Photo by Larry Winget
Todd Barr, President of the Manassa Second Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads a prepared statement of apology from his church to the community of San Luis for the actions of three Mormon missionaries. On the left is Robert Fotheringham, who is in charge of Mormon missionaries for four states, including those serving in the San Luis Valley.
Residents still angry over
By LARRY WINGET
SAN LUIS — A seven-member delegation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delivered an apology to the town of San Luis on Tuesday for the 2006 actions of three Mormon missionaries.
Delegation spokesman Robert Fotheringham, president of the Colorado Springs mission of the LDS Church told the town’s board of trustees that his church, was “chagrined, embarrassed and came to apologize” for the young men’s actions mocking the Roman Catholic Church.
Photographs recently found on the Internet allegedly show Mormon missionaries disrespecting the Catholic Church and vandalizing a statue that is part of the Stations of the Cross Shrine just outside town, which is considered an important part of the community.
The young men in the photos, one holding the severed head of a statue from the Memorial to the Mexican Martyrs, a part of the Stations of the Cross Shrine. Other photos show the men inside Chapel of All Saints preaching from the Book of Mormon.
Todd Barr, President of the Manassa Second Stake read a prepared statement to the trustees that said, in part, “Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were dismayed this weekend to learn of the insensitivity and disrespect shown to artifacts of the Sangre de Cristo Catholic Church, in San Luis, and that Latter-Day missionaries were evidently responsible during their service in 2006. Their actions do not represent the high standards of behavior for which our missionaries are known all over the world.”
The statement also said the LDS Church had begun a thorough investigation and the Church was providing the names of those involved to law enforcement officials.
Fotheringham, who is in charge of LDS missionaries for four states, said his church would pay for any damages, and offered profound regrets and apologies for the incident and was willing to do service to make the shrine and memorial “as it was.”
“Although I appreciate your apology, the people just simply don’t want you here,” San Luis Trustee Rose Mendosa-Green said. “That’s the feeling that has come from all this. They need to know beyond that, that their community is no longer a mockery. The damage has been done and it’s beyond that.”
“You asked what service you can do. You can take the steeple off of your church and donate the building back to the community for a community center and you can leave,” said Priscilla Salazar Martinez, a San Luis citizen.
San Luis Mayor Christopher Rodriguez read a letter from the board of trustees to the LDS representatives. It stated, in part, “This letter serves to denounce the actions and photographs currently posted (on Web site Photobucket.)… The actions depicted in these photographs are offensive to everyone… It must be recognized that these were the actions of three incredibly misguided young men; but also that as missionaries of the Mormon faith, the perception is that it was done under the color of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.”
About two dozen attended the meeting. Rodriguez kept the meeting in order when the audience began to ask pointed questions about why the Mormons built a church in San Luis. “I hope we can learn from this. Perhaps it is a test of our faith,” he said. “I hope we can move on from that and I thank everyone who spoke.”
The LDS representatives explained there are 80 members of their church in Costilla County and they wanted to have a church where water and utilities are available.
One person in the audience suggested those 80 people did not live in San Luis and they could go to church in Mesita or Manassa.
A spokesman for the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office said an announcement would be made Thursday March 13 concerning whether charges would be filed in the case.