Missionary Photos

March 10, 2008 | 156 comments
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The Church says it intends to discipline the missionaries responsible for these photographs. Given that they appear to have returned from their missions, what is that discipline likely to be? Beyond that, while these pictures certainly aren’t respectful or in good taste, how many returned missionaries out there have similar sorts of photographs sitting in their picture albums at home? Might not want to upload those to Facebook or Flicker any time soon…

156 Responses to Missionary Photos

  1. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 9:41 am

    “We are deeply saddened to hear that the actions of three missionaries have resulted in the destruction of property,” said Scott Trotter of the church’s public affairs division….The LDS Church went on to say it holds its missionaries to the “highest standards”…

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Brother Trotter is either very, very, very good at his job of spinning for Zion, or he never served a mission, or has forgotten everything he heard, saw, experienced, or did while on a mission. 19-year-old boys, people; 19-year-old boys. They are capable of hard work, great charity, and being profound conduits for the Spirit. They are also idiots. I was an idiot. You were an idiot (don’t even pretend to deny it; the Holy Spirit was watching what you did with that chicken). Should they be disciplined? Of course they should; idiots should be punished for being idiotic, especially when that idiocy results in real or potential damage to the church. As for the form of discipline–who knows? Visiting the place of their mission and offering public apologies? Community service? A harsh talking-to by their bishops? Whatever. But, all public sorrow aside…this is not unusual, and we should not expect it to be. Maybe 40 years ago one could still reasonably expect unmarried 19-year-old boys to be mature adults, but from what I can tell, your typical American Mormon boy of that age today is as likely to be affected by Stupid Teen-ager Syndrome as anyone else.

  2. aloysiusmiller on March 10, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I served in Asia many years ago. While I was there some missionaries in Thailand had some pictures taking that Thai Buddhists (who saw them at the developer shop) deemed sacrilegious. Home they went. The message was clear to all of us. Don’t offend!

    Part of raising the bar needs to be “don’t be idiots.”

  3. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for giving me a good hearty laugh this morning Russell.

  4. bbell on March 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I am willing to bet that if given the opportunity to take photos of myself preaching from the BOM from a Catholic pulpit I and my comps would have done it. In fact I did preach a couple of times in other churches.

    I think Church courts here are overkill. I am trying to imagine being a bishop/SP and being asked to hold a court over these photos. Not happening.

  5. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I served in Asia many years ago. While I was there some missionaries in Thailand had some pictures taking that Thai Buddhists (who saw them at the developer shop) deemed sacrilegious. Home they went.

    Aloysiusmiller, the story of those photos was legend amongst certain Asia-bound missionaries twenty years ago (or at least amongst a certain set of us Korea-bound ones). Lanny Britsch talked about it some in his book on the church in East Asia, From the East. They were more than sent home; they were arrested, found guilty of desecration, sentenced to 6 months in jail, and they served the whole term, before being deported. I always wondered what happened to those poor, irresponsible, unthinking 19-year-olds: did they turn bitter, or repentant; did their parents change wards out of shame? Anyone out there know the rest of the story?

  6. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

    The Trib is reporting this morning that this Catholic church is claiming the missionaries damaged or vandalized a shrine on their grounds, which, if true, is certainly more serious than just photographs. I wonder how solid that claim is though, since the church is clearly making it on the basis of these recently discovered photographs.

  7. Mark B. on March 10, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Nobody, but nobody, said anything about “church courts.” Except bbell.

    For starters, it’s been 20 years since the name changed to “disciplinary councils.” Second, there are all sorts of discipline–much of it not involiving a council. Third, suggesting that discipline is overkill, even if the main offense is stupidity, is just plain wrong.

    RAF’s comment raises the one good thing that can come of this story: another cautionary tale to tell the young men entering the MTC in hopes that the stupid gene will become recessive for the next two years.

  8. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 10:35 am

    [a] cautionary tale to tell the young men entering the MTC in hopes that the stupid gene will become recessive for the next two years.

    Yeah, let me know how that one goes.

  9. Cordeiro on March 10, 2008 at 10:35 am

    There’s a good reason why my allegedly questionable mission fotos are safely stored in a triple locked strongbox in an undisclosed location. What these elders did was unquestionably stupid, made all the more stupid by the fact they posted their mis-deeds online. The ability to use the web to broadcast one’s self doen’t imply intelligence. Sometimes you can’t fix stupid.

  10. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Yes, this all brings back such fond memories for me. You can imagine the delight of my MP, when he learn I was not just an ‘Iron Rod’ guy, but had also been in the Marines at 17. I got two years of his ‘hand picked’ repair jobs as Companions.

  11. Yet Another John on March 10, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Idiots is right. Idiots for putting the pictures on the internet. When will people learn that’s once it’s out there, it ain’t gonna go away.

  12. Peter LLC on March 10, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Take a deep breath, Mark B., you’re gonna need for your remaining years on this planet.

  13. James on March 10, 2008 at 10:53 am

    RAF and Aloysiusmiller, I served in Thailand about six years after the headless bhudda incident. At the time I entered the MTC, the missionary handbook had a specific rule about not desecrating the religious shrines of other faiths. When I got to Thailand, we were entertained with stories about the conditions in the prison where those ‘gentlemen’ served their time. I actually got to see a thai prison as a visitor and gitmo is a spa resort by comparison. I suppose that since it has been almost forty years since that happened that the institutional memory of the event has faded a bit. I’ll bet there are some meetings being held to get culture training at the MTC tightened up.

  14. Matt Evans on March 10, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Vandalism, if true, very bad. Pretending to preach from the Book of Mormon at a Catholic church like Vincenzo, very funny.

  15. James on March 10, 2008 at 10:59 am

    RAF – “They are also idiots. I was an idiot. You were an idiot (don’t even pretend to deny it; the Holy Spirit was watching what you did with that chicken).” Yes, I was an idiot at that age. But, I was one that was well and duly frightened by the stories from members and mission leadership about the set of goof-ups in my mission, Thailand, that sat on the headless Bhudda. It did wonders for constraining the deportment of my companions and myself.

    “Maybe 40 years ago one could still reasonably expect unmarried 19-year-old boys to be mature adults.”
    No, the headless bhudda incident in Thailand was almost 40 years ago. The higher congition switch has been turned off in teenaged boys since at least the 1960’s.

  16. RT on March 10, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I don’t accept the assumption that, since many other missionaries took silly photos, the public nature of these elders’ actions shouldn’t be accounted for in the church disciplinary process.

    Church disciplinary standards have long considered the public nature of an offense as part of the punishment protocol. If I commit offense X and a member of the Seventy commits offense X, we may very well receive different levels of discipline. There’s a good reason for this: as in any other adjudicative system, an action is not viewed in isolation; rather, the harm caused by the action is considered as well. In my hypothetical, the member of the Seventy is a church representative, and his (bad) example impacts a lot of people within the church and lot of people outside of the church. That harm has to be considered.

    Put it a different way: an isolated church member who expresses his doubts about a church doctrine to his spouse commits a far different action than a Stake President who expresses those same doubts using the same words over a pulpit at stake conference.

    Well, these missionaries were full-time representative of the church. And spare me the bit about them just taking silly photos. They took mocking photos of another religion on that religion’s sacred site, they did so wearing their missionary attire, and those photos are now public. Not only is missionary work in that entire region going to suffer for a long time as a result, but the members there are going to take a heavy toll as well.

    You and I may have stupid missionary photos in our closets, but I’m guessing that most of our photos didn’t manage to have that kind of impact. I don’t see how these missionaries don’t get disciplined for this.

  17. Mark B. on March 10, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Thanks to RAF and Peter LLC for misunderstanding my comment.

    Note that I referred only to hopes of making the stupid gene recessive. I didn’t suggest that somehow immature 19-year-olds would suddenly all turn wise.

    I suspect that the cautionary tales told among missionaries do have some effect in dampening public stupidity. Bert Wilson’s work on folklore discloses many such tales. Measuring the effect of their telling would be difficult (what do you do? survey missionaries to find out what stupid things they didn’t do because they heard some story from fellow missionaries about someone who did that stupid thing and got caught?). Nonetheless, I suspect that the tales have some effect, and that acts like those of the Colorado missionaries will decrease, at least for a time, as the public humiliation of the Church and those missionaries becomes known among others.

  18. A Turtle Named Mack on March 10, 2008 at 11:13 am

    There was a time when 19 was a mature age at which to send young men (?) on missions – that simply is NOT the case anymore. Continuing to do so simply reinforces the need to consider a mission as a rite of passage for mormon males, rather than a serious attempt to win converts. That may not be a bad thing, but let’s call it what it is. Posts here, and at other blogs, demonstrate that very intelligent, thoughtful, and tolerant folks did very stupid, thoughtless, and intolerant things as 19 year-olds. Unfortunately, I can’t exclude myself from that category of people.

  19. G on March 10, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Concerning the Thai missionaries, I lived in Thailand shortly after this period and I was intimately aware of the story. I also took a class from Lanny Britsch at BYU and we discussed the story. And later in life I became acquainted with the sister of one of the elders.

    The comments here have been much too harsh concerning these young men. Not only should we be afforded some room for error in a period of our lives when our contemporaries are falling out of third-story windows in drunken stupors at the Tri-Delt Fall Kegger.

    The sad conclusion to the Thai story is that the young men did serve time in Thai jails and were severely mistreated. The 1970\’s in a Thai prison for a foreigner was a little different than Martha\’s Club Fed stay. One of the elders later developed a brain tumor and died less than twenty years later. The real scandal of this Thai story is the rumor that the mission president was present when the elders climbed to the top of the Buddha statues. Prof. Britsch claims that this incident set back missionary work in the country 20-30 years.

    While respect for other religions should be more of a hallmark of our faith, we should keep their actions in perspective and turn the examining eye on our own youthful foibles. We would do better to teach tolerance than criticize these young men.

  20. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 11:22 am

    There’s something to be said for cautionary tales though… I remember leaving the MTC adamant that I would never give anyone a pedicure after reading Spencer W. Kimball’s “Lock Your Heart.” It was tough, but I somehow managed.

  21. Ardis Parshall on March 10, 2008 at 11:27 am

    We would do better to teach tolerance than criticize these young men.

    Sounds sweet, G, but we really can’t teach tolerance for behaviors that have become stumbling blocks to the church the way this incident has. The young men here don’t deserve blame as if nobody else has ever misbehaved, but in fact they DID misbehave.

  22. RT on March 10, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Missionaries are not frat boys, and their actions aren’t comparable to frat boys’ actions. Missionaries voluntarily ask for an assignment to serve as representatives of a church, they get extensive training and counseling about what that means, they get set apart to do it, and they then walk the streets wearing a name badge with the church’s name badge on it. They are voluntarily living a higher standard, and that higher standard is necessary because everything they do impacts the church.

    Granted, they’re still 19-year olds…but they’re 19 year olds who are constantly told that their actions impact the church. Give them a pass for random acts of silliness? Sure. Give them a pass for intentionally doing things in public that make the church look really, really bad? Why, exactly? That’s exactly what they were there NOT to do.

    As for tolerance over discipline. Sure, tolerance is the higher virtue. But if photos were posted showing a group of friars derisively mocking a Joseph Smith statue on temple square (not to mention, say, mocking a temple ordinance within a temple, which is basically what the altar shot in this case did), we’d be pretty pissed off, too. And we’d have a right to be.

  23. Bill Anderson on March 10, 2008 at 11:41 am

    What happens in the mission field, stays in the mission field.

  24. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 11:42 am

    #1: “Maybe 40 years ago one could still reasonably expect unmarried 19-year-old boys to be mature adults…”.I expect it now. If not, we need to pullout those 100,000 19-year-old boys from Iraq, who are driving down their city streets with their fingers on high power triggers.

  25. Bill Anderson on March 10, 2008 at 11:46 am

    What’s more, is the fact that at least one of these missionaries thought it was a good idea to post these pictures online and share his misdeeds with the world. And this guy is now what, like 22 or 23 years old? At what age do we stop making excuses for these kids and hold them accountable for their actions? It may seem unfair to hold these boys up to a higher standard, but they are the ones who accepted said standard. A stupid thing to do and even more stupid to post it online; they deserve a fair punishment and no excuses for their poor decisions.

