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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Mormons came out looking very good in "Rock Center" report

"Rock Center with Brian Williams" devoted an hour to Mormons and Mormonism on Thursday night, and there are two ways to look at the result:

1. You can see it as an overwhelmingly positive look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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2. You can be offended because the folks from NBC talked to - gasp! - some people who are either ex-Mormon or don't have a particularly good relationship with the Church.

If you're scoring at home, you have plenty of things to put in the plus column. The part about successful Mormon businessmen. The Lehi family that not only came across as nice, normal people but they're both LDS and - gasp! - interracial. (Sarcasm alert on the gasp there.)

The part about the Church welfare system was glowing. The part about the Mormons' polygamist past was brief, and it avoided the whole FLDS thing.

When reporter Harry Smith told anchor Brian Williams that, sure, he could see Mitt Romney as a bishop doing good things for people, it couldn't get much better for the GOP presidential candidate than that.

Of course, there has been some negative reaction to the hour. No surprise there. Because an attempt to do actual journalism about the church means talking to at least a few people who aren't big fans. But, in some quarters, anything that's not glowing praise is viewed as an unwarranted attack.

Calm down. It wasn't.

That was not the case with Abby Huntsman, who came across as sincere when she talked about her disaffection with the LDS Church. She clearly avoided going on the attack. And returned missionary Clark Johnsen - a gay actor who's in the cast of the Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon" - sounded extraordinarily positive about the church he left behind.

And Joanna Brooks talking about how women don't hold leadership positions in the LDS Church may not have been the best p.r., but it is an issue. "Rock Center" would not have been doing its job had it ignored that issue.

Could we have done without a neck-down shot of a couple wearing temple garments? Sure. Obviously, the "Rock Center" team didn't understand how that could be offensive to faithful Mormons.

At the same time, faithful Mormons should recognize that "Rock Center" reporters were doing their job. And doing it pretty well.

This was not a hatchet job. It was an attempt to understand the faith of Mitt Romney, who might be the next president of the United States.

On balance, Mormonism came out looking very good on Thursday night.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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