With the nation's cameras now focused away from Mitt Romney, his presidential aspirations and his faith, the Mormon Media Observer offers some random snapshots of media reports about the LDS church and experience from around the world over the past several weeks.
Outsiders stick up for Mormons: Steve Lundeberg, associate editor of the Albany (Ore.) Democrat Herald blogs about being an outsider looking in at the LDS Church. His fellow editor and church member, Mike Henneke, generated nearly 1,500 hits with his post about his faith.
"Sundays letter-writer suggested people should visit the churchs websites to learn more about the faith, believing knowledge would alleviate worry," Lundeberg wrote. "Just for the heck of it, I did that, but having grown up around a healthy Mormon population in Milwaukie, I figured I had a pretty solid handle on the faith already. A Mormon was the best man at my wedding. My oldest friend was once a Mormon as well, but his family was less devout and he drifted away from the church as a teen. Sports teammates, various schoolmates and other acquaintances were church members too.
"As a rule Im not really into generalizations, but the vast majority of the LDS members I grew up with were very nice and friendly people as is Henneke."
Daryl Hunter, editor of the Upper Valley Free Press in Irwin, Idaho, writes about what it is like to be an "outsider" in a valley that is 50 percent LDS. He said doesn't understand all of the evangelical fuss about LDS members based on his experience.
"As a seeker of knowledge that is too analytical to achieve faith, of any religion, I am befuddled by the apparent animosity of evangelical Christians towards the followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Hunter wrote. "Mormons have been the equivalent of at least a couple of vertebra of the back bone of the Christian conservative movement that has brought to fruition the Reagan Revolution and all subsequent gains in the growth of the conservative movement."
Speaking about the evangelical fuss: The Economist magazine reports that Mormons are upset with Republicans. In an article headlined "Gnashing Their Teeth," it says: "Mike Huckabee took Iowa and the South, however, areas filled with evangelicals whom Mr Romney needed to win. 'In Utah you could almost hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth,' says Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. In a poll taken just after Mr Romney left the race, only 30 percent of Utahns said they would vote for Mr McCain; 25 percent said they would choose Barack Obama."
The good with the bad: Foreign and U.S reporters still confuse polygamist sects and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite an entry in the Associated Press Stylebook that admonishes against the usage and church's best efforts to ask journalists to stop using "Mormon" in connection with stories about polygamist groups, it still happens regularly.
In an egregious example, the Hobart (Australia) Mercury wrote about the release of the HBO series "Big Love" in Tasmania. The story included a multitude of incorrect references to "Mormon polygamist family," "fringe cults" and "Mormon prophet" and then linked these groups of Australian polygamists or polyamorists. It was a very ill-informed report all around.
Take another example from the lead paragraph from a story from the Munich-based newspaper, Sddeutsche Zeitung, at the announcement of a new LDS First Presidency: "So much attention had been paid to Mormons for long time. Or rather, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Christian community of faith, located in Salt Lake City in the State of Utah is officially known. And for once it is not sensational reports on polygamy and prophets of debauched young girls."
How do you say, "the church denounced polygamy 100 years ago" in German?
Thankfully, the calling of a new First Presidency, particularly of President Dieter Uchtdorf, played a bit better in another German outlet, Deutsche Welle.
In a more positive move in Ghana, the Accra Daily Mail allowed a devout member of the church, E.R.K. Dwemoh, to write about his conversion to the LDS Church.
The Mormon Magz blog has found an inspiring broadcast story of an LDS athlete, Porter Ellett of Loa, Utah, who has one arm and was featured on the cover of The New Era in February.
Australian rugby player and LDS Church member Albert Hopoate was recently featured as "the strongest man in the national rugby league."
"Despite being away from the game for two years as a Mormon missionary, Hopoate is set to follow in the footsteps of big brother John, who was one of the NRL's most powerful players," The Sydney Sun-Herald reported.
PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly rebroadcast a segment on LDS missionaries to coincide with the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Speaking of missionaries, the McAlester (Okla.) News-Capital did a nice feature on the local missionaries.
Mormon Studies: Journalists recently created a number of stories about different colleges and universities creating Mormon studies courses and programs. Seth Perry, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education on Feb. 2 and Feb. 15 talks about the challenges of Mormon Studies and then of what he calls "an LDS Dilemma" (a subscription is necessary to view the entire articles).
Perry wrote: "If Mitt Romney's campaign accomplished anything, it was to remind us that political speech is a blunt instrument, incapable of registering distinctions like that between weird and peculiar: He worked so hard to avoid the stigma of weirdness that he lost any shot at the benefits of peculiarity. Romney's attempt to strike a balance has echoed his church's own public-relations dilemmas in recent years, and the role that religion may have played in his campaign's failure points to the stresses the church itself is experiencing as it attempts to be peculiar but not weird at the same time."
More than genetics: A Canadian history professor was shortlisted for Canada's richest literary prize for a non-fiction book. Donald Akenson's Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself is a 2008 finalist for British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Some Family is a book about the role of genealogy in tracking social and economic history.
"With a prose style that is both witty and wise, historian Donald Akenson explores and explains our cultures fascination and obsession with genealogy," a news release indicated. "His model is the massive genealogical database created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormons and their efforts to provide a single narrative on how humanity keeps track of itself. Rather than focus solely on the motives of the Mormons in attempting such an impossible task, Akenson applies his enormous gifts of scholarship and intellect to show how genealogy provides a significant tool in tracing our social and economic history. And he does so with clarity, charm and humour."
(Joel Campbell is a former editor and reporter at the Deseret Morning News and a corporate communications manager. He now teaches college journalism courses and researches issues about journalism ethics and Freedom of Information. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected])