Mormons and non-Mormons alike are mourning Sunday’s senseless and tragic death of Bishop Clay Sannar, age 42, of the Visalia California Ward congregation, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bishop Sannar had only been serving in his lay ministry calling a few months. While doing paperwork in his church office after morning services on Sunday August 29, a man who was “visibly upset” walked into the chapel, and asked to see “someone in charge”. When taken to Sannar, the man pulled a gun, and fatally wounded the innocent bishop with multiple shots.
As of this morning, news reports reveal that the gunman was Kenneth James Ward, 47, a former member of the LDS church in the 1980′s. He suffered with a mental illness, and possibly PTSD from combat service. Ward did not know Bishop Sannar personally, however he chose to target the Visalia building, specifically kill a Mormon Bishop – and then, commit suicide-by-cop in a brief shoot-out shortly thereafter.
In the wake of this horrific tragedy is left behind Bishop Sannar’s loving wife Julie and six young sons, the eldest 14 years old, and the youngest an infant who was just blessed a week ago by his father during Sunday services.
The tragedy extends to hundreds of congregants, extended family, friends, neighbors, employees, co-workers, and the community. The ripple effect of Bishop Sannar’s death extends outward, crossing State lines and National borders. As the news travels rapidly through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other online sources, it will eventually personally touch the hearts of 14 million fellow world-wide LDS church members. But, this loss is truly non-denominational. Anyone who is a father, or has a father – Anyone who is a son, or has a son – Anyone who is a husband, or has a husband – can feel the pain of this loss. When tragedy strikes, we are reminded how fragile life is, and how each human life is intertwined with another. The loss of any, is a loss to all. In this case, the loss is compounded by two deaths. The gunman Mr. Ward leaves behind additional devastated family members and friends.
“It certainly brings you to attention. There is a greater awareness to the frailty of life. . . it could have been anyone. Life is fleeting. They [Mormons] have a hope that is beyond this life in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Certainly this is a time for growth, and a time to search for answers, for those in the religious community and those who are not.” – Rev. Ben Meraz, Grace Lutheran Church, Visalia California – in VisaliaTimes-Delta
There are no words to adequately express the sadness and heartbreak surrounding this act of violence, but there is an opportunity to “do something more” than just weep!