Dave B. did a post about possible long term changes to the missionary program that could be coming as a result of the “Great Pandemic of 2020”. That got me to thinking about what other changes we’ll see as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not talking about the short term, close churches and temples for a few months (or longer), but what permanent, long term changes will we see?
Some thoughts I had when I read Dave’s post was about what will be acceptable behavior going forward, and how will it conflict with LDS church culture, or maybe even doctrine?
- Will it one day be unacceptable to just “drop by” somebodies place of residence without an invitation? Will more “ministering” be online?
- Will shaking hands go away? Not a big deal for Sunday meetings, but could require a “revelation” to change the temple endowment.
- Will there be less “meetings”. We have been moving that way, will this be the push to finally do away with all the in person Presidency meetings, Ward Council, Bishopric, High Council, etc. Could these all take place online?
- Pot Lucks were always kind of iffy anyway (as far as cleanliness), but maybe they will survive because this was not a food born illness?
- Will sitting shoulder to shoulder in the Chapel, Stake Center, Temple or Conference center be allowed? Will physical distancing be the new normal for non-family members, requiring theaters, arenas, stadiums, and churches to remove some seats?
- Will the church allow live video feeds of baptisms and ordinations for family and friends that can’t attend due to distance or health? I have a grandchild getting baptized in another state, and the stake is limiting attendance to 10 people. The SP authorized my daughter to video tape the event (but no live feed)
- Allow sacrament prayers to be given via phone? 
- Will some countries cut back on the number of missionaries from outside? As Dave B. said in his post, will “Foreign-language missions” become a thing of the past?
What do you think? What changes do you see coming to the church from this pandemic?
 On Saturday our Stake Pres sent an e-mail to the Stake, saying the we are no longer allowed to take the sacrament to other homes. You can only do it for your own family. No visiting, blessings other than your own family, no meeting with others for Sunday School, no ministering in person.
I just was notified that our stake presidency is authorising Melchizedek priesthood holders to bless the sacrament over the phone during the lockdown in New Zealand. These sort of changes suggest that the way the church operates could very well be altered in a big way. It will be enough to change attitudes about how much can be done over phone/video call/etc.
I’ve already experienced Skype stake young men’s presidency meetings years ago, but this approach has not been widespread, which it might become now.
I’m thinking that once the current crisis is over, and a vaccine becomes universally available, Church activities will return to basically normal. But it would be helpful to know how the Church reacted to the 1918 Spanish Flu. Were there any major adaptations and did any lead to permanent change?
I’m taking this virus seriously (my wife and oldest have mild respiratory issues), but at the same time part of me feels it’s overblown. I think there is a denominator issue in which a number of cases that never get reported and turn out fine is much higher than the reported ones, with the death rate on top of that. I’ve seen a number of estimates that indicate this may be more comparable to the flu or better. Having said that, I’ve appreciated a greater respect for personal space, better hand washing, and better mitigation of spread through covering coughs and sneezes. There’s a part of me that feels we owe many flu victims of the past an apology for not doing this better years ago.
1 Nephi 3:7 comes to mind. The Church is a social organization. So much is done from contact. We’re preparing the world for the millennium, in which viruses should be a thing of the past. I think the Lord will provide a way. I think this virus will pass much like the flu of 1918 and things will resume as normal. There may be a policy or practice here or there that changes permanently, but for the most part I think things will go back to normal until the next one (seems so many uncorrelated last days books bring up pandemics).
I’m actually as much or more worried about what this has done for the power of government and what effect that might have on how the Church does things than I am the virus itself. There are just a few things I fear and despise more than death, and I’m hoping we won’t see some of those things come to pass. Maybe I’m a pessimist in those regards, but I’m an optimist when it comes solving the world’s problems through true religious principles, innovation, and personal change.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as the say. I think we can extend that to revelation as well. The particulars and the timing are of course hard to predict, but what is going to drive it are changes in personal behavior: many of us won’t shake hands anymore; many of us won’t attend pointless in-person meetings; many of us will simply come 20 minutes late to avoid touching community sacrament trays; temple attendance and activities have already become problematic.
