Church Sees Worldwide Media Coverage

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Twenty-year-old Reggie Cavalier nervously adjusts his tie as he prepares to be interviewed for the Slovenian television network Pop TV.

Cavalier, from Pennsylvania, is in the middle of a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His interview for the news program 24 Hours aired nationally last week.

This comes hot on the heels of a newspaper feature about two of his missionary colleagues, Jana Milika and Kelsie Maughan, that hit Slovenian newsstands a few days earlier. The television network National TV will air yet another report profiling missionaries and their faith next week.

Europe Central Area director of public affairs, Gabriele Sirtl, believes that "journalists in Europe are aware that the Church is growing, and they want to find out why. We are building a large chapel in Slovenia even though members have only been in the country since 1991 and membership is still relatively small. This raises questions about who we are and what we believe."

German Latter-day Saint leader Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of one of the Church's senior governing bodies, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently met with reporters in his homeland. As a result, close to 60 articles were published in newspapers across the country, profiling his life and the core beliefs of his faith.

Sirtl believes that "in countries like the United States where there is a long and rich tradition of religious pluralism, many journalists skip the basics of a faith in their reporting and focus on contrasts with other churches. Solely concentrating on differences is often driven by a desire to situate a specific faith within the wider religious mosaic."

But she says that journalists in Slovenia and other places where such a diversified religious milieu either does not exist or is emerging "have to start from scratch. They are building their knowledge and their stories from the basics."

"Are you Christian?"

"What do you believe?"

"How is your faith similar to others -- and how is it different?"

Sirtl suggests that "the question for reporters is 'Do you start at the edges and work your way in -- or do you begin at the core and work your way out?'"

Many Slovenian and other European reporters, by necessity, are showing that starting at the center of Mormonism and then working their way out to the more detailed doctrines and practices is an effective way to seriously report on a people and a faith.

"If you understand the core, you will more than likely be better able to make sense of the periphery."

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