SALT LAKE CITY — Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints already knew they were discouraged from taking their guns to church on Sunday, but it is making sure that message is crystal clear by tweaking the policy to prohibit all “lethal weapons.”
The previous policy called it “inappropriate” to have weapons on church property. It still includes an exception for law enforcement officers.
The clarification comes one year after a fatal shooting inside one of its churches in rural Nevada and as religions around the country grapple with how to deal with gun violence that has spread to places of worship.
Daniel Woodruff, a spokesman for the Utah-based faith, confirmed Monday that the church policy handbook had been changed after it was first discovered Saturday by a website that tracks church happenings. The prohibition also applies to concealed weapons holders.
“Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world,” it says. “With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited.”
Woodruff didn’t immediately answer questions about why the change was made now and how it would be communicated to members.
The handbook where the language was changed isn’t commonly read by church members so how this is disseminated will affect how much impact it has at the congregational level, said Matthew Bowman, an associate professor of history and religion and Howard W. Hunter Chair in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.
The move is likely driven by rising awareness of gun violence in the U.S. Bowman said it also seems to fit with the church’s attempt to adapt to being a more global religion, representative of cultures other than the American West that is steeped in hunting and guns.
“It is illustrative of the church’s slow evolution away from being a largely Western rural church which it has been for a long, long time toward a more cosmopolitan, international organization,” Bowman said.
Today, more than half of the religion’s 16 million members live outside the United States. Church President Russell M. Nelson is currently on another global ministry trip, this time to Latin America.
Scott Gordon, president of FairMormon, a volunteer organization that supports the church, said it’s pretty rare for people to bring weapons to church but that the faith seems to want to eliminate any ambiguity about the rule.
“In any organization, you have people who might desire to protect or take the law into their own hands, and I think the church in this policy is saying, ‘Please don’t. Church is a place of peace,’” Gordon said.
Recent shootings in places of worship include a gunman who killed 11 during services last October at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. More than two dozen people were killed by a gunman in 2017 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In Charleston, South Carolina, eight black parishioners and their pastor were killed in a racist shooting in 2015.
The fatal shooting in the Latter-day Saints church occurred in July 2018 in Fallon, Nevada, when a man opened fire during Sunday services and killing one man and wounding the victim’s brother.
Spanish Fork has been looking into getting a new library for years, but now the city is hoping to get it done by 2022.
The current library was built in 1965, and remodeled in the mid-90s. The population of Spanish Fork at that time was approximately 6,800, said Scott Aylett with Spanish Fork City. Spanish Fork’s current population is over 40,000.
Discussions about building a new city library have been ongoing for probably the last eight years, said city manager Seth Perrins.
A life center proposal that combined a new library with a recreation center and senior center was voted down by Spanish Fork residents in 2015, but the city council continued to discuss how to make the library portion happen.
The current Spanish Fork Library is 12,000 square feet, which Perrins said is significantly undersized for a community the size of Spanish Fork.
The library only has one program room.
“If there’s one program going on, no other activities can be had because there’s no space,” Perrins said. Even the shelf space for books is low, meaning books are being pulled off shelves more quickly than a standard would recommend, Perrins said.
The current library also has only on-street parking, rather than a full-sized parking lot.
Future growth will also be factored in the feasibility study for how much space will be needed in the facility.
“We certainly don’t want to build something that the day it opens is already too small,” Aylett said. “But you don’t want something too big either. So that’s the whole purpose of the feasibility study: figuring out the ‘Goldilocks’ number, what’s just right as far as population and usage and growth.”
“We’re committed to it. The city council’s committed to it. We need a new library,” Aylett said.
A feasibility study starting up will determine over the next few months the specifics of what a new library should look like. Should it be 20,000 square feet? 30,000 square feet? Should it also house some city office functions along with library functions?
Currently, the city council chambers are small and have a bad sound system, Perrins said. They’re looking at the possibility of building a multi-purpose space in the new library that could function for city council meetings as well as library programs. They’ll also be looking at the possibility that the city’s finance office, which Perrins described as “woefully” set up, could be housed in the new building.
Right now, Perrins said the city estimates they’ll need a building at about 30,000 square feet that would cost a projected $12 to $14 million.
