The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted its first online news conference Tuesday morning, fielding a variety of questions in a little over 30 minutes.
The conference was reserved for religion reporters in the United States, "with the objective of filling informational gaps and providing answers to questions about the church," according to a news release.
The pilot news conference came about as a result of the national conversations about the LDS Church that have been going on for about a year now.
"Participants have included journalists, academics, religious leaders and historians," the church press release said. "At times, however, this conversation has taken place without any participation from those who know the church best its own members."
Michael Otterson and Kim Farah of the church public affairs department hosted the conference. Farah said it was purposely kept small, with about 20 journalists participating.
"We're trying to find ways to be more accessible to media," Farah said. "We want to be proactive in defining who we are."
Topics addressed during the Web conference ranged from how reporters can be more accurate in reporting on the church, to editorial board meetings, to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
"The best way to get to know the church is to get to know the members," Farah said in response to a question about being more accurate. She said church members will welcome outsiders into their homes, particularly during family home evenings.
Another reporter's question about editorial board meetings yielded the answer that the church had met with various media's editorial boards periodically, and long before LDS Church member Mitt Romney's presidential bid came along. Also, the church hopes to have more editorial meetings in the future.
However, "we don't talk about the politics," Otterson stressed, but rather about the church's beliefs and teachings.
Another reporter asked if the church believed Jesus Christ's Second Coming would occur in North America. Otterson said the scriptures are clear that Christ will return to Jerusalem first. "That's where he'll come back."
Otterson also said that part of the confusion over North America may come from church beliefs that eventually there will be two world capitals from which Christ will govern the Earth after his return. One capital is Jerusalem, the other is a center point in North America.
Farah said the church wants to have future online news conferences and encouraged media to provide feedback on the first one. She indicated the church could put together a press conference on a single issue, if requested by the media. Also, some senior church officials could be involved in future media conferences, instead of only church public affairs representatives.For more information about the broadcast, or to access the online press conference, go to www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom and scroll down to the specific news release.