How often do you get a letter from the LDS First Presidency in your inbox? I got one last week, and I imagine many readers did as well. As far as I can tell, every LDS person whose email address is in the LDS system got a copy. It tells the reader that the various Covid vaccines (at least the ones approved for use in the United States) are “safe and effective” and that “we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible.” They came right out and said this: “[W]e urge individuals to be vaccinated.” The letter is signed “The First Presidency” and their three names follow thereafter. Let’s talk about the letter and how it being received.
First, so everyone is on the same page, let’s post the letter itself.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. We want to do all we can to limit the spread of these viruses. We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population.
To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders. Please know of our sincere love and great concern for all of God’s children.
The First Presidency
Russell M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring
Now let’s talk about it.
It’s only two or three months late. I think the letter says the right things. These things could and should have been said two or three months ago. Even four or five months ago. Perhaps the latest surge in Covid cases, fueled by the Delta variant, spurred them to action. They’re being reactive when they should proactive. But at least the letter says the right things.
Yes, it’s telling everyone to wear masks in Sacrament Meeting. The letter says “we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible.” That almost certainly includes sacrament meetings, which are open to anyone who wants to attend and which are generally very well attended, precluding social distancing. The letter is headed by an unmistakable photo of an LDS family putting on masks in the foyer of an LDS chapel as they prepare to enter. I posted the photo as the image at the head of this post. In light of the photo, I can’t understand why, according to social media posts anyone can read, most local leaders in Utah and Idaho who referenced the FP letter (some did not) still seem to regard face masks in Sacrament Meeting as optional and stated so over the pulpit. Some go so far as to say something like “it’s okay to wear face masks if you want to.” As if, in the face of a FP letter saying we should wear face masks in sacrament meetings, I need some dumbsh*t bishopric counselor to tell me it’s okay to do so.
Meanwhile, out in the hinterland … It seems local leadership outside the U&I corridor was much more responsive to the letter, generally reading it over the pulpit and telling the membership that masks are more or less required in Sacrament meetings for the moment. So there seems to be some sort of split between local leadership in the Mormon Corridor and leadership outside it. Check in with your own experience and location. Let me ask: Is your confidence in your local leadership going up or going down at the moment? You can guess which way my bishopric barometer is pointing.
A refreshingly secular tone to the letter. I didn’t notice it the first time through, but go read the letter again. It doesn’t attribute the challenges of Covid to “the adversary.” It doesn’t call the vaccines a divine blessing. Surprisingly, from a First Presidency that seems to call every announcement a revelation, there is no hint of calling this a revelation or even inspired. It’s just a straightforward letter stating good advice and telling the membership to follow that obvious good advice. It didn’t invite members to pray about it and do what’s right. It told members what’s right, and told them to do what’s right.
What’s next? Let’s be honest: August and September are going to be very tough months, as the Delta variant surges and as kids, those little walking superspreaders, go back to school and then go home every day and mingle. The Delta variant is so contagious that it’s possible that over the next couple of months pretty much everyone in the US is going to get it, with those who are vaccinated generally getting milder cases and those not vaccinated at considerably higher risk of getting a severe case or dying. That might actually be better than some later Epsilon or Zeta variant that is highly contagious but also causes more acute symptoms and with a higher death rate.
Best wishes to all. Blogging is a strange animal. On the one hand, when you hit “post” you are publishing to all the world. Anyone with access to the internet can conceivably read your post. On the other hand, it’s a one-on-one experience of reader and author. I write, you read, and we’re sort of in a virtual personal conversation. I try to keep that in mind, particularly in posts like this. I hope you and your family are vaccinated. I hope no one in your family gets a serious case or, if they do, that they pull through. If you have someone in your family who is a Covid long-hauler, as they say, I hope they get better over time. These are tough times (and I haven’t even mentioned heat waves and forest fires and melting permafrost and Afghanistan and unemployment and social unrest and so forth). Tough times and it looks like it’s going to get tougher. May you and your family stay well. God strengthen and comfort each of us in the coming time of troubles.
I am vaccinated, and believe everyone should be. Be we cannot make vaccination the sole issue that the Church is focused on. Providing for the poor and needy is just one example. So is seeking out and comforting the lonely.
The First Presidency chooses its words very carefully. It very deliberately chose “urge” rather than “require” or “mandate.” It is clear that the presidency is encouraging behavior, but is not mandating it. The presidency absolutely knows how to say something is mandatory when that is what they mean.
The result is that masking is the new method or “virtue signaling.” It has become the way of declaring: “ Look at me, I am following the prophet better than you.” This is not what church attendance should be about.
I don’t think the Church should tell members how to conduct their private lives with things like vaccines and masking. But I do think they should tell members that when they walk into an LDS meeting house or temple, they are REQUIRED to wear a mask and they are highly encouraged to be vaccinated. In other words, the Brethren have every reason to control membership behavior within LDS facilities, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to govern private behavior. That’s just me…I don’t like to be told what movies are inappropriate or how my daughters should dress.
In the meantime, I have grabbed some popcorn and I’m enjoying the blowup on Mormon blogs in which TBMs who have promoted “follow the prophet” their entire lives are now promoting the idea that the FP are speaking as men when they mention vaccines.
I never got the email, but my husband did. I’m not sure if it was calling-specific, a head-of-household thing, or just a weird glitch.
