This week's cover story on the conversion of Mormon royalty Ida Smith to the Chris Nemelka's translation of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon had one key voice missing from it: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints.
When I called the LDS Church public affairs department and left a message requesting an interview on Smith's championing of Nemelka as a messenger of the divine, I received in return an e-mail from a public affairs man politely nixing my request and citing Scott Carrier's recent cover story on Brian David Mitchell, The One Mighty and Strong, as the "kind of coverage we get from City Weekly."
Shortly after that e-mail, I attended a Christmas dinner at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, where I sat next to President Thomas Monson's wife's nurse and we idlely chatted about travel and the realities of life on the West Bank. The room was full of apostles and general authorities, as far as I could gather. One of my fellow diners at my table kindly pointed out Quorom of the Twelve Apostle Jeffrey Holland, who plays a key part in the cover story Sealed Fate, and by all accounts is a very agreeable man.
I accosted him after the dinner had ended with a light touch on his arm to get his attention. He turned to me and clamped my shoulder with one hand and looked deeply into my eyes. I have never been in such close proximity to such a senior ranking member of the church's authority before and I was quite taken by his kindly stare. As I explained to him that I wanted an interview on his dear friend Ida Smith's abandonment of the LDS Church, and - some argue - her betrayal of their friendship by tape-recording their conversation, his eyes darkened, his grip loosened, fell from my shoulder and he ended my rather weak-livered attempt to secure an interview by saying he deferred to the public affairs office which had already said no.
Such figures as Chris Nemelka and his claims to translating the sealed portion, Mormon apologists argue, come along with some frequency and the church is therefore right to ignore them and, as Ida's brother says in the story, let them sink beneath the weight of their own lies. That said, however, to my mind the LDS Church can't complain about our coverage of their affairs if they choose to not respond to stories that involve them.