Faith, fury mix at Mormon temple

Current Affairs

Here’s some local news from Phoenix: Last night a street preacher ended up with a bruised shin after being “rammed” when he tried to stop a mormon woman in an electric chair from attending a service at the Arizona Mormon Temple.

Link: Faith, fury mix at Mormon temple.

The confrontations between Mormon worshipers and those who think they need saving have been going on for decades outside the Arizona Temple and longer than that at other places, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

But Pursifull and his fellow street preachers have ratcheted up the vitriol in the past few years, creating a toxic mix of faith and fury on the sidewalks outside the temple each Easter.

It has gotten so bad that a more moderate group of Phoenix evangelicals has vowed to skip their annual trip to preach outside the pageant until Pursifull and his crew tone it down.


I remember how effective Fred Phelps was when he and his followers spent a morning shouting at our parishioners in Bethlehem one Sunday morning. A few people stayed away; but, the rest of us were even more committed to the principle of the full inclusion of all people into the Church as a result.

I wonder what the Arizona street preachers think they’re witnessing to by their antics… Near as I can tell, their primary motivation is to accumulate more “conversion” success stories (or failing that persecution stories) that they can hang on their belts to prove to themselves and others that God loves them more.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. One of my most memorable encounters with street preachers was down on Mill Avenue just across the street from Starbucks where a group of people was yelling at passerby about the dangers of hell. Rather than ignoring them, I was foolish enough to pick a fight with one of them, saying, “Hell is not fiery and you do not get there by accident!” While the conversation was heated, it was not uncivil, but it certainly didn’t change anybody’s mind.
    So, I wish there were a way to be more positive about it, but I think your analysis of this is spot-on when you talk about this sort of Christian one-upmanship.
    The other piece that’s worth noting is what this encounter teaches about what happens when you create a religious system that requires people to assent to a lot of specifics in doctrine or practice. Eventually, everyone just ends up arguing with each other about who gets it more right – and, consequently, who God loves more.
    One only has to ask the question: how many strange denominations and sects has Christianity broken into? The sad part is that it seems 95% of the effort in these communities goes into condemning others whose beliefs are different from yours rather than trying to get people to have a vital encounter with the Holy.
    Of course, people have criticized the Episcopal Church for saying that it believes in everything or nothing and not having any theological distinctives. (Which isn’t a valid criticism in my view, but a frequent misinterpretation.)
    What is true is that what is offered in mainline Christianity seems to be something much more subtle, but also more fulfilling – it’s just hard for us to think about how we can be heard effectively over the din of noisy street evangelists and prosperity-gospel preachers on television.

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