When Should We Reopen Church?

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Among my ongoing quarantine hobbies is one I’m sure many of you share: obsessively reading articles and listening to podcasts about the pandemic, the public response to stay-at-home orders around the U.S., and debates over what the new normal will look like—and when it will come. I’ve seen lots of well-meaning comments on social media imploring people to observe social distancing strictly for the few weeks it’s being asked of us so we can get back to regular life in time for summer. I wholeheartedly agree that we should all be doing our part by staying home and flattening the curve, but this sense of the timeline is woefully optimistic. Most experts seem to agree that there is no way this will only be a few weeks, and even strict adherence to stay-at-home orders won’t magically hasten the return to anything most Americans would deem normal.

As part of my pandemic research this week, I was listening to an interview with former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He is one of several experts who have recently issued models for how America can transition back into public life while still keeping the coronavirus outbreaks at bay. Most propose doing this gradually in phases (we’re in phase one, strict social distancing), and the general consensus is that we’re looking at a minimum of 12–18 months before having a vaccine (our best bet of eliminating or nearly-eliminating the disease). That means we need a plan scaled for 1–2 years, not several weeks or months.

One thing that struck me during the interview was a question about what the elderly and immunocompromised should do as businesses start to reopen and people begin to congregate again (albeit in a more limited or cautious fashion than pre-pandemic). The answer was basically to the tune of: in the interest of their health and safety, at-risk individuals should continue to self-isolate as best as they can until we have a vaccine or a much more robust testing regime. This, of course, has costs of its own. The loneliness and other mental health tolls of isolation should not be ignored, and their intensity will only be magnified for those advised to stay home as the rest of the country slowly ventures back out. Mental health outcomes are important, pandemic or not, but there are ways to address those very real concerns while still working to mitigate very real physical health risks. We need to keep in mind the big picture of keeping people alive and well and able to fully celebrate when we collectively come out on the other side of this. Balancing this complex matrix of needs in a diverse society is one of the challenges we must face together with compassion and creativity.

This will require sacrifice. Not only will seniors and those with preexisting health conditions have difficult choices to make in the coming months, but so will their loved ones. If I could be an asymptomatic carrier anytime between now and getting the vaccine (again, remember, at least a year out), this could affect my decision-making well into the fall and the holiday season. Can I really feel good about visiting my family in another state during Thanksgiving or Christmas knowing that some of them are older, have respiratory issues, or simply live in a lower-risk transmission area than I do? When can we safely get together again?

As I began to take in the difficult truth that life will be deeply altered for the remainder of 2020, my mind was drawn to church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on March 12 that all in-person church activities worldwide would be suspended until further notice. I think this was absolutely the right call, and I’m glad the Church made it swiftly and decisively so that there wouldn’t be a question as to whether you “should” still be holding church services in the absence of official shelter-in-place orders. This forestalled any local leaders from playing the spiritual hero and persisting in holding meetings against the advice of public health officials. And given some American members’ reluctance to trust or submit to government-issued mandates, it’s important that the Church itself made this decision (and in advance of state shutdowns), giving people on the fence about the severity of the public health crisis tacit permission to take it seriously, at least when it comes to our worship gatherings.

But when should we reopen church?

I don’t know what kinds of conversations are happening at LDS Church HQ, but I can only imagine there is or has been at least some version of the “let’s-observe-this-strictly-for-now-so-we-can-get-back-to-normal-life-ASAP” sentiment I described earlier floating around. My suspicion is in part fueled by the wording of the April 10 fast purpose, “that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.” This doesn’t indicate on what timeline any of these things will happen, but the mention of the economy and “normalized” life suggests to me a desire for sooner-rather-than-later—one we all share, though it appears to be increasingly unrealistic and inconsistent with present recommendations for saving as many lives as possible.

Here’s where I’m going with all this: I’m worried that the Church will resume worship services sometime this spring/summer as the U.S. comes out of strict social distancing, and many devout members will not feel comfortable electing to stay home for months at a time, even as their health would be put in jeopardy by attending church. 

