I was extremely saddened to hear the news that an LDS Bishop, husband and father of six was shot to death in a chapel yesterday. Initial reports are indicating that the killer did not know the victim personally. The crime appears to have been committed by a mentally ill former Mormon who was angry over being “shunned to hell.” Reports have not yet stated if the killer left the Church voluntarily or was excommunicated.
This is an extremely shocking but thankfully isolated incident in LDS/Ex-Mormon dealings. I refuse to draw any comparison between this incident and any other exit narrative by a former Mormon. The damage Mormons and Ex-Mormons do to one another is largely psychological and ideological, and the stakes of apostasy are far lower than they are for religious groups where death or ritual shunning is mandated. Nothing — not personal offence, not disagreement, not excommunication, not any amount of psychological violence — justifies murder. Behaviours like excommunication can lead people into desperate circumstances if they believe they have been cut off from the only path to God, but nobody in their right mind would ever think killing someone would be the correct way to address the problem.
I learned about this from an e-mail sent by a relative who used this incident as a way to further stigmatise “apostates,” using this incident as an inappropriate cautionary tale to scare people away from “losing the light of Christ.” No rebuke was in order, as I’m chalking this up to pure shock and anger. I doubt many LDS people will really think this way. Conversely, I hope that disaffected Mormons do not say that this was bound to happen sooner or later, because the Church causes so much distress to those who leave. Neither of these statements are helpful or valid. This incident should be recognised for what it is: a horrible, senseless tragedy. For those who are so inclined, a donation fund has been set up to aid the victim’s widow with funeral and living expenses. (Caveat: no official endorsement has been made of this pledge fund yet.) I think we can all agree that ideological wars aside, violence is never the answer.