Wear masks, Latter-day Saint leaders urge Utahns

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) For demonstration purposes, a Utah congregation shows how church attendees could practice appropriate social distancing during a Sunday worship service.

After witnessing an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah amped up their support for masks Friday night by asking all members in the Beehive State “to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public.”

“Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all,” wrote the faith’s Utah Area Presidency. " ... Please join with us now in common purpose for the blessing and benefit of all.”

The three-member presidency, led by general authority Seventy Craig C. Christensen, said a “growing chorus” of medical experts has repeatedly reaffirmed that wearing a mask in public — and when social distancing is not possible — “will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

“This is true,” they added, “both indoors and outdoors.”

The leaders also thanked those Latter-day Saints who have donned masks when returning to worship services.

Friday’s letter stopped short of calling on government officials to require that Utahns put on face coverings in public — a plea that many health care authorities have invoked.

But last month, Christensen’s first counselor, Randy D. Funk, joined other clergy in signing an interfaith letter encouraging Utahns to wear masks when out and about.

Jesus commanded his followers “to love one’s neighbor as oneself,” the letter stated, and “one cannot claim to love one’s neighbor while deliberately putting them at risk.”

In a July 9 article on the church’s website, apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf and his wife voiced support for masks and distancing as well.

“Harriet and I are confident that physical distancing helps us to protect ourselves and others from the dangers of the pandemic,” he wrote, “and we try to comply as best as we can.”

Uchtdorf also urged members to continue to reach out, especially via technology, to help family, friends and others during the pandemic.

“During these special times,” he said, “Harriet and I try to follow our own recommendation: Mask your face, don’t mask your heart.”

And church President Russell M. Nelson, a former renowned heart surgeon, has enthusiastically backed volunteer efforts by members to supply masks for health care professionals and others.