  26. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    James, G, thanks for adding your perspective to the sad (and, frankly, not a little pathetic) Thai missionary story. I don’t mean to be–and don’t think I was–particularly harsh on these kids (and they were kids–typical white American male 19-year-old idiotic kids, just like I was and just like a lot of us once were). I stand by my suggestion that they were “poor, irresponsible, unthinking” teen-agers, as I was; there but for the grace of God and all that certainly applies. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they were mistreated and came home with health problems; Thailand–and Southeast Asia in general–doesn’t take any crap from those who foolishly and probably unknowingly disregard the rules and norms of life. I don’t set myself above them; I pity them, because I could easily have made the same mistake. (That is, the mistake of allowing pictures of my youthful idiocy to become publily known; that I may have performed many mistakes similar to the original offense they committed as a 19-year-old moron is something I’d rather not confirm in this forum.)

  27. CraigH on March 10, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Thank goodness there was no facebook decades ago, or there but for the grace of God go many of us. As I think back, the problem was basically not recognizing such actions as irreverence. How can you be irreverent about “false religions”, went the almost unconscious (and yes idiotic) thinking. But something else was going on too: I recall one outing with my zone, with about 20 missionaries, of all sorts of conviction, including two of the most devoted fellows you’d ever see. And we visited a site which locals would have considered holy, a sad site, a memorial rather than a religious site but still, and we simply did not know how to respond to the horror we saw depicted there. The only thing we ALL responded to, including the leaders, was trying to joke about it, and we did stupid things and took stupid pictures. It’s mortifying to think about it now. Perhaps such things can be combatted not only by cautionary tales, but ingraining genuine respect for the holy places of others, and truly recognizing them as such. But who knows how far that will penetrate 19-year-old minds.

  28. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Mark Bohn, my apologies if my comment came off rather snide; I just meant it as a joke (one that is funny because, as you and everyone else can probably acknowledge, addressing the stupidity of your average horny uneducated far-from-home late-20th-century/early-21st-century American teenage male is hardly something that can be done easily). Of course you’re correct that “cautionary tales” can have a “dampening effect” on stupidity; I’m just doubtful that such an effect will be broad and lasting, as opposed to doing its work on the occasional confused missionary. Worth doing, of course, but don’t count on miracles.

  29. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    It’s mortifying to think about it now. Perhaps such things can be combatted not only by cautionary tales, but ingraining genuine respect for the holy places of others, and truly recognizing them as such. But who knows how far that will penetrate 19-year-old minds.

    Very well put, CraigH. It’s a problem: a problem with (contemporary teen-age) human nature in general. Probably the best thing is simply to respond as the church responded to the Thailand situation decades ago, and may respond to this situation from Colorado today: come down hard and fast and unapologetically on the side of those who feel an offense was made. Probably not the perfect strategy, but given that the whole 19-year-olds-on-missions program isn’t about to get rethought from the ground up anytime soon, what else can they do?

  30. Matt Evans on March 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Would any of you who have your knickers in a wad actually be offended if a female minister from a liberal church thought it was funny to pretend to preach in a Mormon chapel? Or if a black minister pretended to preach in a Mormon chapel in 1975? Or representatives of a church that marries gays took pretend-marriage photos of two men in front of a Mormon temple? Any Mormons who would waste energy inventing a slight instead of appreciating their humor, I feel sorry for them.

  31. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Would any of you who have your knickers in a wad actually be offended if a female minister from a liberal church thought it was funny to pretend to preach in a Mormon chapel? Or if a black minister pretended to preach in a Mormon chapel in 1975? Or representatives of a church that marries gays took pretend-marriage photos of two men in front of a Mormon temple?

    Who has their knickers in a wad, Matt? (And, am I wearing them at the time? Because that could hurt.) I haven’t commented at all upon whether or not there’s anything genuinely funny about a Mormon missionary playing around with a Catholic altar, or sitting on a Buddha’s head, or whatever. When I dropped my pants to moon a big Protestant church, my companion thought it was hilarious. (Oh, wait, I wasn’t going to mention that.) It was funny! But also, stupid. I’ve caught hell for more than a few stupid, unthinking things I’ve done in my life; I can feel sympathy and sorrow for those who are similarly caught, but that doesn’t mean I feel like there’s some fundamental unfairness in acknowledging that, well, they kind of deserve it (whatever “it” turns out to be).

  32. Disgusting on March 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    I have Catholic family in Colorado. If they saw these images, they would be disgusted. Absolutely disgusted. The pictures make me sick.

    From a return missionary perspective, these are stupid teenage kids. Having served a mission, it is completely understandable how this happens. This would have been pretty funny. This is something I may have done–if operating on 1/3 of a brain as I did when I was 19. But I also have a really good idea about how such images are received. Very offensive. Most Colorado Catholics wouldn’t say “Gee, stupid kids.”

    So what is a just punishment? I have empathy for the missionaries. They’re young and stupid. But we punish 19-23 year-olds all the time in our legal system for being young and stupid. Young and stupid is a poor defense. Make them index 100,000 names. Make them index 100,000 names from an 1850 census. That’ll raise the bar.

  33. Kendall Smith on March 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    You’re right, Matt. We’re upset because we’re challenged in the humor department.

    Your analogies really don’t hold up however. One of the pictures showed the missionaries acting out human sacrifice on the altar–would you find that funny if Ed Decker’s people managed to take the same picture inside one of our temples? How about if someone broke the head off the Joseph Smith statue in Nauvoo and played with it?

  34. Mark B. on March 10, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I now know why reading RAF’s posts always reminded me of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

  35. RT on March 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Matt:

    Assuming for a moment that these actions can somehow be called “humor” (which I disagree with), your premise is still off. The offensiveness of a humor is not judged from the perspective of the jokester, but from the perspective of society as a whole.

    When Michael Richards went off on a racially charged rant a few years back, society didn’t excuse him because he thought it was funny. Rather, society judged him because his comments were inappropriate based on a general sense of civility.

    Let’s take this out of the Catholic/Mormon context. If photos were leaked showing a group of Lutheran pastors, dressed in pastoral garb, pointedly eating pork over the altar of a Jewish synagogue, you wouldn’t think that was offensive?

  36. queuno on March 10, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Make them index 100,000 names. Make them index 100,000 names from an 1850 census.

    And make them manually verify the paper audit trail for all membership and financial changes in their stake’s MLS system.

    And then teach nursery.

  37. queuno on March 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Would we be offended if someone posted photos of temple garments and ceremonies? Oh wait…

  38. RT on March 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    No, the discipline ought to be directed at the harm.

    Among other things, the three of them ought to spend the next little while visiting Catholic congregations in Colorado apologizing for their actions. Like anyone else who has been offended in any context, the Catholic people have the right to hear an apology from the offender.

    In addition, the Church–and our members in Colorado–have a right have the Catholics hear that this is not conduct that is becoming an LDS missionary. Who better to deliver that message?

  39. KLC on March 10, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve read several articles about this incident. Most of them talk about vandalism. I’ve only seen two of the pictures, the ones in the link Marc posted. How does a picture of someone holding the broken off head of a statue translate into vandalism? Why assume that the person in the picture actually broke the statue? Do the other pictures paint a more unambiguous picture or is the court of public opinion running a little too fevered right now?

  40. Jon W on March 10, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I think it is astoundlingly stupid.

    I can say there are plenty of stupid things I have done when i was younger but I think as someone else said. That in society, just like ignorance, is not an excuse. It wasnt just playful japing, breaking some minor mission rule. This has consequences that go much farther than their own lives.

    My own stupidity: I as a missionary I took a BART out of our mission to go to San Francisco to attend a Giants game. It was breaking the rules, it was foolish, but, we were not going out of our way to mock another faith.

    I just see the two things as very different. Sort of like when my Mission President got up in a Zone Conference and in an exasperated tone said, “I do not want to hear another incident of a missionary sleeping with a Bishop’s wife again.”

    Needless to say we were left, to use the british phrase, Gobsmacked.

  41. Matt Evans on March 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    You guys are completely blowing the photos out of proportion. Vandalism is inexcusable, and if they broke the statues they should face criminal charges. Pretending to preach from the Book of Mormon in a Catholic church is funny. Notice how far each of you had to stretch the facts to try to offend Mormons: comparing the Book of Mormon to Catholics like pork to Jews (Catholics aren’t forbidden from reading the Book of Mormon — or even preaching from it), temple ceremonies (no deception necessary to enter cathedrals — camera-toting tourists welcome).

    RT, any Mormon requesting the female or black pastor from my comment 30 to visit Salt Lake wards to deliver personal apologies should be ridiculed.

  42. Disgusted on March 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Matt,

    My grandmother and several of my aunts and uncles are practicing Catholics. They live in Colorado (San Luis would be a bit of a drive, but it is the same state). They would be offended by these photos. For an LDS missionary to pretend to preach from a Catholic church’s altar, or perform mock sacrifices at a Catholic shrine, or play with a the head of a Catholic statue is offensive. Really, no analogies are necessary. What they did would be offensive to my family. Having served a mission, and my family knowing this, I would be embarassed to have them see other missionaries doing these things.

    Now I’m a returned missionary and I completely understand how this kind of thing happens. It would have been funny to me. But now that my brain has developed a bit, and my sensibilities, this kind of thing is not funny. It is offensive.

    I think we can move beyond the let-missionaries-be-missionaries argument. Let’s move on to just punishment.

  43. meems on March 10, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    This post/thread has me really so irked, I don’t know what to say. I wrote a long comment awhile ago, but my computer wasn’t cooperating and it didn’t go through.

    Maybe I’m a complete and utter boor without any sense of propriety, but I find these pictures to be complete UNoffensive and benign. There’s no indication that the missionary holding the head actually broke it. It looks like he picked it up and was doing a “to be or not to be” impression. Do you know how many headless statues there are laying around in fields all over the place? Tons. I’ve seen them. I’ve been all over the world and visited many ruins and religious shrines and temples, and do you know what tourists do? They climb on stuff. They hug religious statues. They lay on alters. They buy cheap souvenirs inside cathedrals and take posed pictures while services are going on (oh yeah, and who is selling the Pope memorabilia in the cathedral??). Please, people. Get a grip.

    These guys had a lapse in judgement when they posted the pictures and shouldn’t have been fooling around like they did; it was stupid, but really. The fact that the Sangre de Cristo church “plans to press criminal charges against the missionaries” which could include “felony criminal mischief and conspiracy” is the real idiocy here. Especially after the formal apology given to them by the church.

    Pure silliness and a lot of offense over nothing. Maybe people should start getting worked up over something that matters like abuse, poverty, human rights violations, blah, blah, blah.

  44. Karl Kategianes on March 10, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    These morons have set back the work in ways we cannot even begin to comprehend. It’s all over the news not just in the San Luis/Pueblo area, but all over the Denver media as well.
    We (the Denver stakes) are in the midst of offering a really nice art exhibit http://www.rembrandtexhibit.org/ , and instead of the hoped-for coverage in the media, we get this instead…

  45. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    #41: “Pretending to preach from the Book of Mormon in a Catholic church is funny.”. No it is not. A naked Arab on a dog leash isn’t funny either.

  46. jjohnsen on March 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong meems. It’s viewed as wrong by the Catholic Church, and the resulting bad press is bad for us. Nobody cares if you think it’s a big deal, but people watching the local news blow it out of proportion (as local news seems to do with every story), will probably think it’s a big deal.

  47. meems on March 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    “Pretending to preach from the Book of Mormon in a Catholic church is funny.”. No it is not. A naked Arab on a dog leash isn’t funny either.

    In what possible way can these two events be comparable?????

    I think preaching a BoM in a catholic church is maybe more akin to crossing oneself or holding up a picture of a crucifix in the chapel. Or maybe finding a picture of the Virgin Mary in a bowl of green jello at a ward social.

  48. meems on March 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    “Pretending to preach from the Book of Mormon in a Catholic church is funny.”. No it is not. A naked Arab on a dog leash isn’t funny either.

    In what possible way can these two events be comparable?????

    I think preaching a BoM in a catholic church is maybe more akin to crossing oneself or holding up a picture of a crucifix in the chapel. Or maybe finding a picture of the Virgin Mary in a bowl of green jello at a ward social.

  49. Brian Duffin on March 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    My in-laws are devout Catholic and they would be offended if they saw these pictures.

    While it may be true that some missionaries do childish and foolish things while on their missions, these pictures represent a new low in deplorable behavior. To mock another religion is inexcusable and should not be condoned in any fashion.

