Arts & Entertainment
Mark Twain's report of Salt Lake City was less than kind. But did you know he was a well-known satirical writer? And that he wrote about his visit five years after the fact?
Mark Twain—author of popular classics like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—was celebrated in his New York Time obituary as the “greatest American humorist of his age.”
On June 8, 1867, the “father of American literature” set sail on the pleasure cruiser Quaker City for a five month trip through Europe and the Middle East. His record of that trip turned into one of his earliest works, a lampoon of the people and customs of the region titled The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrim’s Progress—proof that he was an equal-opportunity satirist who could find humor in just about everything (and everyone).
The Saints had gathered to Zion partly so they could be in a location remote enough that they could be left in peace to practice their religion. But that remoteness also encouraged the area to become “a gathering place and focal point for a myriad of jokes, myths, and distortions which would long go uncorrected.” As former LDS Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington believed, the well-attended public lectures and writings of eminent 19th century humorists—among them, Mark Twain—probably did much to influence national attitudes and, consequently, national policies regarding the Mormons.
MR says: This video from 1973 is like today's World Report.
Beginning around 1970, our department had sponsored newsreel-style movies under the series title The Church in Action. These annual or five-year retrospectives used existing footage to feature newsworthy events like the international travels of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brigham Young University’s dance teams. Useful though they were in featuring Church events in multiple countries, these films did not begin to capture the depth of Church history around the globe. 
As a scholar of religion and media, my ears perked up. In what contexts & settings were such films screened? The notion of a pre-feature newsreel was completely passe by the 1970s, so this seems a fascinating model to have promoted in that decade. Were they broadcast before or between general conference sessions, as the Global Report is now? Were they sent or loaned or distributed out to church units somehow, or only kept centrally in Salt Lake as a form of denomination-wide journaling for the ages? The series doesn’t seem to have been digitized (yet), so we can’t go back and look in depth at each one (but if we could: master’s thesis, anyone??).
Discover the story of how one Latter-day Saint took down two notorious criminals and became one of the most honored members of the FBI.
Photo of Sam Cowley from keepapitchinin.org
What do notorious gangsters John Dillinger and Lester Gillis (aka “Baby Face Nelson”) have to do with the LDS Church? Simple: they were tracked and ultimately killed thanks to the action of a Mormon government agent—an action that secured his billing as a national hero.
Sam Cowley was launched into the workforce just in time to witness “Black Tuesday,” the crash of the stock market, and the birth of the Great Depression—not exactly the best time for a newly minted attorney to find a job.
Casting his net far and wide, he ended up in Washington, signing on with a novice investigative bureau in the US Justice Department that would later expand into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Cowley considered the bureau a temporary stop on his way back home. His real aspiration was to land a job practicing law in Utah. But he was promoted so rapidly by the bureau that he decided to stay. Cowley was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered employee who preferred to shun the spotlight—scarcely the kind of guy you’d expect to be involved in a shootout with the most notorious gangsters in the nation. Those humble traits, however, followed him throughout his career with the bureau, as Deseret News reporter Matthew Brown noted in 2009:
Media is a powerful teaching tool. And these seven short, powerful classic seminary films are no exception.
Though these videos are not new, the messages in these classic seminary shorts are just as powerful as when they were first released. Relive your seminary days or share you favorites with your kids, and let us know which one was your favorite in the comments below!
1. Choices: My Body is a Temple
Ever wonder what sort of music the prophets and apostles listen to? See what songs they've listened to and learned from in this list of songs (not hymns!) mentioned in general conference talks.
Photo from lds.org
Latter-day Saints are instructed to "choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you." But as time goes on, the search for uplifting media has become more and more difficult, especially the search for uplifting music.
That's where general conference comes in. No, we're not talking about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (though they are great to listen to!). We went looking for songs besides hymns that have been mentioned by prophets and apostles conferences past--and were surprised by how many we found!
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it's still fun to see what uplifting songs have inspired Church leaders to share them with us!