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(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Temple Square with the Tabernacle and Salt Lake Temple seen from a high angle above South Temple and West Temple streets in 2011.
Reporters banned from Temple Square for Mormon conference
Religion » Officials say the policy is meant to preserve the place’s “sacred atmosphere.”
First Published Apr 03 2014 10:09 pm • Last Updated Apr 04 2014 10:30 am

First, Mormon officials said no to news cameras on Temple Square during this weekend’s LDS General Conference.

Now, reporters aren’t welcome there, either, during the two-day religious gathering.

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In a March 17 letter to the organizers of Ordain Women, church spokeswoman Jessica Moody wrote that "news media cameras" would not be allowed on the church’s square in downtown Salt Lake City during the conference, saying the prohibition was "consistent with long-standing policy."

The group, pushing for Mormon women to be ordained to the LDS priesthood, plans to do what it did last fall by going to the Tabernacle and seeking standby tickets to Saturday night’s all-male priesthood session. In October, news cameras captured a male usher rebuffing every request from the women.

"After careful consideration, we determined we would not turn away news media from Temple Square during the protest last October," church spokesman Cody Craynor said in an email late Thursday. "However, we found the interaction between protesters and news media to be disruptive to the sacred atmosphere of Temple Square and do not wish to play host to similar circumstances again."

The policy barring news media may apply to Temple Square generally, but photojournalists routinely have taken pictures there during the twice-yearly gatherings. Same goes for news reporters, who frequently have interviewed Latter-day Saints on the square to get their reaction to conference sermons and announcements.

The conference sessions themselves, including the general priesthood meeting, take place in the LDS Conference Center across the street from Temple Square. Mormon officials said Thursday media personnel are free to photograph and conduct interviews outside Temple Square, including other parts of the church’s downtown campus such as the Main Street Plaza and on the grounds of the Church Office Building and Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The Temple Square news camera ban was reiterated in the church’s March 27 response to the Society for Professional Journalists, which had appealed to the Utah-based faith to change its position.

"While we made an exception to policy and accommodated media cameras last October, protesters exploited that decision to hold a media event," Michael R. Otterson, managing director of public affairs for the church, wrote to SPJ.

" ... Posturing for news cameras in the shadow of the Salt Lake Temple is not what General Conference is about, and leaders and members were rightly offended by it."

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The exclusion of reporters was not mentioned in either March letter.


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

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