Sheri Dew invites BYU students to champion faith-filled media

Sheri Dew addresses an audience at Brigham Young University. The event was held in the Hinkley Center on the BYU campus. (Chloe Peterson)

The BYU School of Communications and the Wheatley Institute partnered to hold a lecture with Sister Sheri Dew, a celebrated religious author and media professional. Sister Dew taught the importance of championing faith-filled media in her address which she gave on the BYU campus on April 3.

Sister Dew is the current executive vice president and chief content officer of Deseret Management Corporation. She is known for her service as a counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency and for authoring several biographies of former presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU President C. Shane Reese welcomed attendees and introduced Dew as a world class communicator and tremendous disciple of Jesus Christ.

Sister Dew’s address, “The Intersection of Faith, Media, and Wellness,” focused on how the subject of faith is treated by modern media and the responsibility of faithful individuals and media professionals to promote stories of faith.

Portrayals of faith in the media

Amid the worldwide pandemic in June 2020, Dew’s mother passed away. As the funeral procession drove through Sister Dew’s hometown of Ulysses, Kansas, they passed a woman who in reverence to the cortege stood with one hand on the hood of her parked truck, her head bowed in a demonstration of “profound reverence and respect,” Sister Dew said.

Sheri Dew shares a statistic from the Pew Research Center. The study found 84% of humankind is affiliated with a religion. (Chloe Peterson)

Sister Dew said she holds the image of this woman as an example of everyday faithful individuals whose stories are often excluded from the mainstream media.

She went on to share statistics gathered by the Faith & Media Initiative, an organization aiming to improve collaboration and understanding between faith and media.

According to the Pew Research Center, 84% of humankind is affiliated with a religion — a figure Sister Dew said was surprising to her upon first hearing it since she expected the number to be lower.

“Why does the preponderance of today’s stories about faith in news media and entertainment lack accuracy, truth, the profound nature of faith and why does it lack hope?” Sister Dew said.

Vicious cycle to virtuous cycle

Sister Dew suggested media silence on the topic of faith has created a vicious cycle, in which faith becomes further disregarded the more it is ignored.

“If faith is muted, it means that we don’t become literate about faith, which means that faith practices diminish, which causes us to mute faith further,” Sister Dew said.

One of the dangers of this vicious cycle is the possibility that individuals who are looking for faith, hope or guidance may not even consider religion as a resource, as they lack access to examples of faith in the media they consume, Sister Dew said.

Sister Dew then suggested ways to shift into a more virtuous cycle of media and faith. She proposed individuals champion faith in the media by modeling faith in their everyday lives, educating about faith and practicing faith.

“Ask yourself, ‘What can I do in my sphere of influence — however big it is and wherever it goes — to make a difference and champion the fact that we know we have a Heavenly Father, we believe in Jesus Christ and we believe that following Him makes all the difference?’” Sister Dew said.

Go change the world

After her remarks, Sister Dew sat down with Paul S. Edwards, BYU Wheatley Institute director, for a Q&A session. Questions were submitted by audience members and ranged in topic from how to pursue a career in media to what Sister Dew has learned from writing biographies of modern prophets.

Sheri Dew sits with Paul S. Edwards, director of the Wheatley Institute at BYU, for a Q&A session. Questions were submitted by audience members via a QR code. (Chloe Peterson)

Sister Dew shared her own struggles with feeling inadequate in the roles she has filled throughout her career and Church service. She spoke about stepping out of her comfort zone and growing through struggles.

She pointed to former Utah Governor Gary Herbert and his wife Jeanette Herbert in the audience to illustrate her point.

“When they were students, they probably didn’t see themselves occupying the governor’s mansion, but they had to figure out how to step into the breach,” Sister Dew said.

After the Q&A, Dew stayed to mingle with audience members who lined up for a chance to speak with her. After hugging one young audience member, Sister Dew encouraged her to “go change the world.”

Role model for the rising generation

Homey Edossa is originally from Ethiopia and now living in Germany. She visited Utah to watch the 194th Annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was invited by her friends to attend Sister Dew’s lecture.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be a woman who was going to give a speech,” Edossa said. “How she talks, it reflects that she is strong, there is a strong feeling around her.”

Savannah Curtiss, a BYU sophomore studying international relations, shared her gratitude for Sister Dew’s words and the effect of having examples of successful women.

“She’s such a role model — someone we can really look up to and aspire to be like,” Curtiss said.

Sister Dew’s most recent book, titled “Prophets See Around Corners,” was published last year and is available for purchase.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email