Mormon Media Observer: Two writers use the Book of Mormon to score political points

Published: Monday, May 7 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

I also condemn the use of scripture to attack any politician.

But don’t get me wrong.

I’m glad these articles and comments made the national press in some ways. I’m glad people are finally opening the Book of Mormon and talking about what it actually says. (Obviously, I take grave exception with Williams’ characterization of the Book of Mormon as “mythic.”) I wish for more people to read it.

Of all the things I’ve been disappointed in my years of study of news of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the thing I have been most disappointed in is the lack of coverage of what is really in the Book of Mormon — of the remarkable, serious, arguments it makes — even to those who aren’t willing to assume it is a true, ancient record.

I marvel that a book that ends in death and decay somehow seems fundamentally about love and hope.

I marvel at its deep, relevant discussions and illustrations of taxes, of wealth, of poverty, of race, of secret combinations, of terrorism, of politics and of atheism — all extremely timely topics today.

Then, when I think I’ve learned what the Book of Mormon says about modern issues, I realize it says so much more than I thought. I find I quietly gain a more nuanced, humble positions on public policy issues directly from my study of The Book of Mormon.

Pondering the Book of Mormon has made me more willing to listen to my political opponents and to try to understand them.

The Book of Mormon deserves a broader place in the public discourse, and it should be used with more care than these journalists have done. But give them credit for at least opening more dialogue about this great book.

Finally, briefly, I couldn’t let pass annual World Press Freedom Day May 3 without a brief mention.

According to the Associated Press and the organization Reporters Without Borders, 67 journalists were killed in 2011 and another 22 have died so far this year. Many were targeted precisely because of the work they do.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists — via the AP —179 journalists were detained in 2011, a 20-percent increase over 2010.

And on World Press Freedom Day, three journalists were found dead in Veracruz, likely killed by the terrible, corrupting drug violence down there.

I will never forget interviewing an editor from Columbia who talked about the sacrifices he and others made there during drug violence. He told me he had a choice — to turn the future of his children over to the criminals or try to stand against them.

He, like so many other brave men and women, chose to stand.

As much as journalists sometimes frustrate us, let us remember with gratitude what sacrifices many of the best make for us every day.

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.

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