  50. jnilsson on March 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    The real issue here is this was not just stupid and offensive behavior on the part of the missionaries. It was intentional and targeted behavior against a particular religion(and behavior which has apparently not caused them any regrets in the intervening years.)

    I think back to my mission. We had enemies. They were called Jay-Dubs. Missionaries did all kinds of dumb things to JWs, their materials, and around their Kingdom Halls.

    What these photos reveal is that mindset among our missionaries. In the San Luis area of Colorado, Catholics are the enemy. Call them rivals for souls, call them the competition, whatever. It is this black/white mindset which is the problem, and the majority of missions encourage this.

    That’s how most 19 year old boys motivated enough to spend two years serving a mission are going to look at their time: a spiritual war, where any tactics are appropriate as long as you’re not caught.

  51. meems on March 10, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I agree, jjohnson, that it is completely unfortunate that many people have taken offense to the situation.

    I am sorry if I sound harsh. I just wish people would chill out a little.

    I guess that includes me!

  52. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    ” When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.” I Cor. xiii. 11″. It time for some of you to move on if you are still laughing at these kinds of things, or waiting for the next Jackass movie.

  53. Paul P on March 10, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    One of the problems here is that the young men were not just random 19-21 year olds. In my opinion, what makes the photos even more offensive is that the people in the photos were _official representatives_ of the LDS Church.

    Most of us read this story from the perspective of an active LDS Church member. Many of us were missionaries. We understand that we were fallible and did stupid things on occasion. But when you are not a member of the Church, and when you see an official LDS Church representative mocking another religion’s sacred things, then I hope you can see that this is a major problem.

    The rest of the world doesn’t look at missionaries as average 19-year-olds. They see them as official messengers from the LDS Church.

    My opinion is the missionaries deserve to be prosecuted for any crime they may have committed (I’ll leave it up to the DA to determine if a crime was actually committed), and they really ought to go back to the city and offer personal, public apologies for their inexcusable actions.

  54. RT on March 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    They were wearing church name tags. They were wearing church name tags. They were wearing church name tags. [Pretend I’d repeated that another 10 or 15 times].

    We don’t send our missionaries out in public to be funny, or act like a more-obnoxious-than-usual version of a standard tourist, or make public statements about the proper bounds of social humor and commentary. We send them out to represent Jesus Christ (generally) and our Church (specifically). As our official representatives, their actions matter to the public in ways that are far, far different than the actions of a laymember, and they are therefore not judged by the standards applicable to the rest of us.

    Given this context, their “jokes” didn’t have to be inherently offensive to be wrong. What made them wrong is that these guys, while dressed as representatives of our church, made the “jokes” in the first place. Put it this way: can you imagine the Savior making Catholic jokes in public? Or President Hinckley? Or President Monson?

    Should missionaries be allowed to tour Catholic churches, snap photos, buy the memorabilia? Of course. But crack visual jokes using a catholic church and its symbols/artifacts as props? Of course that’s wrong, regardless of how offensive the “jokes” themselves actually were. How can you not see that??

  55. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    # 48: ” In what possible way can these two events be comparable?????”.
    See #22: Missionaries are not frat boys, and their actions aren’t comparable to frat boys’ actions.”
    In both cases, the sets of photos were seem as “frat boy play”. They are not.

  56. Lynne on March 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    You may think the photos are funny, but regardless of what you or anyone else outside of southern Colorado thinks, the effect of the prank has caused irreparable PR damage to the church in that region. I think the fault lies partly in training. As many have pointed out, most 19 year old boys are not too bright, and many are simply incapable of recognizing how others perceive their actions-especially others that come from a different culture. I think the missionaries should have pounded into their heads that they must show respect to whatever is the area’s sacred cow-backed up with the threat of being sent home in disgrace if they not do not. A foreign missionary to the US should not burn a U.S. flag-even if it was simply a light-hearted prank, missionaries should not jokingly tell stewardesses that they have a BOM in their backpacks, and missionaries should never ever make fun of the local shrine.

  57. A Turtle Named Mack on March 10, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I’m not saying that what these missionaries did wasn’t exceedingly offensive, I’m saying that I’m not surprised. We can give them 3 (or more) weeks of intensive training, slap a name tag on them, and remind every single morning that they are representatives of the church and of the savior himself. None of that is going to change the fact that they are 19 year-olds with very little life-experience. The only shocking thing is that we don’t hear about this kind of stuff in some random region on a weekly basis.

    As for disciplining them for their actions, after they’ve been released and home, etc. Well, that’s a little tricky. It would amount to punishing them ONLY because they were stupid enough to get caught. Otherwise, I’d be in a very long line somewhere, needing to turn in my recommend for deeds committed years ago, that have never been made public, that I have regretted ever since. Also, let’s remember that only one of these chaps posted the pics – and the others will be burned because of it.

  58. Martin Willey on March 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    They were making light of the religious beliefs of others.

    I don’t care that they were 19. I don’t know who broke the head off the statue. I don’t care how many people have done similar things. I agree that it is not an unpardonable sin. I agree that (almost) all 19-20 year old men lack the judgment of older adults (though they are adults, let’s not forget). I agree that the church will (with some effort and appropriate apologies) survive this incident.

    It seems to me that any missionary ought to understand that making fun of another religion is a very bad idea. This is not a difficult concept. Doing it in public compounds the problem significantly. Posting pictures of such disrespectful activities is just unbelievably stupid. Far more stupid than the average 19 year-old, I sincerely hope.

  59. Mark B. on March 10, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Meems,

    I’ll avoid my impulse to attack everything you said if you’ll go home, pull out your grammar book, and learn how to conjugate “lie” and “lay”.

  60. Steve Jones on March 10, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Like many who have posted I served a mission and did and saw foolish things done. However while serving as a district leader I received a call in the middle of the night from a jail 40 miles away. My companion and I had to drive to that jail to secure the release of the two missionaries serving in that area. They had been arrested late at night when one was chasing the other down the main street with a butcher knife and both were only clad in their underwear. A number of years ago in our local community a priest quorum advisor thought it would be fun to take three of his priests up in his private plane and drop bags of flour on top of the local Sikh Temple.
    We have a local Catholic cemetary which dates to the gold rush days. The past year has seen a rash of vandalism to the markers and grave stones.
    As a prosecutor who supervises all of the prosecutors and DA investigators in our office, I have some experience in these matters. A couple of years ago one of my prosecutors brought me a motion to terminate misdemeanor probation early. Attached was a letter from the defendant’s Bishop who stated that the defendant while on criminal probation was precluded from doing many things which were listed. My prosecutor asked me if this was true. I told him yes. The man was on probation for having run up a homeowners phone bill to the tune more than $1000 for 900 phone sex calls while he was at the home doing a remodeling job. My investigator then asked if he should agree to the early termination of probation. I said no, do not treat him any diferently than you would any other similarly situated defendant and recused myself from the case.
    That said if this incident had occurred in my county and one of the missionaries was represented by the Public Defender, he would approach me and say this is just a childish prank. However I know the PD would be greatly offended being a practising Jew. During the current presidential primary process he has told me many times how offended he was by the treatment of Mitt Romney in the press and by the evangelical right, though he is a liberal democrat.
    We would then tailor a resolution. If they in fact vandalized the property they would be charged with either a misdemeanor of felony depending on the amount and would eventually plead to a misdemeanor and be placed on probation and required to pay restitution, a fine and do anumber of adult offender work hours or jail. If they did not do the vandalizm we would ordinarily fashion a civil compromise which would require an apology to the Catholic church a retraction on the internet sites and community service hours performed at the Catholic church under the direction, supervision and approval of the Priest. As an aside my boss, the elected DA is a Catholic and probably would be less offended by this incident than I would be.

  61. Kendall Smith on March 10, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Matt–you say Catholic churches aren’t like temples in that everyone can come in and no deception is required.

    The missionaries also took a picture simulating a human sacrifice on the chapel’s altar. Any Catholic altar used to celebrate mass has been consecrated; that is, set aside from the worldly and profane to a sacred use. The missionaries’ playing around on it carries the same weight, for devout Catholics, as someone using deception to sneak into an endowment ceremony. Still find it funny?

  62. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Brian Duffin (#49),

    While it may be true that some missionaries do childish and foolish things while on their missions, these pictures represent a new low in deplorable behavior.

    Oh, I seriously doubt that. I know enough from my own mission, to say nothing of others’, to say that it doesn’t even begin to hit any kind of “new low.” Doesn’t mean they’re excused, doesn’t mean it’s not getting blown out of proportion, doesn’t mean others aren’t rightly offended, doesn’t mean they’re punishment isn’t just–doesn’t mean any of those things. Just means that, while just about all missionaries–like just about all white male American 19-year-olds everywhere–are idiots much of the time, some are genuine jackasses, and they’re the ones who really do harm. These guys were just fools being funny, sort of, or so they thought, and now they’re nailed. Sad, but nothing that the church is going to be inspired to change policies over.

  63. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Turtle (#57),

    I’m not saying that what these missionaries did wasn’t exceedingly offensive, I’m saying that I’m not surprised. We can give them 3 (or more) weeks of intensive training, slap a name tag on them, and remind every single morning that they are representatives of the church and of the savior himself. None of that is going to change the fact that they are 19 year-olds with very little life-experience. The only shocking thing is that we don’t hear about this kind of stuff in some random region on a weekly basis.

    Very well said. Sometime in the distant past, 19-year-old American male missionaries were for the most part incipient adults, with real-world (and therefore humbling) life and work experience and consequent testimonies. (Those that didn’t have those qualities, of course, simply didn’t go on missions; no big deal.) Today, things have changed. I, for example, for all my talk about farming and cows and family and community, was your basic overeducated, frustrated, disobedient, precocious nerd, with a thorough knowledge of Star Trek and no idea how to relate to other people. Judging by my peers in the MTC and later on in Korea, I wasn’t exactly alone, not if that damn fart competition and the ice sculpture of the Korean Temple at that one zone conference was indication.

  64. daveja vu on March 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    As has been stated by several on this thread, the one thing that matters most is that they were acting as official representatives of the church. These were not your normal 19 year olds just goofing off and having fun – they were fully expected and REQUIRED to uphold a higher standard when they are wearing church name tags. And the fact that they mocked another religion and made it public by posting pictures on the Net (the utter height of stupidity) makes it that much worse. The vandalism, if true, should certainly be prosecuted as the local authorities see fit. As far as church discipline goes, the public nature of their actions and the potential damage it may have caused to the missionary program in that area will go a long way in determining their discipline. One thing’s for sure – the MTC needs to stress to these missionaries the responsibilities and standards they need to uphold when they are wearing that church badge, otherwise they might as well pack up and go home. And as far as the “stupid 19-year-olds” argument, consider this: who would be judged more harshly by the people, a common laymember of the church committing adultery, or a bishop committing adultery? Or a stake president? Or area president? Or general authority? These 19 year olds need to be made to understand that while on a mission, they no longer fit into the common laymember category. And their stupidity won’t just hurt themselves, it may well harm the church and all it’s missionary efforts. That last point is inexcusable.

  65. Martin Willey on March 10, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    If you want to see something depressing, google “Mormon missionaires Colorado”.

  66. kwk on March 10, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    “What made them wrong is that these guys, while dressed as representatives of our church, made the “jokes” in the first place. Put it this way: can you imagine the Savior making Catholic jokes in public? Or President Hinckley? Or President Monson?”

    I seem to remember at least one fairly prominent LDS leader who who claimed that the Catholic church was the “whore of all the earth.” Or is that not what you’re getting at?

    I’m surprised so many of you stopped yelling at the damn kids to get of your lawn to comment on this. Bad apple missionaries are nothing new. Yes, it was ugly, and we should strive toward some recompense. But this was just a naughty little joke that got out in public (assuming no vandalism). Nobody got molested. Nobody burned down a church. Catching a Mormon doing something bad makes for a good story. And if would-be converts have a tough time separating the actions of an individual from the morals of their organization, then they would have a tough time in the LDS church anyway.

  67. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I’m surprised so many of you stopped yelling at the damn kids to get of your lawn to comment on this.

    Yes. Lousy whippersnappers, all of them, trodding on my tulips. I intend to write a pointed letter to the editor about this travesty.

  68. Manuel on March 10, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Wow. As a convert to the Church and a former Catholic, and as a member of an all Catholic family, I am very surprised to see how many people minimize the actions of these missionaries.