My mom is in this category. She’s in her 60s and a cancer survivor, and so far she has taken quarantine extremely seriously. (Thanks, Mom!) But she also has deep faith in the gospel and confidence in the Church as an institution, so I can understand why she might want to go back to church as soon as meetings recommence, even if she continues to stay home, get groceries delivered, and largely avoid public spaces as a precaution for the full duration of the pandemic. Over the weekend, I spoke with a friend who has similar concerns about her own mother, also in her 60s and with diabetes. My friend is almost certain her mom will resume church attendance at the first opportunity, no matter the health risk, and this is a point of serious concern for my friend. (This, I’ll point out, is yet another way the pandemic has altered our patterns and ways of being and relating in the world. For all the years our parents spent hand-wringing about us, we’re now the ones losing sleep over them.)

I have to wonder, given the persisting stigma in the Mormon community around being “inactive,” is it even ethical to reopen church until we have a vaccine, thereby forcing people to choose between health/safety and their commitment to maintaining high church activity? Is there any chance the First Presidency would issue strong guidelines officially excusing the elderly and immunocompromised from attendance for as long as needed? Will we have robust virtual ministering in place to help people who have to—or choose to—stay home so they feel the vital support of their community during the difficult times ahead? Or will people like my friend’s mother strongly feel that they can or should flock back to church as soon as possible, possibly undoing all the work we’ve done thus far during strict social distancing? 

I am worried about this. I’m having a hard time picturing the Church canceling in-person meetings for a full year or more, but that’s what it might take for a sizable part of the membership to be safe (and spared from making difficult personal decisions about their church attendance up and against their health). I know I’m not the only one concerned that church meetinghouses will be the most likely transmission zone for my parent/older loved one who is otherwise observing all physical distancing recommendations. We should be talking about this and making a realistic plan for our foray into the new normal. Because it will be new—not something we perfectly recognize from before. And, for religious communities, part of that newness will likely require a much more capacious vision of how we worship, minister, and spend our Sundays to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Cover photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Thank you for making these important points. Relatedly, the fact that many of us have callings puts pressure on many to attend church when mildly ill even under normal circumstances so that classes can run. Our “staffing model” may need to be rethought in the event that wards do reopen so that no one feels pressured to attend—or to account for a scenario when many of the people needed to run the ward decide that they will not attend until there is a vaccine.

  2. Wondering says:

    Thanks for the thoughts.
    I was surprised to see this: “all in-person church activities worldwide would be suspended” when the announcement was as to public gatherings and the recent instructions on ordinances and ordinations require omission or in-person activities.
    A detail: In contemplating resumption of church services, I’ve wondered about a realistic plan for disinfecting all those keys and controls on organ consoles between use by different organists, quite a number of whom are in higher risk categories. I wonder if I’ll be willing to play at all.

  3. Sacrament meeting has such a high potential to be a disastrous “super spreader” event that I agree, I don’t see how meetings can resume in the next year safely. I would be surprised given the realities we are facing if the church resumed meetings this summer.

  4. greendavis2016 says:

    One big clue I’ve gotten about the institutional church’s response is that they’ve cancelled FSY and all church properties have cancelled youth camps. Church is not opening this summer.

    My best bet is that we’ll begin meetings again when school starts again, because that is when we’re generally agreeing to large group gatherings as a community. Here in California there is already discussion about altering school this fall with staggered start times and smaller class sizes. I believe that public policy approach will effect church policy. I could easily see sacrament meeting only, split by alphabetical order to keep numbers smaller and staggered throughout the day. In general, the institutional church has kept pace with California public policy, which has been mostly early and decisive.

  5. I have been wondering as well. I worry about my parents in their late 70s with diabetes and asthma, who travelled and rolled their eyes at me discouraging it until their Republican governor took it seriously. (Note I’m in medical research my my husband an MD, but they trusted others more). I insisted they fully quarantine for 14 days after their return but they went crazy. Church is the social activity, a lifeline, a solace. They will not stay away without direction.