While mask-wearing did seem to increase a little bit on Sunday, there was no mention of the letter by stake or ward leadership that I could tell. My husband attended a different ward in our stake on Sunday, and he said they never mentioned it there, either.
The First Presidency very deliberately did not mandate mask wearing. They clearly did not because they know the science is all over the map. They also don’t want to be a part of going back on the promise that Biden and the CDC made to people that if they got vaccinated, they would not have to wear masks:
“Now, I want to be clear about what the CD- — CDC is saying and what the CDC is not saying. The CDC is saying they have concluded that fully vaccinated people are at a very, very low risk of getting COVID-19. Therefore, if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Let me repeat: If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. “
President Biden, May 13, 2021, 3:58pm EDT.
Thanks, Wayne, for illustrating the process of tying yourself in a logical knot to understand the FP’s letter to comport with what you were already doing. Also, I very much appreciate you calling out Biden and the CDC for daring to change their recommendations as the situation evolves. Just what kind of science is this? Shouldn’t they have known on day one and every day thereafter exactly how the pandemic would progress, including how the virus would mutate and evolve? Sheeesh!
Reporting from the field in Utah County (trying to report without judgment or commentary):
(1) Many people I know are indeed interpreting “urge” to mean “this is not a commandment, this is not mandatory, you still get to choose.” Fine – although I do agree that the Church ought to be able to tell people what to do in its own meetinghouses and people should respect that. I don’t personally know people who are freaking out about the message and thinking it’s like a fallen prophet or having a faith crisis over it – instead they are just taking the “well it says urge not command” approach.
(2) We got a message very late Saturday night from our bishopric asking us to wear masks in accordance with the FP message. When I showed up Sunday morning, in the overflow / cultural hall I would say fewer than 1/3 were in masks. It appeared as though more people in the chapel were, and the bishopric was. I’ve heard that in other wards, the bishopric was not. Since I had told my kids we could go home if people weren’t in masks, we turned around and came home.
(3) We had a multi-stake virtual fireside with Elder Christofferson and he referenced masks a number of times. (Not saying “you are commanded to wear them” but basically saying “we are back to wearing masks and hopefully someday soon won’t have to but for now we do.”).
***Does anyone know where original FP communications about Prop 8 are and whether they used similar “urge” language or something more mandatory? I would love to compare / contrast. I also heard some people compare it to the second-piercing issue from Hinckley days but strangely they were treating it like the no second piercing was an actual commandment and the masks were not.
Thank you, Dave B! Thank you, FP!
People who are vaccinated can still get the Delta variant, which is much more highly transmissible than the previous versions.
AND. THEY. CAN. SPREAD. IT.
Wearing masks is simple and effective. Masks protect the wearer, and others.
Let’s stop with the BS, shall we? The leaders have been telling people how to conduct their privates lives forever. They ask you if you masturbate for hell’s sake. Also, we have been told over and over again to follow the prophet and not to split hairs on whether he said “and thus saying the Lord.” Its obvious that the “follow the Prophet” crowd only does so when he says what they want to hear.
JCS: “The presidency absolutely knows how to say something is mandatory when that is what they mean.” I’m starting to think the reality is that the 1P knows that they can only make something mandatory if the majority will stand for it, and in this case, the majority are not behind them. Oaks has a greater appetite to take on the majority than Nelson has. Oaks is willing (unfortunately) to make straight-out-of-the-evangelical-playbook calls that are extremely unpopular with a growing minority of members (e.g. conversion therapy and other anti-LGBT stances, anti-diversity most recently which is baffling, and the endless appetite to expand white Christian nationalist “religious freedom”). Nelson seems to realize that he just bumped up against the borders of his power.
Never again will I listen to orthodox members opine on “when the leaders speak the thinking is done” or policing others’ underwear choices or very beliefs. We’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and the man is wearing a MAGA hat.
So a couple of my brothers who were holding off getting vaccinated finally went and got their first dose after getting the email.
Here in the east of the UK my ward are still kind of distancing in the chapel, occupying every other row, and we already had been asked to wear masks moving around the building as a measure of respect for others… (that said children under the age of 11 have not been required to wear masks throughout the pandemic even in school and the same carries through at church). People have been permitted to remove their masks once seated and the sacrament ordinance finished I think most people have been keeping them on. Because of permission to remove masks when seated I fought hard against resuming singing, and that is due to be reviewed at the end of the month. Primary children being under 11 are not masked so we are doing our best to keep the in family groups and otherwise distanced. Primary singing takes place outside and distanced.
My husband was conducting (he’s a counsellor on the bishopric) and mentioned the email but it wasn’t read from the pulpit. And the Bishop is still hassling him for remaining masked whilst seated on the stand and at the pulpit. So as far as behaviour in church there seems to be little difference as a result of the email so far as I can tell…
You are wrong Ziff. Biden and the CDC absolutely promised that we were done wearing masks. No qualifications to their statement.
I am vaccinated and believe people should be. By why would they when they know that their daily lives won’t change one iota because they will face the same restrictions as the unvaccinated?
If masks work, then wear one and be safe. There is absolutely no scientific reason why two vaccinated people should wear masks when they meet together. None, and the church obviously doesn’t want to be a part of mandating foolishness.
Wayne; You had me up to this statement: “None, and the church obviously doesn’t want to be a part of mandating foolishness.”
