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Mormon Media Observer: Recent coverage of the LDS Church provides much for which to be grateful

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

What a remarkable few weeks it has been for LDS coverage.

First, there has been an outpouring of generous thought toward Latter-day Saints in the wake of the remarkable remarks by a Dallas-area pastor who dribbled the “cult” word in reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than a few times at the Value Voters Summit in his support for Rick Perry.

His comments weren’t surprising, even if they were a little depressing. (However, as it turns out, I do think they helped Mitt Romney’s long-term election chances.)

Many of you might have seen these articles, but here are several worth reading:

At the top of the list is Sen. Joe Lieberman’s passionate defense of religious liberty and Latter-day Saints in the public square at the Washington Post Friday. Lieberman’s clear voice was welcome. I hope his line, “The United States of America was and is a faith-based initiative,” gains a place in our national memory.

Then there was Richard Mouw, the evangelical scholar whose Belief Blog entry for CNN was truly generous. His public argument that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t a cult is something I truly appreciate. His point should be remembered by both Latter-day Saints and non-LDS alike: “We evangelicals and our Mormon counterparts disagree about some important theological questions. But we have also found that on some matters we are not as far apart as we thought we were.”

Media scholar James Fallows wrote an excellent defense of religious pluralism in The Atlantic. Bill Bennett, the substantive conservative scholar and former Reagan education secretary, publicly urged voters to not give voice to bigotry in a very public rebuke of those who trafficked in anti-Mormonism.

As Joe Walker at the Deseret News has so ably shown, a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times, one of the nation’s best news organizations, wrote powerfully about a visit with Elder Russell M. Nelson in the Times newsroom.

I was moved by her final quote:

“I am an extremely lapsed Catholic who hasn't voluntarily attended Mass in more than 45 years. But what if I suddenly faced some personal crisis and I wanted to talk to someone for spiritual insight, guidance or consolation?

“Whom would I be more comfortable with?

“… would it be the octogenarian gentle man, who may hold dogmatic beliefs I don't subscribe to, but nevertheless yearns to simply lead a meaningful life.

“I think I would be on the next plane to Salt Lake City.”

Former presidential speechwriters and now columnists Michael Gerson and Bill McGurn both issued what can be described as kind defenses of Mormonism.

Even the often skeptical Slate online magazine had a generous column.

If that were all, these articles would comprise a week to be grateful for the coverage, but there have been other very nice articles recently.

The conservative, always interesting, evangelical-leaning news magazine World ran a generally nice piece on the trend of Latter-day Saint Mommy bloggers, saying admirably that these bloggers are mission-focused and seem to argue that it is “possible to be happy.” (Likely requires a subscription to read the entire article.)

An interesting footnote for me, however, is that this evidently evangelical writer, while seeming to admire the blogger trend, concluded with this seeming rebuke to her Mormon neighbors: “Christ is our hope, not our cute kids, happy husbands, good cooking or clever craft projects.” I wonder what this writer saw or chose not to see that made her think Latter-day Saints aren’t Christ-centered?

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