    I have been discussing potential fall scenarios with my kids’ small private school. They have flexibility I am not sure church has. For one the top down approach that has dominated has made innovation scary culturally, even if it is a non-ordinance related activity.

    Even with sacrament meeting alone, how do you safely administer sacrament? Removing masks, or fiddling to tuck under bread or water? No deacon distribution? Can 14 yr olds be trusted to follow infection control procedures or must adults? Do we get rid of communal passing? The recent 1st presidency guidance loosened some practice but doubled down on in person blessing and priesthood administration.

    And I wonder about who returns. My husband is a physician who is at high risk of exposure, but rarely feels sick? Should he not return to fill his calling? I have to admit our family is getting used to being home. I feel like I enjoy the time to dig into doctrine like the atonement rather than rehashing old talks (although I have found some gems and depth I wasn’t expecting there). A friend that serves in his stake leadership confided that he gets why so many people like Sunday now that running a church has shifted from logistics to something else. So will there be those that feel they haven’t lost, but gained and not return as often? Do we run the risk of attrition that makes the church more orthodox?

    Maybe the church can offer more structure virtually for those that want it. I am happy otherwise but it would help my parents.

  6. They should know better, but our stake is still actively planning on youth conference in early June. In fact, this past week they asked for permission and medical forms.

  7. My parents, in their 70s & 80s, are also among the devout who can’t wait for churches and temples to open again. My mother has said several times, “The righteous need not fear!.” I also tell her the righteous need not be spreaders, either, but she laughs that off. This idea people like my mother have, that either God will protect them, or they will die with honor, because they put the church first, is very scary to me.

  8. It will also require an overhaul of temple endowment mechanics. Long overdue, in my opinion.

  9. kamschron says:

    Early in March, before gatherings at church was suspended, the leaders of our ward talked about how to my wife and other high-risk members to be safe. When we were asked what we wanted to do, we discussed it at home and decided that nobody in our household ought to attend church for the time being. We were a week early in starting to stay home. Depending on when church meetings are resumed, there’s a chance that we will be many weeks late in starting to go back.

  10. I don’t know the answer to this. I do agree that we should do everything we can to make sure people who are at-risk do not feel pressured to attend (such as releasing from callings), and everything we can to improve hygiene and make church relatively safer. Is also agree that church probably should not resume until the fall.

    At some point, though, once we’ve “flattened the curve” and the public health risk of an overwhelmed medical system has passed, I think high-risk people ultimately have to take responsibility for their own health. Of course we should help them do that—offer time do their shopping for them, not visit them in person if we haven’t ramped up testing to the point where we could definitively confirm we are not carriers before visiting, etc. But I am increasingly concerned about people who suggest that the government or other institutions need to keep things shut down for 12-18 months. The goal was flatten the curve / slow the spread, not eradicate the disease / make sure no one gets this ever. Trying to obtain the latter will have enormous negative economic, emotional, psychological, and physical consequences.

    I don’t mean to sound callous and again want to emphasize that we should be willing to help people who choose to stay isolated isolated. And that the church and other institutions (like employers) should be looking at ways to make their spaces safer, even if it means making some modifications. But ultimately people choose to take health risks all of the time and at some point we can’t and shouldn’t control the environment to such a degree that in our aims to prevent anyone from making a risky choice by eliminating anywhere for them to go we ruin the quality of life for everyone.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you for this excellent post, Richelle. I feel a little silly that I only started to think about this issue yesterday as I read the four letters the Church released. I don’t need to worry about my mother, who lives with my sister, has some dementia and doesn’t leave the house. And it didn’t previously even occur to me that I might need to take precautions myself. I think of myself as a healthy, virile man: I’m 6’5”, 225, I work out, I’m not immunocompromised and don’t have serious underlying health conditions. But when I look in the mirror and see the hearing aids and notice my poor vision from recent glaucoma surgery, I’m forced to accept the fact that I’m over 60 and therefore in an at risk category. And the thought finally occurred to me that if church services reopen on a business as usual basis (hereafter “BAU”), I won’t be going back until I can get a vaccine.

