Friday, December 14, 2007
Colorado Shooter Matthew Murray Was An Inactive Member Of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially confirmed that the man who went on a killing spree inside a pair of Colorado churches Sunday December 9th, 2007 had been baptized into the LDS Church a little over a year ago, but had sinced lapsed into inactivity. Full story published December 14th by the Deseret Morning News.
"Our records show that Matthew Murray, from Englewood, Colo., has been a member of the church for a little over a year," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said in a statement to the Deseret Morning News. "Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy."
A heavily armed Murray, 24 (pictured above left), killed four people and wounded five others in separate attacks at the Youth With A Mission center in Arvada, Colorado and the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He was shot by a security guard at the church and then killed himself. This is another major hit to a church which suffered a body blow in November 2006 with the sudden resignation of Ted Haggard. One has to wonder if Murray targeted the New Life Church because of Haggard's legacy.
You can read the statement issued by the New Life Church at their December 9th press conference HERE.
You can also read the statement issued by Youth With A Mission on December 10th HERE.
In an interview with KSL-TV on Wednesday December 12th, A.J. Ormond said he and his wife were missionaries in a Colorado LDS ward when they first encountered Murray, who expressed interest in the Mormon faith. "He seemed like a normal person, maybe a little sheltered," Ormond said, describing Murray as polite, friendly and serious about joining the LDS Church. Ormond also stated that on the day of Murray's baptism, he immediately noticed a change; Murray seemed happy, calm, at peace.
Shortly after his baptism, Ormond said, Murray stopped going to church. Ormond said he recognized Murray after seeing his picture on TV. "It was obvious that it wasn't the person we had known that had committed those shootings and those murders," he told KSL.
A Salt Lake Tribune article posted December 13th doesn't include the LDS connection, but does discuss his life and other actions leading up to the massacre. By all accounts, Matthew Murray grew up in a deeply Christian home. His father, Ronald, is a well-known neurologist who helped develop a tissue bank used by researchers fighting multiple sclerosis. His mother, Loretta, worked as a physical therapist before devoting herself to raising and home-schooling her two boys, Matthew and his brother, Chris.
The home-schooling program apparently was a strict Bible-based curriculum developed by Bill Gothard, a Christian evangelist. However, Kevin Swanson, executive director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado, of which the Murrays were members, said just 1 percent or 2 percent of the group's 16,000 families use the curriculum described in the posts.
Murray ended up enrolled in "disciple training school," a sort of Missionary 101 program run by Youth With a Mission, one of the world's largest evangelical Christian mission groups. But warning signs soon emerged at the residential program in Arvada, a Denver suburb. A former YWAM staff member, Michael Werner, told the Rocky Mountain News that Murray was painfully shy and had trouble socializing after growing up sheltered. Later, he exhibited extreme mood swings, spreading rumors about homosexuality at the center and performing dark rock songs by Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park at a 2002 Christmas celebration. One night, Werner said Murray was chattering to himself and explained he was "just talking to my voices." Murray was to take a mission trip to Bosnia, but YWAM officials said he was kicked out of the program for unspecified "health reasons." In an article posted December 12th by the Rocky Mountain News, Richard Werner, who was Murray's roommate at YWAM, describes his observations.
Most information about Murray has become known in recent days through ranting Internet posts that appear to be the shooter's words. On one, a poster called Chrstnghtmr complained of not being able to "socialize normally" after being home schooled and described being an outcast who was always left out of everything.
One posting obtained by the AP was to a site called Independent Spirits, a gathering place for those affected by a strict Christian home schooling curriculum. The author, again going by the handle Chrstnghtmr, describes going with his mother to a conference at New Life. The poster said he "got into a debate" with two prayer team staff members, who monitored him, then tracked down his mother and "told her a story that went something along the lines of I 'wasn't walking with the lord and could be planning violence."' However, the date of this encounter was not specified.
The September 2006 post includes biographical information that matches Murray's background - including details consistent with his involvement in Youth With a Mission, which ran the training center he targeted in last weekend's rampage.
In another defining post, Chrstnghtmr writes that in the year 2000, at age 17, after an attempt at going "all out for Jesus," he plunged into a "dark suicidal depression" because he somehow couldn't live up to the rules. He wrote he felt he was "failing God." Chrstnghtmr describes his parents putting him on two antidepressants after he shared his feelings. None of it helped, he wrote. "Everyone prayed, they laid hands on me, spoke in tongues over me, I sought out every kind of spiritual help I knew of in charismatic christianity," the post said.
On another posting on Independent Spirits, Chrstnghtmr described returning home after being ejected from YWAM in 2003, where he wrote it was "back to the good old restriction and that is when I started having serious doubts about christianity."
After Murray rejected religion, he became fixated on people and groups that explore the dark side of spirituality, obsessing over the satanic lyrics of Swedish metal bands, for instance. Murray attended events held by the Denver-based occult group Ad Astra Oasis during the last two years, but was turned down when he sought to become a member of the group. His involvement with them apparently ended in October 2007.
Now this is where we plug his LDS experience into the timeline. It appears that he was simultaneously flirting with both Mormonism and Ad Astra Oasis. From the Tribune story, his involvement with Ad Astra Oasis was from sometime in 2005 until October 2007. But according to the Deseret Morning News, he joined the LDS Church in 2006. So his failure to break the connection with Ad Astra Oasis may have undermined his attachment to Mormonism, caused him to lapse into activity, and generated the psychological problems leading to the massacre. The fact that he was subject to hearing voices could either be strictly psychological, or a sign of demonic communication or influence.
In an Internet post about four hours before the shootings at New Life, a poster going by "DyingChild-65" said he searched for spiritual answers. All the poster found in Christianity was "hate, abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional), hypocrisy, and lies." The rant ended: "I'm going out to make a stand for the weak and the defenseless this is for all those young people still caught in the Nightmare of Christianity for all those people who've been abused and mistreated and taken advantage of by this evil sick religion Christian America this is YOUR Columbine." One person who viewed this post was concerned enough to contact the FBI, who, along with Arvada police, began a frantic search for Murray, but it was too late.
Commentary: Just doing the research for this post was depressing - I sense a small part of the darkness that Matthew Murray must have contended with. You'll note some of the common characteristics Murray shares with others, including the Columbine killers. In particular, his inability to socialize normally. I don't see how this can be blamed on home-schooling, since his brother Chris didn't seem to have any problems.
It is normal to want to fix blame on a tangible source for this tragedy. However, the parents cannot be blamed - they took reasonable precautions, exposing him to different forms of Christianity, seeking medical attention when necessary.
And I don't see how anyone can blame the Youth With A Mission operation, the New Life Church, or the LDS Church - neither did anything wrong. The failure to recognize a tragedy like this in the making in advance should not be considered a sin.
In the final analysis, blame can only be fixed upon one source - Matthew Murray. For reasons unknown to any of us, he decided to pull the trigger. We can only express faith that a just God will judge him fairly, taking all factors into consideration. I don't believe Matthew Murray was of sound mind when he embarked upon his lethal mission, and I believe a merciful God will take this into consideration when rendering final judgment. That, of course, is of small comfort to the bereaved, but regardless of your spiritual worldview, grief must run its course. And it's healthy to allow grief to run its course.