Tuesday, December 22, 2009

She read the apology.

As Diane Sawyer takes over for Charlie Gibson at ABC, arguably the best remaining network news operation, tobacco comes to mind. (Jake Tapper and Brian Ross, for example, are aces at that network.)

I felt the need to mention that it was Diane Sawyer who agreed to read ABC News' infamous apology to Philip Morris in the 1990s for the tobacco story the network aired and resulted in a huge legal settlement -- and also likely opened the door powerful tobacco regulation today.

Some have argued that ABC apologized for something it didn't do -- all in the run-up to Disney's acquisition of the venerable network. Click here for an excellent, balanced overview of this story. As it shows, the facts around the story are controversial.

That a journalist's primary commodity is integrity, to read an apology for something not done, would be, therefore, to call into question that primary commodity.

For what it is worth, Bogdanich, a gem of a human being, is now at The New York Times and has won three pulitzers, including for this powerful series. He may be America's greatest investigative reporter today. He was not fired for the story -- in fact, ABC increased his salary and issued a press release after the settlement. He also worked at 60 minutes on tobacco.

It is ABC's decision to hire the hard-working, talented Sawyer for this position, but it deserves to be remembered that she read the apology on the air in deciding whether to watch her or not.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

48 hours piece on adoption

This week, the CBS News documentary series, 48 hours, did a powerful piece on a series of Samoan adoptions that likely involved fraud.

I comment on it because many of the principals in this alleged scam were evidently Mormon. One wore a BYU hat in a photo. He was clearly portrayed as a villain in the piece. Yet, no where was the Mormon connection made very explicit. As such, I give credit to CBS News. The news network had the chance to tie into much of the worst of Mormon stereotype involving race and supposedly deceptive practices and refused to do so.

Like any good Mormon, I am appalled by what has happened here and the religion of these people had nothing material to do with what happened.

Alas, I also recommend to viewers that they read the documentary to go online and read the deeply personal criticism of CBS by the adoptive families in the comments log that follows the piece.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wow ....

Blatant disrespect for divergent beliefs among those various denominations calling themselves Mormon was evident in the U.K. this week in its newspaper, The People.

A news brief reporting on a change in immigration law said the following:

"Muslim and Mormon immigrants are to be barred from bringing their HAREMS into Britain."

No where did the article say anything about LDS beliefs having outlawed polygamy or that polygamous "Mormons" represent a tiny minority. If anything, this shows that the old connection between Mormons and Muslims, has not died in international reporting and is another evidence that the international press is far harder on Mormons than the American press.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A new report on Prop 8

The Heritage Foundation has issued a new report on the discrimination faced by supporters of Proposition 8. It is a powerful assertion of vicious anti-democratic approaches to an important issues. A worthwhile read for all Latter-day Saints and those interested in civil society.

In defense of the press, many of the stories in the report were reported by the news media.

Read the report here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sad News in New England

A vicious, stabbing, random murder in New England involves a young suspect who is Latter-day Saint, who reportedly had been considering a mission. A horrific crime that seems to have no explanation.

The heart-wrenching nature of this tale must have caused many broken hearts. I have read a few reports about this and see nothing too bigoted in the coverage of Mormons -- indeed, one article seemed to blame that fact that the young suspect had a hard time fitting in, almost as though the community somehow shared some blame for this atrocity, assuming the young man is guilty of what is alleged. While such a linkage between a Mormon missionary and murder is frustrating, but isn't the fault of the press.

Alas, what often riles Latter-day Saints is when the press reports that a suspect is Mormon, but not the religion of other suspects. I am not very troubled by this, actually, for two reasons:

First, as Latter-day Saints, we wish to be seen as examples, as a light on a hill and a peculiar people. If we are to wish that, we should accept the other parts of it, when our members go wrong.

Second, as a Mormon and journalist, I am aware of times where journalists haven't identified Mormons in print, even when there might be nominal news value in doing so. I am aware of a time or two when such coverage may have hurt the church, actually, but wasn't printed as a connection. So, to be fair, journalists generally do follow professional norms in ways that readers don't always understand.

So, no need to complain of the linkage here. It seems relevant to this story -- how could a good kid go bad?

Beyond that, one of the great challenges of being a peculiar people who has suffered persecution, can be a kind of group-think and sense of persecution that can lead to lashing out and pain to others. It can be dangerously isolating. As an LDS member, this sad story again demonstrates the need we have in using care, especially around our teens, in telling the stories of Mormon persecution.

God bless the families involved in this travesty.

Friday, October 9, 2009

My family and the book of Mormon

It has come down to me a late 1800s copy of the Book of Mormon that my 2nd great-grandfather -- and his daughter -- was converted with. It is a family treasure.

My cousin treasures another copy of the book that converted another of our ancestors about the same time.

It needs to be remembered how much this European sacrificed because of the firm testimony they received of this book, fleeing country and family, at times. To come to America where she lived in a tent in the foothills near Provo. My great grandmother suffered a terrible burst appendix as a child and was told she would never have children, but faith helped her have one child, my gentle grandfather.

All this was driven by the results of this remarkable book, the Book of Mormon.

I attach a quote from Elder Holland's talk that critics must answer, if they are serious about their firm attacks on the faith:

For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.

Another witness

In my study of Mormons and the media, one thing has repeatedly stood out: how little care there is in reporting on the Book of Mormon.

While I am largely grateful for the writings of journalists in that their stories of what Joseph Smith said about the Book of Mormon are largely accurate -- telling as they do about golden plates.

They rarely, if ever, however, go into the teachings of the book nor do they really make the Book of Mormon seem as the profound religious challenges that it is. Journalists never frame the story as: what if Joseph Smith really did see an angel in his small bedroom in New York and if he didn't, how, seriously, did Joseph Smith produce a work of such remarkable depth and breadth amid such poverty in such a short time and how is that he was he willing to die for his testimony of the work.

So, my faith in the Book of Mormon has increased, as has my desire to have reporters get -- and report -- what we are actually saying, in all its dimensions.

Hence, this week, I was greatly moved by Elder Holland's talk at general conference on this remarkable book. I urge anyone to read it. To be a serious critic of Mormonism, you must get through the Book of Mormon's origin. No one has successfully done so.

