Skip to comments.Proselytizing History Repeats with Recent Missionary Gaffe
Posted on 03/24/2008 9:19:59 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
Two young, LDS missionaries, wearing their white shirts and ties, left their apartment and went out into the busy streets of Bangkok, Thailand, in July 1972.
As they tracted, they found an unusual picture on the front page of the newspapers: another missionary they knew sitting on top of a large statue of Buddha. That evening, the elders received a phone call. They were to stay inside their apartments and not proselyte.
A photo that seemed fun at the time turned out to have some drastic consequences.
For six weeks Elder Mark Tippets and his companion read, all they could do was visit with local members, and bible bash for fun with the Jehovah's Witness members down the street who were friends of theirs.
"We [the missionaries] were front page news for a solid month," Tippets said. "We were the entire front page."
An elder, touring historic ruins in a northern city, had decided to sit on a Buddha statue while another elder photographed him. A local film shop owner gave the photos to newspapers and the police arrested the missionaries days later.
The elders were sentenced to a year in prison but were pardoned on the King's birthday and left prison the next month, only serving six months total.
Tippets said that the elders who took the picture probably didn't think much about it.
"It was a ruin," Tippets said. "It was a Buddha that was barely recognizable."
Still, Tippets remembers wondering if the missionaries would be kicked out of the country. Church leaders worked with the government and the missionaries were allowed to stay.
A new mission president told the Elders to go out and no longer use the term "Mormon," which most Thai citizens knew them as from the statue incident.
Now, three elders have repeated history in a somewhat similar fashion. Recently, members of the Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church in San Luis, Colo. became outraged when they saw photos of LDS missionaries showing disrespect at a Catholic shrine. One photo showed a missionary holding the broken head of a statue.
In the San Luis area, there are two religions, Ivers said - the Catholics and the Mormons. Sometimes that caused contention.
"I had a couple of incidents,' Ivers said. "You always had to watch what you were doing."
LDS members met in Mesita, 12 miles from San Luis, and were planning to build a church in San Luis. Ivers said a group boycotted and tried to block the church from building.
Felix Chavez, 62, lives about 34 miles from San Luis. He has met with the missionaries on and off for about five years but has not joined the church. He said he knows the area of San Luis well and has seen what he calls "an invisible line" between the two religions and cultures.
"Most Mormons here have a way of looking down their noses at you or past you," Chavez said. "There are some that are really nice."
Steven Sorenson is a member that lives near Chavez. He said he was saddened by the news.
"To me it was very sacrilegious," he said. "We don't need problems like that."
Sorenson said he hates to see any strain on relationships in the area and knows that it hurts everyone involved. We wouldn't want anyone to do anything to The Book of Mormon or to Temple Square, he said.
Reid Neilson, a professor of church history at BYU and teacher of American Religious History, said that Latter-day Saints have more in common with Catholics than many other churches in America.
"It's the golden rule," he said. "If you want to be treated well as a minority religion, you should treat others well."
Neilson said church members can't expect other people to overlook the bad and see only the good. He cautioned future missionaries in their calling.
"When they are representatives of the church, what they do impacts the entire church," Neilson said. "The eyes of the world are upon us."
The eyes of Thailand were definitely upon the missionaries in Thailand in 1972.
"We were really dumb," Tippets said. "I think it changed everybody's perspective to look forward to the good of religions."
Tippets said it was difficult for the missionaries for a small amount of time.
"I think it was harder on the members than on the missionaries," Tippets said. "We leave. They have to stay."
Some members questioned the gospel. A member's superiors at a Post Office told him to never go back to church or he would lose his job.
However, people eventually began to move on. Tippets said that after several months, proselyting picked up again and things were fairly normal.
"I think the Thai [people] kind of forgave," Tippets said.
With time came healing in Thailand. Now, thirty-six years later with a different episode, LDS members and missionaries wait for forgiveness again.
Last Tuesday Catholic Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Pueblo diocese, asked Catholic members to remove any anger in their hearts and show their love of Christ by forgiving and loving their neighbors.
Castillo County sheriff's investigator Cpl. Scott Powell said Tafoya had requested the criminal probe be halted. LDS church officials also issues an apology letter.
Ouch!...people sure can be touchy about things.
Yeah, they can.
Longtime Tempe poll worker Mary Ann Hemmingson has signed up to work the polls for the March 11 election. Shell spend her 14- or 15-hour day in a church, but no longer one that belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I never sign up to work at a Mormon church because the board workers there are not allowed to have any caffeine on the premises, she said.
Cup of coffee in the building vs. vandalism?
In the big picture of things, for one Catholic — and I’ll go further and say, for one Trinitarian Christian of any denomination — to convert to the LDS church is a greater tragedy than breaking the heads off a million statues.
>>>...in July 1972.
36 years without an incident with about 50,000 missionaries per year a pretty good record. Unless you operate like the liberal media and want to raise the prominence of the few over the many. (i.e. four 9/11 widows get more air time than the thousands).
And of course Evangelicals would never desecrate what Mormon's consider sacred..... Oh wait twice a year we get to see youtube videos of it at Temple square. Anyone interested, is in luck as in les than two weeks we'll have more Evangelicals defacing sacred Mormon sites and objects and yelling at Conference attendees. Nothing like tearing up Mormon sacred garments and ripping up books of Mormon during the time Mormons gather to recognize what they consider the birth of Christ (First week of April).
It has gotten so bad other Evangelical groups have formed to oppose the those who would desecrate. I condemn the actions of the 5 mormon missionaries over these 36 years just as I condemn the action of so called Christians who do it twice a year every year. I commend those Baptists who stand against the wrong actions of a few as well as the other Mormons who condemn the actions of the missionaries.
Mouw is not the only Christian calling for moderation. Similar pleas have been issued by David Rowe, Carl Mosser, Francis J. Beckwith, Paul Owen, Craig Blomberg, and others. Some church and parachurch groups have also made efforts to repair relations with the Mormons. In the 1980s, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority "took some small steps toward Evangelical-Mormon cooperation for a shared social, political, and ethical agenda". More recently, a Pentecostal congregation in Provo, Utah held a public ceremony of repentance for its negative attitudes and actions toward the Latter-day Saint community. In 2001 the organization Standing Together, based in Lehi, UT, was founded by a Baptist minister for the purpose of "building bridges of relationship and dialogue with... The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Standing Together hosts public seminars in which Evangelical scholar Greg Johnson and LDS scholar Robert Millet "communicate how they have maintained their friendship and at the same time discussed candidly their theological differences and concerns for one another." However, Standing Together is most recognized for their activities at General Conference, where they literally stand together, taking up space to deny its use by those who come to be disruptive influences.
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