Anti-Mormon group takes message to edges of General Conference
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its 173rd Annual General Conference last weekend despite the gloomy weather and group of anti-Mormon protesters who were just outside the Conference Center of Salt Lake City.
About a dozen protesters from all around the world showed up on Saturday. A spokesperson from the Deseret News said 100 preachers were expected to express what could be their last protest on the plaza. City officials were a little worried about how protesters and participants of the conference would get along. With the ongoing national coverage about Salt Lake’s Main Street Plaza controversy, the police were out in full force.
In past years during general conference, fundamentalist evangelists
have held up slogans and waved signs demoralizing the LDS Church. One
of the messages said, "Mormons are worse than homosexuals."
"I want to lead all Mormons to the Lord Jesus Christ. What they do with it is up to them," said Pursifull, state director of Street Preachers Fellowship.
The American Civil Liberties Union was also in attendance according to a spokesperson for the Deseret News. The paper said the ACLU was there to make sure the protesters were treated fairly in exercising their first amendment right.
The whole free speech issue arose in Salt Lake City in 1999 when Mayor Deedee Corradini and church President Gordon B. Hinckley negotiated on terms and the church bought a one-block section of Main Street from the city. A major lawsuit was the result of the purchase. Members of the ACLU said that the deal violated the First Amendment rights of the Constitution. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city couldn’t enforce speech and assembly restrictions on the portion of Main Street.
Despite the ridicule and loud shouting from the selected few, Heather Simmonds, a student at Utah State University, said, "I didn’t even realize they were there. I could hear them but they didn’t have too much of an effect on my experience at conference." Like Simmonds’ reaction most attendees of the conference seemed to feel the same way.
Erin Ostrander of Provo said, "I don’t know what they are trying to prove other than that they can withstand the cold." People were striding through the protesters like they were any other bystanders.
Every year the LDS church holds annual assemblies where member and non-members can receive council and strength from ecclesiastical leaders.
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