The return of Angels in Washington

The Washington Times is reporting today that Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, which won him a Pulitzer in the 1990s, is back in the Washington D.C. area.

The stellar review of the play was much like the reviews of the 1990s. As my friend Dan Stout observed back then, there are very few writers who even care to notice how painfully mocking the play is of my Mormon faith. The angel in the title is a deliberate metaphor on Angel Moroni. A dying gay man, the plays hero, in that sense, becomes a symbol of Joseph Smith. One scene was set in a visitors' center.

Mormonism in the play is the symbol of all that's wrong with America. I believe the play, therefore, may well be responsible for some of the hostility gay America has felt for Latter-day Saints.

The play mocks Mormon doctrine and the Book of Mormon origin story. Now, I have never chosen to see the play, but I read it when I was a young reporter so I could carefully write about it at the time, so it remains startling to me how few journalists care to point out the bigotry inherent in the play's heart.

Is it that the stereotypes of Mormons are so unquestioned that people don't even see them as bigotry? Is it that Mormonism is so unknown that people don't realize how offensive it is? Is it that Mormonism is seen as just another religion and there is a general antipathy toward religion?

I urge reviewers to think if an ethnic minority were portrayed as Mormons are portrayed and ask whether the play could, in fact, be deeply offensive and ask why. I suggest that Latter-day Saints quietly avoid seeing it. Its author deserves no more money for this terrible play than he has already received.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Travel piece from the Mirror

This article in the U.K.'s Daily Mirror is a generous portrait of Utah's beauty and variety, but a lazy approach to the church.

It's sort of like complaining about dandelions to complain about some elements of coverage in a British tabloid, but, alas, the story shows the chronic and annoying way Mormons are often portrayed in Britain. The name of the church is wrong; no distinction is made between Mormons and fundamentalist Mormons and the stereotype of backwardly quaint is a big part of the portrayal. Here is what it says:

""Utah?", laughed a friend of mine from New York. "Why the hell are you going there? Isn't it just fields and religious nuts?" He meant the Mormons, the controversial, conservative and supposedly polygamist followers of the Church of the Latter Day Saints - which the majority of Utahns are.

"Other than them, and maybe The Osmonds, little is known about this landlocked state.

"Surprisingly, I didn't meet many while I was there (Mormons, not Osmonds). Unsurprisingly, the few I did were down-toearth, friendly and disappointingly monogamous."

Near the end, the author says he can't understand what is wrong with the state. He probably thought he was being kind. Alas, it seems not too much to ask to get a few basic facts right.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Important news piece from CPI

An important piece of journalism -- and model for the future -- is the Center for Public Integrity. Its non-profit investigations are difficult to produce and represent a high-level of craft. I wish to have everyone go to see their latest.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wonderful Mormon piece

The New York Times shows a powerful way to tell stories and to provide moving stuff online with its 1 in 8 million people stories. Its authors picked a young Mormon missionary traveling the streets of Chinatown -- a three-year convert. Just a great piece of journalism and storytelling -- and one that makes the church look good.

Here is the story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back in the saddle

I haven't updated in a while. Been working on a dissertation. We'll see how it goes this week. School is also starting again.

Worth noting this week is a wonderful story of Gary Neeleman in The Economist of London. Neeeleman evidently started a version of Jet Blue in Brazil -- building on his missionary experience -- and is being remarkably successful.

Unfortunately, I can't find this article online. Worth noting, however, is how much the article implied that his very positive missionary experience shaped his life's work.

It concluded with this quote about missionaries serving there:

"But perhaps a few will form an enduring attachment to a country that resembles America in so many ways, and will use their experience of converting the natives to start a business in Brazil too."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saving a lost boy.

Kudos to the Deseret News for its excellent reporting on the weekend rescue of a boy lost in the mountains near Daggett Lake.

That it happened on a Sunday morning and the reporters got photos and excellent stories -- even an interview with the boy himself, shows determination and solid craft.

It also shows classic feature style form -- anyone can learn more about effective writing here.

Readers often generally only read one sentence before deciding whether to read an entire piece, so writers ought to hook them in that sentence.  Often, the best approach to a story like this is to find an irony or a dramatic moment.  (I likely would have picked the dramatic moment -- when the family knew the boy was lost -- when the men on horseback found the boy -- when the boy decided to start cutting up his jacket ... moments of decision that illustrate the central conflict of the story.) They chose irony -- how is it like the Hansel and Gretel story, a solid choice.

All effective hooks, and this has one, start with an implied question.  (Something like, what happened next or what happened after?  In this case, the implied question is?  How is it like Hansel and Gretl?)

THe article then answers that question, giving a rough overview of the story in what is called a nut paragraph or nut paragraphs.

The middle of these pieces follows these nut grafs, and this is a classic example, often merely tells the story in chronological order.

The ending leaves us with an emotion -- Philip Fradkin, a pulitzer winner, calls it a "twanger." 

This writing doesn't end with a restatement nor some kind of moral.  Instead, it is a little emotion -- the twang of a guitar string -- that captures the story somehow and leaves with a feeling of completeness.

This example doesn't return somehow to the beginning, but endings often do.

I plan to show this to my students as a classic example of writing.

Nice work.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Modern missionary work

The Religion News Service, republished here, has published a solid article about the church's online missionary efforts.  

About a year ago, I took a couple of hours and systematically looked at articles about Mormon missionaries in the American news media.

With only a couple of exceptions, they were extraordinarily positive.  What I noticed is that missionary stories needed to be more than just typical Mormon missionary, but the missionary with an unusual challenge or the missionary with the unusual story.

This fits this.  As always, letting our people speak -- when the news media allows it -- is the best P.R. the church has.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A must-read

Not surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal published the best personal account of the demonstrations in Iran.

It looks as though we have, more or less, another Tiananmen Square.

Nevertheless, something is in the air there and it is inspiring to watch.

Stunning to think that the Muslim call, God is Great, has become a cry of liberty.