    I went on a mission and I did not do anything of this sort, not even close.

    I think it reflects the terribly sheltered state of the LDS culture and the typical and condescending views we have of other religions… because we believe “we belong to the only true Church etc etc etc.”

    To me, it speaks of an urgent need to change attitudes, to get acquainted and learn to love and respect other cultures. In summary, to practice TRUE Christianity, which is to love one another.

    It is also sad some in here have judged generally implying most missionaries behave like that. This is not true, if you did it, it doesn’t mean the majority did it or is doing it. I like to think trash missionaries are a miniority.

  69. Anon Catholic on March 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    In my mind the most offensive thing about this whole story is the pretend \”sacrifice\” on the altar.

    Altars aren\’t just regular tables, they\’re specially built, consecrated, and contain holy relics.

    That would be like somebody pretending to drown somebody else in the baptismal font in one of your temples.

  70. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I like to think trash missionaries are a miniority.

    If by “trash missionaries,” Manuel, you mean “lawless, mean, aggressive, violent, dismissive, rude and/or vandalistic missionaries,” than I hope and believe you are correct. If, however, by trash missionaries you “boneheaded goofball idiots,” well, then, hey, we have a difference of opinion. Here’s to hoping I’ll be proven wrong, someday, maybe.

  71. East Coast on March 10, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I agree with Manuel. These missionaries are a minority. I’ve known a few immature missionaries that created problems, but just a very few. Most of the missionaries I knew were fine, upstanding, earnest kids. I’m aware of a number of escapades that happened in my mission while I was a (sister) missionary. I helped deal with the aftermath of an incident or two. But most missionaries respected the cultural boundaries that we were taught in the Missionary Training Center.

  72. Manuel on March 10, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Well RAF…

    I think you polarized the term a little too much. But sure, I don’t expect 19 year old missionaries to naturally behave like General Authorities (heck, not even older Republican Senators have learned the basics of public relations tact in UT)… nevertheless, they know much better than this. I have been a missionary, and I was blessed to work with MANY missionaries who would never do anything like this. Nor as missionaries, not as regular members, not as individuals with average common sense for a 19 year old.

    Yes, I still want to think that “boneheaded goofball idiots” is not a term I would use to describe the majority of our missionaries out there.

  73. Kari on March 10, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    So if these missionaries have all returned home, is Colorado going to request extradition? For what? For all I have read, there has been nothing at all to indicate that these missionaries actually damaged the statue in question. I have a ton of pictures from my mission, all taken in old English graveyards with tombstones lying all around on the ground. Should I keep them hidden out of fear that people will assume I vandalized them?

    So if there is no proof of vandalism, has there been any other crime committed? Last I checked, mocking another’s religion is not criminal behaviour. If no crime, then an apology (preferably in person, imo) should be sufficient. Do we expect the church to actually disfellowship these chaps? I don’t think the church actually has any power/authority to do anything else, except maybe deny enrollment at BYU.

  74. TMD on March 10, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    As a convert to the Church, a former catholic (catholic grade school, altar boy, etc.) _I_ am offended by these pictures and really can’t understand, Matt Evans, how you can think of them as jokes (even if they had been intended as such). Just a flash of them caused me an almost reflexive discomfort and dismay. I can only imagine the real hurt, pain, then anger that someone like my dad would feel.

    It’s not im-maturity. It’s a flat-out insult. It’s basic ir-reverance. Perhaps if the church were a bit more serious about the scouts program, these kids would have encountered the idea that reverence includes respectign others, and is more than just a codeword that primary leaders use for ‘hush!’

  75. David T. on March 10, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Manuel (#68),

    I, too, am a convert who was raised Catholic. I was very active growing up in the Catholic faith– in the CCD, CYO and was a lecturer. I also served an LDS mission after I converted– and, yes, did some bonehead things myself– albeit not so sacrilegious. That said, I am rolling my eyes over some of the fist-in-palm outrage I’m reading here. The kids were STUPID– not because of the shallowness of LDS culture, not because we think we’re better than everyone else, but because they were 19 and they were just plain dirt dumb. We were all taught to respect others’ faiths while in the field, naturally, and these bozos had lapses of judgement– then compounded it with posting the pics (I suspect one posted the pics and is now dragging the rest of them to hell with him). To call this a commentary of LDS culture is ridiculous. I agree with kwk in comment #66: …”If would-be converts have a tough time separating the actions of an individual from the morals of their organization, then they would have a tough time in the LDS church anyway.”

    The Sangre de Cristo church said on Sunday that it plans to press criminal charges against the missionaries — none of whom were identified on Sunday. The charges could include felony criminal mischief and conspiracy.

    So much for turning the other cheek.

  76. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Given the gravity of the situation that has developed, this certainly has become a big deal. I think some here, however, are being a little too critical of the missionaries. Assuming the allegations of vandalism are false, the missionaries simply exercised some bad judgment that happened to blow up in their faces. Were they disrespectful of another’s holy shrine? Yes. But, as RAF has pointed out repeatedly, I think this stems from immaturity more than scorn or intended disrespect. I know a good number of missionaries who served honorable missions and are upstanding members to whom this could just have easily had happened. In fact, in response to this story, I’ve actually had people come out of the woodwork to me sharing experiences on their missions that could just have easily turned into embarrassing incidents for the Church. To echo an earlier comment, I’m just shocked that it hasn’t happened more. Does that make what these missionaries did right? No. Does it mean we should be tolerant of this sort of activity in the future? No. It does, however, in my view mean that we should be understanding toward the pretty weighty circumstances the missionaries find themselves in right now. Hopefully this incident can ultimately be used as a tool for helping instill greater sensitivity in our missionaries as well as a greater respect for that which others hold sacred.

  77. Matt Evans on March 10, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    RT #54, I agree that Christ wouldn’t be silly and pretend to preach from the Book of Mormon at a Catholic church, but the reason you and others are upset isn’t simply because the missionaries failed to do what Christ would do. You don’t call for every missionary who failed to act as Christ to go personally apologize to the people in their mission for failing to do companionship study as diligently as Christ would. You’re alleging conduct far worse than merely failure to act like Christ.

    For everyone who believes the photos are outrageous (RT, TMD, etc):

    How outraged would you be, REALLY, if an ordained female (or gay) pastor pretended to preach from the pulpit of a Mormon chapel, or even the Kirtland temple? If they wore the name tag from their church? If they held up a book from their church? Frankly, I’d be ashamed of Utah journalism if a story about internet photos of a pastor pretending to preach at a Mormon tourist site made the evening news. Or of their pretending to make a sacrifice on Temple Square. I guess that’s what’s so surprising to me about the reactions here — everyone seems to agree that internet photos of a Christian Scientist holding up Health and Science in a Mormon chapel or in front of the Salt Lake Temple would be newsworthy. Puhhhlease.

    Would that Mormons were like Catholics, and the recipients of so little disrespect that internet photos of three representatives from another church goofing around at a church site was newsworthy and cause for outrage.

  78. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    The Sangre de Cristo church said on Sunday that it plans to press criminal charges against the missionaries — none of whom were identified on Sunday. The charges could include felony criminal mischief and conspiracy.

    Unless there is substantive evidence of vandalism, fat chance of getting these charges to stick.

  79. Lupita on March 10, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I thought this was going to be a post on those horrible missionary calendars floating around.
    I want to say something smug about how sister missionaries would never do something like this but I’m afraid someone will post something and prove me wrong.
    I doubt that anyone who’s served a mission is surprised at all by these photos. If you are then wow, I envy your experience.
    I would’ve thought that if they were hiking/visiting local religious sites, they would be doing so on P Day, so, why are they dressed up?
    I have had the misfortune of seeing MANY similar tasteless/offensive photos taken by missionaries. Actually, I’ve seen and heard much worse.
    And frankly, I think the age thing is being overplayed a bit. All missionaries out there certainly aren’t 19.
    As for the idiocy part, my older brother taught me a profound lesson. He said that people who were idiots on their missions were generally idiots when they returned. Some outgrow it and some just keep posting on Facebook.

  80. Yet Another John on March 10, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    While I in no way condone what the missionaries did, I think that the event has now taken on a life of its own, which in some ways, is as thoughtless and idiotic as the antics that sparked it.

    I think that indignation is justified, outrage certainly, civil and criminal penalties maybe. As far as church action against the misssionaries? That could open a whole other can of worms. Do I need to confess about MY pictures? I served a mission during the heyday of BRM and in a Latin American country. Is there any doubt what we thought the “great and abominable church” was?

  81. Jim Cobabe on March 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    I always wondered what happened to those poor, irresponsible, unthinking 19-year-olds: did they turn bitter, or repentant; did their parents change wards out of shame? Anyone out there know the rest of the story?

    I heard they went to law school.

  82. Christian on March 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I’m glad that the church is taking this seriously, but Bob’s comparison to Abu Ghraib in #45 is insane.

  83. Jeremiah J. on March 10, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    While I agree with RAF that missionary stupidity is practically infinite (they put thm on *Flicker*, didn’t they?), it seems that more of the “estupid rules!” of the mission are intended to prevent this stupidity from becoming lethal or damaging to the work. Mormons can understand these are just very young people, but we’ll have to forgive the non-Mormon world for taking them as representatives of the Church. My mission was not rule-crazy at all, but we were counselled to restrict our photo-snapping to baptisms, shots of companionships and zones, etc. It prevented a lot of the moronic behavior that elders engage in when they have a camera pointed at them. I’ve seen photo albums of missionaries from other missions, and I know of photography majors in college who used less film in 2 years. If this Colorado case indeed didn’t involve vandalism, then it’s relatively mild, but it still didn’t have to happen. I do think there are missions where this kind of goofing off is rare.

  84. Christian on March 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    “Let’s take this out of the Catholic/Mormon context. If photos were leaked showing a group of Lutheran pastors, dressed in pastoral garb, pointedly eating pork over the altar of a Jewish synagogue, you wouldn’t think that was offensive?”

    I’m unaware of any Catholic prohibitions to the Book of Mormon analogous to the Jewish prohibition on pork.

    The book of mormon preaching pic is wrong in that it’s tresspassing. The missionaries knew or should have known that they weren’t welcome to do that in a Catholic church. The other pix are more serious … the mock human sacrifice one is closer to the pork analogy that you describe.

  85. Marc Bohn on March 10, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    #81 – I think you might actually be onto something there…

  86. TMD on March 10, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Matt Evans: I think you mis-judge the character of the offense. For a Roman Catholic, the sanctuary of a Church is the functional equivalent what the temple is to us (Recall that until Vatican II such areas were screened off from the congregation (and that some other rites still do this.) The equivalent act would be someone getting into a temple while others weren’t around, and mocking and playing around with the Veil of the temple, while taking pictures.
    Moreover, just because you are apparently immune to offense does not mean that others are; in the Cathlic liturgy the focus of activity, reverence (jenuflection, etc) and veneration is the altar, the high cross above it, and the container that stores excess, blessed eucharist.
    Moreover, since some (#80) seem unclear about it, it seems to me hard to pretend that this is not a sin. If we really believe that other christians worship the same god as we, if in a perhaps lesser light, then it is hard to see how these acts were not blaspheme, for it makes light of our savior’s sacrifice. It seems to me that you have to discount the faith an prayers of your neighbors entirely in order to do so. Indeed, unless there was actual damage, the far grosser wrong here, from our perspective, should be the sin rather than the violation of the law.

  87. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    YAJ (#80),

    I served a mission during the heyday of BRM and in a Latin American country. Is there any doubt what we thought the “great and abominable church” was?

    My older brother and sister (and brother-in-law too, now that I think about it) would be right there with you, having served missions in Argentina and Paraguay in the 1980s. There was a time when I could say “nun” in their presence and off they’d go, talking about those “witches” and how they worshipped Satan and served the devil, etc., etc.

    Jeremiah (#83),

    I’ve seen photo albums of missionaries from other missions, and I know of photography majors in college who used less film in 2 years.

    So true, so very true.

  88. jjohnsen on March 10, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I think the problem here is people are comparing the church in the photo to a LDS chapel. We don’t treat our chapels with respect, why would it bother us if someone from another church mocked it? They aren’t the same. Instead compare it to the temple, does it feel any more serious now?

