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August 31st, 2010
10:33 AM ET

Mormon bishop shot dead in California


Editor's note: CNN's Greg Morrison brings us this story from California.

A Mormon bishop was shot and killed in Visalia, California, on Sunday, police said. The suspected gunman was killed later in the day in a gunfight with police, Visalia California Police Chief Colleen Mestas told CNN.

Bishop Clay Sannar, 42, was shot dead in an office at Visalia's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mestas said. About 20 minutes after the shooting, police got a call from the suspect, who told them where he was heading, Mestas said.

Officers intercepted the suspect and a gunfight ensued, during which the suspect was killed. Church members tell police the gunman was a stranger who hadn't been seen at the church before.

Read the full story here.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: California • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Death • United States

soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Reality

    Chapter 2 continued:

    The Mormons are stewards of a different str-ipe. Their charitable spending and temple building are pro-digious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that one national magazine estimates to be at least $6 billion strong. Even more unusual, most of this money is not in bonds or stock in other peoples' companies but is invested directly in church-owned, for-profit concerns, the largest of which are in agribusiness, media, insurance, travel and real estate. De-seret Management Corp., the company through which the church holds almost all its commercial as-sets, is one of the largest owners of farm and ranchland in the country, including 49 for-profit parcels in addition to the De-seret Ranch. Besides the Bonneville International chain and Beneficial Life, the church owns a 52% holding in ZCMI, Utah's largest department-store chain. All told, a national magazine estimates that the Latter-day Saints farmland and financial investments total some $11 billion, and that the church's non- t–ithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million.

    September 1, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  2. Reality

    Chapter 2- –The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the t-ithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. T-ithes are collected locally, with much of the money passed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. By Monday, says Elbert P-eck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City know every cent that's been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks. There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in ti-thes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons.

    September 1, 2010 at 12:32 am |
  3. Reality

    Chapter 2- –The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the t-ithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. T-ithes are collected locally, with much of the money passed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. By Monday, says Elbert P-eck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City know every cent that's been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks. There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in ti-thes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons.

    The Mormons are stewards of a different str-ipe. Their charitable spending and temple building are pro-digious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that T-IME estimates to be at least $6 billion strong. Even more unusual, most of this money is not in bonds or stock in other peoples' companies but is invested directly in church-owned, for-profit concerns, the largest of which are in agribusiness, media, insurance, travel and real estate. Deseret Management Corp., the company through which the church holds almost all its commercial assets, is one of the largest owners of farm and ranchland in the country, including 49 for-profit parcels in addition to the Deseret Ranch. Besides the Bonneville International chain and Beneficial Life, the church owns a 52% holding in ZCMI, Utah's largest department-store chain. All told, TIME estimates that the Latter-day Saints farmland and financial investments total some $11 billion, and that the church's non- t–ithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million.

    Members of the church celebrate the Lord's Supper with water rather than wine or grape juice. They believe their President is a prophet who receives new revelations from God. These can supplant older revelations, as in the case of the church's historically most controversial doctrine: Smith himself received God's sanctioning of pol-ygamy in 1831, but 49 years later, the church's President announced its recision. Similarly, an explicit policy barring black men from holding even the lowest church offices was overturned by a new revelation in 1978, opening the way to huge missionary activity in Africa and Brazil.

    Single test question for the course, yes or no : Is Mormonism a business c-ult using religion as a front and charitable donations and volunteer work to advertise said business? Yes!!!!

    September 1, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  4. Reality

    First chapter- The Angel Con- Moroni was a "pretty, talking, fictional thingie" or would a better description be "one of the many hallucinations seen Joe Smith or a clone of the fictional Gabriel" or "Moroni the golden hornbl-ower", or "son of Mormon, the propheteer/profiteer, or actually Nephi, or good buds with John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, and Elias all who ministered to Joseph Smith as angels.

    September 1, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  5. Alex Wilson

    From what I know, the Mormons work to live by the following, if you have problems with this, you are just warped!

    We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Alex Wilson

      oh, i forgot, if you know an active Mormon that is not living this way, call them on it.....everyone can improve.

      August 31, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      We don't frequent the same establishments. But thanks for your permission to judge other people's behavior!

      September 1, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  6. Alex Wilson

    Sorry to hear your community lost a wonderful, caring and productive man! He was growing a business, providing for a young family, serving his community and God with whatever time he could spare from raising 6 sons! It is so sad when despondent people take someone random, in this case, someone exceptional down with them. I thank Mr. & Mrs. Sannar for their service, for the wonderful young men they are raising. What a tremendous loss.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  7. Barb Ann

    Dave-so sorry about the horrible errors. I'm helping my grandson with his homework while trying to write you.