I do stand with these protesters.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Yettaw in Newsweek

I'd have to say that Newsweek's coverage of John Yettaw this week is fair-minded and a complete story about this sorrowful man.
It suggests Yettaw suffers from mental illness and has had a rough life.  His Mormonism, more so than in most coverage in the U.S., is part of this news story.
When I see stereotypes in coverage, I wince.  That he is portrayed as crazy and a Mormon, can't be considered as a positive way of looking at the church.  His "visions" and sense of peace at what he has done must be considered as heuristics -- shortcuts -- for the way some people view the Mormon faith.  So, that is discouraging.
But, Yettaw is Mormon.  His story is sad.  So, the story is accurate.  I suspect that most fair-minded people reading this article will not conflate Mormonism with mental illness. 
My bigger worry is for what Yettaw's odd choice may do for the future of the church in Burma.  It will be remembered that he is a Mormon, at least I perceive it will be remembered, thereby coloring a whole nation's view of the faith -- which has limited understanding of Mormonism at this time.
As it is, all we can do is trust that God will find a way to turn this for good in his due time.  He has done so before and will do again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

PBS' bad decision

Paul Fahri wrote in the Washington Post that PBS has reached a compromise about religious programming.  Programming at PBS should be non-sectarian.

KBYU in Provo, therefore, was granted a reprieve.  It will be allowed to broadcast the types of religious programming it has broadcast, but no new religious broadcasts on other PBS stations would be allowed.

I suppose that this is a good decision for KBYU -- but not that major, KBYU could simply begin to broadcast BYUTV content and be fine had this decision gone against it.

What is frustrating here, however, is the overriding principle -- getting religion off public television unless it is discussed in a sectarian way.  Otherwise, it seems, people worry the brand of public television will be hurt with religion.

Here is the trouble.  Public television should be challenging.  It should have profound discussions of religion -- even seeming to have the effort to convert at times.  Why?  America needs its religions to be part of the national conversation.  It needs religion to have access to the masses.  Otherwise, religion will seem sinister, even evil, because it is treated with silence and deference.

Let's continue to find new says to approach this issue.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Philly Inquirer

The religion section of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a terrific article this week on Mormon mission presidents going from and coming to the area.

The article does credit to LDS people and is well-written.

What I like about it -- again -- is that if reporters let us tell the story of our own lives, then we look good as a church. Rely on outsiders to describe doctrine and you get a hodgepodge.

What is evident in this story, more so than in others about missionaries that I have read recently, is that Mormons are serious people, often successful.

So, What would make a man like this give up his career to go supervise 20-year-olds for three years?

And, if the Book of Mormon is the product of a 19th century charlatan -- as is often alleged -- why do such smart people follow it so directly?  Surely, there is something to this book.

I would even suggest that there seems a quiet reverse backlash going on in the press.  Mormon people got involved in politics for proposition 8 and have received scorn.  But, Mormons are being portrayed as being serious and doing prop 8 out of principle, knowing full well that they might be attacked for doing so.  Such standing for principle is refreshing in politics.  Powerful stuff, really.

I am proud to be part of a faith that produces such people as this.

Front page of The New York Times

The New York Times had a fun piece on former Mormon missionaries who profit from selling things such as security systems door to door.

I am not sure that Pinnacle Security is exactly what we want Mormons to be, but there is much to recommend the coverage of the church, even in this way. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time this week.

Time magazine has a long feature on the Church and proposition 8.  Reasonably fair-minded and interesting.  It does have some loaded terms like how prop 8 seems to be becoming a "referendum on Mormonism itself."

But the article does allow Mormons to speak for themselves, including a talented new mission president from the Bay area, and it talks of church humanitarian work glowingly and describes the remarkable experience of persecution Mormons faced in the wake of Prop 8.  

Still, I can't shake this lingering observation of Mormon coverage today.  It may be accurate, largely anyway, but it misses something.

I have concluded that people don't really get from the media what we are claiming with the Book of Mormon and how it shapes us.  Yes, some report our description of its miraculous origins.   Indeed, Many journalists in recent years have told the origin story of the book of Mormon -- but left their evaluation of the book there, implying that we must use the origin story of the Book of Mormon as the way to evaluate whether the book is true -- not on what the Book of Mormon actually says and accomplishes in lives.

It is something that still bothers me a great deal about religion coverage generally and Mormon coverage in particular.  We don't get how people live their religions.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another soldier's death

Another Mormon soldier from Northern Ireland has died, the Belfast Telegraph reports.  Sean Binnie, a Mormon hero, died about a week ago in Afghanistan.

I was critical of the coverage of Binnie's death, noting that no one had talked of his faith, whilst covering broadly the Mormonism of John Yettaw.

That has changed with this second death and the coverage was sensitive and kind.

The second soldier, Nigel Moffatt, was in the same Belfast congregation as Binnie and his father described glowingly Moffatt's dedication to his faith and of his missionary work.

His quote is a tribute to his Mormon faith:  "I have my beliefs which are set upon a rock but I struggle because it hurts a wee bit."

Condolences to this brave church unit who lost two sons in a short period, as high a toll as any unit in the church with which I am familiar.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A couple of Book of Mormon writings

A couple of events in the news this week made me think of three important defenses of the Book of Mormon, that I wish to recommend:

Orson Scott Card.

Hugh Nibley's response to Faun Brodie 

Terryl Given's book -- more a history than a defense -- is another I recommend.

As a journalist, I am moved by the quality of the stories in the Book of Mormon -- they are dense but very good and very memorable stories because the human conflict in them is deep and real.  The book is stunning.

Lastly, and most importantly, recent critics of the Book of Mormon neglect entirely the Mormon argument.  Ask God, and he will manifest the truth of it unto you, if you ask in faith.

I have received my answer -- in many ways and in many times. 

The book is true. I marvel at it every day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is it still communication if nobody reads it?

Today is an off day for Mormon news -- more on poor Mr. Yettaw and a bit in the Washington Post about a short play set in a tour of a Mormon Temple.

So, my doctoral research has set me thinking.  Is it still communication if no one reads or responds to a message sent?

This kind of forlorn question might have seemed silly a decade ago -- when mass media still dominated.  Today, in an era of unread blogs, of pointless tweets and unopened letters amid shrinking audiences, the question has profound implications.  (And hardly opened dissertations have always been an example of this kind of communication.)

LDS scholar John Durham Peters book, Speaking into the Air, for my money the most important book on communication history and thinking in a very long time, asserts that the essence of communication is MIS-communication.  The missed signal, the poorly turned phrase, the unopened letter and the silence of ritual, all can be important forms of communication -- even as they really don't convey information.

Indeed, our attempts to communicate with the dead by silently leaving flowers at graves or celebrating images of dead relatives, are among the most profound things we do, he seems to tell you.

His moral, it seems to me, is that in a world with high expectations of communication and dialogue and persuasion (Ever notice how deep President Obama's assumptions are about the possibilities for dialogue?) remains that it is OK when communication doesn't have its intended result, when we miss on our messages.  Much like the sower planting various seeds in a wide variety of ground, so communication is an attempt to reach across the chasm that separates us as humans.  His solution is simple kindness and patience in the face of bleak disconnectedness.

What does this have to do with Mormonism?  Well, media portrayals often show us as secretive and deceptive -- Pew has suggested it is a common perception of us among non-Mormons.  That we often embrace silence as part of our religion, and that journalism ethics seem to have an aversion to secrecy,  (We Mormons do show proper concern for secrets and combinations.)  we have no need to apologize for this part of our religious practice.  Silence can be a form or substance of communication, as legitimate as dialogue.     In times of trial, it may be the last form of communication available to us, as when Mormon stood as a silent witness of Nephite apostasy.  Without silence, we have no communion -- no communication -- in nature or in our temples.   Silence is OK.

Monday, June 1, 2009

An ugly turn in Mormon coverage

Last week's Washington Post had an article talking about the campaign against gay marriage and the church's role in it.  Three eastern Web sites carried banner ads from gay marriage proponents saying, "The Mormons are coming!"

That a few papers refused to run it is to their credit.  Can you imagine any newspaper accepting an ad that said, "The Jews are coming?"  or "The gays are coming?"  or "The blacks are coming?"  

Why, then, accept an ad attacking Mormons with this language?

That these advertisements hearken to stereotypes of supposed Mormon militancy suggests a deeply rooted, bigoted attack, one thought out, in fact.  Indeed, opposition researchers are trying to craft the story of gay marriage as Mormons against gays -- not on the issue itself.  Largely, this is so because Mormons are seen as unpopular and growing more so.

But this isn't the only ugly turn this week.

The unmediated commentary on the Salt Lake Tribune's Web site about the attack on LDS apostle Russell M. Nelson during a robbery in Africa was startling to say the least.  Commentators mocked my religion in deeply personal and insulting ways.  That the Trib wasn't cheerleading is to its credit, but the quality of the conversation saddened me.  The Trib might look to its policy and forbid overt religious bigotry.

Lastly, there is a new argument about gay marriage:  Mormons were persecuted for their religious practices - notably polygamy.  Why are they persecuting now? The argument goes.

Three important reminders:

Mormon persecution began long before polygamy.  Recent research suggests that much of the persecution was about power.  (See Clark Johnson's work in BYU Studies about the Mormon redress petitions.)

When polygamy became the central rallying cry against Mormons -- when they began the practice, there were no laws prohibiting it, by the way -- and government came to prohibit the practice, Mormons did accommodate themselves to the law.   It wouldn't be hard for gay Americans to do the same.

Last, no one has ever shown that marriage was fundamentally about civil rights -- it includes societal and concerns about children as well.  (If the only value in marriage were civil rights, no state would ban first cousins from marrying, for example.)  Otherwise, Mormon polygamy never would have been outlawed in the first place.

So, as Mormons are cast as bad guys in the public discourse, remember, it is largely about power today as well, just as when we were cast as dangerous villains in the 19th century.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The best church P.R.

As the international reporting on John Yettaw continues to give Mormonism a bad name, another article yesterday in New Zealand showed that just as the worst P.R. the church gets is from its people gone astray,  (Anybody besides me think that Yettaw may have a mental illness?) it's people, especially its young people, are its best P.R.

The glowing article in the Wellington Post talks of Adam Ruri, a former BYU student body president who has overcome the odds to be very successful in the U.S.  

I see this over and over again in the lives of the students I teach.  Mormonism produces good people -- the best P.R. the church has.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Winter's Quest

The Wall Street Journal recently recorded a warm story of man's journey to have a large coffee at every Starbucks in North America.

The poor man's quest is costly, and he sometimes has 125 coffees in a given weekend, and he now faces the depressing challenge that Starbucks, suffering along with the economy, is closing franchises, before he has a chance to visit them.   It is an impossible quest.

The man, who lives with his parents and has named himself Winter, is a remarkable case study of religion in the most general sense.  I don't wish to mock what is an unusual quest.  I think it illustrative of the human condition.

Follow me for a minute, if you wouldn't mind.

What is religion?  What is a story?  At their most basic, I submit they are largely the same thing.

Stories are, at their basis, problems and the manner of their resolution.

Villains cause the problems.  Victims or heroes deal with the problem.  There is usually an agent of some sort that redeems the hero or there is no resolution in tragedy -- and there is a cause to that redemption or its failure -- these are largely the morals or the basic morality -- of the story.  These resolutions require a journey.

Those agents that redeem inside stories may be the actions of the characters, the influence of a third party (a messiah), or even an idea or ideology.  They are what get us to our journey's destination.

Story is the heart of life.

So, religion's relationship with story is that religion is also about problems to be overcome.  In the end, the problems with which religion deals are the great problems of existence: sin, suffering and death.  Religions sort out causes and resolution differently, but many take us on quest.

In religion, believers often go to sacred places as a way to find God, who ultimately redeems us from the problems we face.  We go on a religious quest -- often at great peril and sacrifice. (That Mormonism is connected more deeply to this ancient tradition than some of more modern, more political Christianity is significant to me.)

 Much like Winter's quest to find coffee, such quest can seem absurd to an outsider, but this quest motive leads monks and others to great feats of self-discipline in their personal quest stories.

What Winter's quest shows is the deep yearning in the human soul, so often seeking redemption by the quest to find God or to find purpose in life.

