By now, many have heard about the Bishop in Visalia, California who was shot in killed during church yesterday afternoon. Anytime you hear something like this, it's tragic, and your heart aches for the family and friends of the victim. But it becomes more intense when it's a member of the church...you feel, almost in a way, that a part of your own family has been touched. There is a closeness among members of the church. A unity. I always think about Mosiah 18:21 that talks about having no contention and "having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another." When something like this happens, I do feel a great sadness because worldwide, I feel my heart knit together with other members of the church.
My brother lives in Visalia, so I was immediately concerned, thinking this possibly was in his ward. That was not the case. Church was canceled for them and they stood close by the computer watching for updates as the day progressed. My sister-in-law told me it was a very emotional day for everyone. The Sannar family was very well-known in the area and were great people. It's just devastating, and the details of what happened are just...disturbing. If you are interested, you can find the reports from witnesses. But, I don't care to share them here on this blog post.
As I was talking to Ted (my brother) he said something that brought me a lot of peace, and I choose to believe it. He shared with me his own belief based on speculation, that Bishop Sannar is a hero. Ted continued to tell me that he believes, as a bishop, Bishop Sannar may have felt that things weren't right with this man -- the shooter-- , not only through whatever conversation may have taken place in his office, but also through the gift of discernment and as a steward over his ward, he tried to get the man to leave. The man shot and killed Bishop Sannar, but perhaps he laid down his life to protect those who were in the building. And maybe this wasn't a conscious decision, as much as his character dictated what he did...he tried to keep others from getting hurt as well. Because at the time, the congregation was there in various Sunday School classes.
We were reminded of the shooting that took place many years ago now in the Amish school house. How tragic. It was devastating. Could this have turned into something as horrific? Maybe. The truth is, we will never know. But, maybe even just for my own peace of mind, I like to think of Bishop Sannar is a hero...a man who was fulfilling his calling, and in a horrible situation, he died...maybe saving the lives of mothers, fathers, and children in the building.
Either way, he leaves behind a wife and 6 children -- one infant who was just blessed 2 weeks ago. The shooter is dead...Bishop Sannar's family will never have real solid answers in this life, but I do know that they have access to the healing powers of the Atonement, and that they will have many many people praying on their behalf.
None of us are immune to physical harm or tragedy, but it's how we react that protects our spirits. I'm grateful for a gospel that teaches me that and guides me to the source that can bring eternal peace and comfort ~ and also teaches that families are eternal and we will be united again, as families, if we keep the covenants that we make with our Father in Heaven...and today, even as they cope with sadness and pain that I have never known, I think the Sannar family is grateful for those things as well.