Jana Riess: Latter-day Saint kids can’t wear Halloween masks to the trunk-or-treat event — or can they?

The church’s ban on face coverings at activities has quietly disappeared from the official handbook, at least for now. Bring on those Chewbacca costumes!

(Chris Pizzello, AP Photo) It appears that masks, like this one of Darth Vader, may now be worn at Halloween events at Latter-day Saint churches.

It’s long been a policy of The Church of Jesus Christ that masks — not the COVID-19 kind — could not be worn at ward and stake activities. For many years, masks were on the naughty list in the handbook’s section 20.6.25, right up there with debutante balls (oh, the horror) and exercise programs that seemed to give a pass to immodest dress or too-twerky song lyrics.

Check out what the handbook looked like as recently as June 11, 2021.

Former handbook policy

However, one of my readers has noticed that the church’s anti-mask policy is now gone.

Dan Miller, a freelance writer who founded the credit card rewards site Points With a Crew, pointed out that the policy seems to have vanished when the General Handbook was updated in July.

He’s right! Here is what it said as of Sept. 27. Section 20.6.5 is no more, but Section 20.5.11 is a slightly abbreviated version of it.

Current handbook policy.

So . . . that ban is gone, like a Halloween ghost. Poof!

At least, it’s gone for the moment. The word “mask” does not appear anywhere in the handbook as of today. But The church has been rolling out changes to the handbook incrementally, and I wonder if this particular loophole will last.

If I had to speculate, I would imagine that the church removed the ban on Halloween or party masks in these pandemic times because some members were using the policy as an excuse not to wear face masks to protect their fellow members from COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, a segment of the Latter-day Saint population has refused to wear masks in the name of “freedom,” even as church President M. Nelson, apostle Dale G. Renlund and other leaders have made a point of wearing masks and actively encouraged members to do the same.

So there’s been a lot of tension, with masks as a focal point.

And continuing on with my speculations, I would guess that as soon as the pandemic is over and the church is no longer actively encouraging people to wear masks, this particular prohibition will quietly reappear in the handbook and Halloween trunk-or-treaters will need to be maskless once again.

But until then, people . . . go for it! Bring on those Chewbacca costumes and kitty whiskers (Let’s keep it non-scary, though. Even just browsing through the masked costume options at Spirit Halloween frightened the bejesus out of me. Chucky and Pennywise, really? For kids?)

The only potential problem I see is that Halloween masks could interfere with what is for Latter-day Saints the obvious point of the holiday: the rapid and excessive consumption of sugar. We are all about sugar.

Let’s have some fun with this. And while we’re at it, notice what else is gone from the old policy . . . debutante balls and coming-out parties. Oh, the parties we could have in the five minutes remaining before they change it all back!

Happy Halloween, everybody.