99,997 ignored antagonists 
By Doug Robinson
Deseret Morning News

       Like a lot of people, you're probably still trying to make sense 
of the ongoing debate regarding the street preachers and the stormin' 
Mormons.
      The debate rages on into Week 3, with letters to the editor and 
e-mails to your friendly neighborhood columnists, and colorful 
commentary at the local water cooler.
      On one side there are the so-called street preachers who 
intentionally antagonized churchgoers by abusing their sacred clothing 
in public and then couldn't understand why anyone would feel 
antagonized. On the other side are the three people who confronted the 
aforementioned preachers about their rude, sacrilegious behavior.
      So far, the entire debate has focused on the actions of those 
people, with one side arguing that those men had every right to 
challenge the preachers for their sacrilege, while the other side claims 
it was a matter of free speech (blah, blah, blah) and that the Mormons 
should have ignored them and walked away just like they did in Missouri.
      So there it is: "The Preachers and the Big Three," starring Lonnie 
Pursifull and Jose Basilio.
      Just one question: Aren't we forgetting somebody in this whole 
affair?
      What about the thousands of people who did nothing except walk 
away? They didn't antagonize anyone and they didn't confront anyone, 
they just went on their way.
      To those who argue that the churchgoers should have practiced 
their religion and turned their collective cheeks, so to speak, guess 
what? The vast majority of them did just that.
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
      On a conference weekend there are easily 100,000 people who show 
up at Temple Square, counting those who attend one or more of the five 
sessions and those who simply like to gather in the area at that time. 
That means about 99,997 of them ignored the taunting and sacrilege. 
That's a pretty good batting average.
      News flash: Mormons never said they were perfect. That's why they 
go to General Conference and church to try to improve their 
imperfections.
      Nearly 100,000 people went to conference and looked the other way 
when the freak show began. They ignored the obscenities and insults 
hurled at them and their families.
      Most of them heeded the admonitions of their church leaders and 
simply ignored the rude behavior. All this has been overlooked by media 
and critics, but it's worth noting and even praising. No, it's better 
than that  it's amazing that so many people resisted such taunts.
      The wonder isn't that three people confronted these street 
preachers; the wonder is that more didn't do it. When a group of 
"preachers" shows up and abuses clothing that is considered sacred by 11 
million people, they are doing it for one reason: To get attention and a 
reaction, to humiliate and even anger. Then when they got it, they cried 
foul. They wanted it both ways.
      And yet most people did nothing. They didn't take the bait.
      As one reader, Michael Nielsen, wrote, "One of the more
      interesting facets of this story, to me, is the fact that many 
people walked peacefully by the sacrilege. Resisting the urge to strike 
at one's tormentor is difficult, but apparently many people did just 
that.
      "That three people, among the thousands attending, might lash back 
at the cretin is understandable. But I think it is a disservice to focus 
on those three. The more remarkable story is in the many others who 
passed peacefully by."
      The way some people have criticized the few who did respond to the 
preachers' actions, you'd think a holy war was narrowly averted. But 
thousands of people swallowed their pride and walked away. It's not 
exactly time to call in General Johnston and the cavalry again.
      Most of those attending General Conference probably did ask 
themselves, as some critics have suggested, "What would Jesus do?" and 
then did it. Three people asked themselves, "What would John Wayne do?" 
and did that. All people remember are those three.
      


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Doug Robinson's column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached by e-mail at 
[EMAIL PROTECTED] 

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