Monday, October 12, 2009

Sad News in New England

A vicious, stabbing, random murder in New England involves a young suspect who is Latter-day Saint, who reportedly had been considering a mission. A horrific crime that seems to have no explanation.

The heart-wrenching nature of this tale must have caused many broken hearts. I have read a few reports about this and see nothing too bigoted in the coverage of Mormons -- indeed, one article seemed to blame that fact that the young suspect had a hard time fitting in, almost as though the community somehow shared some blame for this atrocity, assuming the young man is guilty of what is alleged. While such a linkage between a Mormon missionary and murder is frustrating, but isn't the fault of the press.

Alas, what often riles Latter-day Saints is when the press reports that a suspect is Mormon, but not the religion of other suspects. I am not very troubled by this, actually, for two reasons:

First, as Latter-day Saints, we wish to be seen as examples, as a light on a hill and a peculiar people. If we are to wish that, we should accept the other parts of it, when our members go wrong.

Second, as a Mormon and journalist, I am aware of times where journalists haven't identified Mormons in print, even when there might be nominal news value in doing so. I am aware of a time or two when such coverage may have hurt the church, actually, but wasn't printed as a connection. So, to be fair, journalists generally do follow professional norms in ways that readers don't always understand.

So, no need to complain of the linkage here. It seems relevant to this story -- how could a good kid go bad?

Beyond that, one of the great challenges of being a peculiar people who has suffered persecution, can be a kind of group-think and sense of persecution that can lead to lashing out and pain to others. It can be dangerously isolating. As an LDS member, this sad story again demonstrates the need we have in using care, especially around our teens, in telling the stories of Mormon persecution.

God bless the families involved in this travesty.

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