An Associated Press article in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday (9 March 2008) reported:
“Members of the Sangre de Christo parish of the Roman Catholic Church voted Sunday to pursue criminal charges against three Mormon missionaries who allegedly vandalized a shrine and committed sacrilegious acts in the church.”
Members of the Catholic parish built the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs during the past decade “as an expression of [their] faith and an expression of [their] love of God.” According to the article, in 2006, as the LDS missionaries served in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, they damaged the shrine while mocking the Roman Catholic faith. The missionaries got caught when photos of the vandalism were seen on the “Photobucket” web site (these photos were removed from the site on Thursday, but two of them can be seen in an article at The Pueblo Chieftain).
An LDS Mission President confirmed that the men in the photos were LDS missionaries serving in the area at the time of the vandalism. He did not identify them by name, but indicated that they came from California, Idaho and Nevada.
LDS Church officials issued a statement which said they were “deeply saddened” over this “senseless act.” The statement expressed “apologies to all who have been affected” by the vandalism.
One of the missionaries involved, to his credit, wrote a personal apology to the members of the parish. He said,
“I realize that my companions and I have made a mockery of that which is most sacred to many of the residents of San Luis and the rest of the world. I should have known better because I have seen many of the same types of blasphemies made against my own church and I have been appalled.”
The LDS Church said that the Church members involved in the incident at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs “are facing Church discipline.” They may also face criminal charges including felony charges for criminal mischief and conspiracy.
Several people who have left comments at the Salt Lake Tribune web site suggest this sort of behavior from LDS missionaries is to be expected because of their youth and immaturity. Others say not so; LDS missionaries are Elders who are supernaturally equipped to be worthy representatives of the LDS Church and of God.
Whatever the case, we would like to think that this incident at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs was a one-of-a-kind unfortunate anomaly. However, the Salt Lake Tribune reported,
“When asked whether he was aware of any other acts of vandalism by missionaries against religious property, [LDS spokesman Scott] Trotter said, ‘I’m going to have to decline comment.’”
This story should serve as a reminder to all of us. The apostle Peter admonished,
“… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
May Christ be honored as we each defend our faith and give reason for our hope — here on Mormon Coffee and everywhere else.