Social distancing isn’t stopping acts of personal Christian charity, LDS women’s leaders say

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities, shows an assembled clinical face mask to the media during a virtual news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Latter-day Saint Charities partnered with University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare to work with experts from various fields to design a simple clinical face mask pattern and source medical-grade material. Project Protect volunteers will sew approximately 5 million clinical face masks.

With weekly worship services suspended, temples closed, and many missionaries called home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be tough for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to meet their religious goals.

How are they supposed to do their ministering, proselytizing, and caring for others’ physical needs while self-isolating at home?

During a session of Brigham Young University’s 2020 all-digital Women’s Conference on Friday, Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham and her first counselor, Sharon Eubank, offered examples of what Latter-day Saint women are doing across the globe during this historic period.

“At first glance, you would think a global pandemic would make ministering harder, but in fact it has simply brought out our creativity in new ways,” Eubank said in the 28-minute video posted on the conference website. Doing “something extraordinary is not going to be stopped by a little social distancing.”

Eubank, who also directs the faith’s humanitarian arm, Latter-day Saint Charities, told of a member in the Pacific area, Ellie Mung, who sewed white Communion cloths for her ministering families to use when they blessed the sacrament at home.

“When we went into COVID-19 lockdown and started to think of doing the sacrament at home,” Eubank quoted Mung as saying. “I thought about how I wanted this to be a special, sacred and reverent time. The next day, I went and bought the best fabric I could afford and made the cloths for my family and ... [our] ministering families.”

A Latter-day Saint stake (regional) president in Beira, Mozambique, organized church members to sew face masks for people to wear outside, especially in crowded marketplaces.

“Most of the people in Beira live below the poverty line and can’t afford a face mask,” Eubank quoted the lay leader as saying. “Through the bishops, we bought and distributed sewing kits to ward members to make an average of 100 masks per family.”

It was a bonding experience for families, she reported. Some worked late into the night to reach the target number, adding that “most were using their hands to sew the masks.”

The stake was able to provide more than 6,000 masks, which it distributed to any who needed them, mostly nonmembers. “All felt a great love for their fellow citizens,” the stake president said, “as they were ministering to those not of our faith.”

In Utah, the women’s Relief Society partnered with several Utah hospitals to get 50,000 volunteers with a goal of sewing 5 million medical-grade face masks for health care workers.

Caring for those in need is part of Latter-day Saint “DNA when we are disciples of Jesus Christ,” Eubank said. “We are always looking to follow his example.”

For her part, Bingham described how missionaries and members — though confined to their apartments and houses — are reaching out to share the gospel.

In a Korean stake, she said, “sisters are inviting their friends to a virtual yoga class every morning.”

The best part, these young women explained to Bingham, “is feeling connected and chatting before and after the yoga practice.”

Bingham encouraged her virtual listeners to take heart.

“At the same time that we are experiencing these major challenges, this is an unprecedented time of great opportunities for personal growth,” she said. “We are being reminded of those things of lasting value on which to focus our energy. We are learning to share the message of the gospel through technology as well as personal connections.”

She went on to say that “in one way, these current circumstances are a blessing, because they are forcing us to prioritize, to simplify, to be intentional, and to be creative,” Bingham said. “It’s a gift — and we are up to receiving it.”