“35. Physical Facilities,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“35. Physical Facilities,” General Handbook.
The Church purchases land and provides facilities to give Church members places where they can worship, teach, learn, pray together, make and renew covenants, and receive sacred ordinances. Each Church facility should (1) provide a spiritual setting for members to worship and (2) present an image of reverence and dignity in the community.
Under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric, the Meetinghouse Facilities Department establishes policies and operating procedures that assist in providing facilities for Church members worldwide.
Area Presidencies and directors for temporal affairs are responsible for the purchase and operation of Church property. These properties include meetinghouses, institutes of religion, mission homes and offices, welfare operations, and others.
Local facilities personnel serve under the direction of the director for temporal affairs.
Members of the stake presidency ensure that Church facilities are appropriately used, cared for, and protected. They teach leaders and members their responsibilities for using and caring for these facilities. They assign a high councilor to be the stake physical facilities representative. They meet with him as needed to review needs and projects.
The stake physical facilities representative (a high councilor) assists the stake presidency in physical facilities matters as follows:
He helps teach and implement meetinghouse use and care standards.
He coordinates the distribution and control of keys.
He coordinates the instruction of ward building representatives in their duties.
He participates in annual meetinghouse inspections conducted by the facilities manager, unless the stake presidency designates an alternate to participate.
If more than one ward meets in a building, the stake presidency assigns one bishop to be the agent bishop. He coordinates assignments for member participation in meetinghouse care and maintenance. He also coordinates safety and security procedures for the meetinghouse. In addition, he coordinates scheduling of the building with the stake and other wards that use it, though he may assign another member to do the scheduling.
Members of the bishopric are responsible for the use, care, and security of the meetinghouse. They teach ward members how to use and care for it. They organize member participation in meetinghouse care and maintenance, making assignments as needed. They also distribute meetinghouse keys.
Members of the bishopric ensure that appropriate safety precautions are taken in the meetinghouse and on the grounds (see 35.3.5).
Each ward should have a ward building representative. The bishop may appoint a member of the bishopric to serve in this position, or the bishopric may call another member to do so.
The ward building representative helps the bishopric with meetinghouse responsibilities such as energy conservation, safety, security, snow removal (if applicable), and member participation in cleaning and maintenance. He takes care of building-related needs during meetings, activities, and emergencies. If needed, he receives instruction from the stake physical facilities representative in operating sound, heating, air conditioning, and other building systems.
Priesthood leaders emphasize that member participation is a key factor in meetinghouse care and maintenance. Members are encouraged to provide individual or group services, depending on their skills and abilities.
Local Church leaders and members are responsible for the use and care of meetinghouses. They are assisted by local facilities personnel. Leaders strive to ensure that meetinghouses and grounds are always neat, clean, attractive, and in good repair. Church facilities should reflect proper care and respect in every way.
Church members, including youth, should help clean and care for meetinghouses. As members provide such service, their reverence for the Lord’s house deepens. Where possible, members should fulfill this responsibility as part of weekly events when they are already at the meetinghouse. Members may also be asked to help clean other Church facilities.
The facilities manager inspects each meetinghouse annually. The stake physical facilities representative, or an alternate who is designated by the stake president, participates in these inspections. He should have full authorization to act on behalf of the stake presidency in this capacity. Those who participate in these inspections identify building maintenance needs and make plans for repairing or renewing its systems and components and for making other needed improvements.
The stake presidency provides information to the Area Presidency that will assist the director for temporal affairs in preparing and updating a master plan of projected needs for future building sites and new or additional meetinghouse space.
The Church incurs substantial utility costs for meetinghouses. Leaders can help reduce these costs substantially by teaching members to turn off lights and equipment when they are not needed and to follow other energy and water conservation practices. Leaders ensure that lighting, heating, air conditioning, equipment, and water are used as economically as possible.
As needed, a member of the stake presidency or an assigned high councilor may call a stake building specialist for water and energy conservation for each meetinghouse and recreational property in the stake. These specialists work under the direction of the stake physical facilities representative.
Leaders are also encouraged to follow the energy and water conservation initiatives of local governments.
Leaders instruct members—especially women and youth—not to be alone in Church buildings.
Leaders should take reasonable measures to keep hallways, stairs, stairwells, exit doors, utility rooms, and sidewalks free of obstructions and other hazards. Leaders also ensure that hazardous materials or flammable items such as equipment fuel, hay, straw, and cornstalks are not used or stored in meetinghouses (see also 35.4.2).
Leaders control key distribution and establish effective building lockup procedures. They also see that interior classrooms and other rooms that do not contain valuable items are left unlocked.
