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Mormon Media Observer: Mormon Media Observer: Temples are making news

Published: Monday, April 18 2011 3:30 a.m. MDT

According to the website Google Insights, Internet searches for the word "Mormon" worldwide are at their highest level since late in 2007, when interest in Mitt Romney's religion during his 2008 campaign was at its peak. Volume is 88 percent of what it was at that peak.

Doubtless, much of the current interest comes from the Broadway play "The Book of Mormon," the musical. (For those who haven't heard, this play isn't family friendly and, I believe, would offend most Mormons for its sacrilegious tone.)

But mixed in with all of that coverage of this disappointing play have been some solid, largely favorable stories about Mormon temples. Sometimes it can be tempting to think that journalists always take a secular, almost anti-Mormon stance against Mormons. That is unfair to reporters in my view. Often, they report accurately and with no evidence of malice. Reporting on the Atlanta temple rededication and open house is an example of this.

I note four articles worth reading about the rededication of the Atlanta temple:

The Atlanta Constitution-Journal ran a generous piece. Here's a quotation that demonstrates the positive tone of the article:

"On Thursday, temple visitors included Martin Luther King Jr. III, former Atlanta Braves player Dale Murphy and former NFL quarterback Steve Young.

"Being inside the temple 'makes an indelible impression on your mind, heart and spirit,' said Murphy, who lives in Utah.

"'This was a great opportunity to be able to see the temple and understand the traditions of the faith,' said Tom Wilson, a visitor from Woodstock who is not LDS."

Patch.com's coverage includes beautiful photos of the temple. (Patch.com is worth watching as a business venture, by the way, because it is a new news enterprise that relies on hyperlocal news coverage while having no printed version available. It is one of the few national for-profit Internet-only news enterprise.)

Public radio in Atlanta did a generous piece on the remodeled temple, as well, that included quotes from Mormons and how the temple makes them feel. (I'll admit that it makes me laugh when a reporter describes the angel on our temples as "Mo-ro-nee," as this reporter did. Still, no harm done.)

Some of the best coverage came in a suburban outfit, the neighbor newspapers, which described the symbolism of the temple as a journey through life.

Other temple stories outside of Atlanta recently include coverage of the church's purchase of ground near the temple site in Philadelphia for some future development. The Philadelphia Business Journal wrote that the site the church purchased is 2.1 acres worth a great deal. Earlier developers had proposed a 48-story tower there.

In the Arizona Republic another story on temples focused on the continuing controversy surrounding neighborhood of the Phoenix temple.

For what it is worth, my favorite way to keep up on temple news is not in the mainstream news media but through the hobby of a Mormon in Pocatello, Idaho, Rick Satterfield. His beautiful LDSchurchtemples.com website updates the news on every temple around the world. Google estimates that Satterfield has had more than 1 million page views in his years running this site, several thousand a month. I follow it regularly.

Volunteers submit photographs of temples under construction. (I am excited to know that the exterior of the Kansas City temple is largely completed, and Angel Moroni sits on top of one of its spires, by the way.) Many donate photos for use as computer screen savers. It is a joyous use of the Internet, an example of how many Mormons around the world continue to use the Internet for good.

All-in-all, the news coverage of the temples seems accurate and well-intentioned by reporters as well as an opportunity for Mormons to share their faith. In an environment that is featuring some negative coverage of the church, the reporting and websites on our temples is a great example of the mostly positive coverage of temple happening about our faith online as well.

Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho. He is a former journalist whose scholarly interests include Mormon portrayals in the media, media and religion, and religion and politics.

As the Mormon Media Observer, Lane is interested in hearing your ideas for stories at lanedwilliams@gmail.com.

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