Others see them as a cross between the CIA and mall cops, with wiretapping, electronic eavesdropping and the occasional assassination of a dissident or two.
For the past 20 years or so, I've only seen them as Joe, Ken, Gary, Jeff and Alex … retired cops I used to work with or see around.
On this particularly strange day there were maybe 50 church security … agents, guards, officers, detectives, Danites? I don't know. Let's go with "agents."
Anyway, there were about 50 church security agents and their spouses waiting to hear what a potential threat to the security of the church had to say.
I had seriously misread the situation and dressed in what I considered to be the appropriate attire. But as I approached the lectern to speak, the agent in charge pulled out a large pair of scissors.
"No ties," Ken said, and promptly cut my necktie off at the knot.
I have such a low opinion of the human race that I'm rarely caught off guard. But that … yeah, that was a first. For a moment, I struggled with conflicting thoughts.
Thought A: "What just happened?"
Thought B: "Damn, I wish this guy was my bishop."
As it turned out, I hadn't gotten the "no neckties" memo. An organization required by church policy to wear neckties with pajamas wasn't about to wear them at a retreat. OK then.
This wasn't my first run-in with LDS Church security. That occurred in the summer of 1970, when a girlfriend and I were asked to leave Temple Square on a charge of inappropriate display of affections.
The most egregious time was when Bammer, Boone and I were not asked to leave church property, but rather were forcibly ejected for reasons I never entirely understood,s thanks to the effects of some spirits.
Most recently was a couple of years ago when I tried to get a bag of M&Ms, a bottle of Diet Coke and a knife past the Monster-nacle security gate during General Conference.
I showed my press credentials and tried to act nonchalant. Maybe the church didn't keep track of the old stuff I did. Besides, now I had a legitimate reason to be there.
I'll never know if I was picked up by facial recognition software or the secret/sacred Evil O' Meter ™ at the gate. A couple of security guys pulled me out of line, ransacked my bag, told me to mind my manners, then pushed me inside.
Since I knew both of the agents, I protested with some vigor. I demanded to know if all members of the media were subjected to such treatment.
Jeff: "Heck, no. You we can shoot. The Quorum of the Twelve took a vote and everything."
Me: "Can I at least have my M&Ms back?"
In Park City, I pulled off my new bow tie, rolled up my sleeves and tried not to make things any worse. I gave my presentation and then got the hell out there before the Evil O' Meter went off again.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.