    What non-BAU adjustments could my ward make that would make me feel safe enough to return? Basically, they would have to think through the entire Sunday experience from stem to stern and make adjustments. Take just one example: entering the building. To open the door you have to grab a metal door handle. Our building has four doors or sets of doors, but given the configuration of our parking lot most people use two specific doors. With average sacrament meeting attendance approaching 150, someone who arrives shortly before sacrament and grabs that metal door handle is in effect shaking about 60 other people’s hands just by that one action. To me that’s an unacceptable risk that needs mitigation. In summer months maybe we prop the outside doors open. Maybe we place a disinfectant stand by the door so each user can wipe it down. But we can’t just ignore stuff like that.

    We would have to totally reconfigure sacrament meeting. I’m thinking make it more like stake conference: open the back divider and have seating going back into the gym. Pews would have to be marked in a way such that only every third pew could be used, and only family groups who already live together could sit side by side without a 6’ separation, stuff like that. And as mentioned, the sacrament practice would need to be totally reengineered.

    And I’m not sure how we could possibly keep the second hour. There are too many separate groups to be able to properly social distance. Either they temporarily cut that hour or I would bail.

    Another huge issue is cleaning the Church. The old practice of a schedule for members to come Saturday mornings and half-ass it (the most descriptive term for the result of that “cleanjng”) isn’t going to cut it anymore. The Church may need to go back to professional cleaning.

    And no more shaking hands. Ever.

    This is all just the tip of the iceberg. If they try to reopen on a BAU basis, I’ll be back in two years after I get my vaccine, assuming that even happens. Reopening physical church is not going to be easy.

  12. The more I learn of this disease, the more I think all age-ranges are at-risk even if some more so. That is to say, my family will probably not feel comfortable participating in physical church until there is a vaccine. To be honest, I felt that church hygiene was insufficient even before this. My kids kept getting sick. For those who can use a computer, I think Zoom meetings are a possible way forward.

  13. Thank you for posting your thoughts about some of the same things I have been pondering. I also really appreciate the insightful comments that have been made. My personal testimony is that the Lord is at the head of His Church, and the decisions that come down through the Prophet and First Presidency will be in accordance with His direction. In the next breath, I add that this is a worldwide church and possible future decisions may be to bless the majority of the members, but that personal revelation guiding one’s own choices within those decisions is going to be vital. (In his opening message at the beginning of General Conference a couple weeks ago, President Nelson said, “I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation. Doing so will help you know how to move ahead with your life, what to do during times of crisis…”) I am totally willing to have “church at home” indefinitely if that is what I feel the Lord is prompting me to do, no matter what the future guidelines might be. Yes, I miss the face-to-face association with my fellow church members, and I miss even more the personal visits with my own family! But if I pray for the Lord’s protection, then I feel that I need to do my part by hearkening and heeding what He prompts me to do. I have been taking the quarantine extremely seriously because the Lord strongly impressed upon me to do so. (Love, Richelle’s mom)

  14. Excellent post and comments.

    Let’s assume for a moment that some form of BAU does return this fall and that 50 E. North Temple shows some flexibility with regard to many of the potential issues involved rather than trying to enforce a more orthodox approach (see: Europe, post-World War II). Unlikely? Perhaps, but go with me on this. Even then, many–like Kevin–may choose to limit their participation in the absence of a vaccine, especially since there will likely be a spike in cases once groups start to meet in larger numbers. How, then, will the Church deal with the issue of temple recommends…particularly the question of church attendance? This may seem like a minor issue (and it is), but there are those whose employment and ability to support their families is tied directly to having a current TR (e.g. BYU faculty, Church employees).

    The professionalization of the cleaning of buildings needs to happen immediately, not only for the sake of actual cleanliness, but also because there are enough unemployed members who desperately need income that TPTB could kill two birds with that decision.

