My Ensign comes from the UK, and my favorite part is the eight page insert, ‘News of the Church / British Isles.’ This month’s starts with an article by Elder Patrick R. Kearon, (Second Counsellor in the Europe West Area Presidency, from Clevedon, England) entitled, ‘Midsummer’s Day — Out of Darkness and into His Marvelous Light.’ OK, it’s a Mormonish metaphor, but a metaphor about Midsummer, not baseball or beet farming.
The articles that follow are like a small town newspaper: ‘Long-Term Blood Donor Receives Award,’ ‘Girls Praised for Saving Man’s Life,’ ‘Musical Sisters,’ ‘Relief Society Sisters Help Children in Kenya.’ The articles tend to focus on service projects, with great pictures of RS presidents handing over giant cheques and youth groups making quilts.
My wife’s Finnish Liahona comes with an insert as well. It starts with an article by area president Elder Hafen about how cool it is that there are three temples in Scandanavia, making links to the importance of the region in early church history. Then there are announcements of mission calls, an article about an informational meeting about the temple (written by BCC Papers author Kim Östman), etc. A few months ago, a ward youth program wrote up interviews with early members of the church in Finland. Very cool.
I don’t know how prevalent this is — I’m guessing it doesn’t happen in the US, but I wonder about other countries in Europe and other parts of the world. In Finland, it is edited by a local member, possibly under the auspices of the public affairs committee.
While some people will see this as basic Mormon cornball antics, I think it is actually quite significant.
A few days ago, in a comment, J. Stapley said,
I think the age of the centralized uber-correlated universal program of Church administration has reached its zenith. I believe that we will see more and more regional and local flavor in meeting the needs of the Saints going forward.
I agree with him, especially the fact that the need for decentralization exists. The local inserts provide a means of creating a church identity less dependent on SLC, with which most members have had only distant and/or bureaucratic contact. The inserts help members to see how gospel principles are applied in their own country on a regular basis.
Could this be done privately or beyond the scope of the church publications? Probably, but the need for a profit makes it tricky. I remember we got a Mormon newspaper in SoCal for a while, commercially produced, but I don’t know its fate; my parents cancelled the subscription because they disliked how the advertising manipulated gospel principles for economic gain (a criticism sometimes leveled at Meridian magazine).
I grew up in SoCal, definitely with the feeling that we lived in ‘the mission field,’ an expression I heard often. One possible function of the local church news inserts is to blur the ‘Deseret’ / ‘mission field;’ distinction and help members feel the church resides in their own area to some degree.