In this month’s Friend, my wife and I were intrigued by a section toward the end recommending reading for youngsters. It included a nice range of books for children, classified by age groups, such as Eight Cousins and The Royal Bee. We also found two that made us raise our eyebrows (and not because of the footnote stating that “Occasionally, characters who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will drink coffee or tea.”). One, Hip, Hip, Hooray for Annie MacRae!, is authored by BYU faculty member Brad Wilcox, though it’s published by a non-church publisher, as far as I can tell. The other was more troubling: Sister Eternal, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, published by Deseret Book.
I’m no lawyer, but it seems that there’s potential for conflicted interests here, when an official church publication recommends a book authored by a faculty member at its university, and another authored by an Apostle and published by its (for profit) publisher. I’m not saying that there’s a legal issue here (I’m no lawyer, did I say that already?). I’m only questioning whether they should have steered clear of these recommendations to avoid the very appearance of advertising.
It’s true, there is a disclaimer: “These reviews do not constitute official Church endorsement of these books, but the books have been carefully reviewed to ensure that Church standards are observed.” This seems weak to me, coming from an official, vetted church publication (especially since there’s the “but” clause). Where is the line?