Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Chaplain Mark Allison visits with a patient. Many medical institutions see the need to address a patient's spirituality.

Editor's note: This week, the Deseret News is highlighting the best work over the last year in each of its six areas of editorial emphasis. Today, reporter Amy Choate-Nielsen reviews some of the best stories we've done this year about faith and the way it influences American life.

As I stood in the hallway outside of a hospital room at the Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City in October, I was nervous.

I was there, notebook in hand, preparing to write a story about the role of spirituality in the healing process, but as I contemplated joining the hospital chaplain by the patient's bedside, I wondered if it would be awkward discussing faith, seeing pain and witnessing prayer — with a stranger.

It wasn't. As patient after patient eagerly invited the chaplain into their room, I saw how deep the thirst was for a spiritual connection, even among the most non-religious of the group. I realized the positive force faith can be in a stranger's hospital room, and in the public square.

Over the last year, we have told stories of faith in action, from doctors who incorporate spirituality in their medical approach to prison inmates who participate in faith-based programs that refocus their lives.

One story, based around a study that shows 85 percent of 275 scientists believe science and religion never or only occasionally conflict, examines the relationship between science and faith in God. "I have no trouble believing in a God, a benevolent being who takes care of us ... and expects us to learn what in the world he's doing here and how the Earth works," scientist Dixon Woodbury told reporter Sara Israelsen-Hartley.

Other stories took a closer look at the conflict between religious beliefs and organ donation and the need to respect spiritual beliefs of others.

The Deseret News is committed to recognizing the role of faith, a subject that can often be overlooked by the mainstream media. Each week in the faith section of the Deseret News, we tell nationally relevant stories of belief with expert sources that examine trends and capture glimpses of how faith is lived across communities and in individual lives.