We have lots of quest stories in my Mormon faith -- The Book of Mormon is often about a journey to a sacred place -- the wilderness and the promised land.  Each church unit is on a quest to become more like Zion.  The pioneers were seeking a place God had prepared so they could redeem their souls in part by worshipping him.

Our Temples -- holy, sacred places we sometimes call the Mountain of the Lord's House -- most profoundly reflect the role of pilgrimage to my Mormon faith.

Our Mormon journey to Temple is not unlike journeys to holy places in Eastern religions or medieval journeys to Canterbury or a Muslim's journey to Mecca, or Matsuo Basho's epic across Japan.

Or, for that matter, our quest seems much like environmentalism's quest to find redemptive meaning by journeys in wilderness areas or trekker's desire to find an epic experience.  Even the ritual journeys to art galleries, to concert halls and to historic sites tie into the quest story -- finding redemption through transcendent beauty and historical meaning.

So what Winter does isn't unusual.

Mormonism is a tradition dripping in story and in quest.  We get what seems to be Winter's yearning.

 That our ritual and religious practice connect our religious stories to God directly and to our personal problems and narrative and that our quest provides deep purpose and understanding for the grand journey in life makes my religion worthy indeed.

Temples, never far from news coverage of Mormonism for their supposed secrecy, make the quest of Mormon life to truly find God and heaven.

The subtle and powerful feelings I get in temples -- a satisfying end to this earthly quest -- teach that my life's journey's purpose will be worthwhile, better even than the impossible perfection of finding every Starbucks in the world.  My earthly quest to find the House of the Lord has taught me that I truly have a chance at redemption.

 I do like being a Mormon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The hero, Sean Binnie

Sean Binnie, a U.K. soldier from Northern Ireland, died in Afghanistan.  The Belfast Telegraph reports his funeral is at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel.   I rely on Lexis/Nexis here and haven't found it online.

Of course, such doesn't mean that he was a Mormon, but it does make it quite possible, indeed likely.  Many of the U.K. media reports gave, not surprisingly, glowing reviews of the life and service of the brave, young hero.  (As here.) None, evidently, have said whether he was Mormon.

Two thoughts:

1.  If this young man was a Mormon, then why isn't this part of the stories while the same U.K. press mentions regularly the religion of the man who invaded the home of the Burmese dissident?  Such suggests an anti-Mormon bias, I think.  (There is a slight case to be made in that Yettaw was supposedly researching a book on religion ...)

2. In all of my reading of news articles about the church, it is as true in media as it is in face-to-face life.  The best public relations the church has is through people who live the gospel fully.  Stories of our missionaries and of our volunteers  -- and of our brave soldiers like this young man appears to be -- are almost always the most positive stories about the church.  Let your light so shine remains true.  Let's hope the press picks up on the Mormon angle, insofar as they pick up on it for the Burmese story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Miviludes

An online publication, the Digital Journal, contains an article about one of the most troubling organizations in the Western World, France's Inter-ministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combating Cultic Deviancy.  

This influential organization monitors 50 groups, including Mormons, for their activities that may be deemed illegal -- certain kinds of proselytizing.  This year, the organization, called the Miviludes, issued a report critical of activities of these religions in their dealings with the United Nations -- not necessarily Mormons.

This organization remains a waste of taxpayer dollars.  France deserves all the scorn it can get for allowing this organization what influence it has.  Still, the State Department suggests that there as been little religious discrimination in practice as a result of this organization's work.  That Miviludes succeeds in marginalizing certain sects seems likely.  That it likely hinders Mormon proselytizing also seems likely.  (And if some sects are marginalized and threatened, the so-called dangers do grow more likely.)

Why there are fewer articles about this important organization than there are is a mystery to me.  Kudos to this international publication for trying to start this conversation anew.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mormon Radio Launches

Without doubt, the launch this week of the Mormon Radio Channel is a visionary, dramatic use of new media by the church. It is a radio channel not broadcast over the air.  (I know of no similar approach by any organization, let alone religion.) Instead, it is an Internet site with an Apple iPhone app following soon so iPhone users can listen on their radios.  Don't be surprised if over-the-air stations ultimately pick it up.

It also looks to be solidly programmed -- thoughtful, uplifting content.

Producing 24-hours-a-day will be a challenge to fill, but it appears that they have done a great job in preparation -- not just a hodge-podge.

Such is just the latest in a series of relevant, thoughtful efforts by church leaders to embrace new media, including the Mormon Messages channel on YouTube and BYU-TV.  This is very exciting stuff.

I can hardly wait for what happens next.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maybe a little moralizing

The Australian -- the leading newspaper in Australia -- had another article this week about a Mormon in trouble with the law.  The article asked whether the Mormon church profited from the member's alleged illegal scams.  The church accurately denied any reports.  The church never takes donations from corporations or from governments to run what it does -- so it can remain independent.

Let me moralize here.  Mormons are noticed, especially internationally.  As often as gracious papers like those in the American press, who chose not to report on the Burmese protester's religion, chose to ignore Mormon religion in their coverage of crime, there are still cases where the faith comes up.  

There is much to be said to being an example of the believers at all times and in all places.  As such, it can have a negative effect on the church when a person messes up.  Alas, the caravan moves on. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

More on Yettaw

Papers across Europe and around the world have been noting the fact that the man who landed Aung San Suu Kyi in so much trouble is a Mormon with a history of mental trauma and probable illness -- his ex-wife says, not surprisingly, that she thinks he suffers from bipolar disorder.

His Mormonism is almost never been mentioned in the American press that I can find -- save an important Associated Press article.

If it matters to anyone, Mormon doctrine says that Mormons should obey the law.  This is clearly a violation of the law and, therefore, this sad man is in violation of Mormon teaching.  

Beyond this, his strange stunt does little to help anyone with mental disabilities.

What a sad, sad story.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Nutty Mormon in the Guardian

As Massimo Introvigne so ably pointed out in the International Journal of Mormon Studies recently, the European Press does a poor job of evaluating Mormonism,  often getting their facts wrong and playing our faith as stereotype.

