By Dr. Laurie J. Wilson, APR
Tuesday evening on CNN, we witnessed yet again the courage of our prophet as he used mass media to broadcast his message to the world.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has demonstrated once more that mass media — often vilified as the enemy — is but a piece in the tool kit necessary to fulfill his own challenge to “bring the church out of obscurity.”
Unlike some previous prophets and general authorities, President Hinckley seems not to fear the mass media. Rather, he uses it for his own purposes. In the last couple of years, we have seen an openness to media unparalleled in the history of the church.
We all held our breath and watched as President Hinckley conversed with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes.” We have seen a Time magazine article on the LDS Church that focused, among other topics, on its financial strength.
We have seen “USA Today” do a spread on the opening of a temple, complete with pictures and details never before released to the media or the public. We saw an op-ed (opposite the editorial page) piece on the pioneer trek signed by President Hinckley and published in the “Wall Street Journal” on July 24, 150 years after the entry of the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley.
And we saw throughout the world the media results of the CD ROM that LDS Public Affairs produced to provide background and other information on the church to reporters and editors.
Training and experience in mass media has served our prophet well, and we would be wise to heed his example. As we pursue our professions and careers, as we raise our families, let us recognize the power of media to spread the kingdom of God.
While at this university, we should seek to gain an understanding of the role and operation of mass media in society. Let us then hold our local media accountable to support values and high standards in our communities.
Let us expect media to not only identify problems in society, but also to support their resolution. Let us learn to use mass media effectively to raise awareness of The Church of Jesus Christ, and to broadcast and publish our message of salvation to our local communities and the world.
Let us learn that mass media is not — in and of itself — evil, but that its influence is shaped by those who have learned to use it. Let us learn to be not only wise consumers of mass media, but also effective users of this tool.
Let us remember the sage advice of filmmaker James Fleck, “If religious-minded people can’t use the media effectively, then anti-religious factions will form the value systems of the world.”