If you don’t think that the First Presidency spent 10 hours on the wording of the letter, you are kidding yourself. They chose “urge” in order to encourage, but leave the choice with the individual. The presidency absolutely knows how to impose mandatory requirements for temple entry like tithing and word of wisdom. They very deliberately chose not to impose similar mandatory requirements.
Elisa, as someone who lived in California during Prop. 8, though I don’t have the original messaging from the FP/Q12 regarding that issue close at hand, I do recall that it was of the “strongly urge” flavor (mostly pointing to the Family Proclamation) and stopped just short of outright commanding members to support the initiative or telling members how to vote. However, local leaders on the ground (bishops and SPs) took it further to varying degrees, such as organizing phone banks in church buildings, leading neighborhood canvassing efforts and urging members to donate to the campaign. I also recall many conservative members were convinced that legalizing same-sex marriage was going to cause the fabric of society to completely unravel and the solar system to implode. My then-bishop realized early on that the issue was going to cause a lot of contention among ward members, so he didn’t push it hard from the pulpit (for the months leading up to the election, he started every F&T meeting with a stern warning keep testimonies concise, spiritual and non-political), but I am aware of other leaders that were a lot more pushy about it, even coercive to the point of threatening to take temple recommends away for withholding support. There were a few in my ward who were vocal opponents of Prop 8, and though they didn’t face any official backlash, they did experience social consequences, and they understandably parted ways with the Church after the election was over.
I’m still frustrated about how the Church was able to successfully rally the members behind Prop 8 to it’s eventual passage, but there are now deep divides among the membership regarding following the leaders’ guidance on masks and vaccines to combat a very real public health threat (as opposed to a moral panic, which is what Prop 8 really was). I think it may have something to do with confirmation bias. When the Prop 8 movement was just getting off the ground, most mainstream Church members were already opposed to same-sex marriage and the Family Proclamation had already been hanging on their walls for years. In that instance, “following the prophet” meant they didn’t have to challenge their existing beliefs, but rather confirm them and re-emphasize them. This was also a time not too long after Pres. Hinckley’s death, and there was some residual missionary zeal and optimism from the Hinckley era that fed the enthusiasm; Mormons enjoyed a lot of positive media exposure up to that time and seemed determined to leverage it politically.
But fast-forward to 2020/2021, where a much more divisive political environment led to the politicization of the pandemic, and a world in which unchecked conspiracy theories and misinformation abound in Latter-day Saint circles, as well as festering anti-government attitudes. So when the vaccines roll out, a certain subset of Mormons refuse them in confirmation of their pre-existing beliefs. For them, listening to science and reason is too much of a challenge on those beliefs, even if it’s God’s mouthpiece asking them to do it.
The only thing these events have in common is that they are manifestations of Mormons’ propensity toward intellectual laziness–taking the path of least (cognitive) resistance.
Dave B. thank you especially for the Best wishes for all.
Regarding the geographical differences in reaction, to make sense of them I would want to map two things. One is the state by state and city by city restrictions. My hypothesis (and anecdotal observation) is that patterns of wearing masks, social distancing, and vaccination have a closer correlation to local health rules and restrictions, and political party affiliation, than anything the LDS Church says or does. Second is the LDS Area Presidencies. Early on the Area Presidencies were assigned a significant amount of responsibility and decision-making for their areas. I don’t know how and whether that has continued, but it’s a question I would ask. There was a point in time when the Utah Area Presidency was (seemed to be, was reported as) more aggressive than most in the direction of not requiring masks or social distancing.
@Jack Hughes I was in SoCal during Prop 8 as well and this was my experience: “ However, local leaders on the ground (bishops and SPs) took it further to varying degrees, such as organizing phone banks in church buildings, leading neighborhood canvassing efforts and urging members to donate to the campaign.”
We basically got signed up for stuff and you’d have to go out of your way to get out of it.
I didn’t know a single person in my ward who objected. But we were relatively new to the ward so I didn’t have people there to talk about it with.
I agree that prop 8 aligned with many people’s preexisting beliefs and 100% with you on confirmation bias. You also raise a lot of good points about the different political climate. Our current climate makes 2008 seem downright pleasant.
I was mostly more curious about how “mandatory” support was because 10/10 if you’d openly challenged prop 8 in my ward you’d have gotten called in and ripped apart and possibly lost a temple recommend, whereas the anti-maskers just show up to church bare-faced. (I don’t think either should be reprimanded, just commenting on the disparate treatment).
Personally in my community I feel more judged for wearing a mask than not wearing one (like I’m some coward over cautious liberal) which is a really weird script-flip for a church that values obedience and conformity. Can’t wait to start wearing sleeveless tops to church now that I realize everyone is on the same page with me about choosing what to wear.
Reacting to Elisa’s “I don’t think either should be reprimanded” — what about sent home?
I’m not attending meetings in person these days because so many people are not masking or distancing, and even congregational singing looks no different than pre-COVID. That’s my choice, but I can’t let go of the sense of disparate treatment when people who do not wear a mask are not stopped at the door and sent home to listen on Zoom.
@ChristianKimball 10/10 people should be sent home.
