By Rikki King and Katya Yefimova Herald Writers
MUKILTEO — Arson destroyed their building, but members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are finding blessings in the aftermath.
There is no room in their faith to focus on loss or destruction, Stake President Jeff Lee said.
Lee oversees several congregations, including the people who worshipped at the Mukilteo building that burned down Oct. 16.
As the fire blazed, people from all over Snohomish County poured in to help, he said.
Churches of all faiths sent flowers and baked goods. City leaders and civic groups offered moral support and meeting spaces.
It was the beginning of an outpouring of love and concern that quickly grew far more powerful than the arson itself, Lee said.
Officials say the fire caused nearly $4 million in damage. The building at the corner of Harbour Pointe Boulevard and Chennault Beach Drive was a total loss.
Mukilteo police are following up on leads and interviewing people who were at the scene, detective Lance Smith said Tuesday.
Investigators have reviewed video surveillance of the fire. They won’t discuss what it shows because it’s considered evidence.
Investigators believe someone was targeting the church, but they don’t know why, Smith said.
The investigation isn’t the primary concern of local LDS leaders, Lee said. They are busy planning their new building and relocating church activities.
The congregations displaced by the fire were the Harbour Pointe and Beverly Park wards. They have been taken in by neighboring LDS churches in Lynnwood and south Everett.
Eric Jacobsen, bishop of the Harbour Pointe ward, and his wife, Lisa, got a call from the fire department at 4:30 the morning of the fire.
The Jacobsens have lived in Mukilteo for more than 18 years.
“We knew the people here were nice, but I feel they’ve really reached out and been so kind and compassionate,” Lisa Jacobsen said.
Church leaders Tuesday planned to meet with leaders of Lynnwood-based Trinity Lutheran Church to talk about an arson that destroyed one of their buildings in 1992. Trinity leaders said they can share advice and a sense of hope from their experiences.
The new building may be completed in less than two years. Money will come from LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City — another blessing, Lee said.
Though church leaders are determined to focus on the positive, they do mourn the loss of several sets of scriptures, the personal Bibles, filled with notes and highlighted passages, that Mormons keep to document their spiritual journeys.
About 20 high school kids lost their scriptures, said Shelley Ashworth, a member of the Harbour Pointe ward. Many students received theirs when they were baptized, years earlier.
Jacobsen, the bishop, lost his as well. He’s kept them since his mission to Mexico City at age 19.
On Friday, he was already planning to get his new scriptures embossed with his name. He tries not to think about the loss, instead focusing on the new lessons waiting to be discovered.
Jacobsen has been amazed at the resiliency of the church members, he said.
“In times like this, you find out what people are made of and what’s really in their hearts,” he said. “That’s really what came out of this … certainly faith, courage, forgiveness, strength.”
On Sunday, the Harbour Pointe ward met for the service at the LDS church south of Silver Lake. Their faith was the focus, not the fire.
Eric Gilchrist, 36, of Mukilteo, grew up in the LDS church. He has four children and sings in the church choir.
“It doesn’t really matter where we worship,” he said Sunday. “We are just grateful to have another building to go to.”
A family living across the street from Kamiak High School has offered to host seminary, the early morning religious education class for older kids.
Other church activities have found find new homes as well. Ashworth hosted a meeting at her house last week, teaching young women to make crepes and waffles.
Todd Valentine, bishop of the Beverly Park ward, looks forward to making new memories in a new building. He sees the arson as a trial to strengthen his faith and that of his ward.
“It’s a chance for each of us to start over ourselves,” he said. “The police will take care of it all. We’re just going to worry about the rebuilding.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Police urge anyone with information about the Oct. 16 church fire in Mukilteo to call 800-55-ARSON (800-552-7766). A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.