I had a recent experience on Sunday where Church of Jesus Christ President/Prophet Nelson attended our service. The talks were really good and President Nelson offered a few concluding words. His words were an example that the Church President is a man and is fallible.
President Nelson noted he had recently visited church members in Sri Lanka and the sadness he felt for the despicable attack on Christians. He then stated how grateful he is that we are ‘fortunate to live in a country where we can worship in peace and safety’.
I assume he was not aware of the attack (Saturday – the day before) on the California synagogue that left one dead and maybe forgot about the Tree of Life synagogue attack six months ago along with the other shootings that have occurred at US Christian/other churches over the years. Then there’s ISIS’ explicit threat on Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints facilities. At least, I sure hope he was made aware of these items and not oblivious to them.
Basically, he was wrong. I agree that we are blessed to live where we do and all of us take it for granted but we are absolutely not safe in a church anymore. To think so doesn’t acknowledge the reality on the ground. He was ‘ad-libbing’ and some of his words were inspired but others were simply misinformed. It’s a good example that church leaders (to the highest level) may be good folks but they’re certainly not omniscient and it’s unfair to them (and lazy) to suggest all blindly agree with everything they say (hint: Nephi didn’t buy off on Lehi’s teaching/directions, he questioned it and spent some time praying to get confirmation, meanwhile, it appears Laman/Lemuel just went along for the ride without seeking personal confirmation and it didn’t end well).
It is also easy for President Nelson to say we’re safe when he happens to have an armed security detail that protects him in church. I’ll admit that doesn’t sit well with me at all. The rest of us are prohibited from effective means of self-defense, so we’re all sitting ducks when we go to church. It’s also particularly ironic that the prior day’s synagogue shooting was interdicted by a malfunction and an armed congregant and another brave soul who rushed the shooter (I expect several people owe their lives to their actions).
Again, I call on President Nelson and the church to terminate the dangerous and ridiculous gun ban*.
*Click on the last link for active shooter resources – it could save your life.
UPDATE: First, PBS updated a good background report (How safe is your place of worship?). The data on Jewish congregations addressing security is reflected locally: Once Soft Target For Terror In Utah Hardens Itself
Better yet, PBS just ran a report today that starts with a list of attacks on churches in the US: Amid rising attacks on places of worship, how religious leaders are responding (video and transcript at the link). Church leaders discuss the issue with Bishop Sutton noting a church shooting (of a priest and secretary) in his diocese. The discussion turns to security. Pastor Elmore discusses experienced, armed congregants as part of their security plan which begins in the parking lot. As Rabbi Marcus states:
In the end, we made that choice to move to armed guards, for a number of different reasons. One, as was demonstrated at Chabad, first of all, it decreases the appearance of being a soft target. And people who come in to do these attacks often flee immediately when they are confronted with other people who are armed and trained.
So we didn’t do this because we glorify violence or we celebrate guns. We’re very much not in favor of a violent culture. We made the transition to switch to armed guards because we felt that it was the best way to keep everyone in our community safe.