Whether or not you think the Church can tell you to wear a mask at the grocery store or in school, it most CERTAINLY can tell you to wear a mask in Church meetings in Church-owned buildings. So yes, I absolutely think it’s absurd for people to ignore that request / requirement and I think people should be sent home. As I mentioned, we left when we arrived and saw so many unmasked faces and it seems to me that we, the rule-keepers, shouldn’t be the ones to have to leave. Although my kids were quite happy about it. (Me, less, since although I was fine to leave it’s no small feat to get my kids dressed and to Church.)
By “reprimanded” I meant Church discipline or at least a stern talking-to in the bishop’s office.
Also, re: your earlier comment on Area Presidencies, that’s my sense as well. And personally thought the Utah Area Presidency totally botched multiple aspects of this (from *forbidding* online services, meetings, or activities for many months to being completely silent on masks and social distancing until it was too late because people had made up their own minds).
One thing seems clear: the Church is experiencing massive levels of frustration among its members. It’s been building for some time; and the cause is also clear: politics. The Church’s failure to reign in Benson is now metasisizing full force. The marriage of the Church and politics should have never happened. Whatever damage control the Brethren may think they are doing, they will undoubtedly fail at. It will require more than damage control; it will require full-forced, head-on acknowledgement and repudiation. Until that happens, it appears the seams that Covid has revealed will only proliferate and break apart further. The will lose people is address it, but they will lose more if they don’t.
Hey, all I can say is that this gives me some leverage among conservative family members. Do you have the vaccine? Are you wearing a mask where you should be wearing one? The prophet said so. Don’t you follow him? Nuff said.
Also eating popcorn watching the conservative members try to rationalize this one on social media. The mental gymnastics and hypocrisy are truly astounding.
If we are going to send everyone home who doesn’t perfectly follow the prophet in some regard, we should lock the door and not let anyone in at all. It seems to me that all the “Holier than Thou” folks who are attempting to shame vaccinated folks who don’t wear masks should be the first sent home for excessive pride in their own goodness.
I live in Utah County fairly near the BYU campus and was outraged by the hypocrisy of the FP’s letter in light of the fact that BYU is at present hosting the mother of all super spreader events-in person Education Week this week. Yes, the Mongol Hordes have descended upon us once again bringing more pestilence in their wake. Last year they streamed EW. This year the health situation is much more dire and dangerous but it didn’t stop them from putting everyone who lives and works within a 1.5 mile radius of campus in danger of getting Covid. Utah County currently has a vaccination rate of 37% thanks to the prevailing ultra conservative political bent here. I would hazard a guess that the majority of attendees at EW are of the same mind regardless of which state they come from. This is not the first or last time that BYU has gotten its way when it chooses to do something unwise or possibly skirting the unethical line. The Provo City council always caves into any pressure the university, influential alumni or church higher uppers can bring to bear upon them. We citizens are always the ones who suffer. Of course, knowing BYU and the church they will stay mum about how many people get Covid, end up in hospitals or die. That’s what they always do. I sound cynical when in fact I’m just stating the unvarnished truth.
As far as masks are concerned we received emails from both our bishop and SP urging us to read the FP email and then make our own decision. This makes no sense especially when you consider that our SP was in the hospital ICU for five weeks and nearly died twice. Oh well. I’ve been a Covid Longhauler for nearly 15 months and absolutely refuse to get anywhere near the church building and most of my ward members who still don’t take the pandemic seriously including our bishop. We have a very small enclave of neighbors who are vaccinated and are following the CDC protocols. We all take care of each other which is lovely, but it feels like our group is a tiny oasis of sanity in the midst of a huge area of ignorance and hubris. It will be interesting to see how this whole situation ends up playing out.
I have prayed and received Personal Revelation that I am allowed to prepare food in the kitchen at church, instead of just warming it.
“If you don’t campaign for Prop 8, then you don’t truly believe Pres Monson is a living prophet.” – direct quote from my stake pres in 2008.
“This is no longer about medical advice or personal choice, it’s about demonstrating your commitment and obedience to a living prophet. ” – quote (from memory) from my bishop last Sunday.
Everyone wore masks. The week prior, almost no one did. The bishop was specifically speaking of vaccinations though and that I can’t judge of course.
Our bishopric member was giving a talk on Sunday and he dropped it into the middle of his talk and read it.
But our ward fully masks, social distances and zooms for those that want.
Part of his talk did comment on how in some parts of the world this is bipartisan issue, but he is glad that in N London mutual respect and being covid safe seems to be coming naturally.
For those that don’t understand masks…an example.
My vaccinated friend unknowingly meets a covid infected person.
My vaccinated friend catches covid with mild symptoms or NO symptoms.
My vaccinated friend meets their unvaccinated grandma (let’s say she CANT take the vaccine)
Grandma catches covid and dies. 😦
Let’s put a mask in play
My vaccinated friend unknowingly meets a covid infected person. They are both wearing masks.
They don’t breath on each other
My vaccinated friend doesn’t catch it
Grandma doesn’t die. 🙂
How hard is it to pop a mask on in the supermarche, cinema, Chapel?
Is it really comparable to the inconvenience of someone’s dead grandma.
When should it all stop? Well maybe it should just be a new modus operandi, like in S Korea where after SARS they just kept wearing masks on public transport. Or simply when there are mini outbreaks.
Not sure on where on that scale.
Krishewz: To quote an anti-vax employee of ours, “Everyone dies” followed by an eye roll and impatient gesture. I assume she’s quoting Fox News or some such. Remember, some GOP Texans were quick to say at the beginning of the pandemic that old people should just take one for the team and die already.
