Latter-day Saint leaders make ‘temporary’ changes to meetings, but mask debate still divides Utah worshippers

Latter-day Saint leaders make ‘temporary’ changes to meetings, but mask debate still divides Utah worshippers

Latter-day Saint leaders make ‘temporary’ changes to meetings, but mask debate still divides Utah worshippers
(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) For demonstration purposes, a Utah congregation shows how family members could receive the sacrament tray while holding their face masks. The priesthood holder would follow COVID-19-recommended public guidelines by wearing a face mask and distributing the sacrament tray to each church member.

120By Peggy Fletcher Stack · Published: 2 days ago
Updated: 1 day ago

As cases of COVID-19 continue to explode, Utah’s top Latter-day Saint officials are asking congregational leaders to make “temporary” changes to their services.

In a letter Thursday to bishops and other lay leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Beehive State, Area President Craig C. Christensen and his counselors asked them to discontinue some in-person gatherings — including “second-hour services” (priesthood meeting for men, Relief Society for women, Sunday school for all adults) and weekday youth activities that don’t have a religious purpose — and to limit attendance at baptisms, funerals and weddings to “immediate family members and those who officiate.”

The letter urged these leaders “to be vigilant in maintaining well-known safety measures” such as heeding social distancing, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.

While many, if not most, Latter-day Saint wards (congregations) are requiring masks for attendees— and also livestreaming sacrament meetings — the letter stops short of mandating them. That has opened the door for heated debates between pro-maskers and anti-maskers, sometimes splitting wards, neighborhoods and whole towns. It has become a fraught religious and political battle with critics on every side.

Masks and meetings

Eric Huntsman, who teaches religion at Brigham Young University, sees no problem with wearing a mask to church.

“My family wants to be careful to protect ourselves and others, but we value worshipping with our friends and neighbors,” Huntsman said. “By wearing masks, socially distancing,

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