History of Mormons and the Media | Deep End | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

News » Deep End

History of Mormons and the Media


Form its earliest days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has understood the importance of the various media, whether newspapers, telegraph, radio, television or the Internet. Just last November, at a BYU conference on “Mormon Media Studies,” it was asserted that “the media have always been central to the Mormon Experience.” Here are some of the Mormon media highlights throughout history:

600 B.C. Lehi packs his family into a boat and sails to the New World, using the Liahona, an early GPS device, for directions. His Hebrew neighbors receive tweets from Lehi, who periodically appears on King Tut Resurrected, a Reformed Egytian forerunner of Larry King Live.

73 B.C. Helaman, son of Alma, goes undercover to write a three-part investigative article exposing a variety of Nephite iniquities (the usual wickedness, abominations and murders). But, owing to a somewhat crude technology (scratching out Reformed Egyptian characters on golden plates), it takes Helaman several years to complete his expose, by which time the Nephites have humbled themselves, repented and become meek and lowly of heart.

1830 Joseph Smith Jr., who often used the pen name Gazalem, publishes the Book of Mormon, apparently using an early version of the iPhone and the popular translation app. Almost immediately, long-retired scriptural scribes sue him, claiming he lifted entire passages from the the New Testament.

1846 Brigham Young blogs his way across the Great Plains on his way to the Great Salt Lake Valley. He lodges a complaint to the FCC for “exorbitant” long-distance roaming charges from parts of Wyoming to the Celestial Kingdom.

1858 During the Great Mormon Reformation, Brigham Young’s 13th wife, Sally Mander White, writes a controversial advice column for the Deseret News, ranging from seating arrangements for plural wives in the Tabernacle to proper foot care for second anointings.

1865 Brigham Young’s popular pamphlet Dating Tips for Returned Missionaries (rumored to be ghost-written by Orson Hyde) released in a revised 6th edition. Advises not to discuss future number of wives until the second date.

1895 Wilford Woodruff, the fourth Prophet, Seer and Revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, appears on the popular telegraph program I’ve Got a Secret and stumps the panel. Regis Philbin is the only panelist to guess that Elder Woodruff put the kibosh on polygamy, at least here on Earth.

1925 Heber J. Grant, the seventh Prophet, Seer and Revelator who is often mistaken for Sigmund Freud, gains friends for the Church all across the nation for his weekly radio show, Heber and Hyrum, in which the bearded prophet and apostle Hyrum Roundy exchange quips, sings songs, and makes prank phone calls to unsuspecting widows. The wildly popular show paves the way for Amos and Andy, in which a couple of white guys talk like Negroes, as they were called at the time.

1995—2008 The 15th Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Gordon B. Hinckley is a one-man media band. Even before becoming Prophet, Brother Hinckley demonstrates a canny understanding of modern media. His first big coup is turning the sacred temple Endowment ceremony into a movie, which enjoys a long run in theaters around the globe. Once he becomes Prophet, Brother Hinckley is a constant presence on programs such as Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, and Eight is Enough.

2010 The 16th Prophet, Seer and Revelator Thomas Monson, executes the purchase of City Weekly, the only newspaper that provided a non-Church sanctioned voice for gentile readers in Utah and parts of the Celestial Kingdom.