Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have completed a first round of visits to the Washington, D.C., editorial boards of major American newspapers and magazines.
The visits by Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook are part of a series of initiatives to more clearly define the Church in the public news media at a time when its beliefs and practices are being widely discussed.
Elders Ballard and Cook, who both serve on the Church’s Public Affairs Committee, generally spent about an hour each with the editorial boards of USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal (in New York), the New Republic and the National Review. Editorial boards typically include opinion-page writers and other senior columnists and journalists.
Questions were wide ranging and varied, but all included discussions of the Church’s core beliefs as well as the differences from other Christian churches. The Church leaders emphasized the Church’s political neutrality and said that they would not discuss political questions associated with the current presidential campaign.
U.S. News & World Report, which reports the visit in a full-page Q&A feature this week, wanted to know what the biggest misconceptions were about the Church. The same topic came up in a variety of ways almost everywhere.
Elder Ballard said that the biggest misconception was probably that “Mormons” — a common term for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — are not Christian.
“We can’t understand that, when Jesus Christ is at the center of all that we teach and believe,” Elder Ballard said.
The two apostles repeatedly emphasized the Church’s unique position as “Restored Christianity” — meaning that it is not Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox but holds a unique position as the restored church of the New Testament, including apostolic organization and authority.
Elder Ballard said that the Church embraced all the truths that other Christians share but also offered “additional information” from new revelation.
Another widespread misconception was that the public cannot join Mormon worship services. Elders Ballard and Cook discussed a typical Latter-day Saint worship service in some detail, emphasizing that any one of the Church’s 22,000 buildings across the world are open to everyone.
Although it seems some confusion has arisen from the fact that the Church’s 124 temples are open only to members in good standing, it was also apparent that people sometimes have the impression that chapels and regular services are also closed to the public. (Later this month, Newsroom will present a feature package describing Mormon worship practices).
Last month several video clips were placed on Newsroom, featuring Elder Ballard addressing commonly asked questions. More such clips will be posted, with comments from other apostles.
In addition, video materials on commonly asked questions are being placed on YouTube, Yahoo, Google Video and other Internet sites. Online news conferences are now also being planned for invited journalists to explore more about the Church.