Thou Shalt Not Kill

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.

5 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Kill

  1. I, too, was very sorry and saddened to hear this.

    There has been some local reporting (Visalia is about 30 miles from where I live, and is served by my local media outlets) that the shooter’s family is saying that the shooter complained of having been “abused” by the bishop of that ward, which the shooter apparently belonged to as a teenager. Also, the reporting seems to indicate that he left the ward and the church of his own accord…this, again, is according to members of his family. His brother said that they had both left to join the military and never attended again. Who knows how accurate any of these reports are.

  2. Sadly your prediction was correct.

    Wait…let me get this right…a man gets murdered and what they’re upset about is that it didn’t get enough press coverage because Mormons aren’t popular right now.

    Classy, Mormons. Way classy. You just keep on wondering why people don’t like you then.

  3. It was my impression from local coverage that the family of the murdered man was actively trying to deflect press coverage. For example, after the community organized a candlelight vigil in his memory, it was cancelled by request of the family. It has been my observation that events like such vigils are what generate continuing press coverage of a tragedy like that. It has also been my observation that the family is usually key in generating press coverage of such events. If a family and/or institution (in this case the Mormon church) does not actively pursue press attention, the media moves on, and rightly so since events don’t just stop so that everyone can get their 15 minutes of attention.

    A case in point. Here locally (in fact, just a few blocks from where I’m sitting now) a few years ago, a man murdered 9 members of his own family. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. Also, it had all the earmarks of a story with “legs”…there was wingnut religion involved, there were dead babies (literally), and there was rape and incest (some of the dead were both the man’s children and grandchildren). All the things that the tabloid media love. But, after an initial burst of coverage in the national media, nothing. Oh, there was a blurb in the national news when the murderer was convicted, and of course there was local continuing coverage during the actual trial. I believe that one of the key reasons for this was that the surviving family did not encourage coverage by making themselves available for long, teary interviews or to express their outrage. Of course, the fact that the victims were poor and of mixed race probably played a part in the lack of coverage, as well, but I suspect that if the surviving members of the family had expressed a desire to be interviewed, there would probably have been someone in the media willing to interview them. In fact, a few weeks ago one of the networks did an hour on the now several years old story because surviving family members were finally willing to talk to them.

    The point is, in several other cases local to my area that got extensive coverage nationally, the key component was that the families of the victims were constantly out there, seeking press attention in order to keep the case in the news.

    In the case of the murdered bishop, the family didn’t show any willingness to make themselves available to the media (a point in the family’s favor, in my opinion), and the church issued one fairly terse statement and didn’t have much of anything else to say regarding the matter. So, for parties not connected to the case to be complaining that the story didn’t get enough press coverage is quite distasteful. Do they really think the family and friends of the victim want to hear about it every time they turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or news magazine?

    • Well put. Everyone grieves differently. Some very publicly, others prefer to bury their dead in private. Nobody’s death should be co-opted by outsiders.

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