  89. Bill MacKinnon on March 10, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    I’m only qualified to say the following: (1) Think again about what Bob has said (#10 and following); as a 17-year-old in the Marine Corps, he has seen, as most who have posted have not, how another institution that takes its mission and reputation VERY seriously deals with teenagers who go off the reservation behaviorally; (2) Although only 19, these lads aspired to be treated as men, were high-profile representatives of their church (and photographed as such), and hold an exalted position denied even to their grandmothers; and (3) the damage done goes way beyond the San Luis Valley/Pueblo region of Colorado — thanks to the internet, this incident is now a matter of international attention (as are the attitudes of various stripe about this incident recorded on T&S). The internet-reading public may take away a strong impression of missionaries from this event than from any other interaction with the entire missionary program this year. Not a pretty picture.

  90. Ivan Wolfe on March 10, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    #88 –

    Wow. I actually 100% agree with jjohnsen (well, except I would amend “We don’t treat our chapels with respect” to “We don’t treat our chapels with anywhere near the same respect other denominations treat their churches” – but otherwise, that’s a dead on comment).

  91. Matt Evans on March 10, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    #86 and #88, if Mormons welcomed into their temples camera-toting backpackers, and charged a $5 entrance fee, it would be easier for me to see the comparison to the Mormon temple. Mormons require worthiness interviews to enter the temple, ask that people wear Sunday best, and wear all white once inside. Not that I don’t believe many Catholics revere their cathedral’s sacredness despite their commercialization, the iPod-listening tourists in Rolling Stones concert t-shirts, and the swarm of caricature artists and street vendors outside, but those things certainly diminish the reverence outsiders feel, and I trust that Catholic leaders recognize that their decision to blur the line between cathedral and tourist trap affects the way visitors view their churches.

  92. kwk on March 10, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Bill, #89: I’m unsure as to what your qualifications have to do with your opinions on this situation, but it does appear that you might have some experience in blowing things out of proportion.
    (1) How has the church indicated that it does not take this seriously? What punishment do the Marines impart for committing blaspheme?
    (2) While I agree that missionaries should be held to a higher standard than your average 19-21 year old American male, it’s absurd to expect 60,000 of them to constantly remember the doctrinal significance of their office in our religion. Our goals for them are certainly lofty, but I think reasonable people realize that maturation does not immediately come at an Elder’s ordination or after three weeks in the MTC.
    (3) This story is about sensationalizing some poor behavior by “those crazy Mormons”. Religious feud! Scandal! Tonight at Eleven! Despite what the media might lead you to believe, this is not a massive, systematic cover-up of years of unpunished homosexual child molestation by clergyman. This is photographic evidence of young preachers in a moment of weakness and insensitivity. This story will have the same lifespan as any other pseudo-story that “takes the internet by storm” – short. This is certainly a punch in the face to the missionary program, but it’s nothing to go buffering your food storage over.

    I’ve learned to deal with Evangelical garment-wielding Temple Square protesters. I don’t think it’s OK to insult things others hold sacred, but I’ve realized that most of the time those who offend in such a way can’t be expected to comprehend their sacrilege. Then again, I’ve done a lot of things that I hope people will see past and forgive me for, so maybe I’m biased on this one.

  93. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Bill (#89),

    Think again about what Bob has said (#10 and following): as a 17-year-old in the Marine Corps, he has seen, as most who have posted have not, how another institution that takes its mission and reputation VERY seriously deals with teenagers who go off the reservation behaviorally.

    I actually find it rather entertaining to imagine how much different missionary life, and the missionary program in general, would be if mission presidents were guided, and district and zone leaders were instructed and empowered, to enforce rules and discipline those who violated them accordingly. (“All right Elder, you miserable &@#$% worm–drop and give me fifty push-ups, right now!”) I mean, what if the whole “raising the bar” thing was not just about spiritual preparedness, but serious physical, mental, and moral discipline as well? I would have been booted out within a month, that’s for sure.

    Although only 19, these lads aspired to be treated as men, were high-profile representatives of their church (and photographed as such), and hold an exalted position denied even to their grandmother.

    Ok, but with all due respect, I think the position of “full-time proselytizing missionary,” while certainly culturally and socially significant, is in actuality no more or less exalted than that of Scoutmaster, Beehives advisor, or ward clerk.

    The damage done goes way beyond the San Luis Valley/Pueblo region of Colorado — thanks to the internet, this incident is now a matter of international attention (as are the attitudes of various stripe about this incident recorded on T&S).

    Do you mean that I shouldn’t have revealed that your average white male American missionary is 19 years old and, unfortunately all too often, an immature idiot?

  94. John Taber on March 10, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    “Or maybe finding a picture of the Virgin Mary in a bowl of green jello at a ward social.”

    How about dumping jello powder into the holy water in a Catholic church? That was rumored to have happened in my mission (Italy, early 1990s). Another variation on the story said it was Kool-Aid powder, so that the “ignorant worshipers” would think it was blood. Either way, disrespectful, but not nearly as disrespectful as the cartoon one elder drew, that had one elder aiming a rifle at the Pope, while his companion said, “Steady, Elder. Steady . . . “

  95. Ardis Parshall on March 10, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Ok, but with all due respect, I think the position of “full-time proselytizing missionary,” while certainly culturally and socially significant, is in actuality no more or less exalted than that of Scoutmaster, Beehives advisor, or ward clerk.

    From inside the church, maybe. To the average non-Mormon, missionaries are not only high profile but generally the ONLY face of the church.

    Heber: “What do you know about the Mormon church?”
    Mr. Brown: “Oh, you guys are the ones who [fill in whatever distorted version of these events gets fixed in public imagination].”
    Heber: “Would you like to know more?”
    Mr. Brown: “[Expletive.]”

  96. Manuel on March 10, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    —-“To call this a commentary of LDS culture is ridiculous.”

    Actually is not all ridiculous at all. It is an experience I live almost on a daily basis here in UT.

    —– ” I agree with kwk in comment #66: …”If would-be converts have a tough time separating the actions of an individual from the morals of their organization, then they would have a tough time in the LDS church anyway.””

    This commentary is the one I find ridiculous. Not being able to see in retrospect our own faults and put an effort to correct them sounds out of tune with what we teach. I hope you attended your priesthood meeting last Sunday and learned something about repentance. Especially those pages Joseph Smith insisted there was a need for repentance within the Church.

    ——- “The Sangre de Cristo church said on Sunday that it plans to press criminal charges against the missionaries — none of whom were identified on Sunday. The charges could include felony criminal mischief and conspiracy.

    ——- So much for turning the other cheek. ”

    And this is a hypocrite comment, since our Church is very aggressive too in pressing charges for vandalism and damage to Church property; and frankly I don’t have a problem with it. Vandalism is a crime that should be punished. I don’t see how we expect other religious organizations to act differently.

    ——– “How outraged would you be, REALLY, if an ordained female (or gay) pastor pretended to preach from the pulpit of a Mormon chapel…”

    Are you serious? How about the gay pastor simulates a sacrifice from the sacrament table in the chapel? How about he mocks Joseph Smith by ridiculing a statue of him? How about pictures of this actions are posted on the internet?

    Of course it would be newsworthy. I can’t believe how naive you people are. Members of the church will be condemning those actions throwing their arms on the air and screaming “we are the victims!!!!”

  97. E on March 10, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I think what these elders did is reprehensible and I do not blame the Catholic church members one bit for wanting to press charges. I think if they are repentent, church discipline would probably be along the lines of “probation”. The Elders were 19 years old, and it’s true that 100% of 19 year olds are idiots, but they need to suffer some consequences for their idiocy because they (apparently) acted illegally and because they were officially representatives of the church.

  98. John Taber on March 10, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    “Given that they appear to have returned from their missions, what is that discipline likely to be?”

    From http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/mar/09/parish-votes-whether-seek-charges-against-mormons/ :

    A Mormon missionary who allegedly helped vandalize a Catholic shrine in the San Luis Valley was dismissed from his work and sent home to Idaho last weekend, an official said this morning.

    The young man was one of three Mormon missionaries seen in photos — taken in August 2006 and posted recently on a Web site — at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs at the Chapel of All Saints across the street from Sangre de Cristo parish in San Luis.

    The five photos – posted on Photobucket and now removed – include images of one missionary holding a head broken off a statue with the caption “Hannemann broke the head off a saint,” said Alonzo Payne, a parishioner and spokesman for Sangre de Cristo, which paid for the shrine. Another shows a missionary apparently preaching from the Book of Mormon at the altar inside the chapel and a third photo shows a missionary pretending to sacrifice another.

    Payne said the parish council voted unanimously Sunday to refer the incident to Costilla County Sheriff’s office for criminal prosecution.

    “The community feels hurt and betrayed,” Payne said.

    Robert Fotheringham, president of the Colorado Springs Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the three young men, who were 19 and 20 at the time of the incident, apparently were visiting the shrine when the photos were taken. They were not assigned to do mission work in San Luis, but were doing volunteer work in other parts of southern Colorado, he said.

    He said the Idaho missionary was disciplined and sent home. The other two men, one from California and the other from Nevada, had finished their mission work last summer. All three had distinguished themselves for their work in community service, including with the elderly, he said.

    “They’re fabulous young men,” he said. “I love them like sons. They’ve done fabulous service except for this … that’s why this is so out of character.”

    Fotheringham said he would not identify the young men because of legal issues.

    “They’ll be identified eventually,” he said.

  99. Martin Willey on March 10, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Does anyone know about the Mission Pres., Robert Fotheringham? I think he is an advertising/PR professional and had a major agency in SLC. If so, I guess the Lord knew where to put him!

  100. Jim Cobabe on March 10, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    One wonders how similar is this incident to Danish political cartoons that caricature “peaceful” Islamic leaders with bombs in their turbans?

  101. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    “They’re fabulous young men,” he said. “I love them like sons. They’ve done fabulous service except for this … that’s why this is so out of character.”

    Of course, depending how one looks at it, what’s really “out of character” for your average middle-class white American 19-year-old teenage male is to be willing to volunteer two years of one’s life to serving others and preaching the gospel. The unthinking goofball antics at the shrine is, unfortunately, actually probably more in character for that particular age group.

  102. TMD on March 10, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Matt Evans, what you address is a question of accessibility–and things that no catholic could stop, however much they want–rather than a question of whether or not something is sacred and seen as such by most catholics. (The alternative is what? Trying to stop people from entering, and lacking the ability to control or repair the damage done by the hordes of tourists?) And of course they view certain of our practices with in exactly the way view theirs–like disposing of the excess bread from the sacrament into the garbage (each host is consumed, and each catholic church has special sinks that go directly to the ground for the water used to wash them, rather than admitting it into the sewer).

    This is not merely a question of whether someone should be offended or not. It’s a question of whether this was a trivial joke, or if something was done here that is not only fundamentally wrong, but wrong in a way that suggests a poor formation. I believe it was the latter, that it reflects a contempt for the savior and of symbols of his sacrifice which require repentence and probably some time without a temple recomend. If a person does not understand enough to treat the symbols of the savior outside of the temple with respect, how can we imagine that he will treat his temple covenants with respect?

  103. TMD on March 10, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    And I have to say, Russell, that your apparent desire to excuse this as the action of ‘mere boys’ infantilizes them in a way I resent.

  104. Bob on March 10, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    All I can say, in the Marines if you were a “19 year-old idiot”, you were given 10 minutes to get over it! AND THEY DID!

  105. queuno on March 10, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    A generation from now, new missionaries will still be taught a basic rule of behavior:

    “If your actions are going to cause Bruce Olsen (or whoever has replaced him) to issue public apologies for your behavior, then don’t do it!”

    I know dozens and dozens of 19-year-olds who never did anything like this. Let’s stop excusing their extremely poor judgment as the whim of a teenager.

  106. Russell Arben Fox on March 10, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    And I have to say, Russell, that your apparent desire to excuse this as the action of ‘mere boys’ infantilizes them in a way I resent.

    Is your point that I’m treating it as if it were a childish prank and therefore understandable and easily dismissed, or that I’m treating the missionaries as less mature than they actually are or at least ought to be? Or both? Because I don’t think I’m doing either; I haven’t dismissed the serious of the act (pointing out that lots of us did stupid crap like this when we were that age doesn’t mean I think it’s no big deal), and I’m not infantilizing them in some unwarranted way (my memory of my own behavior at that age, and the observations I make daily as a young men’s president and a college teacher, teach me to have great hopes and aspirations for the spiritual and intellectual potential of the male youth of America, but also to have approximately zero expectations insofar as basic maturity goes).