The biggest issue in making a new library happen is funding.
Perrins said the direction from the city council was to find a way to pay for the new library that didn’t rely entirely on one funding source.
The city council voted Aug. 6 during a Truth in Taxation hearing to increase the amount of property tax revenue collected by the city by $180,000 to go toward planning costs for the new library such as hiring an architect.
The goal is to slowly increase the property tax revenue collected, Perrins said, with an end goal of generating about $600,000 to cover a bond payment. Spanish Fork city is looking at implementing a $12 million bond by vote of the city council to cover the majority of construction costs.
If the finance office ends up being located in the new building, it would also open up use of enterprise funds to help fund part of the cost, Perrins said.
The new library will likely be located right next to the current city offices, and the city is currently in negotiations to buy a property next door owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The city received a lot of feedback after the life center proposal was voted down in 2015, Perrins said. That feedback included people saying they thought the process was too fast, they didn’t want the library to leave the center of town, and the cost was too high.
“So we spent the last four years thinking about it, planning it differently and better,” Perrins said.
While residents voted down that funding package, Perrins said, but they also heard from many residents who expressed a desire for a library, or said they would have voted for the package if it was just a library without the other components.
“(The city council members) know the residents want a library, because they vote with their actions every day,” Perrins said. “This is used by more than 80% of the households in Spanish Fork. So they know it’s undersized and overused.”
“The need hasn’t changed,” Aylett said. “If anything it’s gotten greater since then. The council sees that, the residents see that. That’s why we’ve come to the drawing board with a different funding mechanism we can use to accomplish this goal.”
Because the feasibility study is just now beginning, there are no concepts for what the library might look like yet, though Perrins said the city will be reaching out for public feedback on what exactly should be included in a new library.
“We feel bad that we can’t show the residents a concept of what the library’s going to look like, but we don’t even know,” Aylett said.
The feasibility study is expected to take four to six months, and the architectural work eight to 12 months. Construction is expected to take about a year and a half, meaning the city hopes to be under construction by spring of 2021 and opening as soon as summer of 2022.
Brigham Young University’s employees should be a cheerful, empathetic example to students, a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the university’s faculty and staff Monday.
“You have more than a job,” Dale G. Renlund, a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told them from a pulpit in the Marriott Center. “You are fulfilling one of the important purposes of the gathering of Israel.”
Renlund and BYU President Kevin Worthen addressed the university’s employees Monday morning as the kickoff to BYU’s annual University Conference. Students will return to campus for the beginning of the fall semester next week.
Renlund said it is the university’s responsibility to help students gain intelligence and knowledge that they will bring beyond their lifetime.
He warned employees against being cynical, skeptical or sowing the seeds of doubt among students. He said no student should be uncertain if an employee is devoted to Christ, the church or the church’s leaders.
Renlund used the example of a laser being shone through a lens, stating that if the laser hits the center, it will hit its target, but if it hits at an angle, it is refracted farther away from the target.
“Like the light and the lens of your attitude, your speech and your empathy create a being that can center on the savior or miss the master altogether,” Renlund said.
The Marriott Center went dark for another analogy as he shone both a pen light and a laser pointer to illustrate how a concentrated light will be visible at a larger distance.
Renlund said students will benefit from even short encounters with faculty and staff.
“Your God-given task is to convey that culture,” Renlund said. “It is more than a job.”
Worthen occasionally fought off tears as he outlined the university’s mission statement, which reads that a BYU education should help students strengthen family life, social relationships, civic duty and lead to lives of life-long service.
He laid out a challenge to focus on students and not just tasks.
Worthen said helping students develop Christlike attributes doesn’t always have to involve scripture study before an assignment, and that modeling behavior will help prepare students to make a difference in the world.
“They will have a deep seated desire to do so, as those around them are also sons and daughters of God,” Worthen said. “That is something the world not only wants, but desperately needs.”
He pointed to examples of dining services and a group of students who went to Mongolia to help improve air pollution to explain the campus’s culture and impact.
Worthen said the point of BYU isn’t solely to prepare students for their first and last jobs, but to provide a holistic education.
