Mormon Media Observer: The LDS Church continues its remarkable media heritage

Published: Monday, Jan. 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

As a student of media of all kinds, I have long been moved by the fact that the first public effort of Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — before the church was even founded — was a media effort, the publication of the Book of Mormon.

There is something symbolic there for me of how important media would become to the Restoration era.

It is testament to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that within its heritage, it has always tried to rely on media to send its message and to do its work.

A few examples will suffice of that heritage:

• Within three years of arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, church leaders began to publish the Deseret News. They had to ship it across the country.

• Some of the first efforts in Jackson County, Mo., and in Nauvoo, Ill., involved getting a press up and running.

• In 1852, only five years after arriving in Salt Lake, the church sent some of its greatest leaders — John Taylor, Erastus Snow, Orson Pratt and George Q. Cannon — on missions. Each began to print newspapers under dramatic circumstances. Elder Taylor set up shop in downtown New York literally between the two leading presses of the Penny Press era and published a bold newspaper, "The Mormon." Elder Pratt published "The Seer" in Washington, D.C. Elder Cannon published the Western Standard in San Francisco and Elder Snow published the Luminary in St. Louis.

Amid some of its greatest hardships, then, the church never shied from its obligation to publish and to spread its message with the best technology available.

I pause with admiration for the remarkable media enterprises the church has established today.

For starters, there is the terrific corporate wing of the church — the Deseret Media companies that publish this growing newspaper and also support KSL.

Second, I have been blown away by the growth and strength of BYUTV.

Next, there is the unheralded work of the terrific staff of the church magazines. I used to publish a magazine for a corporation and know how difficult it can be to meet the logistics of a magazine while meeting deadlines. Throw the numerous languages they print in Salt Lake City — and the consequences this can have for layout and delivery — and there is nothing quite like it in publishing.

But I wish most to speak of the church's new media efforts today.

I recently downloaded the Bible Videos app for my iPad.

In a word: "Wow."

Though it is in early stages of what it will become, it is easy to see how profound this tool will be as the scores of Bible videos come online.

For those who haven't seen it, the app brings the church's new Bible videos together in a useable format. I like to tap on an explore button with my finger, and watch as a map of ancient Israel appears with dots showing where certain events took place. I click on those dots and the map then focuses on three-dimensional renderings of the cities and places where these great events took place.

Further dots appear inviting further taps. Each tap brings into view an elaborate visual image with links describing life in the time of Christ or symbols and meanings of the Bible message.

And the images invite further exploration — especially for children — until the images make way for a Bible video that is terrificly produced. I can hardly wait for all of the church videos to be finished. The choices the producers made to rely on the text of the Bible for the dialogue make this collection meaningful to any Christian.

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