Safety is a top priority of Church leaders for the millions of Latter-day Saints that use meetinghouses around the world. In the wake of the Church forbidding firearms and other lethal weapons in its meetinghouses in August, the Church has now released safety guidelines to address “changing conditions around the world.”
In a letter from Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and his counselors, Bishop Dean M. Davis and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, Bishop Caussé states, “These guidelines are meant to help educate leaders and members on how to increase safety at Church buildings and activities…. We invite leaders to discuss them in ward and stake councils and to use them to teach members, as needed, to address local concerns. Leaders should apply these guidelines appropriately and be aware of local laws.”
The guidelines primarily encourage Latter-day Saints to look to local law enforcement during emergencies in addition to several best practices for members to increase safety. Importantly, the Church encourages its members to rely on the Holy Ghost for guidance and safety.
In the wake of a serious security incident, leaders “should refer affected individuals to Family Services or another competent counselor for professional counseling.”
Aside from seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the guidelines include the following:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Be friendly to those visiting Church meetings; however, if you observe any behavior out of the ordinary, inform local leaders or law enforcement.
- Report suspicious activity.
- Avoid being alone in Church buildings, particularly women and youth.
- Ensure the parking lot is safe before exiting your vehicle.
- When leaving the building, check your surroundings before returning to your vehicle.
- Do not enter the building if it appears to have been vandalized or broken into.
- Do not leave packages or bags unattended.
- Keep Church information secure by not taking photos of sensitive locations or posting anyone’s personal information online.
- Know the location of fire alarms and building exists as well as emergency evacuation procedures.
The letter also addresses how to respond to a disruptive person!
- Be respectful, speak calmly, respect personal space, and do not touch the person.
- If the individual is at the pulpit, turn the microphone off.
- Explain to the individual that his or her behavior is inappropriate for the setting.
- If the person refuses to leave, dismiss the meeting.
- Do not attempt to physically restrain or remove the person.
- If the person is asked to leave Church property, but refuses, inform him or her that law enforcement may be notified.
So what about an active shooter situation? The Church’s decision to ban firearms from meetinghouses was met with plenty of derision from plenty of other by-the-book Latter-day Saints. The letter outlines three activities to undertake:
- Run. “Flee immediately if a safe path is available…. Exit quietly, without drawing the attention of the assailant…. Do not carry anything that could be mistaken for a weapon by responding law enforcement.”
- Hide. “If you are unable to escape safely, hide out of the assailant’s view. If possible, close, lock, and barricare the doors to the classrooms, offices, or other rooms where you are hiding. Turn out the lights, silence mobile phones, and keep low tot he floor….”
- Fight. “As a last resort, if there is no time to run or hide, fight back against the assailant. Use anything available as a weapon, and fight to stop the assailant. If others are present, organize to defend yourselves.”
Many of these suggestions seem like common sense, but it’s good to have them written out for our reference. What’s most interesting is encouraging a people largely schooled in self-reliance to instead put their trust in local law enforcement should a terrible situation arise. It is clear, as well, that the Church has no desire to see its own members engage in a firefight with an assailant, with the approval to fight back being a last resort (and then, clearly not with the firearm that you are forbidden to carry on the premises).
What are your thoughts on these new guidelines? Although we’ve listed them out here, you can read the letter in full using the link above.