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Two weeks ago, this newsletter considered media misrepresentations of Latter-day Saints.

This time out, let’s celebrate a fresh look at a media representation of Latter-day Saint missions.

A Wall Street Journal reporter recently wrote an excellent piece about two returned missionaries who have qualified to represent the United States in the marathon at the Olympics this summer.

Her opening paragraph drew in readers:

“When Conner Mantz and Clayton Young were starting out as elite distance runners, they did something strange. They stopped competing for two years. They halted all serious training. And they each gained about 30 pounds.”

Conner Mantz, Clayton Young finish 1-2 at Olympic Marathon Trials

The headline writer added an additional tease to what the story would offer: “They Were Elite Runners. Then They Stopped Training, Gained 30 Pounds — and Got Faster.”

The reporter, Rachel Bachman, is outstanding. She made two very interesting choices with this story.

The first was an admirable display of curiosity on her part. She chose to ask a refreshing question about how spending time away from a sport, or any other passion, might benefit someone mentally and emotionally.

She posed the question to Brad Stulberg, whose book “Master of Change” explores identity shifts over time. He told her that having a life outside sports “can relieve self-imposed performance pressure,” she wrote.

“I find I get a lot less nervous than I did in high school,” confirmed Mantz, one of the returned missionary runners. “I enjoy running a whole lot more.”

The second choice Bachman made was not to ask Mantz and Young why they made the choice to serve their mission. Or, maybe she did ask but eventually chose not to include their reasoning in the story.

That could frustrate some readers. The headline and entire story turn on the idea that Mantz and Young made a “strange” decision, so why not give them a sentence or two to explain it? And one of the major weaknesses of many American journalists today is faith reporting.

For example, a recent Deseret News story noted a couple of cringeworthy examples of journalists who don’t understand religion. One happened when a person of faith told a reporter that the answer to a question came back to the book of Ephesians, and the reporter asked who had published that book and where he could get a copy.

But Bachman wasn’t making a choice to avoid faith. She chose to focus on the idea of the benefits of time away from a sport or time spent on other pursuits. She actually spoke to two other marathoners who took time off to birth children and now have returned to finish in the top three of the U.S. women’s Olympic trials.

She didn’t ask the women why they stopped running to have children. Or if she did, she didn’t include their reasons.

In that way, the reporter treated the faith decisions of Mantz and Young as part of the natural human experience. What an invigorating, authentic representation.

Read the full Wall Street Journal story here (paywall).

My recent stories

Utah House Judiciary Committee approves bill that would allow clergy to report child abuse (Feb. 9)

Latter-day Saints celebrate a $46 million global partnership that has fed 6.6 million hungry people (Feb. 8)

About the church

A new survey shows strong cross-generational faith among Latter-day Saints.

The Salt Lake Temple renovation reached another milestone with the placement of the last tower-spire structure.

The church’s humanitarian efforts in Mexico reached 1 million people in 2023.

Sister Hillary Lamphere, a missionary from Ronan, Montana, was injured in an auto-bicycle accident in Magna, Utah.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband visited Maui and delivered a message of ministering and love.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke at BYU-Idaho and invited listeners to “live with trust, faith, joy and gratitude in the spirit of the lilies of the field.”

Elder Ulisses Soares ministered to Latter-day Saints in the Caribbean’s “ABC” islands.

The Manti Utah Temple rededication will be done in a single, late-afternoon session on April 21. No announcement yet on who will preside at the rededication.

The First Presidency announced the Orlando Florida Temple will close for extensive renovations in July 2024.

The First Presidency announced the open house and dedication dates for the Casper Wyoming Temple.

See renderings of the exteriors of two new temples in Brazil.

What I’m reading

The Athletic (paywall) published a big story Wednesday about faith and the Brigham Young University men’s basketball program. The writer, Brendan Quinn, does a really strong job of getting right the unusual space BYU possesses in college sports, especially now that it is in a power conference, the Big 12: “No other power conference school is so tied to its ideology,” Quinn wrote. His references to Krešimir Ćosić, Danny Ainge and Jimmer Fredette are smart, and his descriptions of the rarity of BYU’s place and the questions and tensions it raises are well crafted. In the story, university vice president Keith Vorkink is quoted saying this about Cougar head coach Mark Pope: “There is an element that is like, we’re constraining him, we’re keeping him from just leaning into the way that people think about being successful in basketball. But we think there’s a space for a successful program that doesn’t do it like everyone else. Time will tell.”

Oh, yeah, this story was written for the baseball fan in me: Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy became Super Bowl quarterbacks by playing baseball.

Congratulations to BYU alum and Latter-day Saint Andy Reid for winning a third Super Bowl. That’s three in five seasons and makes him the fifth head coach to win three. Did you know he is now 14-2 in the playoffs over the past five seasons? Or that he is now 284-160-1 as an NFL head coach? The three coaches with more wins are Don Shula (347), Bill Belichick (333) and George Halas (324). Shula and Halas are in the Hall of Fame, and Belichick and Reid will be. Read more about Reid here.

The Black 14 shared a timeless message of forgiveness at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Behind the Scenes

The newly constituted Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are shown in a photo taken Feb. 6, 2024.
The first photo of the newly constituted Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was released Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The photo was taken at the Church Administration Building on Feb. 6, 2024. Front row, left to right: President Jeffrey R. Holland, Elders Dieter F. Uchtdorf, David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, and D. Todd Christofferson. Back row, left to right: Elders Neil L. Andersen, Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, Dale G. Renlund, Gerrit W. Gong, Ulisses Soares and Patrick Kearon. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Jeffrey R. Holland posted the first photo of the newly constituted Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Wednesday. He is the acting president of the quorum, replacing President M. Russell Ballard, who died in November.

“For three decades, it has been my honor and privilege to associate with the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” President Holland wrote. “Without exception, every one of these men has helped me become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.

“As we gathered recently to take a quorum photo, I felt a sense of immense gratitude to be part of an ongoing order of ancient and modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ.

“The names and faces of those in this quorum change over time, but that which is essential remains: each apostle has accepted the charge ‘to be a special witness of the name of Christ in all the world.’ No sweeter work could ever be given to anyone, nor any finer group of men with which to do it.”