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The FBI likely will release its 2021 hate crime statistics next month, and we should expect to see a continued increase in vandalism, arson and other kinds of attacks on churches.

Such an attack recently took place two miles from my house. Investigators have determined the July fire at the Orem Utah Temple was a case of arson, according to a news release by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The ATF offered a $5,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminals who set the fire.

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Investigators say July fire at Orem Utah Temple was arson, ATF offers cash reward for information

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spoken out against the increasing attacks. A spokesman did so again this week when I reached out to ask for comment on the temple fire. The church had requested the ATF’s involvement in the investigation.

“In recent years there has been an unfortunate worldwide increase of violence, vandalism and desecration of religious sites and buildings, including shootings, arson, graffiti, damage to facilities, and more,” church spokesman Doug Andersen said. “This has also affected chapels and temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such sites are places of gathering and sacred worship, and should be places of peace and safety. We are grateful for the efforts of local and federal law enforcement officials to investigate such instances and prosecute those who engage in those actions.”

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Church vandalism is on the rise. Here’s how congregations heal

Last year, Deseret News religion reporter Kelsey Dallas reported on the FBI’s 2020 hate crime data. She wrote:

“In the 2020 fiscal year, which spanned from October 2019 to September 2020, law enforcement agencies across the country reported 8,263 criminal incidents and 11,129 related offenses that were motivated by bias. The total number of hate crimes in the reporting period was higher than it’s been in two decades.

“Among the 8,052 ‘single-bias incidents’ tracked by the FBI, 13.3% were motivated by faith-related beliefs. Additionally ... over 3% of the recorded hate crimes took place at houses of worship.”

My recent stories

Worthens begin BYU fall semester encouraging students to serve, prioritize their divine identities (Sept. 6)

Investigators say July fire at Orem Utah Temple was arson, ATF offers cash reward for information (Sept. 6)

President Dallin H. Oaks, climate scientist highlight BYU 2022 fall speaker schedule (Sept. 6)

Defending national champion women’s basketball team cancels BYU series over racial slur allegation (Sept. 2)

October general conference to include 90-minute Saturday evening session for all Latter-day Saints (Sept. 2)

BYU temporarily removes ROC student section from volleyball floor after allegation of racist slur (Sept. 1)

BYU police report details what happened during BYU-Duke volleyball match. (Aug. 31)

About the church

The church’s welfare and self-reliance programs in a by-the-numbers look.

President Oaks called temples a “great symbol of the continuity of life” and recalled attending the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple with all of the apostles in a new short video with footage of that visit.

What I’m reading

Wonderful profile of Patti Edwards, the dear, accomplished fun wife of late BYU football and Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards. You really will enjoy this feature story.

Two Deseret News writers have new columns about the BYU-Duke volleyball incident:

  • Jennifer Graham wrote that the reactions to it have become a Rorschach test: “Like the famous psychological exercise, how we see the ink-blotted image (or, in this case, the game) depends on our biases going in. People who want to believe BYU is a hotbed of festering racial animus — despite evidence to the contrary — see something monstrous in the messiness surrounding this story. .... People who want to believe that some Americans use the ‘race card’ to foster division or gain notoriety see that narrative here.” Read the rest here.
  • Doug Robinson wrote that BYU is now on trial for a racist incident. ... “In the court of public opinion, the university (or whomever is accused) is guilty until proven otherwise — and maybe not even then, because once the accusation is made, whether it’s proven true or false, the stain remains.” Read the rest here.

I remember attending a massive Boy Scout jamboree in Idaho as a boy and hearing the astronaut Don Lind speak. He spoke again about orbiting the earth on the space shuttle Challenger in the priesthood session of the October 1985 general conference. “I was as excited as a little boy going to the circus,” he said. Lind died recently at age 92.

Behind the scenes

Nearly 8,000 people attended the first BYU campus devotional of the fall semester in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
Nearly 8,000 people attended the first BYU campus devotional of the fall semester in the Marriott Center in Provo on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. | Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson, BYU
President Kevin Worthen speaks at the first BYU campus devotional in the Marriott Center on Sept. 6, 2022, in Provo, Utah.
President Kevin Worthen speaks at the first BYU campus devotional in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Provo. | Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson, BYU
Sister Peggy Worthen speaks at the first BYU campus devotional in the Marriott Center on Sept. 6, 2022, in Provo, Utah.
Sister Peggy Worthen speaks at the first BYU campus devotional in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Provo. | Brooklynn Jarvis Kelson, BYU