  107. noredwings on March 10, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    I think that all the past experiences that some people have to justify this are inexcusable now. The bar has been raised so anything stupid you guys may or may not have done 20 years ago is different today. This is completely unacceptable! I leave on my mission this summer and have enough common sense to know that this is 100% unacceptable missionary behavior. Some of you guys forget the fact that they are called to be messengers for the Lord. Put that in perspective. Honestly, they disgraced the name of missionaries. The work is hard enough as it is in Colorado, and you forget the effect that this will have on that mission alone, let alone many others. Completely unacceptable.

  108. Ray on March 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    They represent the Church to the world – by calling and by the laying on of hands. Age notwithstanding, what they did was wrong. They should be disciplined, given their position at the time – probation for those who truly repented, disfellowshipment for the one who posted the pictures and obviously had not. If they actually vandalized, they should be prosecuted – as first-time offenders. (I assume.)

    No excuses from one “side”; no over-reaction from the “other” side. “Do unto others” pretty much sums it up for me – for everyone, Mormon and Catholic.

  109. San Luis Valley Roots on March 10, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Have not posted before, but this story caught my attention.

    Here is a little background on San Luis, for the (many) people who have never heard of it before.
    San Luis is a little tiny town of 700=800 people. They take their Spanish and Catholic heritage very seriously and make a big deal of being the oldest settlement in Colorado (settled 1850). The Stations of the Cross and the Catholic Church and shrine are their other main claim to fame and they are what bring visitors (if any) into town. They are way off any beaten track and like most of Southern Colorado, Northern New Mexico they enjoy beautiful scenery. 88% of the residents are Hispanic. They were (and may still be) the poorest county in Colorado. The neighboring county (Conejos) is the second poorest.
    See: http://www.costilla-county.com/townofsanluis.html

    In this part of the San Luis Valley, nearly all the towns are this small. Some were settled by Hispanics coming north in the mid 1800’s and others were settled by Mormons, colonizing from Utah, under direction of Brigham Young in the 1870’s 1880’s. A few were results from building the railroad through the area. The missionaries, according to newspaper reports, were assigned to Manassa and Sanford, two of the Mormon settlements. Conflict and suspicion was not uncommon between the two groups then and persists today, even though it has been over 100 years of living with each other.

    I think it would be really hard to be a missionary in this area (southern end of the San Luis Valley), because most people, especially in the smaller towns under discussion, are already Mormon (not necessarily active, but still LDS) or Catholic and do not want to be Mormon, and may risk the goodwill of their families and communities if they convert. These very small Mormon towns have two or three wards in them. The percentage of Hispanic Mormons in the wards is very, very low. Difficulties that arise in communities are often cast by people on both sides as \”Mormon vs. Catholic\” nearly as often as they are described as \”Anglo vs. Hispanic\”. In many people\’s minds they are the same thing.

    I know this is all anecdotal, my experiences, opinion, whatever. To continue in the opinion mode, I believe this incident in this locale is highly damaging; perhaps much more damaging than it would be in a more populated area without the same history.

    I have seen plenty of mission photos and heard stories that are wince-worthy and more. Sometimes a silly prank takes on a life of it’s own. I believe if vandalism is involved, they should be legally disciplined, whatever that means. What a mess.

  110. Kari on March 10, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    All I can say, in the Marines if you were a “19 year-old idiot”, you were given 10 minutes to get over it! AND THEY DID!

    Having spent three years of my life in Okinawa, Japan with 20,000 Marines (plus another 10,000 or so sailors, soldiers, and airmen), this is the most ridiculous statement I have seen. I’d take 20,000 19-20 year old missionaries over the same number of Marines any day if we’re going to compare behaviour and respect for their host country/community. In my experience, the Marines certainly have a higher percentage of 19 year-old idiots in their ranks than does the LDS missionary force.

  111. alice munro on March 11, 2008 at 1:07 am

    “Maybe 40 years ago one could still reasonably expect unmarried 19-year-old boys to be mature adults.”

    By 12 yo I expected my kids (born during the 80s) to be respectful, decent human beings even if they weren’t yet fully mature. Whatever internal fantasy lives they had, I expected them to be able to control their behavior and have empathy for others. And I certainly would have expected (if I or they could ever even imagine it!) them to recognize how offensive any kind of religious desecration is and find the thought, much less the execution, abhorrent as members of the community of man.

    I do NOT see being 19 or 20 as any kind of excuse and I am HORRIFIED by supposed adults making excuses for these shamed and shameful missionaries. They have embarrassed the LDS but so has everyone since who has tried to dismiss the gravity and the baseness of their behavior. And anyone else who has done comparable things should be ASHAMED — however much time has passed — until they apologize to those whom they have insulted.

  112. Bill MacKinnon on March 11, 2008 at 3:29 am

    A fable: Once upon a time before WWII, in a wealthy but isolated hamlet of a southern New England state, the young, immature son of the town’s wealthiest family and a few of his playmates and perhaps siblings indulged in what at the time seemed like a splendid prank. When it came to light, because of the desecration involved and the widespread interpretation that it was antisemitic in character, the family involved was mortified as was the son. In addition to immeduate atonement and repentance, he apparently vowed to lead an exemplary life. In the closing days of the war he entered the army, eventually was commissioned, went on to a leading private university located in his native state, briefly served in one of the intelligence services, and became a leading Catholic layman as well as the leader of a publishing effort and political movement that many people believe changed his country if not the world. It was a movement from which the former miscreant succeeded in purging, among other dark forces, that of antisemitism. Upon his death, he was widely and positively eugolized, even by his political opponents and the contributors to an internet blog frequented by fellow-Christians of a quite different denomination — one sometimes at odds with his own faith. End of fable. It is an ill wind that blows no good.

  113. Richard O. on March 11, 2008 at 6:00 am

    We want people to take our missionaries seriously because we want people to take their message seriously and our Church seriously. In fact we want others to take these things so seriously that they would be willing to change their lives when missionaries present the story of the Restoration. If missionaries are let off the hook because they are “just teenages who want to have fun,” then why should we expect people to respect the messages that missionaries bring?

  114. Richard O. on March 11, 2008 at 6:34 am

    In D&C 124:26 the Lord gave J.S. a revelation about how to go about building a temple. Among the instructions was this phrase, “bring those with knowledge of antiquity.” Apparently others had some thing to teach us..

    About a hundred and seventy years ago Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff were serving as missionaries in Worchester, England. One day Brigham took Wilford up to the superb Gothic cathedral of the city. Wiflord’s response? “It is the most beautiful things mine eyes have ever beheld. It is so superior to the architecture of the present generation.”

    While on this mission Brigham Young visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He spent extensive time there on three different days. He spent an entire day visiting Westminster Abby. He even bought the guide book.

    Over a dozen years later Brigham called Truman Angell, the newly appointed Church architect, to go on an architectural study mission to Great Britain. In setting Truman apart for his mission, Brigham explained in his blessing what Truman was expected to do on this mission. “You will be quick to understand the work of men of various ages.” (in other words learn some architectural history). “You will rejoice all the time.” (in other words you will respond with respect and admiration to what you see). “In order to better continue your work on the temple.” (in other words to incorporate elements from these ancient religious buildings, built mostly by Medieval British Catholics, into the architecture of the Salt Lake Temple.

    What if we worked a little more to get these kinds of attitudes into our youth? Perhaps then when we sent them out as missionaries, encounters with the sacred spaces of other religions would be more positive for all concerned.

  115. RT on March 11, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I don’t accept for a moment that this is standard behavior. I served a mission in a country that was completely dominated by a particular religion. I don’t have any photos of me inside one of their churches performing mock human sacrifices over an altar or mocking one of their icons, and I don’t know of any missionary who does. I have spent much of my life in Utah and have looked through plenty of photo albums of friends and family who served in a wide number of missions. Silly photos at local landmarks? Sure. But nothing that is outright sacrilegious on another’s sacred space.

    While I fully accept that there are bad seeds out there, the missionaries that I know and served with were outstanding men and women who were truly dedicated to serving God and acting as His representatives at all times. I do not accept the repeated assertion on this board that this sort of thing is some sort of norm.

  116. RT on March 11, 2008 at 10:23 am

    One other point: a lot of the defenders (particularly Matt) seem focused, almost to the point of exclusion, on the picture showing the elder preaching from the pulpit. Of the three photos, that’s easily the least offensive. If that’s all there was to this story, it wouldn’t be such a big story.

    Although I do think that photo is offensive in its own right, that’s not the photo that’s driving this thing. What’s driving this thing is the photo of the missionaries performing mock human sacrifices over a consecrated altar, as well as the photo of the missionary using a statue of a religious figure as a prop for his “joke”(and remember that statutes in Catholic culture have a far greater significance than they do in ours).

    You can’t simply dismiss this story by focusing on the preaching photo. After all, you’re right–most religions invite outsiders to preach from their pulpits from time to time. We’ve routinely had ministers or political figures preach from the Tabernacle pulpit. But the other two photos are of a completely different sort. There is nothing innocuous about them. They are mocking spaces and things that have been consecrated. While it’s true that Catholics allow tourists into their churches, for example, I’ve never been in a cathedral where they’ve allowed/invited the tourists to come up and play on the altar. It’s a completely different thing.

    We of all people should be sensitive to the idea of a sacred, consecrated space. We take our consecrated spaces very seriously, and for a good reason. Those spaces are reserved for God and his emblems. These missionaries thought that was funny, and they thought it was funny enough to take photos of. That’s completely horrible, and it should offend any believer in any God.

  117. Bill MacKinnon on March 11, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Richard O., for a little side vignette about TOA’s 1856-57 trip to Europe to study architecture, please contact me offline.

  118. Mark B. on March 11, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Should we all take a moment and thank Eliot Spitzer for moving this story off the front page?

  119. Marc Bohn on March 11, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Indeed.

  120. Bill MacKinnon on March 11, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Re #118 and 119, let’s hope that Washington’s Mayflower Hotel is an independently-owned property.

  121. Seth R. on March 11, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Some here are saying what the missionaries did wasn’t THAT big a deal and we need to lighten-up a little.

    Nope, you’ve got it backwards.

    The punishment that these missionaries will undergo within the Church disciplinary councils is not the end of the world for these boys. Somehow, they will survive it and get on with their lives.

    You guys are making too big a deal over the punishment. It’s not like they’re having a finger cut off, OK? So quit the sissy wailing over those poor fragile young boys. Life goes on.

  122. tiredmormon on March 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I think it is cool that the Church actually apologized, instead of expressing “profound regret” a la MMM.

  123. Doug on March 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I have found that one persistent element in Mormon cultural thinking is “the media is out to get us” and “if a person of another faith committed this crime, the media wouldn’t mention it, but if it’s a Mormon then it’s all about what the ‘Mormon’ did.”

    First, I am not sure those sentiments are true. Second, we need to begin to realize that Mormonism has come a long way since the Nauvoo exodus. We are a major American religion. We are a significant force in culture, politics and religious thought. Evangelical opposition to Mormonism today has much more to do with viewing us a serious competitor than it does about bizarre rumors or bigotry.

    By viewing ourselves as we really are, I think we will begin to face up to our collective responsibility (instead of going into the bunker mode) when official representatives of our faith act foolishly.

    Even if it is discovered that these missionaries did not commit the vandalism, the pictures alone and the utter disregard for the sacred sites of others is appalling. The fact that many others have acted foolishly does not mitigate the situation, but should open our eyes to the fact that we have a major problem on our hands.

    This very post implies that scores of other missionaries have photos similar to this one and that this ought to be a lesson not to upload them to facebook. What is a Catholic who stumbles upon this blog supposed to think about that statement? They certainly won’t go away thinking this was an isolated incident. What are those of us who care deeply about the reputation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supposed to think? For one, I cringe to think that this may be the tip of the iceberg.

    Let us teach our children at a young age, to respect the sacred sites of others, to ask about protocol before entering the sanctuaries of other faiths, to not photograph that which they don’t want preserved for posterity, but more importantly, to not do that which they don’t wish to broadcast to the world. Most importantly, let us teach them to “do unto others…” PR is important, but if the whited sepulcher is full of dead mens’ bones, all the good PR in the world won’t save us.

  124. Carol F. on March 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    A combo of 77 and 109 (history of the area) answers this one for me.

