Fresno Bee's April 1, 2000 Editorial

 A Review by Bill McKeever

Those who have worked with MRM at temple outreaches know that we try very hard to stay low-key. Our intention is to politely hand out our 4-page newspaper that clearly explains things that the LDS Church is reluctant to have visitors know. We don’t seek media attention nor do we try to use sensational means to be noticed.

When a person walks by or drives by, we politely ask if they would like a copy. If not, we still encourage them to "have a nice day." Our positive demeanor has often enabled us to have some incredible conversations with LDS volunteers directing traffic, and many times it has opened doors to speak with LDS security as well. Behaving in a Christ-like manner is always first and foremost.

Granted, some Mormons are very outspoken in letting us know they don’t want us there. We’ve been called names and even been given certain hand gestures that show displeasure with our presence. Fortunately, these reactions are never the norm.

Some LDS insist that they are glad we are there because, they say, our handout actually "helps the church grow." Whenever we hear comments like that, we like to offer them a stack of papers, and, with a smile we respond by saying, "If that is true, please help us hand these out." Of course, since it is not true, they never offer assistance.

Our outreach in Fresno was very typical of experiences we have had all over the country. What made it different is that the local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, could not resist a written assault on our efforts. Below I have reprinted their editorial along with my rebuttal; a rebuttal they, not surprisingly, chose not to print.

Notice the resort to lying. Our paper is "scurrilous?" Scurrilous means "using indecent or abusive language; coarse, vulgar; foulmouthed." Our handout is nothing of the kind, and the Bee should be ashamed for such an accusation! If anything in the handout could be construed as scurrilous or "mean-spirited," it is the quotes by LDS leaders condemning Christian doctrine. That, of course, the Bee does not address. The Bee piously declares the need for tolerance but at the same time makes it very clear that it has no desire to tolerate Christians who may have a different view.

Sloppy journalism like this is not uncommon for the secular press. It is to be expected since many in this field haven’t a clue as to what the real issue is – TRUTH! Let’s be serious, the Mormons are not being totally truthful with those who visit their temples. Many of the "Gentiles" who visit the temple have admitted to me that they still know very little about what really goes on in that building or what the unique doctrines of Mormonism really entail. More than once the Mormons have posted signs that actually tell visitors that what we are handing out does not contain Mormon doctrine.

Those who let us know that the material helped them immensely in trying to understand the teachings of Mormonism naturally offset negative comments like those from the Bee. Like the prophet Elijah, we know those we seek to reach will not readily accept our message. Nonetheless, we understand the importance of the mission and are willing to risk positive "public relations" for the truth that sets people free.

From the Fresno Bee 4/1/00

"Thumbs down to the insensitive boors who tried to spoil the recent opening of the new Fresno temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a scurrilous tabloid "special edition" they handed out on the sidewalks outside the temple. The four-page tabloid was chock-full of not-so-thinly veiled attacks on Mormon doctrines. Theological debate has always been and will always be appropriate, but it must be civil and not descend into mean-spiritedness, which this attack surely did on a day full of pride and joy for the Mormon community of Fresno and the Valley. That mean-spiritedness, if not confronted, can quickly descend even further, into overt bigotry, discrimination and even violence. It has no place in a free and tolerant society."

Bill’s response the Bee chose not to print

Editor:

As one who helped hand out the four-page newspaper at the temple, I must say that I was dismayed to hear it being labeled as "mean-spirited" and that those of us involved in its dissemination were somehow motivated by less than noble intentions. Perhaps the editor should note that the handout included a total of 32 quotes from LDS leaders, none of which held a position lower than a Seventy. The handout also included 5 quotes taken directly from the LDS temple ceremony, and another 29 direct quotations from, or references to, books considered to be scripture by the LDS people. Let it also be known that the LDS Church’s Book of Mormon claims that all other churches but theirs is the "church of the devil" (1 Nephi 14:10). Is the Fresno Bee actually advocating that Christians are not allowed a response to such a comment? The LDS Church claims it alone represents true Christianity while at the same time it either denies or distorts basic Christian beliefs. If a group claimed to be Mormon but at the same time denied or distorted Mormon beliefs, I can guarantee you that the LDS people would want to offer a rebuttal. It is sad to hear a newspaper imply that a disagreement over sacred issues automatically implies an intolerance that leads to violence. We have had many Mormons admit that the information supplied in the paper was correct and in context. If the Mormons are ashamed of what their leaders have said, then perhaps they need to reexamine their faith.

Bill McKeever
Director of Mormonism Research Ministry
El Cajon, CA