“35. Care and Use of Meetinghouses,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“35. Care and Use of Meetinghouses,” General Handbook.
Care and Use of Meetinghouses
The Church provides meetinghouses so that all who enter can:
Make and renew covenants through sacred ordinances (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:75; 59:9–12).
Meet together (see 3 Nephi 18:22–23).
Worship and pray together (see Mosiah 18:25; Moroni 6:9).
Teach and minister to one another (see Moroni 6:4–5).
Participate in other approved uses as described in this chapter.
A meetinghouse can take different forms depending on local circumstances and needs. It could be a Church-constructed or Church-purchased space, a member’s home, a local school or community center, a leased space, or another approved option.
Roles and Responsibilities
Meetinghouse Facilities Department
The Meetinghouse Facilities Department at Church headquarters establishes principles and guidelines for providing and maintaining places of worship. This department operates under the direction of the Presiding Bishopric.
Meetinghouse Facilities employees are responsible for providing and maintaining meetinghouses and other Church buildings. This is done under the direction of the Area Presidency and the area director for temporal affairs.
Church Facilities Manager
A Church-employed facilities manager helps each stake operate meetinghouses. He or she arranges major repairs, deep cleaning, and routine building maintenance.
As needed, the facilities manager helps instruct stake and ward building representatives on how to clean the building and perform other local tasks. He or she provides instructions, materials, and equipment.
The facilities manager works with the stake building representative to manage these services and the overall care of buildings. He or she may also review building expenses with bishoprics.
The assigned Area Seventy works closely with stake presidents in the master planning process (see 35.3).
The stake presidency guides bishops in the use, care, and security of meetinghouses. They assign a high councilor to be the stake building representative (see 35.2.5). They counsel with him to review related needs and projects.
If members need additional space for worship, the stake presidency provides information to the Area Seventy. This is done through the master planning process (see 35.3).
Stake Building Representative
The stake building representative assists the stake presidency in the use, care, and security of meetinghouses by:
Instructing ward building representatives in their duties (see 35.2.9).
Distributing keys to unit leaders.
Communicating with the Church facilities manager about maintenance and operational needs of the buildings.
Stake and Ward Technology Specialists
Stake and ward technology specialists help set up and maintain technology in buildings. When new equipment needs to be installed, they coordinate with the facilities manager. For more information about these callings, see 33.10 (see also mhtech.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
The bishopric (or the ward building representative) teaches members how to use, care for, and secure the building. The bishopric also distributes building keys to ward leaders.
They make sure that activities in the building and on the grounds are conducted safely (see 20.7).
They communicate with the Church facilities manager about maintenance and operational needs. They may also review related expenses with the facilities manager.
If more than one ward meets in a building, the stake presidency selects an agent bishop to coordinate assignments with the other bishops. These assignments include scheduling, cleaning, and securing the building. The stake presidency periodically rotates this responsibility among the bishops whose wards meet in the building.
Ward Building Representative
The bishopric determines whether to call a ward building representative. If they decide to extend this calling, the bishopric may call an adult male or female member. If a ward building representative is not called, the bishop may assign this responsibility to one of his counselors, the ward clerk or an assistant ward clerk, or the executive secretary.
The ward building representative organizes members and volunteers to clean and maintain the building. He or she teaches them how to do each task with the available supplies and equipment.
If needed, he or she receives instruction from the stake building representative in operating sound, heating, air conditioning, and other building systems.
Under the direction of the bishop, adult and youth leaders encourage members to help with building care and maintenance. The bishopric and the ward building representative adjust tasks according to the skills and abilities of those doing the work. Regular care by members helps Church resources last as long as possible.
Meetinghouses vary in size and type based on local needs and conditions. A meetinghouse may be a Church-constructed or purchased space, a member’s home, a local school or community center, a leased space, or another approved option.
Area and local leaders strive to fully use existing meetinghouses and be wise in recommending additional space. They follow the “Principles and Guidelines for Providing Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide).
Leaders prepare master plans annually using the Meetinghouse Master Planning Guidelines to ensure that meetinghouse space is adequate. Leaders also use the master plans to evaluate future needs for meeting space additions or redeployment, which is selling or allowing other uses for meetinghouses and property.
See “Providing Meetinghouses and Other Places of Worship” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide) for more information.
