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Kirby: Enemy at the gates

Published August 16, 2014 4:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I spoke at an LDS Church security conference/retreat last week. The event was held at the Grubstake Restaurant in Park City. What could happen, right?

I was attacked, that's what could happen. In fact, I suspect that's why I was invited in the first place.

The general perception of LDS Church security depends a lot on a person's own bias. Most people see them as bodyguards and gate keepers — necessary evils in an increasingly hostile world.

Others see them as a cross between the CIA and mall cops, with wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping and the occasional assassination of a dissident or two.

For the past 20 years or so, I've only seen them as Joe, Ken, Gary, Jeff and Alex … retired cops I used to work with or see around.

On this particularly strange day there were maybe 50 church security … agents, guards, officers, detectives, Danites? I don't know. Let's go with "agents."

Anyway, there were about 50 church security agents and their spouses waiting to hear what a potential threat to the security of the church had to say.

I had seriously misread the situation and dressed in what I considered to be the appropriate attire. But as I approached the lectern to speak, the agent in charge pulled out a large pair of scissors.

"No ties," Ken said, and promptly cut my necktie off at the knot.

I have such a low opinion of the human race that I'm rarely caught off guard. But that … yeah, that was a first. For a moment, I struggled with conflicting thoughts.

Thought A: "What just happened?"

Thought B: "Damn, I wish this guy was my bishop."

As it turned out, I hadn't gotten the "no neckties" memo. An organization required by church policy to wear neckties with pajamas wasn't about to wear them at a retreat. OK then.

This wasn't my first run-in with LDS Church security. That occurred in the summer of 1970, when a girlfriend and I were asked to leave Temple Square on a charge of inappropriate display of affections.

The most egregious time was when Bammer, Boone and I were not asked to leave church property, but rather were forcibly ejected for reasons I never entirely understood,s thanks to the effects of some spirits.

Most recently was a couple of years ago when I tried to get a bag of M&Ms, a bottle of Diet Coke and a knife past the Monster-nacle security gate during General Conference.

I showed my press credentials and tried to act nonchalant. Maybe the church didn't keep track of the old stuff I did. Besides, now I had a legitimate reason to be there.

I'll never know if I was picked up by facial recognition software or the secret/sacred Evil O' Meter ™ at the gate. A couple of security guys pulled me out of line, ransacked my bag, told me to mind my manners, then pushed me inside.

Since I knew both of the agents, I protested with some vigor. I demanded to know if all members of the media were subjected to such treatment.

Jeff: "Heck, no. You we can shoot. The Quorum of the Twelve took a vote and everything."

Me: "Can I at least have my M&Ms back?"

In Park City, I pulled off my new bow tie, rolled up my sleeves and tried not to make things any worse. I gave my presentation and then got the hell out there before the Evil O' Meter went off again.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.