ST. GEORGE — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that masks will be required within its temples in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The First Presidency – the church president and his counselors who make up the top leadership of the church – issued a statement saying masks will be required for temple workers and visitors. The measure is considered temporary and will be rescinded as conditions permit, the letter states.
“As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open,” church leaders said in the statement. “Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple.”
The church initially closed its temples worldwide in March 2020 with the onset of the pandemic and has been in the process of reopening them to various degrees of operation since.
The call to wear masks at the temples follows the First Presidency’s urging church members to be vaccinated again COVID-19.
Reception to the calls for vaccination have been mixed over social media. While many expressed gratitude for the church’s stance, others reiterated their own views against getting vaccinated. Others still said they felt church leaders were following the will of man over the will of God and that those that went along with it were “blind sheep.”
In general, the church has a history of supporting vaccination.
“Our urging Church members to be vaccinated and to protect themselves and others from the spread of disease has precedent,” Wednesday’s letter states. “Prior First Presidencies shared similar messages in 1900 about smallpox and in 1957 regarding polio. Please do all you can to protect yourself and others so the work of the Lord on both sides of the veil can move forward.
In Utah, where the church is based, a summer surge of the virus among unvaccinated residents has continued to grow while vaccination rates have slightly increased.
Data from the Utah Health Department showed that in the last 28 days state residents who are unvaccinated are 5.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 and 7.2 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated.
About 64% of Utah residents ages 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, state data shows. Utah reported 25 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state total since the pandemic began to 2,829.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.
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