    August 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  8. Dave

    BTW, Barb and Kate, you're both wrong. The quote was that the shooter "thought" the mormons were "sending" him to hell. He was delusional. And nobody but God sends anybody anywhere. Even the Mormons will tell you that.

    August 31, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Barb Ann

      Dave-you do realize how many articles there are on this subject in the news right? So we are both correct in that we must have read 2 different stories and the wonderful media has no problem making mistakes in what they write & say. One day my son was on a US carrier and he say on the tv that the 'enemy' might start shooting in the next day, all the time the missles were going over my son's head on deck. You are completely right as to the fact that God has the final say so in all of our destinations. Finally, I am Mormon and I appreciate seeing both you and Kate voicing your opinion so that I may be enlightened. Thanks.

      August 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Actually, people send themselves to hell by what they do and what they do not do [but should], by things they say and by thoughts…. and by not repenting of their sin.

      September 1, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • TacTic

      @CatholicMom

      Since you do not repent of your sins, then I guess you're the voice of experience as a "devout" Catholic.

      September 1, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  9. Dave

    Seriously, is there any class anywhere among you people? Two men are dead and six kids are without a father.

    August 31, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Sure its only six kids? Better check his rental properties. Am I right?

      August 31, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  10. Reality

    Maybe they were lovers?? Hmmm, now that is both juicy and yucky!!!

    August 31, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  11. Barb Ann

    For KATE-the quote in the article I read said "damned" and the Reorganized Mormons 'shun' not the original Mormons. You would have to know the gospel and then deliberately denounce Heavenly Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit and even then, it is not our right to judge but God's. But all of this is mote in the greater realm of what has happened. I volunteered for quite a while along with my son and daughter-in-law, both returned vets (he was in three 'wars' in the mideast. The website is: http://www.veteransand families.org. My involvement stopped when I became too ill to keep going. I am extending an invitation for you to join this group as their main purpose is to help all veterans with PTSD and work with their families in understanding what their loved ones are going through.

    August 31, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • Kate

      @Barb Ann

      Thank you for the link, I'll pass this one back as another resource you might want to keep around: http://www.realwarriors.net/

      The times are changin' but ... not fast enough, as this incident alone is going to show I fear 🙁

      Thank you to you and yours.

      As for the shunning part – see my reply to Brian?

      August 31, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  12. Mark from Middle River

    Harder for who? The crimminals ? They are almost trucking over guns and drugs ...... so who are you speaking of saying "it would be harder" ?

    August 31, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  13. Brad

    Much is said in ignorance.

    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; I am also a retired Soldier of 23 years. My Army career spanned from the Viet Nam Conflict to Desert Storm. I work to this day for the Department of Defense and spend many hours working with Soldiers and Airmen who have deployed to various war zones. I work with them professionally and as a Priesthood leader. I am a High Priest in the LDS faith, and a member of a local Bishopric. I have a strong understanding of Mormonism, its doctrine and practices.

    I also have a solid background working with PTSD and many other mental issues.

    1. Mormonism does not damn, shun or any other form of sending people to hell, or not loving them while on this earth. Even within our disciplinary actions we invite, love, visit, pray for, and pray with those that have been disciplined.

    2. The LDS Church recognizes that mental illness is real and deals with it at great expense to the Church. Search the Web for LDS Social Services and learn just how much we do.

    This man’s act was not doubt an act of mental illness, (who would kill a stranger in cold blood as an act of health). The banter and speculation on his motives, views on Sexuality or politics is an exercise in futility.

    Know this that his family is being prayed for by thousands of ‘Mormons’, not just in Visalia, but all over the world. Know this that the family of the Bishop is being taken care of by the members, their family, and the Doctrine of the LDS faith. The Doctrine, by the way, allows for all things to be made whole through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That means that the shooter, the murdered, the families of both and all others can find peace in and through Christ. That means that we can and will extend forgiveness to the shooter, his family and all others who seek to cause harm and pain to the innocent.

    Go to LDS.org and view the ‘YouTube’ placed there just a few weeks ago about a man extending forgiveness to the DUI driver that killed his wife and children.

    I urge people everywhere to learn truth before speaking out on opinionated speculations.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    Guns don't kill people. People kill people!

    Yeah, but it would be a little harder if they had to do it with a stick...

    Should we allow people to carry a concealed stick, for personal protection?

    August 31, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • Kate

      @David Johnson

      More people die every year from non-concealed cars in the hands of drunk drivers than from guns – we should ban those first (or at least the drunk drivers – or better yet, make them sit down and listen to Reality to shock them into sobriety).

