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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking members to wear face masks in public amid rapidly rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the Beehive State.
A letter sent Friday, signed by Elder Craig C. Christensen, Elder Randy D. Funk and Elder Walter F. González, noted the medical community has continually confirmed that wearing a face covering significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 spread.
“Latter-day Saints are not immune,” the letter read.
“We note with appreciation the care exhibited by our members in returning to sacrament meetings wearing face masks,” the letter continued. “Now we ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public."
“Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all,” the presidency emphasized.
This isn’t the first time church leaders have urged members to wear a face mask.
Funk joined with 28 Utah faith community leaders earlier this month in asking Utahns to "love God" and "love thy neighbor" by doing so in a letter read by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at a press conference.
And in an article on the Church’s website under the headline "Mask Your Face, Don't Mask Your Heart," one of the faith's top leaders, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, writes that he prefers the term "physical distancing" rather than "social distancing" to refer to the practice of protecting himself and others during the pandemic, while emphasizing the need for maintaining connections with others.
"More frequent social contact with friends and family helps us to share more of our inner thoughts and hopes. Somehow, these challenging times helped us to be more open about the feelings of our soul. We realized even more clearly how special it is not to hide or mask the feelings of our hearts from those we love most.
"During these special times, (my wife) Harriet and I try to follow our own recommendation: Mask your face, don’t mask your heart."
Hours before Friday's letter from the Utah Area Presidency was sent, Utah health care officials warned the state is headed for disaster if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Hospitals are at risk for reaching peak efficient capacity if nothing changes, experts continued.
In a much-anticipated decision, Herbert announced Thursday he would not be implementing a mask mandate and instead asked Utahns to voluntarily wear the covering. But Herbert cautioned Friday that mandates could still come if voluntary efforts did not work.
“As I said yesterday, if we cannot quickly bring the number of cases down by the voluntary use of masks and physical distancing we will consider stronger measures, including a mask mandate, as Texas and other states have implemented,” Herbert said Friday. “As leaders from our churches, hospitals, and our businesses have reiterated, all we ask is wear a mask.”
"Please join with us now in common purpose for the blessing and benefit of all," the presidency's letter read.
Friday’s letter in full reads:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters:
"We are in the midst of a global pandemic unlike any the world has experienced in more than a century. The effects of this escalating health crisis are being felt everywhere, with incidents of COVID-19 infection rising dramatically especially in the United States, including in Utah. Latter-day Saints are not immune. Just today, more than 800 new infections were reported in our state.
"A growing chorus of medical authorities has confirmed that the simple wearing of a face covering when in public and when social distancing is not possible will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is true both indoors and outdoors.
"We note with appreciation the care exhibited by our members in returning to sacrament meetings wearing face masks. Now we ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public. Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all.
”We are most grateful for all you do to minister to one another and to your neighbors. Please join with us now in common purpose for the blessing and benefit of all."
Elder Craig C. Christensen
Elder Randy D. Funk
Elder Walter F. González
Utah Area Presidency