God works in mysterious ways: perhaps some of the existing leadership will fall prey to the current pandemic, paving the way for new and younger leadership that will move forward with the needed changes.
What changes are coming? Hopefully a great deal more spending of the church’s billions of dollars on much needed humanitarian causes right now.
Eli I think the major concern of government is the overwhelming of healthcare services, it’s hard for me to see what else is in unnecessary deaths for them. I’d like to avoid those too, and I hope that we learn to value the unique company of each human soul more dearly. Whilst on the one hand current events diminish the importance of institutional church, it may come to feel like it has been a priveledge .
I would LOVE to see #6 and #7. With regards to your footnote 1, I minister to a single sister who has asked me to stay away (because of COVID-19). The ward keeps hounding me about taking her the sacrament. Sigh. I’m waiting for this to be implemented here. My wife’s on the ward council and I’ve asked her to communicate allowing me to bless the sacrament over the phone, but our SP thus far isn’t interested in this.
I’m genuinely curious what General Conference will be next week. I personally feel it would be very inappropriate for 50 men who are at high risk of this disease to congregate next weekend. Not to mention, doing so may be seen as a cue to many members that following the CDC/WHO guidelines is not required and would think they can go back to life as usual because the Prophet didn’t stay home. I hope they take the appropriate precautions.
My mother-in-law is in her mid-80s and, while extraordinarily healthy and a totally extrovert, we have urged her to quarantine carefully. Given that, we have included her in our weekly sacrament service via Facetime.
My position is this: God will understand. If He does not, to quote the film Kingdom of Heaven, He is not God. These are extraordinary circumstances and common sense should not be trumped by a fetish for rules.
“I’m genuinely curious what General Conference will be next week. I personally feel it would be very inappropriate for 50 men who are at high risk of this disease to congregate next weekend.”
As I understand it, the only people that will be present are the people offering the prayers and giving the talks. No choirs or other GAs in attendance, speakers only.
I’m honestly not sure there will be lasting changes. Maybe a bit more concern about hygiene and staying home when you are sick, but unless there is another pandemic (for which I hope we are better prepared) I think things will largely go back to normal once this is fully resolved (i.e., vaccine).
kmarkp (#2) One permanent change from the Spanish Flu epidemic was that the Church shifted the sacrament service from a communal goblet to individual small cups. Keepapitchinin has a recent post on the subject.
Eli (#3) “uncorrelated last days books” may bring up pandemics often, but so do the scriptures. The KJV English equivalent is “pestilence.” Do a quick search and you’ll see it pop up in just about every mention of the Last Days.
You can look at Come Follow Me as either prophetic or ironic. Prophetic in that we had a structure in place (and Mormons love structure) to study the Gospel at home while the buildings are closed. But ironically, I think the “study at home” approach might keep some members away longer than what is mandated. Maybe this is part of the law of unintended consequences. You put together a home study program so that members can more easily navigate the demands of Sunday church (2 hours vs. 3), but you end up with a program that keeps some members away entirely after they get used to the zero hour model. We’ll see soon I hope.
I’ve had two close calls at work with others and Corona. I’m not sure I ever want to take the sacrament in the old manner again.
I’m all for saving lives, but to what extent, and at what cost? I’m willing to sacrifice a fair amount to do so, but depending on how far we take this, I think we’ll owe flu, SARS, and H1N1 victims of the past an apology for not doing the same for them once we meet them on the other side. I think we may also bear a small amount of responsibility for victims of depression for any possible future depression or recession. We’ll also have to ask ourselves what else we aren’t sacrificing to save victims of cancer and heart disease. What about all the car accidents every year? What are we doing to avoid those? These are all valid questions. I hate to see an economy tank, but I also believe mankind generally has some pretty messed up priorities and sometimes too readily ignores common causes of death. Admittedly, I’d prefer not to have government tell me how to make my priorities. There is a lot, however, I’m willing to do on my own. Flattening the curve is great. We don’t want to overwhelm the system. I just think we need to be careful on how hard we push. I’m seeing more articles that are expressing similar concerns, in addition to others expressing how we may have overestimated its impact in the first place (I’d rather overestimate than underestimate any day). I do think there may be a happy medium we haven’t found yet or are in danger of missing in upcoming weeks.