Today, London’s Guardian again framed Latter-day Saints as nut cases.  World-renowned Burmese peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi receive a visitor this week – a violation of her house arrest and a visit that appears that it will extend her tragic confinement. 

The visitor was John Yettaw, the Guardian reports, who was also arrested.  He had home-made flippers and swam about a mile across the lake that isolates her. 

Catch these stereotypes for strange people in the article:  He is a Vietnam vet.  He is from the Ozarks.  And, that’s right, he’s evidently a Mormon – supposedly working on a “faith-based” book on heroism.  He is even described as a “nutty fellow” in the article.

Credit, however, goes to The Washington Post.  Its much-more detailed, factual account of the event never brings up his faith – it isn’t relevant to the story.  So, when people say, "Why do reporters always bring up a Mormon’s faith in stories?" They don’t always know the times reporters don’t.

Here is a clear example of a media representative doing the right thing by not engaging in stereotype or bringing up a faith. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two very positive stories today

Two more stories worth reading:

The New York Times talks about the church approach to development in Downtown Salt Lake, one of the few major developments in the country that continues despite the downturn.  The reason, the church's debt-averse approach to finance.

The news room of the U.S. military's Southern Command, graciously talked much about the church's efforts to provide humanitarian assistance on the U.S.S. Comfort -- the Naval Hospital ship.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Misuse of The Book of Mormon

A column in the Boston Globe -- I perceive no ill intent -- this morning shows one of the great problems I have with media coverage of religion:  The handling of sacred texts.

(I found this Dear Margo column on Lexis-Nexis, but, for some reason couldn't find it on Boston.com, so sorry about no link.)

In the advice column, a woman having an affair says the two men in her life fulfill different needs and that this is why polygamy must get started and what should she do, like that.  To Margo's credit, she is critical of the affair but then, jokingly, says that her reading of the Book of Mormon (actually her watching of Big Love, she jokes) makes her think that the writers assertion about polygamy's origin was also misguided.

The point here is not that the writer is making an invidious comparison between a mean-spirited television show and a sacred text.  The point here is that sacred texts are only very rarely consulted as sources in news articles.  This leaves the books open to caricature and joke because they are lessened in the media discourse through neglect.

 We don't learn what these books actually say in news accounts.  This is troublesome because sacred texts govern so much of how people actually live their lives and how they shape worldviews.  We can't learn how the world works without understanding how sacred texts often shape lives and purposes.  

In an era of terror and religious dispute, this is a mistake for journalism.

Were anyone actually serious enough to read it, the Book of Mormon is critical about polygamy -- save in unusual circumstances.  If anything, the Book of Mormon seems deeply critical of Deep Love with its focus on the prurient.

In fact, the Book of Mormon has much to say on torture, on peace, on war, on terrorism -- much of it deeply challenging and insightful.  Accordingly, why not consult what it actually says and make journalism more insightful?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Four stories.

Four interesting stories involving Mormonism:

1. USA Today reports that church business officials, looking at cars for the church's fleet, took a trip to a resort in Arizona at GM's expense.  It didn't make the church look bad, but it was interesting that of all the organizations the reporters could pick,  they picked an oil company and the church.  As a framing choice, I'm not sure it makes the reporter look too good.

2. A Washington Times article about the Miss USA Pageant carefully linked the way Mormons have been protested with the prejudice the Miss USA candidate faced in her efforts to speak out against gay marriage.

3.  Marie Osmond -- in Britain's tabloid the Sun -- is said to fully support her gay daughter.  The point being?

  Wouldn't it be difficult to carry the weight of the world Marie has had to carry? Think of the cultural expectations she has had -- from body image to religion to being a working mom in contrast to her brother's weight.  She is someone to admire.  Her Children's Miracle Network work has helped thousands of families.  

There are inferences that she supports gay marriage in these articles, but who knows?

4. Utah Travel.  Once again, a travel piece in the Sunday Mirror in London proves that Mormons look best when they are allowed to speak for themselves.  This kind travel piece is about as glowing a report about Utah as could be hoped, and Mormons come off looking gracious and normal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An excellent article

I am a fan of the Center for Public Integrity -- a center of non-profit journalism.

Its new investigation on the mortgage meltdown is very important and sophisticated in its presentation.  I recommend it.

SL Trib story on baptisms for the dead

The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday, again brought up the topic of the Mormon practice of baptisms for the dead.

Media coverage of this topic is complex and problematic for Mormons on many levels.  I acknowledge that those not of the faith can sometimes have ambivalent feelings about it.

Why is it problematic?  It is an unusual doctrine in modern Christianity and has the effect -- in news coverage -- of making Mormons appear as outsiders and secretive and weird -- as vaguely dangerous, therefore.  As such, all writing on it, I believe, needs the context that it is a traditional Christian practice with scriptural support.

I would say the belief is sincere.  I would suggest looking at 1 Corinthians 15:29 for evidence of this practice being scripturally based.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Elder Andersen in the St. Pete Times

One of America's truly great newspapers, the St. Petersburg Times, did a Q. and A. with Elder Neil Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The interview was wonderful and Elder Andersen, who has ties in the Tampa/St. Petersburg Area, came off looking very good.  Very worth reading for Latter-day Saints.

One of his thoughts about the news media was:

"We are very well treated, and we are thankful for that. We don't want to have a persecution complex. We would like to be seen as Christian people who are first and foremost followers of Jesus Christ. We would secondly like to be seen as very good but normal citizens in our communities, that we are doing our best to raise our children, assist in our community and help in our neighborhoods."

Of all the things my research has taught me about the faith and news media, it is the remarkable accomplishments in public relations the church has accomplished in its history. Men like John Taylor and Thomas Kane (not a member of the faith) helped preserve the faith, with God's help, obviously, during some of its darkest hours by the power of the written word.  Women like Emmeline B. Wells were among the greatest defenders of the faith as well.

  President Hinckley's work correlates with the rise of the church being fairly well treated by the news media.  It is among his greatest accomplishments as a servant of the Lord.

Mormons were among the nation's ultimate pariahs in the 19th Century.  There was essentially no positive news coverage.  And the negative coverage was deeply hurtful and hugely stereotypical. From the very beginning, even before the church was founded, media conveyed misunderstanding.  Let's face it, Mormons make some dramatic claims and, initially, the media did a mostly lousy job of conveying it.

