News Story

God's Army

Nick O'Malley, a reporter with the Fairfax newspapers, The Age in Victoria and Sydney Morning Herald in NSW, recently met in Utah with a group of Australia-bound missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).

Later, fellow reporter, Konrad Marshall, met those same missionaries after they had served for a number of months in Victoria.

Missionary Broadcast 1

The reporters' experiences with the Latter-day Saints are presented in the article, "God's Army", which appeared in the newspapers' Good Weekend Magazine, a lift-out from the Saturday editions of both papers, in mid-January. The papers have a total circulation of approximately 500,000 copies.

Mr O'Malley describes his first experiences in Salt Lake City, the home of the international Church.

"I peer up through fogged glass at the dramatically lit Salt Lake Temple, the largest Mormon temple in the world. It was on this cold patch of desert in 1847 that Smith's successor, Brigham Young, stood before a bedraggled mob of Mormon refugees fleeing persecution in the east and proclaimed, 'Here we will build a temple to our God'."

Mr O'Malley says that while looking over Temple Square from the rooftop restaurant of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building the following morning, it was easy to imagine himself being a little closer to God.

"Sunshine blasts off the snow on the peaks and flanks of the Wasatch mountain range that rings the city, making the frozen Disneyland spires of the Temple sparkle and glisten. Looking down, you can see the domed oval roof of the Tabernacle, home of the famed Tabernacle Choir. The city is blanketed by thick powder, all its hard edges obliterated."

He then describes his first contact with the Church's largest Missionary Training Center in Provo, a little south from Salt Lake City, which instructs 60,000 earnest young men and women each year.

"Proselytising has always been among the Mormon Church's first concerns," he says, "and hearing the call to mission is central to the expression of faith to many of the Church's youth."

Mr O'Malley met with three 19-year-old missionaries about to leave for Melbourne, Elders Derek Priestly, Matthew Erickson and Mykal Johnson, who are now working amongst the city's Chinese community.

"Normally," he says, "a missionary would train for around six weeks before being dispatched for his two years of service, and in that time he or she would be taught some theology along with some cultural background on the country of their calling.

"But given that this class also has a new language to learn, its students will have 12 weeks of instruction....But even with this extended training there will be little time to study anything but Mandarin."

No media article about the Church is ever perfect. We should only expect the media to provide balance, never propaganda. Of course, we would never wish to see coverage that is entirely negative.

Nevertheless, the article by Nick O'Malley and Konrad Marshall does an unusually fine job of conveying information about the Church's missionary program and the preparation that young, untried, Latter-day Saints undertake before they leave for their assigned country.

The article imperfectly describes Church doctrine, however. Like many commentaries about the Mormon faith and its history, it leaves out the most defining moment in the restoration of the gospel - the First Vision in which God the Father and the Son appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, in 1820.

Instead, it claims the Church began with the visit of the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith during which he received the gold plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. This is an important part of the Church's history, yes, but not the whole story.

To view the full article, click here.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.