Leaders ensure that local emergency telephone numbers for the police, fire department, and ambulance are posted on or near each telephone with brief instructions. They report intruders to the police immediately.
Church activities should involve minimal risk of injury or illness to participants or of damage to property. During activities, leaders make every effort to ensure safety. By planning effectively and following safety precautions, leaders can minimize the risk of accidents.
The bishop or stake president should be notified promptly if:
An accident, injury, or illness occurs on Church property or during a Church-sponsored activity.
A person who was participating in a Church-sponsored activity is missing.
Damage to private, public, or Church property occurs during a Church-sponsored activity.
If a person has been seriously injured or is missing, if property has been seriously damaged, or if legal action is threatened or anticipated, the stake president (or a bishop under his direction), promptly takes one of the following actions:
In the United States or Canada, he notifies the Risk Management Division at Church headquarters (1-801-240-4049 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-4049; after business hours or on weekends, call 1-801-240-1000 or 1-800-453-3860, and the operator will contact someone immediately).
Outside the United States and Canada, he notifies the area office.
Leaders also report injuries and damage involving Church facilities or property to the facilities manager.
Leaders should review the applicability of the Church Activity Medical Assistance Program if an injury occurred during a Church-sponsored activity, event, or assignment. For information about insurance, see 20.7.3.
The stake president (or a bishop under his direction) refers questions about safety issues or claims against the Church to the Risk Management Division or to the area office.
See 20.7 for additional instructions on how to proceed in case of an accident or emergency.
Church buildings and other property are to be used for worship, religious instruction, and other Church-sponsored activities. Other meetinghouse uses are discouraged. On rare occasions the stake president may authorize credible, non-Church, nonprofit groups to use a meetinghouse or its grounds temporarily (see Facilities Management Guidelines for Meetinghouses and Other Church Property, 2). The following list provides examples of uses that are not approved:
Renting or leasing Church facilities for commercial purposes.
Promoting business ventures or investment enterprises, including posting commercial advertising or sponsoring commercial entertainment.
Buying, selling, or promoting products, services, publications, or creative works or demonstrating wares.
Holding unauthorized fundraising activities (see 20.6.5).
Hosting speakers or instructors who are paid a fee, who recruit participants, or who solicit customers or clients while giving seminars, lessons, aerobics classes, and so on. Exceptions may be made to use meetinghouse pianos and organs for paid private instruction (see 19.7).
Holding regular community or club events that are not sponsored by the Church, such as Scout meetings and activities, or organized athletic events and practices.
Holding political meetings or campaigns. As an exception, Church facilities may be used for voter registration and as polling places at the request of voting officials if:
There is no reasonable alternative.
The officials and voters maintain Church standards in the building.
The event will not pose physical danger to the building.
The event will not harm the image of the Church.
The use of Church property should not pose a significant risk of harm to participants or to the property. Nor should it unduly expose the Church to liability or disturb surrounding neighbors.
For more-detailed instructions on using and caring for Church buildings and other property, see Facilities Management Guidelines for Meetinghouses and Other Church Property or contact Church headquarters or the area office.
Church-approved artwork for meetinghouses is obtained through the facilities manager using the Church Facilities Artwork catalog. The facilities manager may also obtain artwork that is appropriate for meetinghouses through Church Distribution Services.
Pictures and other artwork may be placed in appropriate locations in the meetinghouse. However, they may not be placed in the chapel or near the baptismal font. Statues, murals, and mosaics are not authorized. This policy may not apply to works of art that have been on display for many years in the chapels of existing meetinghouses.
Artwork in meetinghouses should be properly framed.
Decorations for Christmas, other holidays, and other similar occasions may be placed temporarily in the foyer or cultural hall of a meetinghouse, as approved under the direction of the stake presidency. With the exception of flowers, decorations may not be placed in the chapel area of the meetinghouse. Nor should the exterior of the meetinghouse or the grounds be decorated.
Decorations should be modest and inexpensive and must not be a fire hazard. Hay, straw, palm fronds, other dehydrated materials, and lighted candles may not be used. If Christmas trees are used, they should be artificial or properly fireproofed and displayed without electric lights or candles. Local fire and safety codes and ordinances should be observed.
All new meetinghouses, as well as major additions that contain a chapel, a cultural hall, or an area larger than the existing structure, should be dedicated as soon as possible after the project is completed.
Smaller buildings such as mission homes, institutes, seminaries, and classroom or office additions to meetinghouses may also be dedicated if local leaders desire.