Today, thanks to generations of hard work, though there are stereotypes that consistently emerge, it is clear that most reporters endeavor to treat the faith fairly and accurately.  The St. Petersburg Times is evidence of that.

There is no need for a persecution complex. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

A model for journalism in religion coverage

Ron Lieber's fantastic column in The New York Times on Friday is a model for how journalism can tackle religion respectfully.  That this approach to journalism and religion is rare is a disappointment.

Lieber looked at the moral dimensions of debt -- he quoted N. Eldon Tanner of the Church -- by comparing debt to bondage.

But how do we forgive debt in a time of economic trial?  He swept across a variety of moral traditions and even quoted the Holy Quran respectfully and what I perceived to be thoughtfully.

He rationally suggested that religion provides some useful thoughts on these topics.

In the 1990s, scholar Mark Silk -- in his seminal book Unsecular Media -- argued that news media cover religion only through superficial stereotypes (he calls them topoi), and that a challenge to media is to actually cover religion in ways that reflect how people actually live it.

Lieber's column is the best I have ever seen in major media, ever, in utilizing what religions actually say and attempts to be among the most respectful.  I say this while asserting that I sense he doesn't fully agree with President Tanner.

Kudos to The New York Times for this excellent piece of work.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mormons and spaghetti Monsters and the Book of Mormon

Many countries relying on the British Common Law have a crime, or at least a tradition of something called blasphemous libel -- an undue criticism of any religion. It is part of many constitutions and, also subject to much secualr criticism. In Ireland, a minister has been talking about it.

Why this is of note here , is the conversation in the Irish Times about it has brought up Mormonism -- in a most unflattering way. A letter-writer wrote:

"Should I anticipate prosecution of those who utter blasphemy against Scientology, Mormonism, Ashanti mythology, Zoroastrianism, Baltic polytheism and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?"

In other words, Mormons are very extreme and odd. My sense in reading the European Press -- much more so than the American Press -- about the faith is that Mormons are seen often as odd balls -- just this side of wacko in these writers' eyes.

In answer to these critics, I will always come back to the great either-or question of Mormonism in our defense.

If Joseph Smith were somehow not telling the truth about the Book of Mormon origin story, we would have to be considered followers of an oddball, so to speak, it is true.

But I implore those who do think we are oddballs: If you follow this logic about Joseph Smith, you must have a substantive explanation story about the Book of Mormon's origins.

It seems just as fanciful to believe the book is the product of Joseph Smith, in fact.

Basically, the Book of Mormon is a serious claim worthy of thought:

I have like 15 years of education, and I struggle to write a dissertation over five years. Brother Joseph wrote something longer -- if he wrote it, which I believe he didn't, he translated it by the power of God -- in about 60 days without edit in extreme poverty -- often lacking for paper. (Indeed, I know of no major American author who produced a book of such significance, fiction or otherwise, in such a short amount of time and in such poverty.) He had a third grade education.

Then there is this: Read the Book of Mormon and contrast it with his known writings and you see no similarity. The tone and word choice is vastly different. Beyond that, Joseph's preaching, as recording in the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, while profound, rarely rely on stories to make their points. The Book of Mormon drips in story -- and the stories are serious and timely to us today.

And many chapters, I recommend Alma 42 and 2 Nephi 2 as evidence, are profound in their depth and complexity of doctrine at thought -- all presented in a precious, simple way.

The historical records seems little in dispute. There were essentially no edits. He did it off the top of his head to several scribes -- if it were fiction. The book has more than 300 original, but Hebrew-sounding, names. 11 men signed affidavits -- which often cost them in their personal lives -- that they saw the Golden plates. None changed their story. Joseph Smith died defending his work -- never once wavering.

Beyond that, there isn't anything approaching a serious explanation of another source for the Book of Mormon, save this young man supposedly made it up. Remember, one of the historic criticisms of Joseph Smith is that he was stupid and lazy. Try producing a book in that short amount of time being stupid and lazy that meets all of these criteria.

It should be easy to find glaring inconsistencies that are the product of the 19th century. No one has. It is a prodigious challenge to explain the Book of Mormon without believing its origin story. No one has even come close to doing it.

Say I believe in a spaghetti-monster type religion if you will. I will remain in earnest.

The Book of Mormon is a miracle in a world in desperate need of one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two vastly different stories

Tuesday had two vastly different stories about Mormons in the International Press.

As for the first story -- it is a solid, mostly accurate -- piece about Mormons in Liverpool.

My own Williams ancestors came from Liverpool.  It does, unfortunately, push a misunderstanding of the Book of Mormon forward by saying that is the story of a Jewish family.  It is significant doctrinally that the Book of Mormon story begins with the story of a family from the House of Joseph, not the House of Judah. 

It also openly said the stereotype of Mormons is an American in a business suit.  (Our Mormon missionaries do dress nicely, so, I suppose that is an OK stereotype, as these go, but business suits -- there are linkages with Mormon business and all the negative historical baggage that goes with that -- in the same way Jews are stereotyped as money-grubbing.) 

Be that as it may, I liked the piece.  It seemed fair-minded and was light-hearted and mostly positive.

The second, unfortunately, had little to recommend it.  It was prominent on the front page of the Los Angeles Times -- sometimes I wonder if the L.A. Times likes to pick on the church -- in its daily front-page feature, Column One.  The article is about an excommunicated Mormon who published a calendar featuring provocative men without their shirts on.  

As a Mormon, I always get a kick out of so-called controversies media say are playing within the church, pitting liberals against conservatives, a "flashpoint of controversy," like that.  They are so different from the way I experience these things.   In my local ward, no one has talked about it.  No one I meet has ever talked about it.  Now, I sure some do care, somewhere, but it isn't something we spend a lot of time on.  It is a tepid controversy, at best. The Times, therefore, must provide better evidence than a few blog posts that it is a huge controversy if they say it is a flashpoint when experience says it isn't.  

