“Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right” presents several recent news articles, blog posts or videos that, in our view, provide accurate and fair reporting on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as those that misrepresent the faith to readers. Don't forget to discuss these stories on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Previous entries in this feature are below.
New: April 9
Reporter Jesse Hyde visited the Horn of Africa, where drought has devastated the region for the past three years. Hyde says the Church is “on the front lines of this crisis, along with some of the world's biggest and most respected humanitarian organizations.”
One of those organizations is International Relief and Development (IRD). Hyde says:
Last September, during the height of the crisis, IRD reached out to the LDS Church, a long-time partner, to pay for trucking water to villages that needed it most — 20,000 liters a day to 22 villages. Looking to the future, IRD and LDS Charities identified 13 sites to build birkits, or cement storage tanks, that would catch rain water.
“Mormons and Charity” — AmericaMagazine.org
John J. Dilulio Jr. reports on the recent study led by Ram A. Cnaan that focuses on the generous charitable donations and volunteerism of active Latter-day Saints in the United States.
In attempting to examine the reasons why Mormons are so generous, Dilulio says:
Research suggests the secret to filling church coffers and packing the pews while simultaneously stimulating robust ministries that benefit needy nonmembers is what a religion does to induce intrafaith friendships, transcend Sunday-only ties and foster widespread participation in faith-motivated, civic good works for people in need.
“New Mormon temple prepares for opening” — KCTV 5
After touring the Kansas City Missouri Temple, KCTV 5 reporter Heather Staggers reports that “the temple is considered sacred [and] is not used for Sunday worship (that’s in the meetinghouse), but for sacred ordinances only.”
She also talks with Elder Donald D. Deshler, a member of the Church’s Seventy, who says a Latter-day Saint temple in the Kansas City area will strengthen familial relationships for those who attend.
“[The temple] does strengthen members, strengthen families because they have an opportunity to attend on a regular basis and they don't need to travel so far,” Elder Deshler says. “As members of the Church, we are just thrilled to have the temple this close to us.”
“Who Speaks for Mormonism?” — Religion News Service
Religion writer and blogger Jana Riess provides insights about the proper journalistic approach to covering The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members.
“Everyone who has ever been involved in Mormonism … has some kind of Mormon story,” she writes. “In that sense they — we — can and should speak for Mormonism. We do not speak for the LDS Church, however, and we can't claim expert status merely on the basis of limited involvement and cursory knowledge of Mormonism. Reporters should try to achieve balance … and Mormon pundits should adopt measures of accountability.”
“Are there female leaders in the LDS Church?” — MormonWoman.org
A common question asked of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “Do Mormon women lead in the Church?” A post from the blog Mormon Women answers this question in the affirmative.
In addition to speaking to all Mormons during the Church’s semiannual general conferences (one of which will take place this Saturday and Sunday), women leaders address millions of Latter-day Saint women across the world during satellite broadcasts. For example, this past Saturday, 24 March, the Church’s Young Women general presidency (positions filled by women) taught girls ages 12 to 18 in a worldwide meeting that originated from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. (You can watch the full meeting here.)
The author of the blog post tells of the impact the Church’s women leaders have had on her. After witnessing the Church’s Young Women general president, Elaine S. Dalton, speak at a previous meeting, the author was struck by Dalton’s strong influence and sincerity.
Not only did I feel the power and righteous influence she has for a worldwide audience of youth and their leaders, I also witnessed the personal love and concern she has for individuals. Watching her made me think of the Savior and His love.
On another occasion, the author was able to see Julie B. Beck, general president of the Relief Society (the Church’s global organization for women 18 years and over), teach more than 10,000 women at a training meeting in Idaho.
“I was again struck not only at the clarity with which she taught a multitude of people, but also to see how she cares for the one,” the author says. “After the meeting, she was mingling with attendees, extending her love and support.”
Links are also provided to comments Beck made in an interview with the Mormon Channel in which she answers women’s questions about using time wisely, blogging, reading and media use.
For more information about women and Church leadership, see the Mormon Newsroom’s “Mormonism 101: FAQ” answer to “Do Mormon Women lead in the Church?”
“Salt Lake City storehouse at top of Mormon food chain” — The Salt Lake Tribune
The Tribune’s Brooke Adams has an extensive piece about the Church’s new Bishops’ Central Storehouse. She notes that caring for the poor is one of the Church’s core missions and that the storehouse “is the centerpiece of the LDS Church's intricate network for taking care of its members and lending a hand to others in times of natural disasters, putting scriptural encouragements into action in the aftermath of hardship, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes across the nation and around the world.”
Adams also correctly points out that the Church’s welfare program is not a dole system. “A recipient [of welfare products] may be asked, for example, to help clean a church or fix a widow's fence in exchange for aid,” Adams writes.
