A few days ago ABC News did about a 9 minute TV report on Mormons, interviewing Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook, and discussing issues such as polygamy, Prop 8, and also paying particular interest in the temple. See the video below. With the Draper Temple open house running from January 15 through March 14, ABC News reporter Dan Harris and other reporters were invited to tour the new temple with the apostles and ask questions.
How do you think ABC did in accurately portraying the Church and our beliefs? In explaining the temple? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
On balance, I thought the segment was fair and accurate. I am pleased to see the Church open up to the media and present a defense and provide an explanation of our faith.
I thought it was an excellent report. The reporter actually defended the church quite well on the polygamy issue. He handled the temple issues very well and allowed the Apostles to say what they wanted without too much splicing. I plan on e-mailing the reporter (Dan Harris at ABC News) and thanking him for his report.
Does he call him Elder “Took” at 2:48-2:51?
There were some really odd pieces that were aired, for example, Elder Ballard’s statement that “We know the voice of the Lord, we know when he wants us to do something.” It seems that there was much more to that part of the conversation, but was missing. They tried to use it to prove their point that we believe these two to be prophets, seers and revelators, but it sounded a bit presumptuous to me.
Also, what’s up with the story by Ballard about praying for rain and it miraculously rained? Again, this seemed like it was part of a much bigger teaching moment but was cut down for TV time. Announcing to the world that you prayed for rain and a miracle happened seems like you’re overcompensating for something lacking. There has to be more to that, I believe.
I agree with Jeremy. Though the information was correct, the interview was, on the whole, unflatteringly edited. The part about proposition 8 was especially suspicious because it didn’t seem like the Apostles answered the reporter’s question, although I’ve seen interviews and press releases from the church that answer this question just fine. It seems hard to believe that those brief comments were the extent of the interview. The part where Elder Ballard said, “We know how to get things done,” seems especially presumptious to me without the context that most surely surrounded it. The way ABC presented it, it seemed like he was saying almost implied that what the church did was right because they were capable of getting it done, which doesn’t seem like something Elder Ballard would say at all.
I guess I suspect editing because of the disjunction between question and answer in the interview. It is reasonable to deflect or delicately handle one or two sensitive questions, but when not a single answer is direct, I smell a rat. The comments from the Apostles sounded more like sound bites than the fluid speech I’ve heard from them in the past.
Calling the Church the Mormon Church is so wrong. Does the Church belong to Mormon or Jesus Christ? Besides the constant use of the term Mormon Church it was a fairly balanced report about the Church. As a ‘fundamentalist’ I hope that the media corrects the name of the Church to the true name and stops demeaning the Church that Jesus Christ set up.
I know there is a lot of misunderstanding among some groups regarding the FLDS, but even airing pictures of them during a report on our church, much less REPEATEDLY airing pictures of them, is ridiculous. If ABC were doing a story on modern-day Judaism, would they include pieces on break-away sects from Judaism that have nothing to do with the modern group? I think not.
Overall, the story was better than some, however. I agree the Church did not get an opportunity to defend itself on Prop. 8 the way it could have, but that’s to be expected with these types of reports.
Related to this story, I was commuting to work here in Austin a few days ago and listening to NPR. Apparently they had been invited as well for a radio tour of the temple. It, like the ABC interview, was spliced to fit into its time slot, but of most interest to me was how Elders Ballard and Cook sounded when my mind was in non-General Conference mode.
Overall, the report was quite balanced and described some of the rooms in the temple. It didn’t spend a lot of time on Prop 8 but stuck to the purpose for which the reporters had come. The only thing that didn’t seem to sit well with me was the way the Elders seemed to talk to the reporter, or in other words, as if he understood words like “baptistry” or “sealed for time and all eternity”. For some reason it sort of rubbed me the wrong way and I can’t put my finger on why. Perhaps I was hoping that these terms, which make sense to us, would have been adjusted for the layman like President Hickley was able to do or at least clarify. Or I am just too sensitive about it.
I just came away with the distinct impression that a person listening to NPR whose only knowledge about the Church was about Prop 8 listened and it was a wasted opportunity to clarify exactly what really happens in a temple to an audience who will probably never hear it from someone so official. Maybe I’m just too sensitive about that.
I thought the report was quite fair. The reporter, however, wasn’t very convinced because at the beginning of the program and before the interview, he still referred the polygamists in Texas as “Mormons”.
In my opinion Elders Ballard and Cook did not expresse clear enough that the teachings of the Church concerning marriage between man and woman are not only teachings of the Church but comes from God through revelation.
I believe that Elder Ballard’s desire to present our doctrine, our history, and our beliefs to the world is very legitimate. He doesn’t want the church to be misunderstood. However, it’s sad that so much of the interview with the Elders was spliced and shorted by reporters and editors. Regardless of Elder Ballard’s wishes he still wasn’t able to tell the mission and purpose of the church. I find that very ironic. How much the public saw of Elder Ballard and Elder Cook’s message was determined by reporters and editors.
