In 2017, the most-read LDS feature stories were stories of people who lived what they believed while navigating life’s twists and turns.
They grieved with Heidi Swapp as they read about her experience of losing a child to suicide.
As natural disasters plagued many parts of the world, the Deseret News reported from many locations worldwide. Stories of faith included Mormon missionaries airlifted out of Puerto Rico and Latter-day Saints who braved floodwaters to rescue others in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.
However, the top LDS feature of 2017 was about one Mormon missionary and the Utah Jazz jersey that served as evidence of God’s love.
The following are the most-read LDS stories from the Faith section on DeseretNews.com from 2017.
Parker Strong was a 19-year-old missionary struggling to adjust during his first few months serving in the Ghana Accra Mission when one September night, he saw a young boy wearing a Jr. Jazz basketball jersey. As Strong examined the jersey more closely, he discovered it was the exact same jersey he had worn as a child.
"Literally all my fears, all of my doubts, everything was laid to rest," Strong said. "The odds of that happening are extremely astronomical. That just doesn’t happen, that’s not a coincidence. I looked at it and got pretty teary thinking of that and looking at it. Here in my hands was evidence that God loved me and that he was telling me that I was where I was supposed to be. It was in the form of a Jr. Jazz jersey that I’m sure I had signed at the time because I thought I was going to be some big star and it was going to sell for millions of dollars. But no, sitting in Ghana, West Africa, was my jersey, and it was more priceless to me than it ever could have been."
Read Strong’s story here.
Tom Christofferson had a unique motivation for sharing his experience as a gay member of the LDS Church. It wasn’t to draw attention to himself but rather, Christofferson wanted to “shed light on the loving examples of his accepting family and the open arms of an LDS Ward in New Canaan, Connecticut.”
In his interview with the Deseret News, Christofferson called being gay “one of the greatest blessings of my life.”
"For me, being gay is one of the greatest blessings of my life because I came to a point where I felt I really had to know that Christ lives, that his Atonement and resurrection are realities that have impact in my life," Christofferson told the Deseret News. "Other people come to that knowledge in their own ways, but this caused me to seek knowledge. I am incredibly grateful for this path."
Read Christofferson’s story here.
When Xian Mackintosh decided to tell his parents that he was gay, he sent them a private Facebook message. And although Scott and Becky Mackintosh were first caught off guard and struggled to find the correct response, they found that promptings from the spirit helped them realize that “loving is not condoning, it’s making a person feel that they have value and they do belong,” Becky Mackintosh said.
"The kind of message it’s sending is you love and you care for others," she said. "That there’s no possible thing a family member can do that will put them outside of the family circle."
Read the Mackintoshes' story here.
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, it left the island with no power, no phone service, no internet and no running water. The hurricane resulted in a complete evacuation of missionaries serving in the area, marking the second time in four years that the LDS Church has evacuated an entire mission.
"We all felt heartbroken, completely heartbroken, to leave our island and the people that we loved," Eliza Turner, 20, one of the evacuated missionaries, said at the time.
At the beginning of December it was announced that “some of the missionaries” would be returning to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.
“Fourteen young elders will return to Puerto Rico, and two senior couples will return to St. Croix and St. Thomas. Decisions about the return of the additional missionaries will be made at a later date.”
Read the story of the evacuation here.
Cory Swapp was “a rugby player with an affinity for animal T-shirts.” He had a girlfriend, a car and had just purchased a new skateboard when he took his own life at the age of 16. In April, his mother, Heidi Swapp, shared her family’s experience of coping with grief and finding hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Swapp recalled an experience she had as her son’s body lay seemingly lifeless and yet, because his organs were being donated, his body was being kept alive as donor criteria was prepared.
His heart was still beating, his lungs were still working and his skin was warm. But Swapp, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and CEO of a scrapbooking company, had a feeling that her son’s spirit was somewhere else.
