NBC News is about to rock the Mormon Church - "Rock Center with Brian Williams" will devote the entire hour on Thursday to reporting "what it means to be Mormon in America," according to Williams.
"Despite the fact that, for the first time ever, one of the major-party candidates for president is a Mormon, a lot of Americans still don't know very much about who Mormons are and what they believe."
Here are some of the highlights NBC is promising for the report, which airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on LDS Church-owned KSL-Channel 5::
• It is a uniquely American religion, extremely young when compared to other faith traditions, and now one of the fastest growing churches in the world. It is also the defining force in the life of a man who may be the next president of the United States. Yet few Americans know very much about he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as it is formally known. Ours is an ambitious and lively effort to change that ... with surprising results.
(It's not altogether confidence-inspiring that the network didn't quite get the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints correct - but this is broadcast journalism, after all.)
Brian Williams examines its history (founded on a hillside in upstate New York), controversies (its founder and early leaders preached and practiced polygamy) and customs (many Mormons wear church-specified underwear known as 'garments'), through the eyes of a religious historian, a church official, and Abby Huntsman, daughter of former Republican hopeful Jon Huntsman.
• Why do Mormons seem to excel at running businesses and corporations ... as Mitt Romney did? Two Mormons, David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Jeff Benedict, author of "The Mormon Way of Doing Business," tell Harry Smith that Mormon success can be traced directly to the Mormon missionary experience and to the attention paid to Mormon sons by Mormon moms.
• An inside look at tradition and ritual in three very different Mormon households. Kate Snow profiles Al and Juleen Jackson, an inter-racial couple, devoted to their faith and raising five children according to principles much at odds with 21st century American popular culture; Joanna Brooks, a Mormon feminist who questions whether women can truly be equal if they can't hold positions of power in the Church, and Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon man who, despite the church's stand against homosexuality, is able to work within the church.
• If you are a Mormon in need and you ask for help, the Church will provide food, clothing, training and much more. Harry Smith gets a rare tour of the Bishops Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City-more than 500,000 square feet of food and supplies under one roof...enough to support a year's worth of Mormon welfare efforts. He also visits Welfare Square to watch volunteers make Mormon milk, cheese and honey...as part of his portrait of what he calls "the Mormon industrial complex."
• The hardest ticket to get on Broadway is for the Tony Award-winning Best Musical "The Book of Mormon." We meet Clark Johnsen, an original cast member who plays a number of roles in the show, parts that he has been preparing for most of his life. Johnsen was raised in the Mormon faith.
""We think it's a surprising and groundbreaking hour of reporting," said Williams, whose newsmagazine drew just over 5 million viewers last week.
We'll find out more on Thursday.
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