Final approval for dedication is given by the Area Presidency in coordination with the director for temporal affairs. The Area Presidency works with the stake or mission president and indicates who is responsible for dedicating the building.
The program for a dedicatory service should be in keeping with the purpose of the event. It should not be lengthy or include extensive musical presentations. Sufficient time should be provided for the assigned leader to speak and to dedicate the building. Following the dedicatory prayer, there should be an appropriate hymn or musical selection and a short prayer to close the service.
Dedicatory prayers of buildings may be recorded with permission from the presiding authority.
Leased meetinghouses may be dedicated if all the following conditions are met:
All leased space, excluding necessary common areas (such as entries, hallways, and restrooms), is used exclusively by the Church.
The lease is for more than one year.
The Area Presidency approves of dedicating the leased meetinghouse.
If these conditions are met and the meetinghouse is dedicated, the prayer must include the language that the meetinghouse is dedicated “for the period of the lease.”
During an emergency, the stake presidency determines whether or not to hold regular ward meetings.
In a community-wide emergency or disaster, the stake president may assist legitimate disaster relief agencies by allowing meetinghouses to be used as emergency shelters. The Church retains control. Stake and ward leaders ensure that people who use the buildings observe Church standards of conduct, including the Word of Wisdom, while they are in the buildings. For more information about emergencies, see 220.127.116.11.
Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. With the exception of current law enforcement officers, carrying lethal weapons on Church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited.
Open flames and lighted candles may not be used in Church buildings.
The national flag may be flown on the grounds of Church property at any time as long as it conforms to local custom and convention. The national flag may be displayed inside Church buildings on special occasions, such as patriotic programs. Genuine patriotism does not require displaying the national flag continuously at places of worship.
After a new building project is approved, local leaders may conduct a groundbreaking service in preparation for the construction. This service is not to be held on Sunday.
All questions about placing Church-owned property or buildings on national or local historic preservation lists or registries should be directed to Church headquarters through the Area Presidency. For questions about marking, commemorating, or preserving other sites, artifacts, works of art, or documents, contact the Church History Department at 1-801-240-2272 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2272.
For policies about construction, rental, or purchase of meetinghouses, see Facilities Management Guidelines for Meetinghouses and Other Church Property or contact the director for temporal affairs.
The Church has prepared a variety of standard meetinghouse plans to fit the circumstances and needs of members throughout the world. When a new meetinghouse is to be constructed, a suitable standard plan is selected. That plan outlines the policy for the rooms, features, and equipment that are included in the meetinghouse.
Church meetinghouse properties may not be used for overnight lodging, camping, or slumber parties.
Use of Church parking lots should comply with the guidelines at the beginning of section 35.4. In addition, Church parking lots should not be used for commuter parking without permission from the director for temporal affairs.
Because chapels are sacred, taking photographs or making video recordings in chapels is not permitted. For information about streaming meetings and other events that are held in the chapel, see 29.7.
All property assigned to or held for the benefit of local units belongs to the Church, not to the units. Nevertheless, local units have broad autonomy in using Church-owned property, including buildings, land, and other property, subject to the ownership and policies of the Church.
For information about administering recreational property, see Facilities Management Guidelines for Meetinghouses and Other Church Property or contact the director for temporal affairs.
The serving area in Church meetinghouses is not intended for food preparation or cooking unless it is part of a lesson, demonstration, or other instruction. When food is to be served in the building or on the grounds, it should be prepared elsewhere and brought to the meetinghouse, where it may be kept warm or cold until it is served.
The name of the Church is to be displayed on all meetinghouses and other Church buildings in the approved language and logo. It is to be mounted on the building. Under certain conditions, the name of the Church may also be mounted on the grounds on a stand-alone sign.
The only storage allowed in meetinghouses is for maintenance items and other approved supplies and equipment. Welfare commodities and other such items may not be stored in meetinghouses.
Materials such as gasoline, propane, matches, and camping gear should be stored in buildings that are separate from the meetinghouse.
Cars, recreational vehicles, and other personal equipment may not be stored on Church property.
All meetinghouses within reasonable distance of a ward must be occupied to their designed capacity before additional facilities will be provided. When necessary, stake presidencies, in consultation with the Area Presidency, may assign wards to use meetinghouses in an adjacent stake. More than one stake may use a stake center if it is conveniently located.
A wedding ceremony or reception may be held in a Church building if it does not disrupt the schedule of regular Church functions. However, receptions may not be held in the chapel unless it is a multipurpose area. Weddings and receptions should not be held on the Sabbath or on Monday evenings.
The Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.
Those who are in charge of the wedding or reception are responsible for cleaning the areas they use in the building.