The Other Clark,
I’m well aware of the pestilences mentioned in the scriptures, and I imagine it likely we’ll see one or two plagues before the end that make COVID-19 look mild by comparison. My own readinging of the scriptures, at least between the lines, has led me to believe they won’t be the main event. It looks like wars may still be fought until near the very end. I’m doubtful countries would be doing this if soldiers were dying left and right from plagues. We know people will still be marrying or being given in marriage, allowing interaction of some sort (or perhaps internet dating will truly become mainstream). Pandemics are one of the few problems that have gotten worse from having a modern society since the world is so much more connected. I think prophets of the past could look at our time right now and qualify something like the flu or H1N1 as a pestilence. In essence, I think those prophecies could easily be said to be fulfilled, but neither would I concede the worst is over. Some of the last days books I’ve become acquainted with paint pesitilience as the main event. While it’s possible, I’m more inclined to believe they’re a smaller part of a much bigger chaos.
What pandemic changes are coming to church?
I hope we re-evaluate and assess the way we prepare and take the sacrament moving forward.
First, we have young men touching every piece bread and cup of water that goes into our mouths. Research shows men wash their hands less often than women. Washing hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds is superior to hand sanitizers. For example, hand sanitizers do not kill all germs such as norovirus, C. difficile, and some parasites.
Secondly, we not only pass the trays from person to person, but we also put our fingers inside to retrieve/discard the bread/water. If I were an immunocompromised person I would not be taking the sacrament. At a minimum, if I were in a high risk category for serious complications if I contracted the flu, I would refrain from taking the sacrament during flu season.
I think a not insignificant number of members will get used to the “zero-hour block” and not return when regular meetings resume. Meetings and superfluous Church activities will fall by the wayside. In recent years, the profile of the Church as a social support network for members has waned, and this crisis is accelerating that process. Organized religion in general is taking a big hit right now with churches closed, as young people continue to roll their eyes at calls for “thoughts and prayers”.
With respect to Eli’s comment, saying that we’ll owe others an apology for not treating flu and H1N1 and SARD comparably, there really is no comparison. SARS was completely eradicated through efforts of mostly eastern countries. H1N1 turned out to have lower mortality than other influenza. One can argue that we should treat influenza more seriously, but it’s really not in the same league as covid-19, at least in the short term. On the off chance that covid-19 mortality is actually as low as influenza, that just means it is infecting ten to twenty times as many people than we are aware of, it’s still doing it all at the same time and overloading our hospitals.
(According to Random Person on the internet on March 29) Unless something changes, at the current rate of increase covid-19 will be the leading cause of death each day in the U.S. by Wednesday, April 1. By April 6 it will likely kill more people each day than all other causes combined. Those deaths are people who are already sick; there is very little we can do for them at this point. But we can do something now to try to minimize the damage after that.
(According to me): A quick Google search shows 7425 people die each day in the US. 2585 died from covid-19 on March 29, more than 3000 on the March 30, and the rate is exponentially increasing. In fact, it looks like Random Person I cited was conservative in their estimate: it’s Tuesday, and Covid-19 became the leading daily cause of death days ago, beating out heart disease which kills only 1774 people per day.
Yes, we absolutely need to do something to help people with the flu, depression, and all manner of diseases. We need to help people get back to work and economically recover. We need to provide for people now and make sure everyone’s needs are met. But our house is on fire right now, so we need to put out the fire first.
That’s a bit of a threadjack. Sorry.
For the most part I think this will have not a lot of changes to church culture. Most things will go back to normal eventually. Shaking hands will be back in. Hopefully washing hands will be a tradition that sticks.
