Friday, September 14, 2012

Responding to Negative Comments: Brigham City Outreach

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, I was interviewed by two different television stations in front of the Mormon temple. (If you would like to see the stories, you can see them here.)

I happened to read the comments left by viewers from the first link. KSL Channel 5  is owned by the LDS Church, so we would expect more of a Mormon audience. About 80-90% of the more than 80 comments were against the lawsuit and, ultimately, angry with “protestors” like me.

To show you the great amount of anger folks have against us, I have clipped a half dozen comments along with a short response to each. I find the argumentation both humorous yet disturbing. I have left the spelling/grammar the same of the original writers—many obviously came from Utah’s public schools.

Jim B: It is amazing to see these people dedicate their whole life to try and get people to believe what they believe to be true. What if these people spent their life doing good for people (helping in soup kitchen, volunteer in their communities, etc) Instead they waste their entire life trying to get people to follow them. Freedom of speech is very important....but what about freedom of religion?? Mr. Johnson, I would suggest you worry about your own salvation and not try to bring others down with you. This lawsuit is between ACLU and Brigham City, NOT the LDS church. The LDS church did not close the sidewalks, Brigham City did.

Let me get this straight, Jim. As a Mormon, is it not your job to spend your whole life helping others to see what you believe is true? In the September 2012 issue of the Ensign magazine, consider some of the feature articles:

·         Page 18: “Sharing the Gospel by Sharing You.” The teaser reads, “As we become personally converted, we can share the gospel through the way we live.” So, in essence, a Mormon is supposed to use his life’s example in an evangelistic way.
·         Page 22: “Senior Missionaries: Responding to the Prophet’s Call.” Its teaser says, “Overcoming obstacles to missionary service takes faith but brings great rewards.” Even old people should get involved by volunteering their service at their own expense.
·         Page 28: “Ye are the Light of the World.” “As followers of Christ, we are to let our light shine by doing full-time and member missionary work.” Both the elders and sisters as well as regular members need to be the light of the world.

In that same issue, an article titled “Restoring Morality & Religious Freedom” (page 39) says that Mormon leaders have called the US Constitution “divinely inspired, declaring that America by divine design was prepared as the place for the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. The freedoms and protections enumerated in the Constitution—including freedom of speech, assembly, and religion—made the Restoration possible.”

While our suit is technically against Brigham City, consider the facts: 1) The church broke ground for its temple on July 28, 2010. 2) The city’s ordinance in question was introduced on September 2, 2010. Question: Was this really a coincidence? Did the three leaders named in the suit make this law for anyone but the Mormon Church, certainly at their request, in order to keep the First Amendment from being practiced?

At this point, consider an editorial titled “Orwellian Free Speech” printed in the local paper (the Standard Examiner) on September 25, 2010. The editorial called for a challenge to this unconstitutional law. It ended: “The American Civil Liberties Union, or some other group, needs to challenge Brigham City's restriction of speech. Speech thievery cannot be tolerated.”  Needless to say, we did call in the ACLU—a liberal group, yes, but one not scared to challenge the deep pockets of the Mormon Church—and they have responded. See it at

Next, the issue of feeding the poor/donating to soup kitchens is brought up.  My question for Jim is will you get your church to quit sending 60,000 missionaries out into the world when their main motivation is to convert people? After all, couldn’t they use this money used in the missionary program to do humanitarian good as well? (Wait a minute, is there even a soup kitchen for the public operated by the LDS Church?) Doesn’t such an attitude sound like Judas who wanted the perfume to be sold so the money could be donated to the poor?  Yes, the Mormons are great with their welfare program, but this is meant mainly for their own members. How about giving food away to everyone without strings attached? (Isn’t it fun to tell other people how they ought to spend their money?)

As far as the last comment about the suit between the ACLU and the city, that is correct. But do you really want me to believe that the LDS Church did not have anything to do with this ordinance?

Cinsains: If Mr. Johnson has truly spent 20 years, as he states, blocking the pathways of new LDS temples in an effort to harass and intimidate open-house visitors by handing out anti-mormon fliers, it's obvious he has bigoted feelings and a spiteful agenda against those who quietly and respectfully follow their religion or want to learn about temples. I am hopeful he can get some psychological or spiritual help to 'move on' with his life and worship how, when, or what he pleases. Heaven forbid, I stand on his try to make him feel bad about his life-choices. If re-directed, we all would be amazed at the 'good' people like Mr. Johnson could do, if their negative actions reflected service and love for others rather than disrespect and hate.