"As the sun was coming up, I distinctly heard and felt the spirit tell me that a loving Heavenly Father had allowed Cory to come home," Swapp remembers. "And that thought has carried me. I knew that a loving Heavenly Father knew what Cory was going through and that Cory was not alone, that he was not off wandering somewhere, that he was going home.”
Read Swapp’s story here.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath, Deseret News’ reporter Tad Walch wrote of the impact of the storm in the lives of Latter-day Saints. He found that the floodwaters had “displaced hundreds of Mormons, breached the faith’s Texas Houston Temple, damaged meetinghouses (and) canceled Sunday worship service.”
He learned that homes were flooding that had never previously flooded. He found that trucks were driving through with boats if people wanted to leave. One member reported that following the flooding, “the temple is an island now.”
Read the story of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Latter-day Saints here.
On Oct. 13, the Shir-Ha-Ma’alot Jewish congregation met in the LDS Church’s Irvine California Stake Center for the last time. The sermon given by Rabbi Richard Steinberg was titled, “What We Have Learned from Our Friends.”
Members of the LDS stake were invited to attend and more than 200 Jews and Mormons met together and listened as Rabbi Steinberg “expressed appreciation for the commitment of church members to put aside their basic tenet to share the gospel while his congregation was in the building,” Karen Kimball reported. “Not one person would even 'missionize' to us," he said. Through the year, he had gained a greater understanding of why Mormons want to share the truths they believe. Yet, he saw how they refrained from proselytizing "in order to achieve a higher religious value."
Read the entire story here.
Morgan Jones’ look at Mormon mommy blogging came just weeks after Mike Thayer published an article titled “Utah: Lifestyle Porn Capital of the World,” in which he argued that Utah and Mormon mommy bloggers create unrealistic expectations. Thayer went as far as to compare these mommy blogs to pornography.
Jones interviewed five women within the LDS blogging community in an effort to provide a thoughtful response to Thayer’s article.
“I think it’s a great article to get people thinking,” said Shawni Pothier, who even has a disclaimer on her blog to remind readers that they are viewing a filtered version of her life. “Because I think there is some responsibility on both sides. I think bloggers could be more real in things they do but I also think that readers have a responsibility to kind of turn off things that are going to make them feel uncomfortable or feel lacking in any way.”
Read the entire article here.
Deseret News reporter Tad Walch challenged the founder of MormonLeaks, a website for those who want to release information anonymously from inside the LDS Church, on his “declared Siren song” of transparency. Walch sought answers to a number of questions in an article published in February:
“If McKnight believes transparency is a top, or the only, priority, should he be more transparent? Do his leaks serve the higher public interest? Or is it a kind of 21st-century Peeping Tom-foolery, digital voyeurism, if you will, to traffic in an apostle's personal financial documents, a decades-old excommunication letter, dated routine memos and private organizational videos?
“… Is it legal, or ethical, for White House or church sources to leak confidential information? Should news outlets or leaks websites be egging them on, as the New York Times now does? Is McKnight serving a legitimate journalistic function, as he claims? And finally, what is the responsibility of a news consumer today?”
Read the answers Walch discovered here.
In June, author Greg McKeown uniquely discussed his New York Times best-seller, “Essentialism,” through a gospel perspective. In addition to sharing his own story, McKeown explained concepts found in his book, which encourages readers to determine and accomplish that which is essential in life while eliminating the non-essential.1 comment on this story
An LDS bishop in California, McKeown broke down the principles he can often be found sharing with employees at large companies like Apple, Google and Facebook as they relate to Latter-day Saint beliefs and doctrines.
McKeown spoke of what he calls “divine trade-offs” and called the work of making the right choice in specific life situations “the work of life.”
“The nature of the plan is that we cannot do it all. … If there were no trade-offs, there would be no need for agency,” he said. “I just have to figure out from the Lord what he wants me to do, what my errand from the Lord is.”
Read McKeown’s story here.