Updated on August 27, 2019
LDS Church Just Told Me That My Life is Unimportant
I don’t talk much about my church. I’ve mentioned it when necessary on this site, but only to reiterate why I believe a certain way on certain things. I’ve never, that I can recall, written a post strictly related to my faith. I tend to keep that personal or to only discuss in person. However, I’m making an exception today because my church has made a policy decision that fundamentally changes how I will worship. This post is not being written to debate my Christianity or your opinions on my religion. I won’t debate whether you think the LDS Church is good or bad. I don’t care what you think about that. Any comments that attack my faith will not be approved, simple as that.
I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I joined this church on my 19th birthday after much contemplation, prayer, and study. Prior to my conversion, I was a Baptist. And a Presbyterian. And a Methodist. And a Lutheran. And a Catholic. I’ve been baptized in search of truth more than John the Baptist probably performed baptisms! It wasn’t until I began looking into the LDS church that I found what fit into my understanding and prayerful consideration of the Bible (again, this is MY understanding, not yours and I won’t debate that here).
One of the things I really liked about the church – aside from the doctrinal issues I agreed with – was that the church was a fairly conservative faith. We believed in defense of life. We valued the liberties enshrined in the Constitution. We believed in helping to better our communities. There was never a shortage of people to go shooting with. And, above all, I was allowed to defend myself should the need arise.
I’m not what people would probably consider a “model Mormon.” I’m rough around the edges. I was a hell-raiser prior to joining the church and that obviously never dissipated. I didn’t wear my religion on my sleeve by constantly seeking or seizing opportunities to talk about the Book of Mormon or church doctrine. For a brief time back in the AOL days, I did run a chat room called “Ask a Mormon.” Because I had done so much personal research before joining the church, I wanted to share that information with people who had legitimate questions about our beliefs. Other than that, I pretty much didn’t discuss religion in public except when necessary to explain why I didn’t do some things or did others (like drinking coffee or engaging in political activities on Sundays).
Unfortunately, my relationship with the church was drastically changed today.
There is a (wrongheaded) school of thought within the Christian community that we are supposed to turn the other cheek. The theory goes that guns kill people and we shouldn’t kill people under any circumstances. Much of this theory is predicated on the teachings of Matthew where “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, but I say to you, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil, but if anyone slaps on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’” The problem is that this is often interpreted literally – that someone is literally using their hand and smacking us in the face. I read that as we should ignore those who insult us. I doubt very seriously that Christ was literal earlier in that chapter where he was talking about adultery and advising that we rip out our eyes if we find ourselves looking upon women with lust. I don’t think he meant that we literally rip out our eyes, but that we change our habits so that we refrain from this sort of sin.
In the Garden of Gethsemane (and elsewhere), Christ’s disciples had swords with them. For what use if not for self-defense? That’s what swords were for back then just as guns are used today. Obviously, Christ believed in possessing the tools to defend the lives He gave us or he would have forbidden his disciples from even carrying these tools around him. I find it hard to believe that Christ ever believed Christians should simply sit back and die when our lives are endangered. He wasn’t a complete pacifist as the turning of the changing tables in the temple indicates. We are counseled to be peacemakers, but sometimes to make peace you have to defeat a legitimate threat. At the end of the Book of Esther, the tyrannical king allowed the Jews organize to in self-defense “to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them.” Did they “turn the other cheek” and allow their enemies to simply slaughter them defenselessly? No, they “smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword” (Esther 9:5).
I find it offensive and unChristian that ANY church leader would prefer that their sheep be defenseless and senselessly slaughtered for some greater good. Changes in the Church handbook state that “[c]hurches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world.” That sounds great on paper, but do you think the people that want to murder us care what churches are dedicated for? Do you think Devin Patrick Kelley cared that the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was “dedicated for the worship of God?” Thank the Lord that Stephen Williford was able to engage with the shooter and stop him from killing more people than he had already slaughtered!
Do you think that Matthew Murray cared that the New Life Church in Colorado Springs was a “haven from the cares and concerns of the world?!” He was able to kill two church members and injure two others before Jeanne Assam shot him and stopped the slaughter. Should she have just “turned the other cheek?”
And what about Emanuel Kidega Samson who opened fire on the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, killing one and injuring seven others? Do you think he was there to worship God? Thankfully, an usher named Robert Engle was there to confront the shooter who had to run out to his car to get his gun. Do you think he could have stopped the shooter sooner had he had his gun on him and those people may still be alive? After being pistol whipped by Samson, should Engle have simply “turned the other cheek” and expected to be pistol whipped again?
And let’s get more personal. Last year, John O’Connor entered an LDS church in Fallon, Nevada, and opened fire, killing one man and injuring another. It was a targeted attack and the shooter immediately fled the scene and ran to his home. I don’t know if anyone was armed at the time or even had a chance to respond if they were since O’Connor appears to have been targeting a specific individual, but shouldn’t members have at least the opportunity to defend themselves in these situations?