I never said I spent 20 years doing temple openings. The reporter asked how long I had been doing temple openings. I responded since 1993, when the San Diego temple opened its doors. Cinsains makes it appear this is all I (we) do. No, we only do this when there is an open house, which is anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Once completed, we are done. Loaded words like “bigoted feelings” and “spiteful agenda” versus those who “quietly and respectfully follow their religion” is silly. This is not the issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not we allow free speech on public property, regardless if someone doesn’t like what is said. As far as learning about temples, this was a silent tour. There was absolutely no instruction going on. In the refreshment room at the end, only two missionaries man the booth at a time. It’s strange, because you would expect them to have more missionaries there to answer questions. Regardless, the information given during the open house is minimal, as the church hopes that investigators will invite missionaries to their homes. Finally, I find it humorous that Cinsains mentions disrespect and hate. Doesn’t it seem like there is plenty of this coming from the writer?

Zonoz: I think Mr. Johnson should find something constructive to do with his time instead of infringe upon the rights of people to worship as they please. His sign says God forgives you. Why does Mr. Johnson think LDS members need forgiveness any more than any other denomination? And after 20 of protesting LDS Temples I think Mr. Johnson should give it up as church membership has done nothing but grow in the last 20 years. I wonder how Mr. Johnson's church is doing? Freedom of speech is for everyone, how about freedom of harassment as well. Mr. Johnson and his sort may legally be able to pass out leaflets and shout at Temple goers but their behavior is certainly not Christlike.

What if I wrote, “I think Zonoz should find something constructive to do with his/her time instead of infringe upon the rights of people to share their opinion as they please”? If we take the advice of the previous writer, couldn’t Zonoz have spent this time more constructively in the soup kitchen? As far as the sign, it did not say “God forgives you.” Instead, it said God only forgives those who desire forgiveness and have a biblical belief in Him (Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9,10). Because I don’t meet Mormons who believe they are forgiven of their sins, I want to tell others about God’s free gift through Jesus Christ.  As far as church membership growing, since we began doing these temple outreaches in 1993, church membership growth has declined from 4 percent a year to under 2 percent. Obviously, this religion is not growing like it once did.

Meanwhile, freedom of speech is a right we have as Americans. Freedom from harassment? Who says Mormons are going to be harassed. In fact, we’ve had a wonderful relationship with the security, police, and volunteers throughout this outreach. I have had lengthy conversations with dozens of folks who have agreed I have the right to practice “free agency.” They would not agree that our behavior in passing out the newspapers is unChristlike.

ShanWhit: A true christian wouldnt be bothering others during their religous practices and rights. A true christain wouldnt file a lawsuit. A true christian would attend this open house as well as others becuase a true christian would want to see for himself why so many come. Just another hater, hating on something he doesnt fully understand.

First off, this is an open house event and is open to the public. There are no “religious practices” going on inside the temple at that time. Two, if the only way to get your rights is to file a lawsuit, so be it. The city had plenty of opportunity to correct this illegal law, even as late as last Monday, Sept. 10. They refused us all the way. The lawsuit was the only way to get their attention. Notice, this is not about money. Otherwise, why is the suit only requesting $1 from three people? Third, I attended the open house…does this make me a “true Christian”? There was nothing wrong to attending the open house. We just wanted to do was allow those who attended a chance to practice their “free agency,” a concept clearly taught within Mormonism. (It would be akin to me saying “true Christians use spell checkers.” Oh yeah, support it!) As far as being a “hater,” why does ShanWhit hate me when she doesn’t fully understand the issues or my motivation?

Nortellio: For the record I am not LDS. But the LDS people have welcomed me to tour this temple and it was a great privlage to do so. When I was there I seen this group pushing fliers around and representing themselves from standing in the curb and gutter. They stand before men, women and children sending the message their faith is wrong and they do it at their place of worship. This seems really really silly to me. And when I think about it more.. This mormon research ministry reminds me of those people who didn't agree with the concept of someone being gay. Remember 1998 near Laramie Wyoming where Mathew Shepard was murdered? the people with gay issues went to his own funeral and waved their signs and/or fliers. This ministry is just like them. It would be nice for this ministry to realize there are kids there walking out of that temple who are innocent but you stand in their way looking at them like there is something wrong with them. Get a clue. Your poor behavior gets me worked up some but it's important to me that I know I can pray for this ministry and ask God to forgive them for showing up to their place of worship. Blessings.