“Utah County currently has a vaccination rate of 37% thanks to the prevailing ultra conservative political bent here.”
This low number is inexcusable, and in the beating heart of Mormonism. I grew up believing that Latter-day Saints were the kind of people who could be counted on to do the right thing, even when no one else would. This statistic tells a different story.
I wonder if there will be a significant uptick to Utah County’s vaccination rate in the next few days as a result of the FP letter. Whether it changes or not, this statistic might indicate to what extent the words of the prophet still hold sway among members. In the early 1980s Pres Kimball released an open letter containing a strongly-worded opposition to a proposed MX missile complex in Utah. Almost overnight, public opinion of the project completely reversed, indicative of the influence the prophet had across the state. I’m not sure the current Church President has that kind of broad influence, but it doesn’t seem like he is trying very hard either.
Where I live in CA, we’ve gone from social distancing, masking and no singing to only the unvaccinated need to wear masks—no social distancing etc. About a month ago our SP sent an email saying children needed to wear masks because they fall into the category of unvaccinated. But, very few children or adults wore masks.
This past weekend we had Stk Conf. The SP sent an email with a link to the FP statement regarding masking and vaccinations. and stated “We are asking that all that attend to please wear a mask.”
The YW ( about 25/in number) sat in the choir seats and sang a musical number—maskless.
Hymns were sung and according to someone that attended in person (I used Zoom) most/all wore a mask during the singing.
No mention of the FP statement during the Conference.
Our area is seeing spikes in Covid cases and hospitalizations that are as high as the numbers were last year at this time and going into winter. The problem now is that there is no state or county mask mandate put into place like there was last year at this time. Very few people are wearing masks in grocery stores. (We’ll see what happens after the recall election of our Governor).
No doubt those who choose to not get the vaccine are also choosing not to wear masks—including some of our fellow ward members in leadership positions. I don’t understand why we aren’t back to social distancing and mask mandates at church.
We’re just screwing up another school year for the youth because we ( some) never learn.
The only way I can see anti-maskers and anti-vaxers changing is if hospitalizations and deaths dramatically increase among the young.
I hope we don’t have to get to that point. I hope I am wrong.
Elisa: Here’s the link to the Prop 8 letter read from the pulpit in June 2008. https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/california-and-same-sex-marriage
From the letter: “The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.
A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”
Families were then called in by their bishops and asked to donate to the campaign. I know several people who donated thousands of dollars. One newspaper article featured a man who donated his entire retirement. Honestly—it was sickening. I don’t see anything close to that level of intensity with the church’s covid response.
In my ward people routinely bore testimonies and gave talks stating that anyone who didn’t follow the prophet on prop 8 was risking their eternal salvation. Many of these same people are fervent anti-vaxxers and/or think covid is a big joke.
Here’s the follow-up letter from October 2008: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-readies-members-on-proposition-8
From the letter: “At the request of the Protect Marriage Coalition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making arrangements for them to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage.“
@Ivy, sending unmasked people home has nothing to do with obedience. It has to do with the safety of the congregation.
Organizations get to set safety standards for their premises, and they get to kick people out of the building if people don’t follow those standards. No one is saying unmasked people should be sent out because they didn’t follow the prophet.
“If we are going to send everyone home who doesn’t
perfectly follow the prophet in some regardpractice generally accepted evidence based public health measures, we should lock the door and not let anyone in at allunderstand when folk who do strive to abide by such measures are reluctant to attend at all. “
Fixed it for you
I can sympathize with a reluctance to wear a mask after being vaccinated. But the situation changes, and data seems to indicate that vaccinated folk can catch and spread Covid. Particularly the delta variant. children under twelve not eligible for vaccination. And those kids have grandparents, some of whom are immune compromised. So masks are annoying, it’s true, but if we want things to get back to normal I think it’s better to limit spread as much as possible. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the church to require masks during meetings. But they aren’t doing that; at least not where I live. Abiding by such public health measures is now a “personal choice” per my local bishop.
Conservatives be like:
Business denies service to LBGTQ = FREEDOM !
Business denies service to unmasked person = TYRANNY!
Agree the Utah Area Presidency actions and inactions have been baffling, disappointing, and seem counterproductive. I’m frustrated. They have access to excellent advice from state leaders and public health officials and yet seem to choose actions that appear clueless and at times, even callous. I do not get it.
@vajra2 you win.
Our stake has a policy of always providing socially distanced seating for those who want it during sacrament meeting. This was emphasized in a letter from the SP read in sacrament meeting only a few days before the FP letter was sent. There was a significant uptick in masks being worn at church, but still plenty of members did not. Any who did not had plenty of cover from the SP policy.
There is no way to know for sure who is vaccinated, unless they are public about it.
I keep thinking about how Natasha Parker was apparently so dangerous that she wasn’t allowed in a church building for her own excommunication hearing. And yet we are letting potentially deadly super-spreader events to take place in those very buildings because apparently leaders are fine kicking vulnerable women out of buildings but not the unmasked emboldened hordes.
What a joke.
Anybody who loves their fellow man would not force them to take a vaccine that has not been approved by the FDA—the designated wise experts when it comes to this issue.
“There is no way to know for sure who is vaccinated, unless they are public about it.”
