Obey your leaders and wear a mask?

Photo courtesy of engin akyurt on Unsplash

On Friday, July 10, 2020 the Utah Area Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraged members to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 through the wearing of masks, both indoors and outdoors, and social distancing whenever possible. Elder Craig C. Christensen, and his counselors, Elder Randy D. Funk and Elder Walter F. González, issued this email for members in Utah:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We are in the midst of a global pandemic unlike any the world has experienced in more than a century. The effects of this escalating health crisis are being felt everywhere, with incidents of COVID-19 infection rising dramatically especially in the United States, including in Utah. Latter-day Saints are not immune. Just today, more than 800 new infections were reported in our state.

A growing chorus of medical authorities has confirmed that the simple wearing of a face covering when in public and when social distancing is not possible will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is true both indoors and outdoors.

We note with appreciation the care exhibited by our members in returning to sacrament meetings wearing face masks. Now we ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public. Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all.

We are most grateful for all you do to minister to one another and to your neighbors. Please join with us now in common purpose for the blessing and benefit of all.

Sincerely yours,

Elder Craig C. Christensen

Elder Randy D. Funk

Elder Walter F. González

As a resident of Utah, I am personally grateful for this counsel from these men. However, I have seen quite a scuttlebutt over social media. I’ve seen comments from those who identify themselves as faithful members saying that these church leaders are in apostasy, that because it wasn’t from the First Presidency they could disregard it, that leaders have been deceived, they have their free agency, and a plethora of out-of-context President Benson quotes to justify not wearing a mask or hearkening to the counsel of their leaders. I don’t know how these members will reconcile answering “yes” in their next temple recommend interviews about sustaining their leaders. I know I’ve been there before.

I was chastised and told to obey my leaders. When I advocated for the constitutional right in my country for those of the same sex to marry, I was told to repent and obey my leaders. When I asked for more ecclesiastical authority as a woman, I was told to know my place and obey my leaders. When I questioned financial transparency, I was told to have faith and obey my leaders. When I was outraged over sexual abuse cover-ups, I was told to shut up and obey my leaders.

When I think of the issues facing church members, being asked to wear masks during a global pandemic is a small ask. Thankfully most of my friends who are still faithful members have expressed that they believe wearing a mask is Christ-like and is showing that they love their neighbors.


Risa has a Masters and Bachelors degree in Social Work. She is an Associate Therapist who has worked in child abuse prevention, adoption, and volunteers as a CASA . She is a mother of 4 and in her spare time she is a voracious reader, snarker, and subversive cross-stitcher.

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8 Responses

  1. Melissa Smith says:

    I think some of these people have too much time on their hands and have never experienced a communicable disease that has knocked them out for a few weeks or killed a loved one.

  2. Anna says:

    I just read all the comments on another blog about this subject so, I just read several arguments on both sides. My conclusion from reading some of the arguments for not wearing a mask is that people don’t understand about probability and reducing overall risk, they don’t understand about when disease is contagious, they want absolute protection against the disease or it isn’t worth doing, and they just expect the vulnerable to do all the work of protecting themselves, and they way underestimate the percentage who are “vulnerable”, and in other ways try to justify not wearing masks. They will push back against being called selfish, but I still hear the selfish nature of their argument.

    I think when there is any disease in a community, it is the job of every member of that community to do all they can to reduce risk to all others in the community. We are a community, not individuals living on separate islands. Forget who is most vulnerable. That is all about percentages anyway. Young healthy people have died from this disease, it is not just about those elderly and with pre-existing conditions. Children have died. The young and healthy can end up with permanent lung damage. And saying if you are vulnerable, then it is your own responsibility to stay home puts an unfair burden on those who are often least able to handle that extra burden. In a community, it is impossible to totally isolate oneself, so that attitude is demanding the vulnerable do the impossible in order to stay alive, while The person with that attitude can’t be bothered to put on a face mask. Yeah, I would say that is pretty selfish.

    And another common argument is that face masks don’t totally prevent transmission. Well, so fine they don’t give you a 100% guarantee you won’t catch it. Do they slow it down enough that maybe I can get in and out of the store without catching it? Do they reduce the probability of spread? By 10%? By 40%? Even if that percent is low, to me that is worth it because anything we can possibly do to help save lives is worth it.

  3. Plato's Cave says:

    According to radio host Kate Dalley, the Area Presidency responded to a request from someone in the Utah State Government and penned the missive. Dalley got that from a communication with someone at church headquarters.

    • Anne says:

      Many of our directions from church leaders came about as a result of a request. Emma Smith and the Word of Wisdom is the most obvious example.

    • Risa says:

      I don’t listen to Kate’s show because she’s been very anti-LGBTQ in the past, but I don’t about she’s got connections at church headquarters.

  4. Caroline says:

    It’s stunning to see how so many people in Utah are rejecting masks as an affront to their personal freedom. I just don’t understand this mentality.

    • Risa says:

      I don’t get it either. People are using the same arguments that were used back when wearing a seat belt became mandatory for the interest of public safety (and the insurance companies were demanding it). Now wearing a seat belt is just a no brainer.

      It’s the same as not smoking in public buildings. We all recognize that second hand smoke is a health risk and that smoking effects more than just the smoker. Yet, I don’t remember public outrage this high about it being banned and cries for personal freedom.

  5. meri says:

    They are using some of the same arguments my college students used when my college and my state politicians first started talking about banning smoking in public buildings. Those students claimed the we were taking away their constitutional rights. A year after laws went into effect, medical professional here (the Midwest) released statistics showing how visits to the ER for heart and ling problems had been drastically reduced. No, the new laws didn’t prevent all of the problems from happening, but a lot more people lived as a result. It is the same thing with masks. Some people will still get the virus, but the instances will be drastically reduced. The Lord expects us to use common sense and do everything possible to take care of our bodies.

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