SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a letter Friday night to all its Utah members asking them to wear face coverings in public and in chapels to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The letter, released by the faith's Utah-area presidency reads:
It is the most public pronouncement by the Latter-day Saint church -- the state's dominant faith -- to its membership as face coverings become an increasingly divisive political topic and health and government leaders plead with Utahns to wear them during the pandemic.
Governor Gary Herbert has urged Utahns repeatedly to wear face coverings in public in addition to practicing physical distancing (staying 6-feet from others) and good hand hygiene. He has been reluctant to issue a statewide mandate, but has required them in all state-run facilities (including liquor stores, driver's license offices and on Capitol Hill) and in K-12 schools. He has also allowed Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties as well as the town of Springdale to issue their own mandates.
On Friday, as Utah recorded a new record of 867 COVID-19 cases, the governor warned that a mandate was still possible, as were further restrictions if people did not start adopting them voluntarily and cases continued to rise.
The Church's directive will carry significant weight in the state where a majority of the population are counted as members. The faith was one of the first to suspend regular Sunday worship services as the pandemic began in March and has taken slow steps toward re-opening.
In recent days, Gov. Herbert has pointed toward faith groups as an example of those urging people voluntarily adopt the wearing of face coverings. Businesses have also become increasingly vocal, as have Utah hospitals. But some of those groups have urged a government mandate.