I agree with Geoff B. Why even mention the FLDS? What was the point in doing that? I thought the purpose of the interview was to dispel the “myths” of Mormonism. It seem like they were trying to maintain speculations. Also, I felt the introductory to the interview was a bit awkward. Where the anchor mention that the Mormon church is now opening the “doors in attempted to dispel some of the myths surrounding their faith”. This as always bothered me because we have 50,000 to 60,000 missionaries throughout the world and 13 million members who share the gospel. The church has been sending missionaries throughout the world since the 1830’s. I feel the church has always been opening the “doors” to others, people aren’t just listening.
Overall, the interview was better than many others. Eventually the church will get it’s message to all the world because the scriptures say that none will be left with excuse.
To better understand doctrinally why the church supported Prop 8, I recommend Elder Oaks’s talk entitled, “Same-Gender Attraction”. Read the 11 Gospel Doctrines he outlines and ask yourself, how would those doctrines be maintained if the church supported and allowed gay marriage? For example, Elder Oaks mentions, “The purpose of mortal life and the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to prepare the sons and daughters of God for their destiny—to become like our heavenly parents”. How would supporting gay marriage prepare God’s children for their destiny-to become like our heavenly parents? It wouldn’t. In fact, it would be contrary to it’s purpose. It’s an interested exercise which I recommend to do. The church isn’t picking on anyone. It’s defending the gospel of Christ.
One thing to always remember with the major networks is that they NEVER have incentive to portray anything righteous or good in a positive light. An editor’s creedo is “If it bleeds, it leads” and “the more controversy, the better”. News is, by definition, something new, unheard of, sensational, titilating. People don’t turn on the TV to hear good things about churches contributing to social welfare causes and the like. They turn it on to hear the body counts and the stuff that they never expected. At least that’s what the news industry believes.
Would it really kill these reporters to just portray the Church as it is and not as a caricature of their prejudices? It really can be done properly in 9 minutes. Really.
I thought it was great! I was upset at first at how they lumped the LDS and FLDS together, but then made the distinction later. I thought the Apostles stood firm on LDS beliefs and doctrines. I even liked Elder Ballard’s comment on how able LDS people are to get things done. For me the best wrap up was the last verse. I think I see the LDS church becoming more and more involved and conspicuous in defending what we believe in.
Bryce – I hope you don’t mind if I leave a couple suggestions to this post. This morning, after watching the video by ABC News about Mormons & Temples, I clicked on the link to the ABC News site which featured the story, Mormons Open Doors to Discuss Religion. As I scanned through the comments to the story, I noticed that there are many who continue to insist on defining the teachings of the Church without regard to current leadership or present practices.
It would be nice to see some of the same or similar comments above left on the ABC News site. It would also be beneficial to see links – (if possible, I haven’t tried it yet) – in a few of these comments back to your blog, or at least to specific posts on your blog. You have so many posts about the rich history of temple building and worship that touches upon so many religious traditions that it may assist some in putting this story into some context.
Just a thought.
The goals of the news media are not the goals of the Church, nor its leadership or members. They are looking for an interesting story. The wonderful news of the gospel is not, to them, an interesting story; gossip and rumors about how weird we are make great copy. If you are ever going to read or hear or see balanced, instructive coverage of Church doctrines, history, or individuals, it will be in a Church publication — or on the cutting-room floor. It won’t make it into mass media, because it won’t sell. Nobody will keep watching, listening, or reading.
I noted in this article the ever present concern of secular and some religious people about the secrecy of the temple ceremony. I am not sure how to respond in a meaningful way to secular critics, but I stumbled on what may be a useful explanation for our Christian and Jewish brothers. While scanning through radio stations, I happened upon a Christian network exploring the concept of Holiness and being Holy. It turns out the Hebrew word for “holiness,” “kedushah” (Hebrew: קדושה) has the connotation of “separateness.” That which is holy in Judaism is set apart, and the separation is maintained by both legal and spiritual measures.
Thus Holiness to the Lord would mean set apart for or to the Lord
“Sacred” comes from the Latin sacrum, which referred to god and to sacer, priest; sanctum, set apart. It was generally conceived spatially.
“Holy” and “holiness” come from 13th Century with the Old English word hālig derived from hāl meaning health, happiness and wholeness. As “wholeness”, holiness may be taken to indicate a state of religious completeness or perfection.
To properly communicate why temples are dedicated or set apart to and for the Lord use of the Holy would help our Christian brothers. We have, I think, relied too much on the simplistic alliteration “sacred not secret” to communicate what may be more completely understood by the phrase “Holiness to the Lord” as a setting apart for the Lord.