The Mormon Church has banned the carrying of firearms in its places of worship, upgrading previous rules that only discouraged bringing guns as "inappropriate."
The Church -- officially called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- said the move was not directly linked to the series of deadly mass shootings that have recently plunged the United States into mourning.
Instead, the ban is a response to an imminent change to the law in the state of Texas that removes churches, synagogues and other places of worship from the list of places where carrying a handgun is punishable by one year in prison.
"Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world," the new Mormon Church regulations say.
"With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on Church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited."
Founded in 1830, the Mormon Church, the headquarters of which are located in Salt Lake City, Utah, has 16 million members.
More than half of them live outside the United States, in countries where the culture of firearms is not necessarily as widespread.
Some 350,000 live in Texas.
The Mormon Church says its mission is to restore a true church in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.
Its informal name refers to the "Book of Mormon" -- named after a prophet -- which followers believe is a restored version of the true word of Jesus, rather than traditional Christian scripture.