Recent years have seen a sharp decrease in numbers of natural disasters which endanger Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) church buildings in the US. The effects of the slump have been felt by church members nation-wide.
Craig Olson of Mesa Arizona said, “It’s sad, you know. A decade ago we had 15 or 20 stories a year of church buildings that miraculously survived floods or were the only building standing after an earthquake. Not anymore. These days we’re lucky to see a tornado get within 100 miles of a church building.”
The decrease in church buildings threatened by natural forces is attributed to several factors, among them, updated building codes, better emergency response, and strategic building sites. But Church members feel that there is another cause. Sharon Marion of West Jordan, Utah says, “If you look at everything going on you have to admit that there are simply not as many disasters as their once was. Fewer disasters means fewer miraculous protections. It’s simple statistics.”
Last week the news of a California wildfire threatening a stake center in the San Bernardino Foothills had church members hopeful that there would be a near miss. But the fire changed directions before the building was in any danger.
Jed Thorne of Riverside, California commented, “That one was a big disappointment. The smoke started getting closer and we all thought, ‘yeah, this is the one we’re waiting for.’ But the closest structure that burned down was 35 miles away. Usually you like to be within 5 miles before you start calling it a miracle. It was hard to watch that one slip away.”
Some have suggested abatement measures like building new church buildings on known flood plains or along fault lines, but for now no new building guidelines have been adopted.
Bishop Robert Carey of Ocala, Florida said, “There’s no doubt [the lack of disasters] has affected our meetings. People are resorting to retelling stories of the Manila Temple being spared and the Japanese bomber being unable to bomb the Hawaii Temple. It’s sad, but it will pass. Next year is supposed to be a strong hurricane season and I fully expect to see water reach the threshold of at least 3 church buildings but inexplicably not be able to enter.”