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 one 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!
When Connor Boyack, a 28 year old LDS husband and father from Lehi, Utah read the news of Bishop Sannar’s death, he was both shocked and saddened. Having grown up in a family of four sons, the story of a family of six sons resonated personally. As a web developer for Eli Kirk, and self-described “social media junkie”, Boyack quickly jumped online and created a fund-raising link where he intended to have a few of his friends and family reach out and send a tangible message of support and love to the surviving Sannar family. Boyack’s initial goal was hoping to raise $2,000. When that goal was met within four hours, he tentatively raised the goal to $5K. . . and as word started to spread, the fund steadily increased, with what he describes as “an overwhelming response!” In less than 24 hours, the fund has nearly reached $25 K and counting.
“The fund-raising goal has been raised one more — and final — time to $60,000. This is a symbolic (but attainable?) goal to raise $10,000 for each of Bishop Sannar’s sons. ” – Connor Boyack
In an online interview with Mormon Soprano, Boyack humbly stated:
“I simply had no idea it would explode like this! I am immensely humbled by the outpouring of support on this. I had no idea this would happen. I don’t want to be the “man in the middle” at all, but simply want to do what I can to help this family. I appreciate whatever support you and others can give.”
Boyack stated that he is in the process of coordinating with the Sannar family to have all existing funds transferred, and all future funds diverted directly into an official family account. When asked how he would be able to reassure those who donated that their money reached Sister Julie Sannar safely, he promised “I will post a photo of the check online for all to see!”
Connor Boyack has been interviewed by multiple radio and television stations. A recent interview by FOX13 news can be viewed here. ***
For those interested in participating, go to HELP BISHOP SANNAR’S FAMILY at PEDGIE.com, where secure payment in USD can be made through your PayPal account.
“We will not likely be required to die for our testimony of the Son of God, as did Joseph and the ancient prophets. We need only stay “true to the truth for which martyrs have perished.” They were called to GIVE their lives for the gospel. We are called to LIVE our lives for the same purpose.” – Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve, Ensign, Nov. 2005, 91
***NOTE: Connor Boyack, and his fund-raising effort is NOT associated with the unofficial and controversial “RIP Bishop Sannar Facebook Page”
- Mormon bishop shot dead in California (cnn.com)
- Police Kill Church Slaying Suspect In Shootout (Visalia-Times Delta.com)
- Mormon Bishop Shot: Clay Sannar Killed By Former Church Member (HuffingtonPost.com)
- Using Social Media For Good: Fundraising For Slain LDS Bishop (LDS Media Talk)