    I was disappointed with the official (and really not open to interpretation) language in the letter from the Church regarding in-person ordinances. In the absence of such explicit language, I have been including my mother-in-law (82 years-old) in our sacrament service each week via FaceTime with no qualms at all. Now, however, I am more hesitant (especially since she and my wife saw the announcement and prefer to heed its instructions). I understand the impulse to exert control over ordinances, but this one makes little sense–the sacrament gets blessed from the sacrament table to the RS room via speaker in our building every week…at what distance does the efficacy of the prayer end?

    Of course, then there are the ridiculous thoughts that I have had, like whether we will have to wear a white mask to church and/or the temple, or will blue/print ones be acceptable….

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Aw, Nancy, thank you for this thoughtful contribution to your daughter’s thoughtful post.

  16. This is a sincere question. For those of you who are quite confident in staying away from church and continuing indefinitely at home, may I assume that you may be with family (or someone) and that there is a Priesthood holder to administer the Sacrament for you? What do you suggest then for an older woman living alone for whom the Sacrament i is not available in her particular geographic area? Not only is she supposed to self-isolate indefinitely but she also has no Sacrament indefinitely and just gets to study alone….indefinitely.?

  17. DJ, Some have found room for interpretation Undefined words in the instructions include “preparing”, “same location” and “pass.” In at least one such instance reported to me by a stake council participant, a stake president was pleased to treat breaking a cracker provided in a plastic snack bag as “preparing”, being on the front porch with a closed door between the porch and the recipient who was inside the house as “same location” and setting the cup and broken cracker down to be picked up later by the recipient as “passing.” But some people may not be open to interpretations of their interpretations. :)

  18. CT, The general Q&A allows priesthood holders to administer the sacrament in homes of other ward members who do not have a worthy priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the home — assuming that is in compliance with governmental directives and regulations. Where there are such restrictions, “priesthood holders should not enter homes of Church members to whom they are not related to administer the sacrament.” If not comfortable with that and choosing self-isolation, consider the interpretation I noted above. If that doesn’t cut it for you and relevant priesthood holders, the answer goes on: “During this time, members can be blessed by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.”
    As to studying alone, small study groups have actually been encouraged. In some cases, people can continue to participate in those by video conferencing methods. Unfortunately, in some cases technology or expertise to facilitate that is lacking. Perhaps there are ward members who can help with that remotely. Some who self-isolate will find themselves as isolated as individual members in world locations where there is no local Church organization — not a happy result.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, DJ, I was disappointed by the lack of creativity and flexibility regarding the sacrament in the church letters. We had a recent post here exploring the possibility of blessing the emblems remotely over technology that made a lot of se de to me, but the PTB didn’t see it that way.

  20. JR, thank you for acknowledging my circumstances in such a kind and generous way. I was fortifying myself to endure this for a few months, but the idea of being without church (and interaction) for more than a year is painfully bleak. I have attempted to establish “a small study group” but that is not of interest to anyone. We each must endure this in the best way we can. And the best way seems to be by holding fast to our faith in Jesus Christ. Some hours feel like being on a stormy sea without the Liahona. But thankfully those times pass.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    CT, I’m so sorry for your situation. I am at home with my wife which makes the situation tolerable if not ideal. If I were on my own I might be more willing to accept risks at church just to find a little human interaction…

  22. Kristine says:

    “they will die with honor, because they put the church first, is very scary to me”

    Dying with honor is one thing, but I think there would be few Latter-day Saints who would be comfortable with the idea of _killing_ with honor. Do you really want to infect the pregnant nurse who has to help intubate you? I completely understand being willing to sacrifice your own life; I am honestly surprised that Latter-day Saints’ general sense of communal obligation doesn’t make them more reluctant to endanger others.

  23. @Allison 9:13
    My parents have said similarly. My dad specifically “doesn’t feel bad for those that die from this if they lived a good life. They’ll receive their reward and get to miss the terrible things ahead.” While my parents have generally followed the practical epidemiological recommendations, they do have a middling application of it, especially when they invite other at risk (elderly) members of their ward to their home for dinner.

  24. I’ve come across 3 different quasi-random* sample studies; 2 in the USA and 1 in Germany

    *Far more statistically valid than population wide inferences that are drawn from the the numbers case/mortality rates that have massive sample bias issues.