“In the end, we are not preparing students for jobs, we are preparing them for their eternal destiny as sons and daughters of heavenly parents,” Worthen said.
When Ben Light takes off with one foot in the Mediterranean Sea for an eight day, 497-mile attempt at two world records, it will be with seven bags stashed along the trail, eight pairs of shoes and a crew of three Utah Valley University researchers studying the impacts of extreme exercise on his body.
“It blew my mind that there is this college that isn’t BYU or U of U, that they are really pushing the edge of understanding the body and the mind, and what makes endurance athletes able to do what they do,” Light said.
Light, an ultrarunner, will start running at midnight Sunday across the Pyrenees Mountain Range on the borders of France, Spain and Andorra on the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne route. He’s attempting to have the fastest self-supported crossing of the route and be the fastest human who has crossed the Pyrenees Mountains.
To do so, he’ll need to average about 60 miles a day through more than 42,000 feet of rugged elevation gain. He plans to complete the route in less than eight days and seven hours.
Along the way will be Andy Creer, an associate professor of exercise science at UVU, Taran Bailey, a UVU senior studying exercise science, and Brigham Dunford, a UVU junior studying digital media production.
Dunford will film the experience while Creer and Bailey meet Light at his drop bag locations to study the impact of the extreme distance on his body. They’ll study his bloodwork, monitoring his weight, put him through a series of math tests and brain games to look at his cognitive function, ask him to rate his perceived exertion and ultrasound his muscle to see how it adapts over the eight days.
Light will run between 18 to 20 hours a day, only receiving a handful of hours of sleep every night.
“He’s mentioned he’s had issues with lack of sleep before,” Creer said. “This way we’ll be able to get a measure of that, as well, because sleep deprivation, especially for prolonged periods, does have an impact on both problem-solving as well as his reaction to things.”
Light is interested to see how his body adapts over the eight days. He said the first day of an ultramarathon is always his hardest. After that, he goes into what he calls “ultra mode.”
“If you are going to get sick, you are going to get sick on the first day,” Light said. “But on the second, third, fourth day, you can eat anything.”
That “anything” is going to contribute to the 8,000 calories a day he plans on consuming.
Light is also interested to see what happens with his lactic acid throughout the journey and to see if his body adapts and becomes more efficient.
“I am excited to see what they come up with, and what my body is doing over the eight days, and the amount of stress I am going to put my body through,” Light said.
Because Light is aiming for a self-supported record, it means that while the UVU team can prick his finger for a blood test, they won’t be able to offer him a bandage, or offer assistance of any kind.
The students were onboard as soon as they learned about the opportunity.
“It’s not every day you get the opportunity to go and film something like a world-record-breaking event,” Dunford said. “Whether he makes it or not — which I definitely think he will — it will be exciting to go and have that opportunity to film.”
He said some of his professors have questioned why he’ll be missing a few weeks of class at the beginning of the new semester, but have understood the opportunity.
“It is much more valuable to future employers and future projects to see what you have done outside of the classroom rather than what you have studied,” Dunford said.
Bailey has conducted research with Creer before on an ultrarunner who raced in Oregon.
He said one professor has offered to remotely proctor an exam so he can study Light.
“All my professors know it is going to be a great opportunity,” he said.
Bailey said he’s grateful for the chance to conduct and present research at this stage in his education.
“It is cool they can present undergraduates the opportunity to do stuff, where I am sure that at any other university this would be Ph.D students going,” he said.
Creer has put together online content for his own students for when he’s gone. The team’s hotels will have access to the internet, and Creer will be available to answer questions from his classes.
“That is going to be one of the more stressful things for me, making sure I can take care of things here while I am taking care of stuff over there,” Creer said. “It definitely isn’t the most convenient time. That is something you have to deal with. When you get an opportunity like this, you make it work.”
He plans to continue studying ultramarathoners, although he said Light’s planned sleep deprivation is unique. Creer said it’s an issue he’s talked to college athletes about before.
“Maybe this can help to drive that point home,” he said.
Light is running the route with the goal of raising $75,000 for Neuroworx, a Sandy-based nonprofit which helps with the rehabilitation of those with neurological conditions, regardless of their ability to pay.