Groundbreaking Services and Dedicating Buildings
Groundbreaking services may be held before construction. Once complete, new buildings and major additions should be dedicated as soon as possible. Leased spaces may also be dedicated.
See sections “Groundbreaking Services” and “Dedicating Buildings” in “Providing Meetinghouses and Other Places of Worship” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide) for more information.
Cleaning and Maintaining Meetinghouses
Local leaders and members, including youth, have a responsibility to help keep each building clean and in good condition. This helps:
Preserve the building’s sacred nature as a place where the Spirit can be present.
Present an image of dignity and respect.
Extend the building’s useful life.
The cleaning schedule should not be a burden on the members. For example, if travel to the building is challenging, members might clean as part of weekly events when they are already at the building.
See “Maintaining Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide) for more information.
Members of ward and stake councils can report needs for building repairs. This can be done by using the Facility Issue Reporting (FIR) tool. FIR enables leaders to submit, track the progress of, and give feedback on repairs and other requests. Council members can also contact the facilities manager for assistance.
FIR is also available as an app in Google Play and the Apple App Store. Instructions for using FIR are available in the Help Center on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Every building is inspected annually by a facilities manager. The intent is to identify long-term building needs and repairs. The facilities manager then discusses inspection results and needed actions with the stake building representative or agent bishop.
Energy and Water Conservation
The Church strives to conserve water, energy, and other resources. Leaders encourage members to conserve energy and water in the building. For example, when members leave a room, they should turn off lights, water faucets, and heating and cooling equipment or settings used during the meeting or activity. Members report to their leaders any conditions contributing to waste.
Members may also support community-sponsored energy and water conservation projects. These efforts can reduce utility costs.
Leaders and members may contact the facilities manager for more information about water and energy use and conservation.
Safety and Security
Leaders and members should:
Keep hallways, stairs, exits, and utility rooms clear for safe entry and exit.
Not use or store hazardous or flammable materials in buildings (see also 35.5.14).
Establish and follow building lockup procedures.
Secure Church-owned equipment from theft.
Know how to shut off utilities such as water, electricity, and gas or fuel.
As needed, the facilities manager can provide a map showing fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and locations to shut off utilities. More information about safety is available in “Security and Lockup Procedures” in “Maintaining Meetinghouses” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). See also 20.7.
Policies on Using Church Property
The Church owns, leases, or approves all buildings and property for use by local wards. Church buildings and property are used for worship, religious instruction, and other Church-related activities.
This section contains policies on using Church property. More information is available in “Other Information Related to Meetinghouse Facilities” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). This resource includes information about equipment, fees, use of vacant Church property, and other topics.
Meetinghouses should reflect an attitude of reverence for Jesus Christ and testify of members’ belief in Him. Art depicting Jesus Christ should be placed in meetinghouse foyer areas to help show this central belief. Foyer areas should not have distractions such as display cases, bulletin boards, tables, and easels. Art depicting Jesus Christ, scriptural scenes, and Church history is appropriate for hallways and classrooms.
The stake president or other assigned local leaders select artwork from a catalog of Church-approved artwork for meetinghouses. The facilities manager can share the artwork catalog with the leaders when new artwork is needed. Artwork from other sources is generally not allowed. Requests for exceptions must be made through the facilities manager.
Artwork may not be placed in the chapel or near the baptismal font. Statues, monuments, memorials, murals, and mosaics are not allowed in or outside the building. This policy might not apply to works of art that have been on display for many years.
Building Uses That Are Not Allowed
Church property may not be used for commercial purposes. For example, it may not be used to support any kind of business (see 38.8.5). Such a use does not align with the purposes of Church properties. It could also conflict with local or national laws that may allow tax exemption of Church property (see 34.8.1).
The following are examples of commercial uses that are not approved:
Promoting or sponsoring businesses or investments
Buying, selling, or promoting products, services, publications, or creative works
Holding unauthorized fundraising activities (see 20.6.5)
Hosting speakers or instructors who recruit participants, solicit customers or clients, or are paid a fee while giving seminars, lessons (except for private piano or organ instruction; see 19.7.2), exercise classes, and other activities
Church property may not be used for political purposes. These include holding political meetings or campaigns. The Church is politically neutral (see 38.8.30).
Other uses of Church property that are not allowed include:
Holding organized athletic practices or other events that are not sponsored by the Church. Community choirs and civil marriages can be exceptions (see 19.7.3 about choirs and 38.3.4 about civil marriages).
