Salt Lake City

Mormon style update: AP changes rules on referring to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Mormon style update: AP changes rules on referring to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Earlier this month, I wrote a post titled “Associated Press coverage of post-Mormon Latter-day Saints full of irony — or is it mockery?”

That post addressed the irony of an Associated Press story that reported on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moving away from using the nickname “Mormon” while still emphasizing that term in the headline and lede.

“Is there any chance it was mockery?” I asked about the AP approach, linking to a related tweet by Joel Campbell, a Brigham Young University journalism professor.

Right after writing that post, I joined a group of U.S. religion journalists on a trip to Israel. So I haven’t had a chance until now to mention that soon after that story was published — and after my critique of it ran at GetReligion — AP updated its style on Mormons.

Campbell tweeted that he was “grateful” for the update.

Both the Salt Lake Tribune and the church-owned Deseret News reported on the change — and the significance of it.

The Tribune noted:

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Sexual assault debates: Journalists weigh in on 'licked cupcakes' at Brigham Young

Sexual assault debates: Journalists weigh in on 'licked cupcakes' at Brigham Young

No college is more averse to bad publicity than a religious school because of its heavy dependence of like-minded donors and the pressure to keep up the appearance of defending the faith. Which is why the recent contretemps about Brigham Young University’s honor code policy and campus rape victims is making the rounds in the mainstream news media.

An honor code -- or lifestyle/doctrinal covenant -- is a set of behaviors a student agrees to before enrolling. At BYU, they include everything from extramarital sex to wearing sleeveless blouses.

Let’s start with how the latest article on the controversy –- from the Los Angeles Times -- handled it:

Madeline MacDonald was a freshman at Brigham Young University when a casual date turned into what she said was a sexual assault.
The Seattle 19-year-old had met a man through the online dating site Tinder. He said he was Mormon, which put MacDonald at ease, and she agreed to meet him for hot chocolate.
They never made it to a cafe, though. Instead, the man drove her up into the mountains, and there, she says, he molested her.
Campus officials opened a sexual assault investigation. But they also opened an inquiry to determine whether MacDonald had violated the private Mormon university’s honor code, which requires that students adhere to the school’s strict rules for proper behavior -- no swearing, coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol or premarital sex.

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'Book of Mormon' opens in Salt Lake City to a sold-out crowd and fair coverage by AP

'Book of Mormon' opens in Salt Lake City to a sold-out crowd and fair coverage by AP

My wife and I saw "The Book of Mormon" musical when it came to Oklahoma City last year.

I had heard songs on the soundtrack and read news stories about the production, so I was curious.

I laughed a lot and squirmed a lot, too: Going in, I probably was naive. I'm one who tends to avoid even R-rated movies, so the extreme crudeness — language, sex objects, etc. — caught me off guard.

"The Book of Mormon" is back in the headlines this week, which is no surprise given where it's being staged.

The Associated Press reports:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The biting satirical musical that mocks Mormons received a rousing reception Tuesday in its first-ever showing in the heart of Mormonlandia, kicking off a sold-out, two-week run at a Salt Lake City theater.
The audience cheered wildly as the Tony Award-winning "The Book of Mormon" began, with the show's gleefully naive missionaries singing in front of a backdrop of the Salt Lake City skyline and Mormon temple that resembles the real one just two blocks away.
They laughed loudly as the jokes played out, many touching on Mormon lingo and culture that is intimately familiar in Utah. Some of the most raucous applause came during a scene when an African character sings, "Salt Lake City, the most perfect place on Earth." At the conclusion, attendees at the Capitol Theater crowd gave the actors a standing ovation.
Despite the jokes and jabs that create a caricature of Mormon beliefs, there were no protests outside and no mass walkouts during opening night. The playbill did include three advertisements from the Mormon church, including a picture of a smiling man with the words, "You've seen the play, now read the book."

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Crux chronicles Mormons versus Catholics in Salt Lake City evangelism efforts

Crux chronicles Mormons versus Catholics in Salt Lake City evangelism efforts

The massive immigration of Hispanics to northward into the United States over the past 50 years and how that influx has shaped American churches is one of the century’s biggest religion stories.

Even back in the 1980s, when I was covering religion for the Houston Chronicle, the word on the street was that for every Latino Catholic who made it across the border, plenty of Baptists and Pentecostals lay in wait to evangelize them. The mainline Protestant churches got into the act as well. Fast forward to around 2009 or 2010 at my Episcopal congregation in Maryland. At our Spanish-language service, 90 percent of the congregation were former Catholics.

The Roman Catholics haven’t taken this lying down, but it’s been an uneven fight, with one side undergoing a priest shortage with a typical congregation numbering in the thousands versus smaller and more nimble Protestant churches.

The Mormons have gotten into the act as well, as this article from Crux illustrates. This passage is long, but crucial:

The allure of secularism combined with efforts by other Christian denominations to appeal to Latino sensibilities has resulted in a mad scramble by Catholic leaders to create welcoming communities before a mass Hispanic exodus dramatically reshapes its once certain future.
Here in Salt Lake City, where the dominant Mormon population is known for its strong emphasis on community, the Catholic Church faces a specific set of challenges…

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Ah, the journalistic beauty — and boredom — of Mormon leadership succession

 Ah, the journalistic beauty — and boredom — of Mormon leadership succession

On the religion beat, it doesn’t get any better than a papal election. The international media go bonkers with speculation on who’s up or down in the cardinals’ secret maneuvering to select the next occupant of Peter’s throne, accompanied by sidebars on the arcane process, and culminating in those twice-daily gatherings in Peter’s square to watch for chemically-induced white smoke.

Analysis of the papabile (“pope-able”) personalities often turns out to be amusingly off-base. (You can forgive the Religion Guy for noting that Time magazine was the only major medium to name John Paul II as a prospect in 1978, because total credit goes not to yours truly as the New York religion writer but to crackerjack correspondents back when the weekly operated a Rome Bureau.)  

By contrast, contemplate the journalistic beauty –- and boredom –- in picking a new head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. “Mormon”).  If reporters have the time this week, they can already update their prepared  articles on the man who will take charge upon the death of President Thomas S. Monson, who turns 88 on August 21.

(At the church-owned daily Deseret News, Monson was an ad executive and later general manager of its parent publishing and printing firm. The church operates without professional clergy so that, remarkably, its doctrinal authorities have secular careers minus the academic training in theology expected of the average Protestant parson or Catholic parish priest.)  

 As Godbeat veterans will be well aware, the new president is automatically the man (yes, necessarily a male) with the earliest date of admission into the LDS church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It’s as though the longest-serving cardinal would always become the next pope.

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