“The Church’s Image: One Woman’s Contribution,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 69
Even though Nancy Seljestad of Homer Branch, Alaska, had had absolutely no journalism or public relations training, she couldn’t refuse the call to be branch public communications director. She felt the call had come from the Lord. And, besides, the branch president was her husband, and she could hardly turn him down!
When she got to work she quickly proved the call inspired. She started by approaching the editor of the local weekly newspaper and proposed the idea of a weekly religion column as a community service. She was certain he would turn her down, since the paper had never done a religion column and since she had no writing background. But instead he said, “Sounds great. Go ahead.”
Sister Seljestad decided to devote the column each week to a different local church. She visited each church and talked to the minister—uncertain and hesitant, because some of them were outspoken in their anti-Mormon attitudes. Invariably they were courteous, however, and expressed appreciation for what Sister Seljestad was trying to do.
As she met with the ministers, Sister Seljestad was able to dispel their misconceptions about the Church. She also shared Church literature with them. And finally she was able to write about the Church in her newspaper column.
She essentially became a public communications director for each of the local churches, reporting on their activities and programs.
But the newspaper column was only the first step in Sister Seljestad’s effort to fulfill her calling. She next approached a local radio station with a proposal for a religious program. Again her idea was accepted, and Sister Seljestad found herself in the radio business. “I have no misconception that I am some grand radio personality,” she says. “I am scared to death each time, and keep motivated by fasting and praying before each show.”
Her show airs on Saturday afternoon and then again on Sunday morning, every week for an hour each time. It features a different local church each week, and includes musical performances from the church, an interview with the minister, and a short sermon by the minister. Every fourth week she brings together the ministers who were on the previous three programs for a “doctrinal discussion.” At that point she gives the ministers a packet containing several Church books and pamphlets.
Again she had the opportunity to present a program on the Church. Afterwards she received many positive comments and was able to explain the Church and its doctrines to people who had not been interested previously.
“Sometimes I feel so alone,” she says. “In this calling there’s little opportunity for direct feedback or service with branch members and I sometimes feel sorry for myself. At one point I wondered if I was really accomplishing anything of worth for the Church. Then my husband gave me a blessing and I was reassured that there is an important purpose in what I’m doing.”
In all of her efforts Sister Seljestad has coordinated with the Church Public Communications Department, and she says their assistance has been invaluable. In the process she has done a vital work for the Church in her area. As her public communications council director Terry G. Porter views it, Nancy Seljestad has helped “wear down mountains of prejudice” that have been covering the Church in her area for years by visiting other churches, talking with their ministers and members, and reporting objectively on their programs. And, while she was at it, she provided much more information about our Church, planting untold numbers of seeds in the hearts of area residents.