Kirby: It doesn’t take a revelation to see the need for church security

Robert Kirby

As we head into Latter-day Saint General Conference weekend, there’s something we need to discuss. In a word, terror.

I don’t mean the terror that afflicts people like me — crowds, boredom and policy minutiae examined ad nauseam — but rather the remote, thankfully, possibility of a terrorist attack like the ones at two New Zealand mosques, a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Texas church.

The world Heavenly Father has his eye on is seriously messed up. It’s full of hatred, genocide and all manner of evil. I don’t view any of that as acceptable, but then it’s not my world or even my fault.

Steps are being taken in Utah. Thanks to the planet we’re forced to inhabit, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plans to boost its security readiness. My colleague Tony Semerad reported on a new training facility under consideration for the western edge of Salt Lake City.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The plans, which were leaked online, depict a police academy-type facility that includes pistol and rifle ranges. The idea hasn’t been presented to the city for approval — but, for now, it’s the thought that counts.

My own investigation revealed the plans for rocket-armed helicopter training, missile silos, even a classroom for adopting disguises, such as “How Not to Look Like a Mormon” and “Temporary Undercover Facial Hair Dispensation.”

Does any of this bother me? Nope. Any organization with a list of enemies has an obligation to protect its property and the people on it, including me.

This also includes from me.

In February, I was escorted out of the church’s Beehive House in downtown Salt Lake City in the middle of a public tour where my ancestors had once worked.

A church security agent showed up and told me to scram. As near as I can figure, it could have been for one (or all) of three reasons:

• I had joked to a tour guide about having a gun (I didn’t; I had a pocketknife. But it still was an admittedly dumb thing to say.)

• I was there to write a story.

• Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Church Office Building, a facial recognition software program alerted someone.

Agent 1 • “Whoa. Is that who I think it is?”

Agent 2 • “Holy Moly Ghost, it looks like ...!”

Presiding agent • “Wait. Call Hogle Zoo first. See if they’re missing a walrus.”

Two more security agents showed up. All three were polite but pointed. I needed to leave. After a brief conversation wherein I tried to wind them into an incident far more interesting to write about but couldn’t, I left.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been given the bum’s rush by church security. Back in the early 1970s, I caused a disturbance on Temple Square that required myself and a couple of equally drunken friends to be “escorted” from the grounds.

It made sense. Had it been me on the other end of the arm doing the escorting, I’d have kicked my butt in the bargain. But I understand (and, today, appreciate) the restraint.

Eight years later, my roommate in the police academy was a former church security agent. I asked him if church guards carried guns. His answer was a conspiratorial, “Duh.”

I don’t blame them. Hell, I’ve long believed the church achieved nuclear power status about the same time as Israel.

Today, I wouldn’t patrol General Conference except in a heavily armored tank. Painted entirely white, of course. The mere appearance of reverence is still important.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.