Nortiello doesn’t like the fact that our newspaper explains how Mormonism is not the same as Christianity.  Yet he in turn says anyone saying such a thing is wrong. Isn’t this a bit narrow-minded? (If we are to take this common philosophy that anything said in opposition to an idea is wrong, then he has broken his self-made rule.) This is what Greg Koukl calls an argument by suicide, or self-defeating. Second, this is not yet a place of worship. It’s a place for public tours of a place that will become a place of worship once the dedication ceremonies take place the following week. To compare our disagreement of ideas with the 1998 Mathew Shepard case…well, for one, there is absolutely no comparison at all, and two, if disagreement does indeed equal hate and the Shepard case does apply, then isn’t this writer just as guilty for obviously hating those who he claims hate Mormons? As far as us “staring” at kids, on public property no less, this comment made me laugh out loud (I hope I didn’t wake anyone up). Are you kidding? If it’s possible that someone might “stare” at a child, then is the writer suggesting that we take away their rights to free speech? Has this country become communistic? But thankfully, as tough as his words are, this writer says he is willing to forgive me. I’ll have to work a little harder on not staring at kids so often when they walk through the temple. They could have nightmares, after all. (And no, this is not yet a place of worship. You won’t see me at this temple after it’s closed to the public.)

Nweb: They are being allowed to protest three of the four sides around the temple. The one spot where they are not being granted access is where the shuttle buses are dropping visitors off. It is very crowded back there and just not safe to decide to hang out there all day. It is for their own safety that these protesters are not allowed back there. To me, it just sounds like this guy is having a hissy-fit because he is not allowed to stand where he will be able to hand his anti-pamphlets out when people get off the bus. But, you can be guaranteed that if he were to get hit by a bus, he'd be suing over that, too. The guy, by his own admission, has been doing this for 20 years. Obviously, he has a vendetta against the LDS church. I live in Brigham City. I have seen firsthand how congested it is back where the buses are. It is not safe to hang out there. Also, this Eric Johnson guy is failing to mention that some of his ilk are not staying in the designated areas. They have gone on to the actual temple grounds- particularly the area where the refreshments are being served. That area is without a doubt private property. And they have attempted to hand out their stuff in those areas. And when asked to leave and go back to the designated areas, they refuse until the point that the police have been called in. Of course, when that happens, they cry foul and that they are being abused by the officers. They try to get video w/their cell phones of themselves being abused. I have no pity for this guy. Twenty years spent trying to tell others what they believe. What a complete waste.

This information is wrong, as we were only allowed to be on two of the four sides of the public access sidewalks. We were not allowed on Main Street in front of the temple as well as the street with the buses. . When the lines winded around the building during Labor Day as well as the days of the last week, we stood on the corner of Main and 3rd South, handing papers out there. We never got in the way of anyone and everyone survived. If we could manage that on a very small sidewalk area, why couldn’t we have done the same thing on the enlarged sidewalks at the loading area? In addition, there was no precedence of problems at other temple open house sites. There needs to be a precedence to make public safety an issue. Eliminating free speech when safety is not an issue is nothing less than unconstitutional.

In addition, the writer makes it appear that we are suit-happy. Trust me, we tried many tactics with the city before filing this suit, even meeting with the mayor on Monday, who never followed through on his promise to give us an answer by the end of the business day. The ACLU waited to file the suit until Tuesday morning. It took us more than three weeks to get to this point. I sure wish the city would have better cooperated with us and given us the chance to do what all Americans should be allowed to do, which is peacefully hand out newspapers on public property. For the record, nobody who joined us at the temple has a “vendetta” against the church. We’re only trying to follow what LDS leaders have said. Consider these quotes listed on the front of the newspaper:

“Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test.” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 126)

“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and for one I want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 20:264)

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses 14:216)

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” (J. Reuben Clark)

We would agree. If the church really wanted its membership to practice their free agency, they would have told the city that they wanted to make all four blocks “Free Speech” zones. They would have allowed the “protestors” to get their information out, even providing copies on the bus. They would have told them how the truth matters and how strongly they feel that the LDS Church really is the one true church on the face of the earth.

The last part of this post is filled with accusations. First of all, I want the record to be clear that anyone with us (who would have had the newspapers) never went onto the two prohibited streets to hand out literature. Never happened, period. As far as going into the refreshment room, that too never happened. Any water bottles given to us came from the church hospitality members, who came by our area every hour with a cart to offer water. But we never entered church property. As far as the police coming because of our behavior, that is totally false. I know of three times the police were called during the first week. Each time, they agreed that we were on public property and told the ushers to not call them again. If it is true that any of our people (with our newspapers) were disturbing the peace, it ought to be a matter of public record. I challenge anyone to produce any evidence that we did anything illegal during this open house outreach.

If you would like to see the newspaper that we handed out throughout the outreach, please see a PDF file at


Blogger Keith Walker said...

I find it interesting how patriotic Mormons are until they realize that their patriotism is in conflict with the desires of the Mormon Church. Reading the comments from these Mormons about how you should not be allowed to practice free speech is disgusting and un-American.

11:05 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home