That the L.A. Times considers it worthy of the front-page suggests that they believe it has news value of both controversy and unusualness and breaking of labels -- going against type -- the types the L.A. Times holds of Mormons. In those assumptions about us, there are misunderstandings and misrepresentation, which are painful.

As for the details of the young man's excommunication, I wouldn't speak to them save to say that excommunications are private affairs and church leaders, out of respect for the process and the person, generally say nothing publicly about what happened.  There are perhaps people in my congregation who have been through an excommunication about which I don't know - or not.  It is out of kindness and repentance that we don't talk about it.  Excommunication is a way for a person to work out their mistakes in private.  So, we only get one side of the story here -- journalism needs both sides.

As a person who studies Mormon portrayals, however, my main issue with this article is that there is an irony worth noting.  The story quotes someone who says the calendar is about taking Mormons out of the robotic box that we supposedly live in, about breaking stereotypes of a repressed religion.

This is a common stereotype and unfounded.  My reading of Mormon doctrine -- I wouldn't speak for the church in an official way -- is that we have a very healthy attitude about intimate relationships, that such are healthy and normal and god-given, but that they are for the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman and should be treated with care and respect and sacredness.  So, Mormons abhor pornography and all gratuitous titillation -- not out of fear or some sense of control, but out of respect for the appropriate place for intimate relationships and out of respect for ourselves and others.  We would not objectify another person.

We take it so seriously that we believe adultery is just beneath murder in the realm of sin, but that doesn't mean we are repressed somehow -- we just put these powerful feelings in what we deem their proper place.

What is ironic is that Mormons have from the early days of the church been seen as dangerous for the way we deal with intimate relationships.  What has changed is the way such danger is portrayed and understood.  In the 19th century and into the 20th portrayals, Mormons were the most dangerous of predators, sending out missionaries who grabbed women for their harems -- something like that.  This is what popular fiction of that era portrayed Mormons as.  But today, the danger, portrayed in such plays as Angels in America and in media representations is that Mormons are the opposite -- too repressed and repressive.  (This article is a perfect case study of this kind of stereotype.) As a Mormon, therefore, you can't win.

It is a reminder that stereotypes say as much about those using them as about those whom the stereotype is supposedly about.

The L.A. Times can do better.

One odd note, however, it is the first time that I am aware that the heroic Book of Mormon figure -- Captain Moroni -- has been mentioned in the popular press.  Too bad it didn't talk about the dynamics of that powerful story in a modern era of terror, but turned the dramatic, miraculous Book of Mormon into a caricature of repression and militarism.

Monday, April 27, 2009


The New York Times Sunday did some unusual juxtiposition in its framing of Iowa's tolerant history by putting tolerance for gay marriage with tolerance for Mormons (Iowans allowed Mormons to cross from Illinois during the exodus to the West and is rightly remembered with grateful hearts by Mormons, who had been driven from neighboring Missouri) in the same article.

The article seems to be saying, Iowans are tolerant people.  They are with the times.

The article never mentions Mormon opposition to gay marriage, but can create an irony for those who know the church's position.  Those reading the story could choose to see Mormon opposition to gay marriage as intolerant and, potentially, ungrateful.  "You Mormons received tolerance, why can't you give the same courtesy back?" is a potential subtext here.

Once the debate about gay marriage is debated with the idea of tolerance as the core, Latter-day Saints have a harder framing challenge -- protecting families and children and traditions -- when debating it publicly.  Tolerance and civil rights have yet to be proven as the best frame on which to debate the issue -- just the most persuasive from a homosexual marriage point of view.

We can never forget that two men marrying changes what marriage is.  Not the least of this change is the powerful fact that two people of the same sex cannot produce children -- the reason for marriage from a societal viewpoint -- without adding a third person to the equation.  We are on the road to making marriage nothing as it becomes, essentially, any relationship between adults.

Framing, which needs more discussion than this short post allows, is widely accepted as an excellent way of understanding how media messages influence people in their opinions.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times did no service to Latter-day Saints in this juxtaposition by its framing choice Sunday.  It should be more careful.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mormon Crickets

Friday, The Wall Street Journal ran a wonderful, whimsical story about the Mormon crickets.  IF you've never seen the crickets, they can appear like a biblical plague in the west deserts of Utah.  They are remarkable in their numbers -- they literally cover the ground such that you can hardly see the ground.

What the Journal left out was how the Cricket story is central to Mormon memory.  Having moved into the Great Basin in 1847, Mormons needed a significant crop in 1848 to support the families moving into the valley.  Survival was at stake in this desert environment.  In late May 1848, as the crickets began to destroy crops, worries grew.  Seagulls nesting near the Great Salt Lake came and ate numerous crickets, arguably saving the lives of the pioneers in Utah.  They have been honored as Utah's state bird and have a monument near the Salt Lake Temple.  See the Encyclopedia of Mormonism for more.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Typical of Mormon bashing.

Glen Warchol's Salt Lake Tribune blog this week about what he headlined the Mormon Mafia -- linked from the Trib's front page when he wrote it -- is typical of the archetypes of Mormonism used by anti-Mormons for more than 100 years and is an invidous comparison that deserves criticism.

Warchol's point, in which he quotes Vanity Fair, was somehow that three Mormons were involved in what he deemed crafting of torture memos and are hisses and bywords among many scholars. What Mormonism has to do with the whole thing is a little unclear other than some Mormons worked for Bush/Cheney

It is invidious because Mafia frames Mormons as dangerously secretive, an unfortunately common stereotype of Mormons. My doctoral research and the work of Pew and of Terryl Givens suggests that these kinds of linkages in national memory remain.

Nineteenth Century portrayals of Mormon portrayed us as a kind of dangerous Islam -- men with dangerous harems living in a desert with warlike tendencies. The on-going fascination with Mormon polygamy, with Mormon wealth, even to a lesser extent with the terrible Mountain Meadows Massacre are examples of how this frame continues to work. By linking Mormons with Mafia, torture and secret practices, he plays on the worst Mormon stereotypes and those stereotypes wound.

Why this blog

I blog for two reasons. I teach journalism and am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I wish to bring those passions together.

I am working on a Ph.D. on this topic.

Especially, I wish to point out things that people miss about Mormonism in the press, to correct errors.