Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This year the Deseret News shifted its focus to six core areas of editorial emphasis: the family, financial responsibility, care for the poor and needy, education, values in the media and faith. Today we look back on the 10 best stories we did this year about the world of faith. » Read best of: The family Financial responsibility Care for the poor Education Values in the media

10 What is Sacred?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Although contemporary society generally embraces the notion of religious freedom and tolerance, there is an undercurrent of mistrust and even animosity that seems to emerge whenever significant differences in religious belief, tradition, policy or style present themselves. And if you try to explain those differences using words like "sacred" or "holy," prepare to be challenged, questioned, joked about and teased.

"The world today is shifting more and more and more to a selfish and godless belief system," said Rabbi Benny Zippel, executive director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Utah. "And so the notion of something being sacred is challenging in a world that has shifted more to seeking godless pursuits."

Read the full report here: What is Sacred?

9 The Power of the Gospel
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Close to 60 percent of the nation's African American population chooses to worship in predominately black churches. And yet, the black church is facing turbulent times.

Like many of their peers, the rising generation of African Americans is less interested in religion and find the idea of a predominately black congregation less appealing than their parents did, studies say.

Read the full report here: The Power of the Gospel

8 Muslims and Debt
Associated Press

Muslims live by a practice of living life free from "riba," or accrued financial interest. A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it's very difficult to live riba-free in a nation so saturated with interest lending and borrowing. But he stressed that living riba-free doesn't mean business is closed for Muslims.

"Essentially you cannot make money with money in Islam," he said. "But you can trade — after all, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a merchant— you just can't have interest."

Read the full report here: Muslims and Debt

7 Religion and Organ Donation
Intermountain Donor Services

While the number of Americans signing up to be organ donors is rising overall, many are still hesitant — some because of misconceptions about what their religion teaches on the subject. Meanwhile, the gap between the number of people waiting for a transplant and the number of organs available is widening.

Read the full report here: Religion and Organ Donation

6 Changing Religions
Mike Terry, Deseret News

America was founded on principles that encouraged religious freedom — a basic concept that facilitated the formation of numerous churches in the country. There are many choices: Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or none of the above, and Americans are making their choices continually.

Read the full report here: Changing Religions

5 Christianity Endures in the Holy Land
Uriel Sinai, Getty Images

It's spring in Israel, and religious tension roils just beneath the surface as a benign-but-vigilant Jewish state tolerates the continued existence of Muslim and Christian minorities. Christianity in particular represents a diminished vestige, an entity hemmed in on all sides but still enduring in the Holy Land thanks to its timeless tourist appeal. Indeed, at no time in history have Christians flocked to Israel in greater numbers than they do now.

Read the full report here: Christianity Endures in the Holy Land

4 Religious Freedom Eroding

On the same day that Congress temporarily avoided the government shutdown of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), two Tibetan monks set themselves on fire and reportedly said, "Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama; we need religious freedom immediately."

Read the full report here: Religious Freedom Eroding

3 Millennials and Faith
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Young people in the United States are mimicking European trends away from organized religious worship. A recent Pew Research survey shows that one-in-four Americans aged 18-29 say they are not affiliated with a particular religion, up almost 10 percent from the ‘90s. Also, the General Social Survey collected data over a thirty-year period showing 22 as the age where weekly church attendance drops to 17 percent.

Read the full report here: Millennials and Faith

2 Faith in the ICU
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Relieving patient suffering is the primary goal for doctors across the country who rely on the latest technology, medicine and specialized training in developing their treatment. But some doctors and hospital chaplains say spirituality — a perspective that's been kept separate from Western medicine for hundreds of years — plays a big part in the healing process.

Read the full report here: Faith in the ICU

1 Defending the Faith
Chris Sheridan

On June 24, 2011, New York joined the ranks of the now six states that have legalized same-sex marriage. While many met this newly-legalized status with joy — including the New York Daily News and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — Archbishop Timothy Dolan is in the forefront of religious leaders who are facing this legislation with some trepidation.

A prominent and charming Catholic official, Dolan joins other leaders as the fight shifts from protecting the rights of same-sex couples to defending the First Amendment rights of religious institutions.

Read the full report here: Defending the Faith