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. 

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