Allowing overnight shelter (except in emergencies; see 35.5.4).
Camping or other activities that include sleeping overnight.
The following uses are generally not approved. Local leaders contact the facilities manager if they feel an exception is needed.
Renting or leasing Church buildings and properties
Using properties for political voter registration or as polling places; an exception may be made at the request of government officials when there is not a reasonable alternative and the event will not harm the image or neutral position of the Church (see 35.5.8 and 38.8.30)
Decorations for holiday activities, wedding receptions, and similar events may be placed temporarily in or outside a building. Decorations other than flowers may not be placed in the chapel during sacrament meetings. Decorations are discouraged in the foyers to keep a focus on reverence for the Savior.
Decorations should be modest and inexpensive. They must not be a fire hazard. Local fire and safety codes and ordinances should always be followed.
During an emergency, the stake president decides whether to hold ward and stake meetings. He may also allow buildings and Church property to be used by disaster-relief agencies and for associated efforts (see 35.5.8). He works with the facilities manager or other Church representatives, who will also coordinate with the Area Presidency as needed (see 126.96.36.199).
Firearms and Weapons
Firearms and other lethal weapons are not allowed on Church property. This includes concealed weapons. This does not apply to current law enforcement officers.
The national flag may be flown on Church property as long as local guidelines are followed. The flag may be posted inside Church buildings on special occasions. Patriotism does not require continuously posting the national flag at places of worship.
For information about preserving Church property or buildings, see “Historic Preservation” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). For information about preserving artifacts, works of art, or documents, see 33.7.2.
Nonprofit Use of Church Property
At the request of the stake president, the facilities manager may approve uses by nonprofit groups in the community as needed. The facilities manager does this by signing a Temporary Use Agreement (available from the area office). A certificate of insurance might also be required, depending on local regulations.
The temporary use of Church property should follow these guidelines:
A local leader should be present.
Church leaders have the right to ask any group to stop using the property at any time and for any reason.
The use should align with the building’s purposes and with the Church’s tax-exempt status where applicable.
The use should not conflict with scheduled Church activities.
Church standards should always be upheld on the property.
The use of Church resources should not risk hurting participants or damaging property.
The use should not expose the Church to liability or disturb neighbors.
Reservations at Church recreational camp properties should not be made on behalf of community organizations, commercial ventures, and individuals of other faiths. However, Church members are welcome to invite their friends of other faiths to attend with them.
Use of Church parking lots should comply with the guidelines in 35.5.8. In addition, parking lots should not be used for commuter parking or by other groups or individuals without permission from the area director for temporal affairs. Leaders may contact the facilities manager with requests. Personal vehicles and other equipment may not be stored on Church property.
For more information about parking lots and accessible parking, see “Meetinghouse Parking Lots” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide).
Photographs and Video Recordings during Sacrament Meeting
Sacrament meetings are sacred. For this reason, photographing or recording sacrament meetings is not allowed.
For information about broadcasting or streaming sacrament meetings and other meetings, see 29.7.
For information about managing recreational camps or property, see “Recreational Camps” (Meetinghouse Facilities Guide). To reserve a recreational camp or property, see camping.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Meals and refreshments can be served in meetinghouses. However, food should not be prepared or cooked in meetinghouse kitchens and serving areas. Instead, food should be prepared elsewhere and brought to the meetinghouse. The kitchen and serving areas can be used to keep food warm or cold. These guidelines reduce risk of fires and help comply with food-handling policies. For more information, see safety.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Food preparation demonstrations are the only exception to the guidelines about preparing and cooking food in meetinghouse kitchens and serving areas.
If a stake president has questions about signs for Church buildings, he contacts the facilities manager.
Only maintenance equipment and approved supplies may be stored in buildings. Welfare items may be stored in meetinghouses during emergencies (see 35.5.4). Leaders may contact the facilities manager with questions.
Weddings and Receptions
A wedding or reception may be held in a meetinghouse under the following circumstances:
It must align with Church standards (see 20.2.3).
It must not disrupt the schedule of Church meetings.
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.
Those responsible for the wedding or reception must clean the areas they use.
For more information, see 38.3.4.
Church meetinghouses and properties may not be used for any purpose related to same-sex, polygamous, unlawful, or other marriages not in alignment with Church doctrine or policy.