In a couple of recent posts — here and here — I've already highlighted some of the excellent Godbeat journalism that claimed prizes in the Religion Newswriters Association's annual awards contest. If you haven't checked out the winning entries, I'd encourage you to do so. For regular readers of GetReligion, many of the honorees' names will read like a who's who in religion news. Among those names: Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi of CNN's Belief Blog, David Gibson of Religion News Service and Tom Breen (formerly) of The Associated Press.
This past weekend, Stack was busy covering the 182nd annual LDS General Conference, so she didn't actually make it to the RNA annual conference in Bethesda, Md., just outside the nation's capital. But she was recognized as the Cornell Religion Reporter of the Year, which honors religion writers for the nation's mid-sized newspapers.
Stack produced a truly fascinating story on Mormon weddings dividing families when some loved ones are forced to wait outside the temple. The top of the story, which I missed when it was published in June 2011:
You see them on Salt Lake City’s Temple Square nearly every day. They pace nervously or stroll aimlessly, staring down at the tulips or up at the spires.
They are nottourists or templegoers. They are parents, siblings, cousins and friends of Mormon couples being wed inside the LDS sanctuary. But, for one reason or another, they are not allowed to view the ceremony.
Maybe they are Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish or atheist. Perhaps they once were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or maybe they are current Mormons who fail to meet all the faith’s belief and behavior standards for a “recommend” to enter into the temple.
Stack demonstrates her expertise on Mormonism with a story that provides theological insight and historical background. At the same time, she writes in a way that makes sense even to a reader not as well versed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She quotes a variety of sources, from church spokesmen to those who have married inside the temple — without certain key relatives joining them.
Moreover, Stack places the weddings in the context of a changing society:
Part of the problem has emerged in recent years as society has moved weddings from the sacred to the secular, says Brigham Young University sociologist Marie Cornwall. Marriage was once a church-centered celebration, given that most people’s religious and secular communities were the same. Now they aren’t.
Many of today’s weddings no longer are seen as a holy event before God and witnesses, she says, but rather as a chance to bring everyone together to celebrate the newlyweds.
“Everyone now has relatives who are not religious,” she says. “So weddings have become more and more part of the market. Couples are spending huge amounts of money for celebrations to include all their friends.”
When I clicked the link to Stack's winning entry, I couldn't stop reading, which is always a good sign.
Congratulations to Stack and the rest of the RNA winners!