinations have uncovered Obama's Irish and German lineage as well.
"President Obama's heritage is rich with examples of leadership, sacrifice and service," Monson said. "We were very pleased to research his family history and are honored to present it to him today."
The bound volumes include details about multiple generations of his family going back hundreds of years.
In a brief statement, Obama said he enjoyed meeting the Mormon leaders and appreciated their gift.
"I'm grateful for the genealogical records that they brought with them and am looking forward to reading through the materials with my daughters," he said. "It's something our family will treasure for years to come."
The meeting, arranged by Reid, was closed to the press.
Afterward Reid released a statement that thanked the Mormon leaders for sharing the nearly 14-million member faith's passion for genealogy.
"Recognizing the president and first lady's deep regard for family, I am honored that our church can have any part in documenting their family history," Reid said.
He also noted that Obama and Oaks discussed their interest in the law. Both men taught at the University of Chicago law school. Oaks went on to become a justice on the Utah Supreme Court before resigning to become a Mormon apostle.
While it was the first time Obama met face-to-face with Monson, they have talked on the phone at least once before. Obama called Monson in January 2008 to offer his condolences after then LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley died. At the time, Obama, then a candidate for president, was slated to visit Utah. He canceled out of respect for Hinckley's funeral. Monson succeeded Hinckley as the faith's president.
Monson has had experience with American presidents before, spending nearly an hour with President George W. Bush at the LDS Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City. During the May 2008 meeting, they discussed U.S. foreign policy, Middle East peace, the economy and energy, according to Bush's press secretary Dana Perino.
As noted, this is common practice of the LDS leadership to present the current President's genealogical history to them upon taking office. Good, fine, dandy, but I personally have a problem with Obama giving them the time of day.
For those that do not know, the LDS/Mormon church to this day believes that blacks are descended from the Biblical Cain, and that dark skin is the so-called "curse of Cain." For years the church used this to limit participation amongst its members of African descent. While they have changed the doctrine to allow for full membership for members of African descent, according to church theology, they are still the descendants of Cain. Furthermore, numerous church leaders (who according to their theology, are literal Prophets of God, and when they speak the word is God's and unassailable) have stated terrible things about African people for which there have never been retractions or apologies, including
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110)
...they (Africans) who are clean in their lives; who are virtuous; who are honorable...shall come forth-and they may even enter into the celestial kingdom, but when they enter there they enter as servants-to wait upon those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
Politically, there may have been a minuscule gain in performing outreach to a demographic that overwhelmingly votes Republican, but I think from a moral human decency perspective, Obama should have either refused to meet with them, or to have made a public statement regarding the LDS church's very racist history.
Edit: Another thought. After the LDS church's very prominent role in turning back civil rights for homosexuals, Obama would have another, very valid reason to eschew meeting the church.