    In each of those studies, the number of people infected and “over” their infection is 50-80% higher than what the current population numbers would predict.

    So just as you worry that some people want to get back to normal to quickly, many others worry that every sign of good news or early indication that maybe our health care “generals” just escalated to defcon 1, nationalized the economy on war production footing and launched multiple ICBMs in response to multiple world-wide terrorist attacks. Maybe we used our most potent response and weapons possible against a deadly adversary that’s not as dangerous as assumed.

    Politics with both sides lining up against each other c I confounds the possible learning outcomes, as evidenced by a worry that and suggestion of opening when initially promised is now too soon.

    Weeks ago, we had some estimates for how long and things have not gotten worse, but progressed actually better than expected. That does not mean there’s not suffering – but there will always be. We’ve acted aggressively to minimize that.

    Now that by all indications we are at the lower bound of estimates, and it seems there are potentially twice as many mild or asymptomatic individuals out there, the more likely possibility is that were looking again at something like a bad flu in terms of overall mortality, but worse for the marginal acute cases.

    This heresy shouldn’t be uttered though and it’s resisted with the very same defences, snark, or insults that were used to justify the original economic, social, and medical WMDs that were launched.

    Again to make it clear, multiple statistical accounts point to 50-80% more recovered patients with little to no issues. Consider if the original estimates had nearly twice as many cases as estimates? The death toll and ICU overwhelmed predictions would be far higher.

    As is, either the medical, media, and political professionals messed up by a couple orders of magnitude on an issue with devastating, escalating, cascading impact across the world that will cause immeasurable death and violence and suffering (yet to be fully realized); or our multiple fasts and prayers are literally working and thanks be to God.

  25. CT, one woman I know brought the bread and water to her doorstep, and the priesthood bearer stood at a distance and blessed it.

  26. Natalie, thanks for sharing that. The men in my area are expressing such a profound sense of anxiety and angst over just the idea of approaching a non-family member”s doorstep (even with the door closed) that I decided to just let it go. Do I really want to be responsible for “terrorizing “ someone? If it’s really that scary for a Priesthood holder to attempt then why do I want to be a part of that? ( And it is not against the law to do where I live. ) I am also aware that not all men share those feelings but that is my circumstance currently.

  27. I posted this on Facebook, but as all the discussion appears to be here…

    On your point in timelines, I’m coming from the perspective of an area (Western Australia) where, under strict border quarantine, we are looking at accidental elimination within 3-4 weeks. Sure our schools are opening for essential workers, but even post elimination we’ve been told to expect 6 months of closed stores and social distancing and 12-18 before we open regional or state borders, so I assume churches will be somewhere in the 6-12 region. The fast focus to “normalise life” was, to me, a call to expedite our adaption to this new environment, not to go back to the status quo. And I’m already seeing that happen in my family and my ward.
    I’m also acutely aware that even once COVID passes, there will be another epidemic or global disaster (such as war or economic collapse) waiting just around the corner.
    We need to stop pining for the old way of doing things and become much more resilient and independent. Zoom and Zion are only two letters apart, and church may never be the same again.

  28. I was wondering of the likelihood of breaking wards up into assignments, where your household is assigned to come to church one week of the month. Make these subgroups based on the age of the youngest member of the household. Rotate bishopric members to preside over each meeting, that way there’d be a rotation of bishopric members with subgroups. For 2nd hour, if you were the 6 year old primary teacher, now you’re the 3 – 6 year old primary teacher for 3rd Sundays (or something like that).
    The only thing I don’t think that can be pandemic manageable is nursery. But it’s not like we should have families with nursery age children stop attending for noticeably longer than the rest of the congregation.

  29. This is nuts, there’s a 0% chance the church goes against public policy.

    Last time this happened, the Church was dissolved by the government and this was upheld by the Supreme Court til they complied (see the Late CoJCoLDS vs. US).

    Oaks even spoke against the county clerk who refused to issue gay marriage licenses.

    Not going to happen.

