The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued new safety guidelines that tell members how to react to a gunman in a meetinghouse and provide other instruction to keep them from harm.
An introduction to the guidelines says they are being issued because of “changing conditions around the world." There’s one set of guidelines for safety in the United States and Canada and another for Latter-day Saints elsewhere, though the two documents are similar.
Both instruct community Latter-day Saint leaders to “rely on local law enforcement to deal with security incidents and emergencies at church facilities and at church-sponsored events.” The two documents then provide the number to the church’s 24-hour global security phone line.
When at church facilities, members are instructed to “always follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.” Subsequent items advise parishioners to be aware of their surroundings, report suspicious activities and avoid being at church alone — especially women and youths.
When arriving at church, make sure the parking lot is safe before exiting your vehicle, the guidelines say. If a church building appears to have been vandalized, do not enter it.
In one section addressing what to do if a shooter arrives at a church, the advice is the same as what secular institutions have given. First, run. If you can’t escape, try to hide. If found, fight back.
Neither the guidelines nor its introductory pages reference any specific threats or attack. In the past year, though a number of LDS Church buildings in the United States and New Zealand have been set on fire. There also have been mass shootings at a variety of houses of worship in recent years.
In July, a 48-year-old man opened fire inside a church in the northern Nevada city of Fallon, killing one man and wounding another. A decade ago in Utah County, a pregnant woman was shot and killed by her estranged husband in the parking lot of a meetinghouse in Lehi.
In August, the Utah-based church strengthened its policy on guns and other weapons in its buildings, stating that it “prohibits” all “lethal weapons” from its properties, unless carried by current law enforcement officers. Previously, the church deemed it merely “inappropriate" to have firearms in its buildings.
“Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world," the new firearms policy states. "With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited.”