I didn’t imply the flu and Covid-19 were the same, nor that we shouldn’t do anything about it. I did imply that it may be overblown. According to http://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us the U.S. as of today, has 186046 Coronovirus cases and has had 3807 deaths (I believe the two numbers you listed off google were cumulative numbers. My initial reading of your sentences made it look like each number corresponded to each day, but I could be wrong). That’s a 2% mortality rate, with is a full percentage point less than the 3% I saw listed in studies a few weeks ago. In Utah, when last looking at ksl.com, we had 887 reported cases and five deaths, a mortality rate of 0.56% which is even lower. None of this takes into account all those who have had it and never reported it. I’m pretty sure my brother-in-law got it a a few weeks ago. He had every symptom listed almost exactly. Luckily no one in his family got it or at least didn’t exhibit the same symptoms. I’m also pretty sure one of the fathers of a family I minister to also had it at that time. I think if we conservatively assume that for every confirmed case there are 0.5 cases that go unreported, and that those who chose not to be tested would still go to the hospital if they recognized death near and were tested after the fact, then Utah would have a mortality rate of 0.36%. Apply that same ratio to the U.S. as a whole and it’s 1.36%. Obviously still higher than the flu. Still not 3%, however. I’m not a fan of manipulating numbers, but however bad we are, it’s already less than some initial projections. I’d agree we have a fire to put out. I just don’t want to turn a blind eye to the tornado or flood that may be around the corner.
This also raises the question as to why Utah’s numbers are so much lower. I think most of it can be chalked up to quick acting on the part of the state and the Church for isolation, but I think it would be naive to say Utah’s generally healthy lifestyle hasn’t also had something to do with it. I’d like to think the Church would be above touting the WoW and saying “I told you so,” but bringing it at least somewhat back around to the OP, just as we’ll likely see at least one or two small permanent changes in the way the Church does things, maybe we’ll also see a little less ridiculing from outside the Church as to the somewhat zealous nature of living after such a peculiar health code, and possibly less fence sitting on it from less active members.
Eli, you are right that I messed up the numbers and used totals and not daily. Rookie mistake. My bad.
And I think your mortality rate hypothesis of 0.36% is within the realm of possibility, albeit on the low end, but only if ICUs are not overwhelmed and we don’t run out of respirators.
I certainly can’t disagree with respirators or overwhelmed ICUs, which is why I’m also trying to do my part. I’m hopeful we’ll see this peak before mid April.
“ This also raises the question as to why Utah’s numbers are so much lower. I think most of it can be chalked up to quick acting on the part of the state and the Church for isolation, ”
Are they low on a per capita basis?
I don’t think so. Utah ranks #30 in population and around #25 in case numbers of Covid19.
But of course the Covid19 numbers per state also depend on the rate of testing. So one state might have more cases than another simply because they’ve tested more people.
Sorry, I was referring exclusively to the mortality rate. As of yesterday, Utah was 0.56% vs. 2% for the rest of the nation. This was in reference to reported cases only and didn’t even take into account those not reported. My suspicion is that the mortality rate is much lower when one considers those who have had it and never reported. At this point, Utah simply appears to have less people dying from the disease, but that suspicion also makes the assumption that those who don’t report and find themselves near death’s door would eventually make their way to a hospital and be tested after the fact. That’s not a certainty, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption. Either way, Utah’s rate is currently slightly more than one fourth what the USA is as a whole.
What changes are coming Bishop Bill asks? Probably none of the ones he mentioned. The (pre-Covid) social norms that we practice today have evolved over eons. Handshaking, the appropriate amount of personal space to give another, hugging protocols, etc. are the result of a two-hundred thousand year-old human experiment at finding the optimal balance between the need for signals of social cohesion and the risk of death from exchanged pathogens. The behaviors we have today are the surviving winners. And they’ll likewise survive the present rather minor (in historical terms; not for the individual sufferers) human health event.
The change I could see coming is good LDS members discovering that it’s perhaps really not all that essential they leave the house early every Sunday morning, drive some distance, and sit still in a church pew to feel the spirit or share another’s testimony. I suspect one of the reasons some stakes ask that we not mimic an entire sacrament meeting online or hold Sunday school via Zoom is that it’ll actually be successful! Members will then question the need to go back.