Noting responses to previous disasters such as the Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Adams says the Bishops’ Central Storehouse, which is mission control during disasters, has a history of responding so quickly that it has drawn the attention of outside agencies.
[The storehouse] can dispatch food, supplies and volunteers anywhere in the United States within 12 hours to 18 hours of a disaster, though it often reacts even quicker — a feat, [storehouse manager Richard] Humpherys said, that has triggered visits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Department and other government agencies wanting to know how the Mormons do it.
“Mormon church celebrates relief-giving women’s group” — Columbia Missourian
The Relief Society — the Church’s organization for women — marked its 170th anniversary on 17 March, and the Columbia Missourian has taken notice. Because the article’s sources are Latter-day Saint women in the Columbia area who are heavily involved in local Relief Society activities, readers are provided with an accurate glimpse of what it’s like to be a part of one of the largest women’s organizations in the world.
Jeanne Lambson, a counselor in a local stake (similar to a Catholic diocese) Relief Society presidency, explains how Relief Society encourages selflessness.
Reaching out and helping others through humanitarian projects and just compassionate service — like if someone's sick, taking in a meal — make you a better person because you're not just thinking about yourself. You're growing emotionally, you're growing spiritually, because you're caring for others.
Laura Jost, humanitarian specialist in the same stake, says Relief Society service is meant to bless people of all faiths.
In my mind, I'm not saving anybody's life, but I'm maybe making it a little bit easier on them. It's nice to have quilts for your babies, like through First Chance for Children. It's nice to have hats to cover up a cancer patient's head. You just try to help people. … We don't question faith if we're going to do something for somebody. We're all brothers and sisters.
"Mormons need not be such a mystery" — Cincinnati Enquirer
Rather than only using sources outside the Church to describe the Mormon life, this reporter allows several Latter-day Saints to define themselves. And while acknowledging that heightened exposure piques public interest in the Church, the article says, "It’s time to stretch the so-called 'Mormon Moment' into a real conversation. That’s the place to define doctrines, explain practices and put on the table controversies — as well as qualities as rarely explored as awe."
"Mormonism Obsessed With Christ" — First Things
Stephen Webb, a professor of religion at Wabash College, points out the importance of Jesus Christ in Latter-day Saint doctrine. He writes that Latter-day Saint teachings are “obsessed with Christ” and are “meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him.” He says, “what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Webb also describes reading the Book of Mormon. Every page, he writes, “prepares the way for its stunning climax, which is a literal appearance of Jesus to the ancient peoples of America.” Webb points out that while other faiths do not teach that the resurrected Lord visited the Americas, Webb says he can’t understand why other Christians would take issue with scripture that expounds on the divinity of Jesus Christ. Read more.
"Inside One Mormon Family: Raising Faithful Children" — Patheos.com
Blogger Rosalynde Welch discusses her upbringing in a Latter-day Saint home with loving parents who taught her and her siblings to think freely and critically. "When it comes to family environment, I won the lottery. My parents are ordinary humans with ordinarily imperfect kids, but they created a family environment that equipped us extraordinarily well to meet faith challenges without fear, betrayal, or emotional crisis." Read more.
"NYC to SLC" — The Salt Lake Tribune
Guest columnist Arjune Rama writes of his experience moving from New York to Salt Lake City. "And what has been my 'Mormon experience' in Utah? I hardly notice it at all. I think people have knocked on our door once or twice. No one has suggested that I take on more wives. In fact, the mainstream LDS Church denounced that practice long ago. When I’ve visited the Salt Lake Temple grounds I have been approached a couple of times with offers of more information about Mormonism. But when I declined, the young women handing out pamphlets respectfully allowed me to go about my business. In fact, if I went to the very center of any religion and didn’t get solicited, I’d be halfway disappointed. ... I can honestly say that I have never lived in a more pleasant and simultaneously more misunderstood city than this one." Read more.
"Media Attention Misses the Heart of Mormonism" — Mormon Perspectives
This blogger says some media coverage is "missing a very vital something" about the Mormon experience. Journalists, the blogger writes, "want to understand a religion from facts when religion exists in faith, feelings, and Spirit. It’s as much something you feel as something you think about. Mormonism has changed and is changing my life. It brings me community, scripture, service, healing, and closeness to God." Read more.
"Are Mormons spared from reality? Hardly" — Deseret News
Daniel Peterson, a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, refutes the claim some make that "Mormons live in a bubble."
"Latter-day Saints are no more strangers to 'the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to' than are non-Mormons," Peterson says. "We get sick. We die. We lose loved ones. We're not magically immune to the effects of substance abuse, immorality, emotional challenges, job loss and dissolving families. We can't live in a bubble. It's impossible. ... The church constantly sends us out — out of ourselves and, often, far out of our comfort zones — as home teachers and visiting teachers, as young missionaries and senior missionaries, as bishops, as employment-service volunteers and addiction counselors." Read more.