And even then not necessarily as a Chicago pharmacist and a CA naturopath have been arrested for falsifying vaccination certificates to people who hadn’t actually been vaccinated and/or selling certificates online and a large supply of contraband certificates were recently intercepted going into New Orleans.
Anyone who doesn’t take responsibility for their own safety by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in the presence of people they don’t know and trust very well is foolhardy.
Masks do not stop viruses. It states that on the packaging. The vaccine is not a traditional vaccine, and is still in its experimental stage. We are the test subjects, but haven’t been given the warnings.
Nice post. I also listened to the Sunstone podcast episode 94: Do you doubt enough?
It was by Stephen Carter and I like a lot of what he has been covering on that podcast the last year or so.
On this he talks about how many people’s primary identity has moved from previously religious identity first and political second, to where political identity is now first – and that is having some interesting ramifications. Some of the same reasons that nuanced members have said over the years are now being adopted by those that are anti-mask/vaccine. Interesting times.
My bishop’s follow up email was almost catering to those that are mask refusers. He made it clear the desire was that all mask, but he really emphasized (in all caps/bold) “nobody will be turned away if they don’t mask up.” Everyone was masked at church and the funny (not-funny) thing was, the only real family of anti-maskers were not at church because they have covid!
As expected, the leftist bloggers and posters here offer a myopic, white, and U.S.-centric view on vaccinations and masking. The FP’s statement is problematic for a number of reasons :
1) Which vaccines are “safe and effective”? Does this include vaccines developed in China, India, and Russia? The AstraZeneca vaccine hasn’t been approved in the U.S., but it is widely used in Europe. Does it count under the FP statement? If the U.S. and UK vaccines count, what about those from other countries? Dave B. assumes that the FP statement is only referring to the U.S.-approved vaccines, but the FP statement doesn’t state hat limitation. The FP statement on the LDS newsroom says that the FP sent it “to Church members around the world”. I guess the Church members in China and Russia should get their respective government’s sketchy vaccines (which per news accounts are ineffective). Do you think the FP themselves would take the vaccines developed in those countries (that is, follow their own advice to members there)?
2) How does the FP know that the vaccines (whether developed in the U.S. or elsewhere) are safe when they’ve only been available and tested for less than a year? It usually takes multiple years of observation and testing to declare a medical treatment safe. And if these vaccines are so effective, then why are heavily vaccinated populations in the U.K. and Israel having massive Covid-19 outbreaks, requiring a 3rd shot booster, and now the U.S. is also considering a 3rd shot? Will we be considering a 4th and 5th shot next year, and does that change the calculus of how “safe and effective” these vaccines are? No clinical trials have been performed on receiving more than 2 doses.
3) Which “wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders” should we follow? I’m sure that many on this blog assume the FP is referring to Fauci and the CDC. But there are plenty of medical experts and government leaders in the U.S. who have much different views on how to handle the pandemic than the Biden administration’s. Whom should members follow in Florida or Texas? Their local government leaders or the federal ones? What about in other countries, such as Iceland and Sweden, which are now much more lax with respect to masking, social distancing, and school shut downs? What about Australia and New Zealand where their experts/leaders are at another extreme? On this point, the FP statement is more like a Rorschach test of the political affiliations of the member.
@Jamil, it’s not a Rorschach test. You make fair points about how US-centric it is (was it even sent outside of the US?), and you’re right that a lot of FP statements are deliberately vague, and you may disagree with it, but the statement itself is clear. You really have to go out of your way to manufacture ambiguity.
We got the email in the UK, just saying…
Data show the AZ vaccine slightly less effective than Pfizer against infection from delta variant, but similar protection against severe disease and hospitalisation.
I recieved an email of the FP message. My wife and I have had the Astra Zeneca vaccine which is manufactured and approved in Australia. We are importing the Pfyser and JJ, but supplies are limited so our vaccination rates are in the 20s% fully, but 40s first jab.
Last week our ward was fully masked, whether it was the FP or state mandate. Every second pew has been removed and put on the stage, which makes it easier for the deacons to pass the bread with tongs, and the social distanced water with separate tray for the used cups.
All the congregation wore masks and all the speakers spoke with masks on except a councilor in SP, who got up to announce Stake conference would be delayed because bro Ardern (uncle of the PM of New Zealand) (and area 70) was coming to select a new SP, but NZ was locked down. The councilor gave what sounded like a campaign speech, without his mask. He is from NZ too so may know bro Ardern, and be hopefull.
The previous week there was no church because of a 7 day lockdown because we had 10 cases in the community, and one had visited our building. Those have all been traced, and there are no new cases that are not already in quarintine. We will be wearing masks for a few more days.
We had been open for months before this last outbreak.
I was amazed that a group of 6 men with young families, from my ward, had gone fishing for a week to NT. This is deep sea charter boat fishing 4.15 hours flight away. I doubt the wives will get an equivalent week off without the children. They had to come back early because the NT, locked down. They had not had a case of the virus in the NT before, and have poorly vacinated indigenous people so do not want the virus in the community.
The delta varient is much more of a problem. Not being as far to the right as America we are much more compliant with government requirements, like America 20 or 30 years ago.
Is it really that big of a deal to keep ourselves and others safe from a virulent virus that may kill some of us and seriously effect the life chances of others? Really?
