Last Sunday we went church as usual at the Westwood building. But this time there were protestors yelling at people as they went into the chapel. I heard there were more earlier on in the day but by the time we saw them there were probably only about 50 or so. In Seminary yesterday the kids who attend the earlier wards told us that during their sacrament meetings the crowd approached the front of the building and was trying to yell over their services. Members of the Elders Quorum were placed to guard all of the entrances to the building and the gates to the parking lot. No one dared park on the street for fear that their cars would be vandalized or that they may be attacked when they got out so they had to park their cars on the baseball diamond.
The protesters were a great concern to church leaders who wanted to ensure the safety of those attending services but unlike the crowd on Thursday the Sunday crowd was not violent so we were able to continue our regular worship services. On Thursday the Temple had to be shut down because of the violence that was being directed by the crowd. This included members of the crowd beating up some non-LDS Hispanic women who tried to take down some of the signs placed on temple property. Meridian magazine (which has also recently been vandalized, hackers replaced their usual content with homosexual pornography) has a good article by an LAPD police officer describing his experiences and chronicling some of the violence during the protests.
When I observed the protest on Thursday I saw people chanting “Mormon scum,” “f**** you, Mormons,” “tax this cult,” and “go back to Utah.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of a Klan rally I saw on TV a while back where the crowd shouted “go back to Africa” (I in no way wish to compare the current animosity that California Mormons are facing with the hatred that African Americans have faced and continue to face everyday in this country. While I’m at it I also don’t want to equate the current atmosphere with the persecutions and hardships faced by 19th century Mormons. The title of my last post was half in jest, though it does, I feel, capture the mood of the crowd).
Over the past few days LDS churches across California have been vandalized.
A friend of ours in the ward whose parents are Catholic told me that no on 8 signs were placed in the shape of a swastika in front of the cathedral where her parents attend services. There have been protests at a stake conference up in Seattle. And of course there have been protests outside of the Salt Lake Temple but that’s nothing new. There are protesters there everyday. You know, these guys.
The Daily Bruin, the UCLA school newspaper, published an incredibly biased article on Friday’s front page that reported facts that were just plain untrue. My friend Mac sent a really good response letter to the editor that the Bruin published yesterday.
Despite all of this I think that things are definitely calming down. It seems like the battle is fading away though I’m sure the “war” will go on for some time.
So why the Mormons?
If you listen to what the protesters are chanting and what their signs say I think it becomes pretty clear why the backlash is by and large singling out the Mormons. Epithets like “cult” and references to polygamy are meant to highlight how Mormons are different from the mainstream. These tactics are an attempt to isolate and distance the Mormons from the rest of America, making them an easier target. It basically amounts to the kid who got teased by the rest of his classmates seeking out the kid who is the most different from the other kids and picking on him.
There is another reason that Mormons are being singled out and that is their reputation for not fighting back when they are attacked (although I should mention that Catholics have this same reputation). The leaders of these protests have hinted as much. When asked: “why not protest at other churches?” The president of L.A. Pride said: “some serious issues there and that’s why we are proceeding with caution.” No need to proceed with caution when attacking the Mormons because Mormons are the weakest of these groups and Mormons almost never retaliate. Serious issues? You don’t want to attack churches that are favored in the public eye or heaven forbid might fight back. You don’t want the Anti-defamation league or Jesse Jackson coming after you. Best to leave other churches alone.
That being said I still think that it is right that we do not fight back. This is an opportunity to truly internalize the Savior’s teachings and not simply do good to those who do good to us but to follow His example and do good without hoping for anything in return. After all isn’t this what love is?