The Newsroom Blog

Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right | September 29, 2015

“Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right” presents several recent news articles, blog posts or videos that provide accurate and fair reporting on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as those that misrepresent the faith to readers.

In the “Blood Moon” Story, It Was the News Media, Not Mormons Who Needed to Be Calmed

Earlier this month a story in The Salt Lake Tribune reported how the writings of one Mormon woman were prompting "some Mormons" to prepare for catastrophic events. The news hook for the story was a short memo issued internally to the Church's seminaries and institutes reminding instructors that this individual’s writings were not to be taught as Church doctrine.

While such a memo does represent a note of caution to those teaching young people, the news media stretched the story to make it much larger than it deserved. Headlines included:

“Is The World Going to End in September? Mormon Apocalypse 2015 Prediction Has People Stocking Up on Food” (International Business Times)

“The Mormon Apocalypse May Have Started This Week” (Patheos)

“Stock Up! The End Is Near! Or So Say Mormons…” (Western Journalism)

“Mormon Apocalypse Scheduled for This September” (Softpedia)

Some outlets even erroneously referred to an evangelical pastor preaching about the same subject as a Mormon. Others used photos of polygamists in 19th-century dress to illustrate "Mormons."

The Church responded to specific media calls and the general media overreach in hundreds of other stories by emailing a number of journalists explaining its concerns with exaggerated reports and further distancing itself from the story. The statement was sent to reporters, not to Church members, and was not even posted on a Church website until after Church members saw it in news outlets and began asking about it.

The Associated Press interpreted the statement directed at the news media in this way:

A rare confluence of a lunar eclipse and a supermoon set to happen this weekend has prompted such widespread fear of an impending apocalypse that the Mormon Church was compelled to issue a statement cautioning the faithful to not get caught up in speculation about a major calamity.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told its 15 million worldwide members that they should be "spiritually and physically prepared for life's ups and downs," but urged them not to take speculation from individual church members as doctrine and "avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events" (emphasis added).

This misinterpretation by the Associated Press that the statement was to reassure members rather than to correct misinformation from the news media (see text of statement) resulted in many inaccurate headlines including VICE claiming “Fears of 'Blood Moon' Apocalypse Prompt Mormon Church to Issue Call for Calm,” and Slate saying “Mormon Leaders Reassure Faithful: Sunday’s ‘Blood Moon’ Isn’t Sign of Apocalypse,” and in The Guardian, "Mormon Church Issues Call for Calm as 'Blood Moon' Sparks Apocalypse Fears." None of these publications or any others with similar headlines ever reached out to the Church to check their facts. 

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