What is going on here to our hearts when we consider this an affront to our rights? It seems the right to inflict illness and possible death on another trumps their right to be safe, at church or anywhere else. How is this trying to be like Jesus, let alone keeping our covenants. I’m just baffled, the church I knew and loved seems to be on self-destruct.
Does this come from a place of love?
I want to know how I can best keep you safe, I consider that my responsibility as a human being, and a covenant saint.
I really do not have issue with those who choose to not get vaccinated (and for the record, I’m fully vaccinated). And I can say that calmly and with a lot of privilege. Here in Irvine CA, 77% of our city’s citizens eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated, 84% have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 95% of those ages 65+ are fully vaccinated. I feel quite comfortable going about in my community.
But. A lot of Church members have confided in me that they are NOT vaccinated. The rule in CA is that the unvaccinated must mask indoors, even after we opened up again on June 15. Yet when I go to church, there are no masks. Again, I’m not overly concerned from a health perspective, given how overall our city is vaccinated and we are a smaller ward that can effectively spread out in the chapel.
What gets to me is that these members are being dishonest. THAT is the temple recommend question they are failing. THAT is the dishonesty that has me questioning my place in a community that values deceit.
In terms of following the Prophet, the natural man in my wants to lash out. I was called the worst names for years because of my stance on Prop 8. Being called a Tare for years and years really takes a toll on a person. I would feel justified in returning the favor now. Yet I find that I just can’t. I’m just so tired from it all. Tired from raising my kids in a pandemic. Tired of not being able to trust people. Tired of thinking what could have been if more people had been vaccinated before the variant took hold here in the US. Tired or people saying I poisoned my kids. Tired of explaining all the changing rules to my little ones all the time. Tired of mourning with those who lost their businesses during the CA lockdown.
Last point: If a Prophet of God is out of his lane in speaking about a global health crisis literally affecting all of God’s children, then I fail really see the point of a prophet at all.
@chadwick completely agree about the dishonesty piece.
The SLTrib MormonLand podcast just released a good episode on this topic named “A Latter-day Saint ICU Physician’s experience battling COVID-19”
As I further contemplate the FP message, one clear point that is being made is the level of risk that they think that is acceptable in our congregations. Mask wearing is way down the list of effective measures to control Covid spread. The FP letter recognizes this by urging masks if social distancing is not possible. For whatever reason, having in person church services continue is a high priority for the leaders. In addition to social distancing the following measures are all far more effective than masks:
– Staying home when you or any family member exhibits any Covid symptoms, including an elevated temperature. (Take your temperature before going to church) Depending on the type of test, a negative Covid test may not be enough to reduce the level of risk if symptoms are present.
– Staying home when contact tracing from a confirmed or suspected case indicates you have been exposed in the past 7-10 days. My wife and 2 daughters did so a few weeks ago when they had been in close contact with someone confirmed to have Covid. Fortunately, no symptoms were seen in our family.
Implied in the FP letter is very likely that on-line meetings should continue for the foreseeable future.
One big issue with distancing in our ward and others nearby, is that the largest schools around here do not have mask or distancing requirements for the kids. So, for 5-30 hours a week the students are around their friends from church in school, but then they are asked to wear a mask for 1 or 2 hours a week at church. Their personal and collective risk reduction from exposure to Covid by wearing a mask at church is effectively zero.
As I was perusing the news, i ran across the Pope’s message regarding vaccination. His message, very different in tone from the FP, really says it well, as if it came from someone that understands what Jesus’ message was. “Being vaccinated… is an act of love,” the 84-year old said. “And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people”. What a wonderful approach to this.
Oso, I like what you said, especially the part about schools. Kids will not be masking in schools here, which makes masking at church pretty much a moot point.
Now I’ll do some admittedly amateur commentary. Take from it what you will.
I think you’re assessment of the relative effectiveness of wearing masks is incomplete or maybe out of date, not suited to the specific characteristics of Covid.
The problem with just monitoring symptoms is that, unlike other recent diseases like SARS and MERS, Covid seems to be substantially contagious prior to symptom onset. Asking people to stay home when sick, while important, is definitely insufficient.
Contact Tracing is also not working great. Multiple times when we were notified of potential exposure last year, by the time we were notified we could already have been contagious several days if we had caught the disease upon exposure.
The good thing about of universal masking, while not one hundred percent effective, is that it reduces spread even when people don’t know they are sick, when they are presymptomatic. Which is why it is an important tool to use for Covid, although it may not be as helpful for others diseases.
On the other hand, honor system masking is apparently no good. When we say “mask if you’re unvaccinated” then pretty much no one wears a mask.
My husband runs a company of about 300 people who work in very close proximity. I mean within a foot of one another’s faces in some cases. They mask — both ordinary mouth and nose masks for everyone and full face masks and ventilation where appropriate. They have very specific protocols about who works and is allowed into the zones of highest personal contact. They test several times week so that people who are asymptomatic can’t inadvertently be spreading. (Don’t even ask what that costs but the answer is less than not being operational.) They contact trace vigilantly. They pay people who are quarantined. Everyone is rigorous about self-reporting in the interest of keeping one another safe. And when vaccines became available the company strongly urged vaccination. They’re presently discussing making vaccination mandatory for those who remain unvaccinated.
