Thanks to the Associated Press, there was reasonably wide coverage of the fact that the Book of Mormon reached the milestone of 150 million copies printed. That is a milestone worth acknowledging, and I am grateful for the coverage.
Of course, another way of looking at it is that means we only have some 6 billion more copies to get in the hands of a world that desperately needs this remarkable book.
Over the years I have spent some time informally looking at the coverage of the Book of Mormon in the nation’s press, and I have concluded that the nation’s press needs to do a better job of teaching what the Book of Mormon actually says.
On the positive side, my observations about this coverage include the fact that the Book of Mormon is quietly growing in the frequency of coverage, though mentions of the Book of Mormon still seem to lag in coverage of the old Mormon stereotypes.
I have also observed that many Americans seem to know of the Book of Mormon and that it teaches that Christ visited America. These are significant and important accomplishments.
However, I have seen that insofar as the Book of Mormon is covered in the nation’s press, what reporters focus on is not what the Book of Mormon teaches, but on its origin story of gold plates and its miraculous translation. Sometimes it is written in a way to make us appear strange.
The content of the Book of Mormon is mostly missing. I obviously have not read all of the coverage, but I can only remember one verse of the Book of Mormon ever quoted there, and it was a verse quoted out of context. I remember writers seemed to be using the verse to make the inaccurate point that Mormons are racist.
To me, ignoring the actual content of the Book of Mormon is a way of not taking it seriously or diminishing what could be an important part of American discourse. It also neglects who we are as a people.
The stories of Kishkumen and his band of Lachoneus, Captain Moroni, the Ammonites and Cumorah have great relevance to modern issues of war, terror and peace. The stories challenge and warn. Their meanings could shape discourse. Yet, you can’t find these characters and ideas, so rich and full in our Mormon lives, meriting any mention in the press.
As it turns out, to know who Mormons are, you must know the Book of Mormon. Its stories shape culture. Its teachings guide our decisions. Its meaning provides hope. The neglect of the Book of Mormon and its content is an important reason, I believe, that Mormons sometimes aren’t fully understood in the national discourse.
Now, I don’t truly expect much change in the coverage of the Book of Mormon, though I might wish it. A mostly secular press ignores most scriptural beliefs, regardless of its source and struggles with doctrinal discussions for many reasons.
Like most of you, I have read the Book of Mormon scores of times. I love it with all my heart. I have prayed over it and felt of its power. I know it to be true.
If the Book of Mormon is true — and it is true — then think of the implications. If the Book of Mormon is true then apostles and prophets walk the earth; then there is life after death; then families can be eternal; then there is purpose and meaning in life; then there is reason for hope, and then Jesus really is the Christ.
So, there is an irony here. Journalists in their codes of ethics try to seek the truth and report it. I know what they mean by truth is different, perhaps, than what my religion defines as truth. Still, in missing what the Book of Mormon teaches, they have missed fundamental, profound truth. They have missed the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the most important true story of all time.
As a Mormon journalist who believes in the stories of the Book of Mormon and who believes in its implications, the Book of Mormon is a miracle for a world in sore need of one. What a great thing is this milestone.
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 email@example.com.