In 2010, Kenneth Ward entered an LDS church in Visalia, California, and gunned down the bishop during services in what looked to be another targeted attack. Shouldn’t our bishops and their congregations have the ability to protect themselves from people—possibly disaffected members—who may want to kill them because they feel as if they’ve been slighted? Or should our bishops just “turn the other cheek” and we can simply call another bishop to take his place?! I’m sorry, but that’s asinine. It’s completely ignorant to think that our buildings are these Utopian places of worship where evil can never exist and no harm will ever come of us, especially in these modern times where people can’t simply disagree or offended in peace, but resort to violence to solve their differences.
Yes, our churches are dedicated to worship and are places where we SHOULDN’T have to worry about the cares of the world, but when the cares of the world invade that space, then what? There is no magical shield around LDS meeting houses that protects us from outside’s evil.
In 1994, while I was in San Antonio and just before I joined the Army, I was attending a Fast & Testimony meeting. I was sitting up on the pulpit waiting my turn to share my testimony of the gospel when a female member of the ward got up to bear her testimony. Immediately, a man in the back of the congregation either stood up or walked into the room and began yelling at the woman and imploring her to come back to him. It was an extremely intense incident and when some brethren tried to quiet him down and get him to walk outside the room, he got aggressive and had to be physically removed. Needless to say, the bishop had to end the meeting at that point because the spirit had been drained by the incident. What if he had a gun? What if he intended violence? I was literally sitting in the chair next to where she was addressing the congregation. Could I have been killed?
To add insult to injury, the Church memo stated that law enforcement officers can carry guns in church, but no one else can. Well, that’s quite confusing to me. If a church is “dedicated for the worship of God and [are] havens from the cares and concerns of the world” what makes a police officer’s gun somehow exempted from this policy versus me having one. We both have them for the same purpose – self-defense. Ostensibly, the officer isn’t there to kill anyone and neither am I. I’m just as well trained as (or better) than any cop! In fact, cops don’t actually have that much training comparative to licensed gun owners, most of whom practice regularly, many of whom have taken many advanced self-defense course, and some whom teach them (to cops, even). But, yet, somehow the presence of a law enforcement officer’s gun doesn’t disrupt the dedication of our buildings for worship and somehow don’t translate our “havens” into kill dungeons and mine does.
Is the church now saying that it will ruin the rest of my life by having me arrested for nothing more than peacefully carrying a gun for self defense that isn’t hurting anyone? After all, the policy states that “All immediate threats are to be reported immediately to local law enforcement.” What is a threat? Some anti-gun, liberal member *(yes, they exist) who feels threatened by the mere presence of a gun? What if that person feels threatened by the law enforcement officer?
Is our leadership warning me that I won’t get into the celestial kingdom if I disobey the policy and take the risk? Can I truly “sustain” my church leaders if I blatantly violate their policy and carry anyway? For that matter, can I sustain leaders that want to disarm me and make me a defenseless victim because they don’t respect my right to exist? Is the church willing to make me uncomfortable by forcing me to worship in a place I no longer feel safe? Exactly what is the church telling me here? Am I a sinner if I carry in violation of church policy and hope not to get caught? Isn’t that not being “honest with my fellow man?”
If the church is telling me I cannot carry my firearm in self-defense inside the building—even concealed—I will honestly never enter that building again. I am not a lawbreaker, but I am also responsible for my own safety and refuse to rely on someone else for that safety. The police are not there to protect me. The courts have ruled this over and over again. I know many members around the country, but specifically in this state (and my ward) who feel the same way. If the church sticks to this policy, expect attendance to drop.
What really bothers me is that our church has as rich history of being called to arms in defense of each other and this country. As we were being pursued from New York, armed members stemmed off those seeking to slaughter us. There was an extermination order against Mormons in Missouri. We sent our own armed battalion to fight in the Mexican-American War. Those were guns WE owned. They weren’t provided for us. When President Buchanan sent the military to attack Mormons, we armed ourselves in self-defense (Nauvoo Legion anyone?) and prepared for battle. Thankfully, there was no bloodshed. Now, we’re expected to believe that there is no place for guns in this church?!
The church will claim this is about religious liberty. This is a hypocritical argument if the church is using right to violate another. Is the church saying that our right to keep and bear arms in self-defense is subordinate to our right to worship? Essentially, we’re being told to surrender one right to exercise another. That’s not religious liberty; that’s religious tyranny.
I will not lose my testimony of this gospel. I will not leave the church over this. I simply will never enter a church building over this. My faith is secure and strong. I can just as easily read my Bible and the Book of Mormon in the comfort of my own home. I can worship just as easily on the pot as in the pews. The church is making a HUGE mistake. I carry a gun so that I can live to worship and ensure that my fellow brothers and sisters can as well. I don’t carry in the hopes I get to shoot someone at church; I carry to ensure no one else shoots me in church. What the church has just done is tell Satan’s sycophants that the field it white to harvest at LDS meetinghouses. I won’t be cut down willingly. I will not return to church until our leadership reverses this policy and decides to simply follow state laws on the issue. Period.