Last year they had a minimal number of actual infections. Not sure of the actual number but probably not more than 2 dozen (with 1 hospitalization and 1 long hauler) and, even more impressively and to the point, they did NOT have a single transmission between co-workers. AND they met all their production and deadline goals.
My daughter is an RN in a Covid ICU. She’s not only exposed to the virus day after day, she’s doing the intubating and extubating that represents the most extreme risk. As with my husband’s company, following precise protocols of vaccination and mechanical barriers has kept her and her colleagues safe. …exhausted and sometimes demoralized, but free of Covid infection.
The moral of this story is that though there’s still a tremendous amount we don’t yet understand about this virus and though new variants will pose new challenges, sensible available protocols, vigorous monitoring and high levels of individual responsibility are very, very effective.
Recently a fully vaccinated friend came to visit and wore a mask, thankfully. That evening realized she had lost her sense of taste and smell.Was tested positive for Covid. We are fully vaccinated did not catch it. I think mask wearing helped.
@oso I’ve thought about that too (if my kids are going to school how much incremental risk is at church). My kids are wearing masks to school but it’s not required and most others aren’t. I’m not sending them to church right now because people aren’t masked.
I get that they are probably more likely to get exposed at school than church, but I view in-person school as non-optional and super important to their development and well-being and I just don’t view church that way right now. In addition, (1) our church building is old and small and they are actually quite a bit more distanced at school (even without social distancing in classrooms) than they would be in primary, and (2) church is a completely different set of 200+ people than the same set they have in school every day (we don’t go to schools in our neighborhood).
So I do think there is both a slightly different risk additional to the school risk and also the cost-benefit calculation is different. And I’ll be honest, I’m also just too annoyed at my ward for how it’s handled this to want to be in person right now. So if that’s petty, oh well. I’m not mature enough not to resent people who aren’t considerate enough to wear a mask when requested by the bishop so I would rather just steer clear right now so that I don’t see it happening.
Jack Hughes, it’s been a week since the FP email was sent out. As I stated earlier the vaccination rate in Utah County where BYU and the MTC are was 37%. I just now checked the county board of health’s webpage because I was hoping like you that perhaps the email would change hearts and minds. The new total is 37.6%, so the email made little difference. A friend of mine that I worked with when I was adjunct faculty at BYU told me that because the university has only asked new and returning students to report their vaccine status by next week (school begins on the 30th) over 300 faculty in addition to staff members have sent a petition to the president and board of trustees stating that they want the university to have a strict mask policy that is enforced and would like vaccinations to be part of student compliance to the university’s policies. These poor people have every right to demand this in order to perform their jobs in a safe environment. BYU has 35,000+ students. Imagine the opportunity for the Delta variant to spread like wildfire especially in large classes of 300+ people, one on one teacher student interactions, living in the dorms, sports events and the crowds that are always in the Wilkinson Center (student union building). It’s a disaster waiting to happen unless the university decides now to keep everyone as safe as possible by following both the CDC’s guidelines and the FP’s email. Two of my music students are BYU students and are frankly scared to return to class in a week. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out.
Wow … some very interesting pov on this blog … It seems that us Heretics are a bit under-represented here, hence my 3 centavos …
I, myself, am unvacc’d, and have only worn a mask when a store, that I want to shop at, mandated it.
* regarding the FP message on vaccinations: President Nelson has said, on multiple occasions, that we ALL need to receive our OWN revelations for ourselves, and our families. Did the FP send that ADMONITION (letter) as a result of their own personal opinions (politically motivated, or otherwise), or did the Lord, Himself, pass this on as a Revelation? It reads that we are being urged … NOT commanded, as is apparent by the various responses (from folks on this blog) from Bishoprics & SP’s that have been shared on this thread. FREEDOM OF CHOICE.
* I have seen too many comments, articles, and videos from around the world, from numerous doctors from many countries, that have warned against the current Chinese Virus vaccines, and the dangers thereof … The lack of customary testing that has historically been required before the issuance of vaccines. Hence, I have chosen to take my chances without being vaccinated …
* Masks? MASKS? We don’t need no stinkin’ masks (movie buffs?) … How many times have we heard, in the past year, initially, that masks won’t really do any good, THEN, no, no, wait! Everyone should be wearing them. No, wait! 2 of them (Fauci The Charlatan)! THEN, our country starts shutting down because of the panic caused by the Commies (Liberals) & the Drive By Media. It ends up affecting EVERYTHING in our country: jobs, company closures, schools, relationships … elections … everything. Not to mention, the masks DO indeed affect our ability to actually breathe. And, if you disagree with THAT … well … whats another word for naive …
* And, I would take issue with someone in this string that called into question, Ezra Taft Benson’s past comments to the body of the Church. Ezra Taft Benson was a freakin’ Patriot. He warned us of the EVILS of COMMUNISM. Plain and simple. He embraced freedom & the Red, White & Blue. He wrote books on this. President Benson continually issued a Hue & Cry of the very cancer of Communism (ie. PC WOKE’ness, BLM, Antifa) that is afflicting our country, today: FREEDOM OF CHOICE being a major casualty. Ezra Taft Benson called out evil when & where he saw it. He didn’t equivocate.
** While I believe in following the advice of the President of our Church, and the General Authorities, I also believe in the Direct Line of Communication between myself and God, and hence, personal inspiration & revelation. I am not, nor will I ever be, a mindless follower.