    #77: “Would that Mormons were like Catholics, and the recipients of so little disrespect that internet photos of three representatives from another church goofing around at a church site was newsworthy and cause for outrage.”

    I think disrespect of the LDS religion is so common and tolerated that possibly these particular missionaries became numb to what is acceptable. As a missionary at Temple Square in the 90’s, my fellow sister missionaries and I felt that we could write a book about crazy things that happened at Temple Square. Even though some of it was truly hurtful and mocking, I can assure you that none of us would have considered any of it newsworthy.

    On the other hand, some visitors were so respectful at Temple Square that they would even ask for permission to take pictures of the outside of the Salt Lake Temple before they took the liberty. Most members that I know would be careful in other faiths’ sacred places.

    So is the answer for the LDS population to get more outraged at grievances against us so that some among us can maintain their sensibilities?

  125. Matt Evans on March 11, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    This story is only newsworthy because of the alleged vandalism. Three representatives of a church goofing around at another church while no one else is around is not newsworthy. (Apparently no one else was there or disrupted because it wasn’t until the missionaries posted photos that anyone knew about this.) As I stated above, vandalism is inexcusable and if the missionaries broke the statues they should be prosecuted. The photo of the broken statue was taken in an outdoor garden that appeared old and unkempt, leading me to believe the statue was already broken. From the parish’s announcement of their decision to refer the incident to civil authorities, however, it’s apparent that they believe the missionaries broke the statue, and I agree with their decision.

  126. Kaimi Wenger on March 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    FWIW, the story certainly has legs. I just noticed that it’s #4 on today’s most-read at Fox News, for instance. (Though it’s not on MSNBC’s top-5 list — I’m not sure why the difference between news sites.)

  127. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Would any of you who have your knickers in a wad actually be offended if a female minister from a liberal church thought it was funny to pretend to preach in a Mormon chapel? Or if a black minister pretended to preach in a Mormon chapel in 1975? Or representatives of a church that marries gays took pretend-marriage photos of two men in front of a Mormon temple?

    Yes, but I don’t think it would be newsworthy if not for the vandalism.

  128. RT on March 11, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Matt: To make sure I’m understanding you right: what do you make of the altar/sacrifice pic and (even assuming there’s no vandalism) the headless statute pic? Do you regard those as harmless “goofing around”?

  129. Doug on March 11, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    There is no such thing as the “harmless” goofing around an altar of any faith.

    Just moments ago a Catholic friend of mine came up to me at work and we discussed this issue. To her, this was the same as if it had been done in a Mormon temple. Her words were emphatic: “it is the same”. She spoke about not being able to go up to the altar area as a kid and said it would be the same if it were done to any religion. If we get too far a field in the theological thicket of trying to answer what is and isn’t theologically analogous, then we totally miss the point. And what is that point? It’s that people hold certain things sacred to themselves.

    Think if the missionaries had been photographed standing on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier or lighting a pretend stogie on the eternal flame? What if they were holding a broken cross (whether or not broken by them) at Flanders? What if they were pretending to be rabbis in a synagogue? What if they were mocking another nation’s flag?

    The answer? It is all wrong! It is all bad! It is all similar to someone having done it to our most sacred sites—including the temple. The missionary handbook refers to “sacred sites” and that should be enough to convey respect for what others hold sacred.

  130. Matt Evans on March 11, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    RT, missionaries shouldn’t goof around in public at all, especially not at other churches. No one’s argued that those photos are harmless, only that absent the alleged vandalism, the photos themselves wouldn’t come close to warranting the heavy-breathing displayed here. And I still think the Book of Mormon photo is funny.

  131. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    COOL your tempers, y’all.

    Some of us are more angry at what the missionaries did (I’m in that camp) while others are more angry at what they see to be the overreaction. But taking that anger out on each other in this thread is pointless. No one here actually desecrated the shrine or made the story an internet phenom. No one here is actually saying that what the missionaries did was OK, or that the Church should be condemned because of it.

    To those who are worried that visitors might read this thread and think that Mormons excuse the missionaries’ behavior: consider what visitors will think if they come here and see a lot of bickering and squabbling. We can express our strong opinion that men of any age who wear the mantle of the Lord should do A LOT better than this without getting personal or vituperative in this thread.

  132. J.A.T. on March 11, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Just some thoughts:

    *#88 jjohnson said we don’t treat our own chapels with respect. Amen brother.
    They are chapels dedicated to the Lord by a special prayer said by a priesthood leader, but we’re not doing a good job of remembering that. Reverence isn’t one of our better points.

    #92 Bill said that we can’t possibly keep 60,000 young missionaries in line. Perhaps you are right. I thought we just recently downscaled the force by 10,000 and upped the bar? We no longer allow the majority of physically disabled, mentally handicapped, or simply obese/overweight young people to go . . . but these three got by? Um, I’m speechless. If I were a mission prez, I’d trade an ENTIRE mission of village idiots for one Willard-Richards-look-alike if he/she similarly had Elder Richard’s spirituality (or at least was spiritual and sincere).

    *A thought: What if these had been Sister missionaries? I wonder if they wouldn’t have the benefit of everyone’s “oh well, boys will be boys” response.

    *The Frat and Sorority Kids at least have an excuse . . . they were probably drunk. What’s our excuse for stupid 19 yr olds?

    *When did 18 and 19 year olds start being equated with 12 year olds? At what point did society decide that they aren’t capable of wiping their own “noses”? Seriously. There are a lot of artilces about how millenials are less independent and more reports of helicopter parents going to their kid’s first job interview after college. Gimmie a break! Are today’s kids just not ready or are we guilty of not growing them up?

    * A LDS pioneer mom, Aurelia .S. Rogers,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_(LDS_Church)#History
    had to deal with a bunch of kids who were horribly unbehaved. She went out and started the Children’s Primary organization. I’m sure she’s rolling in her grave right now. Assuming that even ONE of these three former Elders was a BITC life-long LDS, we probably had him in Primary from the time he was a toddler of 18-months-old to the time he was twelve, and then from the time he was twelve to the time he was 18 we had him in YM, scouts and seminary. Then, as a 19 year old, he probably was in institute or mission prep classes. So, we actually had 17 years of time to work on this kid, not just three weeks at the MTC. Where did we go wrong? Since so many of you cite being similarly rude on your missions, shouldn’t we be looking at our curriculums and/or teachers? Cough- cough (seminary) cough. Primary, board members, scout and YM/YW leaders, seminary teachers, are you reading this? Any composers out there that can write a cute primary song about respecting other’s beliefs?

    *What are the inactivity rates for sent-home LDS missionaries? I’m not sure, but I think the church fears this basically means they will be pushed away from the church, to inactivity or even leaving the church. (This also effects that former Elder’s future family line.) I know my old Mission Prez never wanted to send anyone home and nearly every effort was taken to rehabilitate a way-ward lad or laddie. The higher-ups see it as a very black and white thing . . . either don’t send ‘em or don’t send ‘em home. The local Bishops keep sending ‘em on their rite of passage, which puts everyone in a really bad spot.

    *Solution: Let’s bring back more welfare missions or farming missions (ie Adam-Ondi-Ohman field workers, Nauvoo gardners, well-diggers, etc.)

  133. Mark M on March 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Manuel has posted very worthwhile comments.

    I’d rather see us move forward and expect more of ourselves and our missionaries in the future, than try to justify such insensitive and offensive behavior. For decades, missionaries have been taught not to desecrate shrines or other faiths. Let’s make that an area where we expect *no* foolishness whatsoever — it has too high a cost.

    Our behavior and methods as missionaries 10 or 30 years ago is not an excuse for current missionary efforts. Some of the manipulative teaching methods I used and learned from others in my mission are something I would never use now (they “missed the mark”), and I will strive to teach my children a “more excellent way”.

    To the person who questioned missionary attire on P-day, please realize that some missions require full missionary attire in all public places, including on preparation day.

  134. Mark M on March 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Here is a real example of a missionary being pricked to the heart, and forever changing from an unseemly behavior.

    Elder J. Thomas Fyans (of the Seventy), in a videotaped training session for missionaries in the mid-1980’s, said “Never use the scriptures to belittle someone.” I had previously revelled in citing “These are ever learning, and never come to the knowledge of the truth” to people who would Bible-bash with us. After I heard that directive from that leader, I was pricked, and vowed to discontinue such practice.

    Young men and women ARE capable of recognizing that some lines are NOT to be crossed, when correctly and repeatedly taught. (Not that no one will cross those lines, but at least the gravity of such acts can be better understood by all.)

  135. Christian on March 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    “From the parish’s announcement of their decision to refer the incident to civil authorities, however, it’s apparent that they believe the missionaries broke the statue”

    I don’t think that’s apparent at all. Sounds like the parish is angry, wants retribution and attention, so they are putting forward an unlikely theory that allows a prosecution.

  136. Cicero on March 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I am completely shocked that so many of those commenting are seeking to downplay the severity of the offense and make excuses for the missionaries.

    Arguments that the system are to blame and not the individuals exacerbates the problem, and does nothing to help.

    It is precisely this attitude that has led to the rampant immaturity among our youth. Choices are made by individuals, and individuals must accept the responsibility and consequences for their actions. Stupidity is not an excuse.

    You do not get maturity by making excuses for bad behavior, you get maturity by demanding it from those seeking to be mature. You teach children to be mature by punishing them when they act immaturely, and by setting the expectation that they will act like mature adults.

    These actions by the missionaries must be met with the severest of penalties. Furthermore, the decision by the missionary to make these actions public imply that their punishment as decided by the church courts must also be made public.

    [Editor: cool down. If you are shocked, be shocked at the missionaries.]

  137. Josh Smith on March 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Christian,

    The missionary is holding the head. He probably needs a defense attorney. Can we sign you up Christian?

    [Ed.: Cool it. The less snark in this thread, the better.]

  138. ben on March 11, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I\’m a Roman Catholic from Colorado.

    The Shrine at San Luis is one of the major pilgramage sites in the state of Colorado, and it is relatively new. The statue that was broken was probably about 10 years old. It is not in an unkempt garden, but is part of an outdoor shrine that is built into the mountain wilderness. The saint represented by the statue was a victim of the religious persecutions in Mexico in the 20s and 30s. Making fun of these saints in particular, because of the gegraphical and historical proximity of the persecution to San Luis, does bear a certain resemblance to a non-Mormon mocking those who died at Navoo or in other persecutions of the Mormon faithful.

    The other photo I\’ve seen involves treating the altar in a manner that Catholics would consdier displeasing to God. The altar is not a pulpit or a lectern. It is not used for preaching. The altar of sacrifice in a Catholic Church is the principal symbol of Christ in the church. Catholic altars are consecrated and set aside for the sacred work of the Mass.

    So special is the altar that Catholic laity rarely approach it. Most catholics approach the altar so closely only a hanful of times in their lives, at weddings, baptisms and other similar events.

    The shrine at San Luis is not a \”tourist trap\”, but a pilgrimage site. I can\’t see why non-Catholics would feel drawn to visit there. San Luis is a small town in a remote part of the state. Leaving everything open allows the faithful flexibility in their devotions.

  139. Doug on March 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Ben,

    Thank you for your comment. As one Latter-day Saint and former missionary, I offer my heartfelt apologies for the actions of those missionaries. I wish this had never happened, and I hope that future, better actions by members and missionaries of our faith might help “repair the breach” that sadly occured.

  140. Bill MacKinnon on March 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    J.A.T. (#132), just for the record, I didn’t make the comment in #92 about 60,000 young missionaries — it was kwk who posted that observation there in response to mine in #89.

  141. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    The other photo I\’ve seen involves treating the altar in a manner that Catholics would consdier displeasing to God. The altar is not a pulpit or a lectern. It is not used for preaching. The altar of sacrifice in a Catholic Church is the principal symbol of Christ in the church. Catholic altars are consecrated and set aside for the sacred work of the Mass.

    Most Mormons don’t know this, unfortunately. On my own mission my fellow missionaries thought the altar was a pulpit and wondered why there were two. Thanks for the education.

    So special is the altar that Catholic laity rarely approach it. Most catholics approach the altar so closely only a handful of times in their lives, at weddings, baptisms and other similar events.

    Something else most Mormons don’t know. Mormon chapels are much more casual, even a little too casual, I would say. (I’ve never seen Mormons show up for worship in daisy dukes, as I have seen at RC services, and I’ve seen some pretty crazy RC liturgical experiments, so I’d like to say that if Mormons weren’t taking the sanctuary seriously Catholics only have themselves to blame, but chances are that these guys know little about trends in Catholic liturgy). Again, thanks for the education. We need to hear this kind of thing.

