Criminal Mischief

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.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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9 Responses to Criminal Mischief

  1. falcon says:

    I think we call it “impulse control”. Not all that of an unsual malady among young people. Not all young people of course, but mix impulsivity with gang mentality and a lack of respect and you get unacceptable results. I often had to discipline young people in my job. I always asked one question, “Is this ‘an event’ or is this a ‘pattern’ of behavior?” I would discipline according to the answer of that question.

  2. Anubis says:

    I was intrigued by this comment, “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.”

    Since Mormons equate persecution with the truthfulness of the LDS church does that now mean the Catholic Church is true?

    Also if a representative for the Mormon God can deface a religious shrine does that represent what they believed, what they taught, and what they were taught? It makes you wonder what kind of lessons did they teach various families before the pictures were finally found.

    This of course mirrors another Mormon who disrespected the Laws of the United States, created a fraudulent bank, destroyed a printing press AND claimed that all other churches were an abomination. Any guesses who?


  3. Mike Cucuk says:

    I’ll take Joseph Smith, Jr. for 500, please.

    As for my past comments, I have been ignored completely. I wholesomely contribute to the comments relating to the speific topic being discussed. In spite of this, I am purposely overlooked by everyone else, including the moderators. What am I, the invisible blogger?

    So can I at least receive one apology from any one person at this point (I don’t care who)? At least that in its own right will be respectful… or is this comment going to be overlooked as well?

  4. Rick B says:

    Mike, Get over yourself here, I leave many commints also and no one replys, you dont see me making a fuss over it.

    As to the article, three thoughts come to mind.1. The O.T. taught shrines and idols were wrong, and God had his people tear some down, maybe the MM’s thought they were doing God a service.

    The other thought is, since it involved the Catholic Church, Maybe one or all of these MM’s read the first printing of Mormon Doctrine and saw what was taught about the Catholic Church and figured, since Bruce taught it and it was put in a book and Ok’d by the Church to publish the book, then it must be true.

    3. the Book of Mormon teach their are only two Churchs, and since LDS believe theirs is true, then the Catholics must be of the devil and the MM’s were simply storming the gates of the devils church. Rick b

  5. Anubis says:

    Mike Correct Answer,

    My other question is what happens to the camera guy. I can easily assume that these missionaries traveled in pairs and the original pictures included three guys. Where’s number 4?

    Also these vandals hit this place in 2006. That means these guys continued to teach until they went home. Why didn’t some Stake President or higher authority use his power of discernment to weed these guys out.

    Finally, the Mormon church is already doing damage control on various websites and the major LDS inc dot com sites.


  6. Michael P says:

    This is interesting, but I don’t think we can take much from it. Kids are kids, and this shows Mormon kids are just kids, too. It does take away some of the squeeky clean image Mormons seem to put on their missionaries, though I don’t think anyone really thinks these kids are above mischief. We are all sinners indeed.

    On thing I would say to the Mormons is exactly that: we are all sinners. My folks live out west (work in WY, live in UT) and share stories of active Mormons sinning just like the rest of us, and that they are no different than everyone else. This is despite their haughty attitude toward all non-Mormons. These stories involve who gets punished at BYU football team with alcohol and who gets blamed for various ills in SLC.

    Now, I know most of the Mormons here will say that this goes without saying, we are all sinners. But not all of you live out this testimony. There are many, many, who do this, so this story, if anything, undercuts the image Mormons like to portray.

  7. To be honest, if a bunch of Mormon missionaries snuck into a Protestant museum and took silly photos with statues and posters, as long as they didn’t destroy any property I wouldn’t be that offended. Just because something is sacred to me doesn’t mean it should be esteemed or revered by others. What should be esteemed ultimately is that which is objectively (truly) sacred.

  8. Ronald says:

    I must say that many people view missionaries in a more angelic light than they should. They are not squeeky clean and most return missionaries could attest to this, but it seems to be the bext kept secret of many return missionaries. Well folks, I am a return missionary and across the board over the years I was out I saw the following from many different missionaries in two missions so it is more common than you think:

    1. mocking other religions
    2. going out and playing when they should be teaching
    3. calling sister missionaries they like
    4. drinking
    5. going out socially with sister missionaries
    6. baptizing for numbers not God. Paying people to be baptized.
    7. going out alone
    8 using radio, internet and seeing movies

    You can toot the gee its isolated or other missionaries should report them horn etc, but facts are facts folks and these are ones RMs dont share. I myself had to report my companion who left me in the apt after I had surgery and went out to play with a set of missionaries of the opposite sex for the evening. I only reported it because I needed someone to get my medication since I could not get up.

    Missionaries are children, many times act like children, avoid work like children.

    Yes there are the special few. But even those cannot tell you some of the behavior they see when out.

    So do these photos surprise me? No. Most missionaries mock other religions quite often.

  9. traveler says:

    It really surprises me to hear LDS people complain that they have been “blasphemed” against in the past (proof of their True Faith) and then discover that this sort of thing is so common. While it’s true that my personal experience with LDS Missionaries has been limited, they did seem very poorly trained in saying anything but “The LDS Church is true” several times to me.

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