      Probably more people die from being beaten with baseball bats too 😛

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • Brian

      Or drown in swimming pools. Let's ban water too!

      August 31, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  15. LetzThink

    Hate-inspired violence against Mormons is hardly unprecedented. Early Mormon history is replete with examples.

    What strikes me as ironic is that California is notoriously oblivious to a individual's right to self-protection as evidenced by their idiotic approach to licensing citizens for concealed carry of their lawfully owned firearms and refusal to allow reciprocity with licensees of other states – the poor man never had a chance.

    Also ironic is that in Utah, where a church may list itself with the state as off-limits for concealed carry, the only church to have done so is the Mormon church. Hmmm...

    August 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
    • David Johnson

      If we banned guns altogether...

      August 31, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      And the shooter is a Mor... wait for it... mon.

      August 31, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  16. Andrea Vitale

    This is so sad the only thing a bishop does is spend all his time trying to help the members of his church and to think that any person would kill such an innocent man makes me sick. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and all the members of his church. I can't imagine losing the bishop of my church he is such a wonderful man who helps so many people, just as my heart knows this man was the same. I have never met any member of my church who hated anyone. Members of the LDS church are the most amazing people you will ever meet. I love this church very much and if you don't know what someone believes in then you should try to learn before you judge them because you might find out that you believe the same thing.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
    • Kelli

      I agree, this is such a tragedy. Mormons are not haters, and they teach members to love thy neighbor, in all circumstances. No one is perfect, but this bishop obviously tried to live his religion and be an upstanding father and citizen. I am glad that there is a fund set for their family already. It is for the 6 children and wife that are now left without a husband and father, due to one delusional man's selfish act.

      August 31, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  17. David Johnson

    Does anyone know why I can't get into the "lost my faith because of Katrina" or whatever, blog. I've been trying for the last 2 days.

    I got in yesterday morning for like 15 minutes. I loved that blog. So many fundies to pull the wings from.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Kate

      @David Johnson

      I can get there fine, try this link: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/30/my-take-loosing-my-faith-after-hurricane-katrina/

      August 31, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • David Johnson

      That didn't work either. All I get is a blank page. I can get into all the other blogs. "I want to go to the lost my faith" one!

      Is this god's way of getting even? Is this a sign? Is my wife really cooking liver for dinner?

      Anyway, if anyone has any suggestions please post them. I will light a candle for you.

      August 31, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • verify

      David,

      Maybe this is too simplistic, but have you cleared your cache (temp. internet files), or have you tried a different browser?

      August 31, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Kate

      @David Johnson

      I think your wife's dinner plans for you are much more in need of prayer than your browser issues ...

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Kate

    According to HuffPo (I got the link from comments on the main story here):

    The suspected gunman in the fatal shooting of a Mormon church official in Central California was mentally ill and believed the church had wronged him when he was a member in the 1980s, family members said Monday.

    Kenneth James Ward, 47, would go through delusional spells when he blamed the Mormon church for his troubles, according to his younger brother, Mike Ward.

    The article there goes on to mention the shooter is a 'Storm Vet, who returned suffering PTSD.

    The religion link is peripheral here – but someone at CNN should be looking into it to report on the ABYSMAL state of mental health services for veterans.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Barb Ann

      Ward's brother said Kenneth was a member of the church-this is not true; he is not a member of records in the Mormon Church. Also, the brother said the Mormon Church "damned" his brother to hell. Sorry guy but we don't use the term 'hell' and we can't damn anyone to anywhere. Ward's brother is more than welcome to visit any of our churches and ask all the questions he wants to learn the real truth. My prayers are not just for Bishop Sannar's family but for Kenneth Ward's family as well. Both families have suffered a loss.

      August 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
    • Kate

      @Barb Ann

      I thought the quote was "shunned [him] to hell"? Shunning *is* a practice of Mormonism. No-one said the use of "hell" was in a theological sense though.

      As for the records – if he was *officially* shunned, then he'd be erased from those records. Having said that, there's no reason to believe it was *this* Bishop's church that was the one in question. Time will tell I guess.

      But I do agree with you, both families have suffered a loss. 🙁

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Brian

      Mormons don't practice shunning, at least not in any official capacity, and it is certainly discouraged from the pulpit. My personal story pretty much blows away that stereotype.

      August 31, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Kate

      @Brian

      So is this something that might be done by churches/congregations outside of SLC/Utah? My sources on the topic of shunning are kind of beyond reproach (I'm related to 2 of them) – all three of them I talked to before I posted about shunning confirmed it does happen.