    The shrine at San Luis is not a \”tourist trap\”, but a pilgrimage site. I can\’t see why non-Catholics would feel drawn to visit there. San Luis is a small town in a remote part of the state.

    The missionaries were stationed nearby, I presume, and from what I recall of the area, there’s not a whole lot else to visit.

  142. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    For what its worth, I don’t think we have any evidence that the missionaries broke the statue at this point. It sounds like the parish didn’t even know the statue was broken until the photos came out, so it well could have been broken already. We need to hear from the ex-missionaries to be sure.

  143. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm
  144. Josh Smith on March 11, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    The pictures embarass me.

  145. Christian on March 11, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Sorry editor; I did not see your censure before I responded, or I’d not have said anything. How about this:

    There’s nothing illegal about picking up the broken head of a statue, nor does such an action constitute persuasive evidence of vandalism.

    #138, thank you, Ben, for putting that in context for us, particularly with respect to the altar. Please note that the missionary’s gestures show that he’s ignorantly using it as a podium. The missionaries should have known better and I expect that the church will take steps to see prevent such ignorance in the future.

    When I served a mission in the 1980s, there were a number of missionaries who (contrary to mission regulations) shared anti-Catholic literature and expressed sentiments that I found repugnant. I grew up in Catholic countries and did what I could to mitigate their ignorance, and I believe that over time that we’ve reduced this sort of ignorance from among us. (There are some Catholics such as Neuhaus who express more hateful things against my church than these missionaries did against yours). Evidently we still have some housecleaning to do.

  146. Christian on March 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    “Would any of you who have your knickers in a wad actually be offended if a female minister from a liberal church thought it was funny to pretend to preach in a Mormon chapel? Or if a black minister pretended to preach in a Mormon chapel in 1975?”

    Not at all.

    “Or representatives of a church that marries gays took pretend-marriage photos of two men in front of a Mormon temple?”

    I’d be more offended at the newspaper that printed the photo and pretended that it was newsworthy. If they crossed onto church property to take such a photo they would be nominally liable for tresspass, and that’s the Colorado parish’s only remedy here as well. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that the missionaries actually broke that statue’s head, they might even be looking at a hate crime charge. Religious vandalism is a very serious thing.

  147. alice munro on March 11, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    The actions of the missionaries were one thing (nasty and reprehensible). The actions of the organizational LDS were something else (appropriate). But it’s the reactions of many (she said “many”, folks, not “all”) Saints that is most revealing and embarrassing.

    If Catholics consider fabric (or the comparative lack thereof) to be less significant than a person’s heart and if they are interested in exploring other liturgies what does that have to do with individuals and congregations joining together to commune with their Lord? And why should it be cited as mitigation of what many in the world see as the equivalent of cross burnings, swastika painting and hate speech — whether they physically damaged a statue or took advantage of a broken one to manifest their disregard for a man who was willing to die for his faith? And if they didn’t know an altar has special and sacred significance, is there any way in which they could fail to understand that it was a place of worship? Please think about the fact that these “Elders” not only thought it was acceptable to do such ugly things but thought that it was so much within the bounds of their community that they could publicly advertise it.

    Time to ask how they got the message that what they wore to meetings was more important than the spirit of contempt that they — and, likely, other “Saints” in their lives — lived by. And time to ask why so many “responsible” adults “Saints” share their confusion.

  148. HeidiAnn on March 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    “. . .I’ve never seen Mormons show up for worship in daisy dukes, as I have seen at RC services, and I’ve seen some pretty crazy RC liturgical experiments, so I’d like to say that if Mormons weren’t taking the sanctuary seriously Catholics only have themselves to blame . . .”

    That made me cringe. I know sometimes it’s hard to come across the way you mean to in this forum, and though I’m sure you didn’t mean to. . . to me it just read as hateful.

    A few have wondered what we’re doing in Primary that some of the kids grow up to be missionaries like these. Well, you don’t give up your agency when you graduate from Primary, but, as a member of my ward’s Primary presidency, I can tell you that we spend a lot of time trying to teach the kids that, yes, you DO get to choose your own actions. That is a gift from our Father in Heaven. However, you do not get to choose the consequences. You may unexpectedly get rewarded/recognized for doing the right thing, and you may be the only one to get “nailed” even when it seemed that “everyone else was doing the same thing” (and you may get recognized for that too). “Do what is right, let the consequence follow” Typical, immature teenage behavior or not, they knew it was wrong. I have three sons and a daughter, and I have over a decade before any of them will be able to serve a mission – some have mentioned “cautionary tales” – you can bet I will tell my kids about these missionaries, and we’ll have some conversation about wise vs. foolish choices. I’ll bet their mothers were just mortified over this, I’m sure this is not how they were raised.

  149. lgk on March 11, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    Just found this site while Googling “Mormon missionary desecration” following my DH’s announcement that the article was in the New York Times. No, folks, this isn’t just confined to Colorado, anymore (btw, we’re located in Michigan)..

    Thirty four years ago I was a sister missionary in Europe. Yes, missionaries do foolish things at times — it’s a (hopefully) occasional byproduct of being young. However, when we accept the call to serve a mission in which we will represent the Lord, and when we make sacred covenants in the temple to serve that same Lord, it becomes time to put away childish things. Serving a mission means not only representing the Lord, Jesus Christ, but also representing His Church, 24/7. Surely we know that the actions of Latter-day Saints are well scrutinized — by our friends, co-workers, and the media. As has been pointed out, these missionaries were not casual tourists or even lay members of the Church. They were official representatives of the church. VIPS, so to speak. People with a responsibility to a cause greater than themselves. And by their thoughtless actions — both in 2006 and now — they have given the organization they represent an international black eye that will last for some time to come, hamper missionary work, and be dredged up as ancient history long after we all would wish it to be forgotten.

    When I was trained in the LTM (forerunner of the MTC), we had a cultural hour each day. A man who was a native of the country where most of us would serve, came to teach us how to not inadvertently offend the people of our host country. We learned to not cross our legs. We were told to not jam our hands into our pockets. We learned to eat with our fork in our left hand. We were taught only the formal form of our new language — least we inadvertently offend an adult by addressing them in the familiar form. Great care was given to helping us understand how to present ourselves appropriately, as we would be one of the few Latter-day Saints our prospective converts would meet. I do not recall lessons about not desecrating sacred sites; perhaps it was felt that we innately understood such things.

    On several P-days in our assigned countries, we visited marvelous cathedrals and churches. They were not of our denomination, yet we entered them quietly and reverently and conducted ourselves there in the same manner that we would expect from others visiting our holy sites. Today, when I travel, I continue to seek out the holy places of other faiths. I find that where two or three have gathered in God’s name, His Spirit is there.

    I am saddened at the conduct of the Colorado missionaries. I hope they undertake their own repentence — including reparation and restitution — not at the direction of a bishop or at the mandate of a stake president or PR representative of the Church but out of the conviction of their own hearts that they have done wrong and need to correct their errors.

    And for those who still might have “allegedly questionable mission fotos” “safely stored in a triple locked strongbox in an undisclosed location,” where they will never see the light of day — is it appropriate to continue to keep such mementos? [Given enough sincere repentence, the Lord may even erase the memory of that chicken :).] And is there not perhaps some small restitution that could be made somewhere for the unthinking follies of youth?

    Here’s something to think about. I plan to send a small donation and a letter to the Sangre de Cristo Parish for the restoration of their statue and the expenses associated with rededicating or reconsecrating their shrine. It may not be my responsibility to do so, but I think that when Latter-day Saints have publicly erred, Latter-day Saints should do what they can to rectify the error. Will you join me in this effort? If you cannot afford to send a donation, perhaps you could simply write a letter expressing your sorrow that members of our Church commited this desecration. (Sangre de Cristo Parish; P.O. Box 326; San Luis, CO 81152). Together we can attempt to rebuild trust in our Church and its representatives, forge bonds of friendship, and follow our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

  150. Ray on March 11, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    That is a great idea, lgk. Thanks for sharing the mailing info.

  151. mary martha on March 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I am an observant Catholic. I have many LDS friends and we have had many wonderful discussions about religion.

    We disagree on many things – I believed that we respected each other\’s faith. Now, I can not be sure of that. Reading the comments here has been almost more horrifying than the initial news story.

    Evidently, it is widely held (as evidenced by the posts here) that the Catholic Church, it\’s buildings, and it\’s most sacred objects are not deserving of respect by LDS members.

    Let me be clear that the idea of someone pretending to sacrifice another person on the altar makes me ill. I imagine that the image was so offensive that even the media choose not to show it. That’s a bad sign

    Catholics don\’t preach from behind the altar (as done by that missionary in that picture) but you are wrong to say that there are not restrictions on who can preach in a Catholic Church (only the ordained may \’preach\’ during Mass). Even though the Altar isn\’t used for preaching the picture is still offensive. It is the Altar of our Church, It has been sanctified and set apart for the worship of God. NOT for the entertainment and amusement of missionaries. I am in my early 30s and have never been that close to the altar.

    Breaking the statue is vandalism pure and simple. They should not have done it, and after they did it they should have gone to the Church and apologized. I am willing to bet that the parish priest would accept that apology and leave it at that. By taking a picture mocking a canonized Saint they compounded the offense by moving it from carelessness to total disrespect.

    When discussing the secrecy of the Temple with my LDS friends they always will say that the reason that I am not allowed into the temple is because I would not be respectful enough. Now I understand why they say that. Evidently LDS are so completely lacking in respect for other religions and so they expect no respect for their own.

    Yes, the Catholic church allows visitors to come to our great Cathedrals – we are an open welcoming Church and we know that the VAST majority of visitors will be respectful. Evidently, LDS missionaries can\’t be counted on for that respect.

    Not only the actions of these three missionaries, but the comments here leave me with a substantially more negative view of the LDS church than I have ever had before.

    #77: “Would that Mormons were like Catholics, and the recipients of so little disrespect that internet photos of three representatives from another church goofing around at a church site was newsworthy and cause for outrage.”

    I would say that this reaction is because of your perspective. From the perspective of a Catholic I can tell you that there are OFTEN incidents of disrespect to the Catholic Church that are not considered newsworthy. Trust me, the LDS church does not have a corner on the market as a church under attack. It\’s just that you are aware of the incidents that happen to LDS more (as I am more aware of incidents that happen to Catholics)

  152. Dave on March 11, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Thanks for your comments, mary martha. But I think you are misreading the discussion here: the LDS Church officially apologized for the actions of the missionaries and no commenters here have suggested that Catholic (or any other denomination’s) religious sites are not deserving of respect.

    This unfortunate incident represents a mistake in judgment by three LDS missionaries (out of approximately 50000 presently serving). It probably indicates a need to more carefully instruct young LDS missionaries in proper conduct. It does not demonstrate a lack of respect by the LDS Church for other faiths. If anything, the quick apology issued by the LDS Church indicates just the opposite.

  153. Ray on March 11, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    BTW, some of the comments also tried to make the point that, as reprehensible as the pictures were, we are not aware of proof at this point that the missionaries did, in fact, vandalize. That point is legitimate, even for those of us who still condemn the pictures and the actions they prove.

  154. Ardis Parshall on March 11, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    mary martha, if you’re fair, you’ll acknowledge that very many of us are appalled not only by the actions of the missionaries but by some of the comments recorded here. Why not let *us* represent your view of Mormons and Mormonism? We are more representative of the church that quickly apologized, both from church headquarters on behalf of the church, and from the Colorado mission president on behalf of the local members and missionaries, and which is cooperating with law enforcement, and which immediately took the (for us) rather extraordinary step of implementing church discipline against the three elders. I understand your disgust — but please don’t compound the problem by being quite so ready to throw out generations of good relations either because of what three young men did in 2006, or by what some foolish commenters wrote on a blog. Believe me, I’m as displeased as you could be.

  155. Dave on March 11, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Comments by Catholic visitors sharing their responses are particularly informative and helpful.

  156. Adam Greenwood on March 11, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    My comment #141 has been misunderstood, and since the misunderstandings are not willful, I’ll clarify:

    I would *like* to think that missionaries clowning around in a Catholic church was someone else’s fault, but I can’t and I don’t.