Parents all over the nation are doing their best to keep their children safe, but we hear all the time about children and youth being abused or abducted or shot. The lives of children, youth, and adults are too often threatened at school, church, malls, and other places that individuals and families visit on a regular basis.
I am a parent of six children, and I remember the difficult task of keeping my children close to me whenever we went out in public, especially when they reached the age where they thought they were big enough to roam a little. I remember losing a child for a short time on several occasions and the feelings of fear and anxiety that enveloped me. Now my fears are with my eighteen grandchildren, and I would like to wrap them in bubble wrap to protect them. I worry about them all the time. Are they safe in their schools? Will they escape the clutches of their parents and fall into the hands of kidnappers or worse? Will they get lost?
I always felt that my children were safe at church, and they apparently were. However, I worry about my grandchildren because they live in a different world. There are problems in this wicked world in which we live, and some of those problems creep into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the reason why Church leaders insist on two-deep leadership for all children and youth classes. This is the reason why the Church is insisting that all children and youth leaders and teachers take safety training on a regular basis.
The Church in April 2019 announced a clarification about lethal weapons not being allowed in Church buildings. The announcement concerned me because all – or at least most of – the mass shootings take place in gun-free places. Now my Church is announcing that its buildings are gun-free zones. Will this be an invitation for a mentally ill person to attack my fellow worshippers? I forgot about that announcement until this week when the Church updated its guidelines on how to be safe on Church property. The announcement said that the Church was updating its guidelines due to the “Changing conditions around the world.”
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 continue by directing members of the Church to “rely on local law enforcement in emergencies” and suggesting some “practices” that can increase safety. These practices are basically commonsense ideas: “being aware of one’s surroundings, staying calm, extending friendship and respect to every visitor, not being alone in a Church building, and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost for guidance and safety.” There were also instructions of what to do in case of an active shooter in the building.
I have no problem with obedience to local laws, yielding to law enforcement, and practicing safety. However, I do have a problem with announcing to the world that Church buildings are gun-free. The fact that I feel additional fear does not mean that I do not support and sustain the leaders of my Church. It simply means that I have more worries on my grandmother plate and more concerns to plead in my prayers.
We all know that a deranged person with any kind of gun can cause a lot of damage in the few minutes before law enforcement arrives. Instructions to “run, hide or fight, depending on the circumstance” have not been helpful to numerous people in dangerous situations. There are many examples that prove the truthfulness of the following statement: There is only one way to stop an evil person with gun – a good person with a gun.
I hate to even picture in my mind how horrible it would be for anyone to be sitting reverently in a church meeting surrounded with family members of various ages and enjoying the blessings of the Holy Ghost when a madman starts shooting in the building. There are few scenarios that could be worse in my mind. How can a mother get her little children out of sight, out of the pew, and out of the room without getting shot? How do parents in such a situation keep their children safe? These are not easy questions to think about, and the only answer is by a miracle. I pray that we can keep our families safe and be a strength in our communities and nations.