      But in the interests of fairness, maybe something felt *like* shunning from his perspective, too, even if it wasn't – which doesn't say it was anyone's fault. PTSD can shift perceptions hard 🙁

      Hopefully this one won't get dropped by the news cycle and we'll find out better when they do the almost-certain psych eval.

      August 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Serene Surpreme

    @ Memphis Plano, Y'know what's ironic? The guy who killed the bishop was ANTI-GAY. Yes, that's right, one of your kind killed the mormon bishop. It turns out that the murder is mentally ill and harbored not only anti-gay thoughts but also anti-mormon. He has threaten to kill mormons before, so this is not really a random act of violence. Please do your research before spouting out contradicting words. It makes you look like a moron.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • berysax

      Where is your proof that isn't even on the internet or news?

      August 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • berysax

      Found it. The guy is a a crazy nut. It is a random act of violence by the way? Would you call it non-random?
      http://www.cbs47.tv/mostpopular/story/Learning-More-about-a-Suspected-Killer/FyLK6ZtSaECQAi_wbI0WmQ.cspx

      August 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
    • Kate

      @berysax

      "crazy nut"? I'd love to see how *you'd* handle sh|tstorms then come back.

      Got to love how they've already set up a fund for the Bishop's family – and conveniently skip over the fact if there was proper mental health services available for the shooter coming back from a war zone with PTSD he might have gotten help to begin with and it not have turned into a murder.

      Oh wait – that would mean having to admit that the people you send out to risk their lives for you might come back needing help. Can't have that, much easier on people's consciences to make like ostriches.

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  20. Memphis Piano

    It was probably someone "mad" at the church because of their support of anti-gay marriage. CNN keeps saying anyone with opposes gay marriage "hates." Well, it looks to me like this guy had his share of hate. It's time we quit labeling everyone who disagrees with us as "haters."

    August 31, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • CatholicMom

      I agree. People who disagree should not be angry for any reason. Hate is the opposite of Love. Those who love to disagree should remember that Scripture tells us to love one another. Preferrably in an intimate way with children. I love children.

      August 31, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • David Johnson

      @CatholicMom

      You said, "Preferrably in an intimate way with children. I love children."

      I think I have heard Catholic Priests say that. I'm just sayin...

      August 31, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • Kate

      @David Johnson

      Someone, mentioning no three letter nicknames they may on here otherwise, is masquerading as CatholicMom. And here was me thinking they'd all gone back to school by now.

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Oh, dude! Serene Surpreme, tore you a new one. Ouch!

      August 31, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Kate

      @Kate

      You post in an anonymous blog. Kate is a name used by thousands of people. Why do you keep the same name here?
      And it's probably not even your real name. Are you mad that I used a name like yours, too? So "many" people in here, ugh, it's like a locker-room sometimes. Go ahead and express yourself now. I have made my point to you.

      August 31, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Kate

      @Kate

      Why on earth would I be mad? Names are just labels, ideas will out – as you've discovered. Only – what is your point to begin with? I'm sure you have one ... somewhere ... around ... kinda.

      I wouldn't be so sure it's as anonymous as you'd like to believe on here though you know – Just because it *says* "blogs.cnn.com", it's really wordpress.com with a creative CNAME in there.

      Just sayin'

      August 31, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Someone on another blog suggested I change my name but I think this is the best way for someone who may read my post to know right off that my Truth comes from a Catholic perspective. And like you say, Kate, it is just a name, so my posts will be mine by content. You are a smart one, Kate, and could probably help CNN solve their moderating problems.

      September 1, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • Kate

      @CatholicMom

      I doubt anyone could solve CNN's moderating problems, except maybe God – and even then it'd be pushing the definition of a miracle 😛

      But I'm glad you're keeping the name and not letting the troll scare you off.

      Just sayin'

      September 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • mormon mom

      Being "mad" at something, or someone never gives you the right to kill.

      September 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • Kleizmer M. Ricafort

      maybe your right, I'm a "mormon" too, and I don't like anyone to die.

      September 19, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I agree that the media ought to chill on labeling (Janet Napolitano too) and fomenting. Mormons are good people (if you've eever had friends or neighbors) .. good values, good family structure, moral, self reliant. Recall the crazy wacko who shot up a Jewish kindergarten a few years back. Hard to understand that kind .. well impossible for normal people ... probably not easy for shrinks. There is a never ending supply (it seems) .. from genius unabombers to ding-a-lings missing DNA... out of 7 billion if .01% are nuts .. .. there are still a half million crazies running around. (about half of them are in California)(mostly in the Bay Area).

      January 3, 2011 at 3:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.