Security Staffed by Full-timers and Volunteers
SALT LAKE CITY, UT, Sept 30, 2006 — Men dressed in dark suits, wearing two-way earpiece radios, resembling Secret Service agents sans dark sunglasses, protect a man revered by a 12-million-member church as a modern-day prophet, seer, and revelator.
The Church Security Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints oversees security for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The CSD covers LDS Church headquarters and other church properties. It also supervises security for the semiannual General Conference held in Salt Lake City.
During the two-day conference, the LDS Church's presiding leaders address the membership of the church. Douglas Balls, events manager for Temple Square since 1981, estimates 120,000 people converge on the square and the Conference Center during that weekend.
"The Temple Square Block accommodates from 30,000 to 35,000 visitors at any given time during General Conferences," Balls said.
To handle the throngs of conference goers, church security fortifies its numbers with a crew of 800 service missionaries.
"These missionaries are mainly made up of retirees," Balls said. "They apply through their local bishop and stake president. We interview them and send our decision back to their local leaders."
Working under the direction of the CSD, ushers take tickets, manage crowds, help people find their seats and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
Clyde Marx, of Kaysville, was a service missionary from 1998 to 2001. He supervised security for the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Temple Square grounds.
"We just patrolled around watching for anything out of the ordinary or anyone causing problems," said Marx. "If there were problems we called full-time security, but there really were not problems. The average person just had the feeling that this wasn't the place for things like that."
Church security has conference attendees pass through a security screening that includes magnetometers and bag checks. High-tech video surveillance systems are also used to keep a view of the crowds.
A system of underground hallways connects the Conference Center, the LDS Salt Lake Temple, tabernacle, Joseph Smith Memorial Building and church administration buildings. These allow the First Presidency and other General Authorities to discretely travel between the buildings and avoid crowds.
Apart from conference duties, the CSD also monitors global situations that may affect tens of thousands of LDS missionaries abroad and travel for Hinckley and members of the First Presidency.
The LDS Church does not comment on security. However, Gregory Dunn, managing director of LDS security in 2004, addressed students at Brigham Young University on security for traveling prophets.
His department investigates "countries and cities before sending church leaders anywhere."
"We do huge amounts of preparation," he said. "The brethren go to the places they are assigned to go to, but sometimes the members don't know a high-profile person is coming until they get there."
The First Presidency travels with a detail of bodyguards who oversee local security composed of volunteers from local stakes.
Dustin Williams, of Woods Cross, was a security volunteer for an Area Conference held at a Dee event Center-sized arena in Ontario, Canada, in 1999.
"I picked up the two Apostles, their wives and security officers from the airport and brought them to their hotel," said Williams.
"During the conference, I had an ear radio so the Church's security officers could coordinate with us. It was a neat experience."
Dunn told BYU students that security has an advantage outside the United States.
"It turns out the Church just isn't really that well-known in the places where the risk is greatest," he said. "The Church carries a lot of anonymity in many places of the world."