The public affairs office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today complimented U.S. media outlets for being careful to distinguish between the 13-million-member international Church and a small polygamous sect raided by Texas state officers late last week.
However, the Church said that some international news outlets are running misleading reports that confuse the Church with the polygamous group. Some news outlets have even run photographs of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City alongside the story of the polygamists. Several headline writers have inserted the term “Mormon” into headlines without making distinctions.
The Church reiterated on Sunday (6 April) that it has no affiliation whatever with the Texas-based sect that has been subject to investigation by state law enforcement officers and child protective services in recent days, and whose leader, Warren Jeffs, was jailed in 2006.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discontinued polygamy officially in 1890. More than a century later, some news reports, especially those outside the U.S., still fail to draw clear distinctions whenever stories arise about polygamy in the Intermountain West.
After the story about the Texas raid on the polygamy compound broke last week, the Associated Press Salt Lake City bureau was immediately in contact with their Texas counterparts to discuss how to make the correct distinctions. CNN, National Public Radio, Voice of Americaand USA Today were among many organizations that made the distinction accurately
Elder M. Russell Ballard, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who oversees public affairs, said that the Church had noticed “a marked improvement” in the past few years in the way the news media has reported on the Church’s historical connection with polygamy. The changes may be a result of the increased public awareness of the Church resulting from coverage of the Salt Lake Olympics and the recent presidential bid by a member of the Mormon faith.
But Elder Ballard said that Latter-day Saints are still offended when elementary mistakes are made in the news media or when printed or posted photographs fail to make the distinction between the Church and the polygamous groups.
“You would think that after over 100 years, media organizations would understand the difference,” he said. “You can’t blame the public for being confused when some of those reporting on these stories keep getting them wrong.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members in most countries of the world and serves its members in over 90 languages.
Some examples of misreporting include:
-The French news agency Agence France-Presse initially posted on its Web site a photograph of the Salt Lake Temple along with the story of the raid on the polygamous compound. The photograph was removed on Wednesday, three days after the Church requested the agency to take it down and correct inaccuracies in the story. The news wire service then sent out correcting information.
-Several major Russian media outlets continue to associate the Church with the polygamous sect despite requests to correct reports.
-Some Mexican radio reports have erroneously identified the sect as being The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several media reports in Bolivia, the Caribbean, Uruguay and Colombia have also failed to make the distinction clear.
Beginning today, the Church is placing additional materials on the Newsroom Web site and on other Internet sites to help clarify misleading reports.