- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thousands of Washington-area members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now have a high-definition radio service to call their own.

The church this week unveiled “Mormon Radio,” a 24/7 Internet streaming and HD radio service aimed at Mormon families and those interested in the fast-growing religion.

An HD channel licensed to church-owned Bonneville International, a radio broadcaster with three HD stations in the Washington-area market, likely will carry the broadcasts over the air, although neither the specific frequency nor a date when the station would start broadcasting was immediately available.

Two of the HD frequencies licensed to Bonneville’s WTOP-FM carry that station’s news and traffic programming; a third is leased to a broadcaster of South Asian programs.

Mormon Radio also will be online at http://radio.lds.org, and programs can be downloaded, the church said.

“We’re deeply pleased to offer Bonneville’s broadcasting resources and industry reputation to further extend the reach and impact of Mormon Channel, a high-quality, values-oriented new product,” Bob Johnson, Bonneville International executive vice president and Salt Lake City market manager, said in a statement.

According to an LDS church announcement, the broadcasts will “originate at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and feature a vast and varied array of programming.”

“We have the responsibility to extend the messages of the Church in yet another way with the new station,” said Chris Twitty, the church’s digital media director, in the statement. “We have access to all the resources of the Church in creating program content. Though it seems a daunting task to fill the airtime, we have a wealth of information that will be of interest to listeners - much of it new and never before heard or seen.”

Mormons have long had a presence in the Washington area, notably going back to the election in Utah of B.H. Roberts to the House of Representatives in 1898 and Reed Smoot to the Senate four years later. (Only Smoot was seated, however; Roberts was never seated because of polygamy accusations.)

In the intervening century, many Mormons came to work in the federal government and in businesses that support the government, as well as in member-owned enterprises such as Marriott Corp., which is headquartered in Bethesda.

About 150,000 church members now live in Maryland, Virginia and the District, said Kenneth Bowler, a local spokesman for the church.

Programming is expected to feature interviews with LDS leaders and members, as well as shows explaining church doctrine. Several will be aimed at young people and teenagers, the church said.

The church said additional programming will include the weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast, featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other choral programming.

Other programs will originate from Brigham Young University, the LDS Business College, the University of Utah institute of religion, the Deseret News, and Bonneville Productions, the church’s statement said.

The new radio outreach isn’t the only LDS church broadcasting available in the area.

BYU Television, a cable and satellite network sponsored by church-owned Brigham Young University, is available on area Verizon FiOS cable systems, as well as DirecTV and Dish Network satellite services. BYU Television’s programming is a mix of church content, the university’s sporting events and Mormon lifestyle shows.