A large national magazine published an 8,700-word article early Wednesday about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that included an exclusive interview with President Russell M. Nelson.
“We exist to make life better for people,” President Nelson told McKay Coppins for the story, which is titled “The Most American Religion” and was published at TheAtlantic.com, the website of the Washington-based magazine The Atlantic.
The writer: Coppins is a journalist, a church member and alumnus of Brigham Young University and is known for his coverage of national politics. He gained national prominence when he covered the 2012 presidential run of another church member, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
- Coppins provides a well-written, fresh and personal perspective that includes a photo of his baptism, background on the development of his testimony, tales from his mission to Texas and insights about his time in a congregation in Brooklyn, the Bushwick Ward.
The question: Coppins wrote the article as a personal essay and a piece of explanatory journalism that surveys the church’s history at length and asks a central question: “What happens when a religious group discovers that it’s spent 200 years assimilating to an America that no longer exists?”
- The perpetual outsider-ness of Latter-day Saints and their efforts to meet a national ideal has been tackled before by authors like J. B. Haws, Matthew Bowman, Paul Reeve and Stephen Mansfield. Coppins adds his political lens and notes that assimilation is complicated by growing American divisions.
Interview with President Nelson: Near the end of the interview with President Nelson, Coppins said the 96-year-old, who is considered a prophet by church members, told him that “Judgment day is coming for me pretty soon” and shared by what criteria he expects to be judged.
- It’s not the first time President Nelson, who is 96, has talked about the next stage of life. He discussed it in similar fashion in a Church News video this summer titled “Silver Linings”: “The purpose of the church is to bring the blessings of God to his children on both sides of the veil. So only in our temples do we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for his faithful children. So how difficult was it to make the decision to close the temples? That was painful. It was wracked with worry. I found myself asking, ‘What would I say to the Prophet Joseph Smith? What would I say to Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and the other presidents on up to President Thomas S. Monson?’ I’m going to meet them soon. To close the temples would deny all for which all those brethren gave everything. But we really had no other alternative.”