  30. Geoff - Aus says:

    No one is mentioning the “liberate states” movement by the political right. How many members are in this group? How will this affect church policy? How will it affect Utah Gov policy?

    If the restrictions are lifted now experts expect it to create a big increase in cases, and deaths in America, and put recovery back months. It will be interesting to see whether the science is proven right, or the ideology?

    We had a fast day on Friday 12th to stop the virus; when there were 15,000 deaths in America, a week later it is 40,000 deaths. Success?

    Can a member fast to stop the virus, then ignore the science, and expect the Lord to help anyway?

    It could be months before things get back to where relaxing restrictions again can be considered?

    My wife and I are in our 70s and will not be going to church or other public gatherings until the virus is well and truly under control.

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  32. Anonymous for this one says:

    I recently caught an entire district of missionaries having a pizza party and close-quarters (8 inches and less) meeting in our church. No amount of yelling got them to stand apart from each other, and bringing in the unit leader didn’t change anything either. Calls and emails to the mission president were answered with “Salt Lake wants them to meet together in person”. Four of those missionaries drove from an hour away, from a county declared by the governor to be a “shelter in place” metro area. We were further told that district meetings and even baptisms (seriously?) were to continue as usual.

    This tells me the church isn’t taking the safety of the missionaries seriously. We still have to do tithing counts and deposits, handle licked envelopes and keep two people in the car to transport the deposit to the bank.

  33. Why are missionaries even still serving at this point?

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Jader, that’s a brilliant idea! When I was trying to map out my thoughts on how to re-engineer church to make it work, I kept running into the problem of too many bodies in too small spaces. Rotating much smaller groups would solve a lot of those logistical problems.

  35. I think jader’s idea is interesting. Here are a couple I have imagined:

    Sacrament service on the hour every Sunday with 1 member of bishopric/presidency or EQ conducting with hymn, prayer, announcements then sacrament passed by AP who is the only person touching tray. Short, maybe 5 minutes, word of encouragement from Priesthood conducting or RS/YW/Primary leader. Members attend by assignment or last name or something. Cancel 2nd hour for now.

    Members sit every third row with household members only.

    AP carry sacrament trays person to person so he is only one touching tray.

    Chex cereal for bread so no breaking needed.

  36. nobody, really says:

    Chet, they aren’t serving. They are Facebooking, playing board games, and asking members to drop off groceries. I suspect the main reason they aren’t being sent home is that it would be a pain to re-rent all those apartments. A secondary reason might be that there is a tremendous social stigma to serving any less than 17 or 23 months.

  37. Mortimer says:

    The bloggernacle has long ranted about the fact that church is a Petri dish for every germ known to man. Zealous sick people come. Zealous parents drag out sick kids. Zealous huge families might leave in less kid at home and bring the other 10 carriers. Wards inside and outside Utah bring together multiple elementary schools, day care centers, nursing homes, work environments, neighborhoods, etc. Church is a major vector, even if we don’t sip from the same communion cup. After all, how could we let God Himself down by not showing up to teach some class, or worse yet, get a sub and admit we weren’t the most special person around, meant to distill our elevated wisdom?

    I’m sure the church won’t start up again until governments lift the stay-at-home order. Whatever they do will be an echo to the “laws of the land”. I just don’t trust the church to apply a self quarantine AFTER the government re-opens, however medically sound or prudent it might be. And, the faithful will pour back as soon as the doors open, whether or not they are an at-risk population, whether or not they really shouldn’t.

  38. As our building rep, I’ve was notified about a week ago the church is sending out Cloroox and Lysol spray products in the *next few months* to disinfect the building. The letter noted they may or may not arrive in time for reopening the buildings. *Everything* is supposed to be sprayed down. The letter said if the chemicals don’t arrive in time for the re-opening, the ward members should provide them.(We are in an area where the Building Reps were canned and I normally have to order cleaning stuff from Staples).

    In addtion buildings are getting 1 or 2 hand sanitizer stations, disinfecting wipes, and disposable gloves, and disposable gloves.

    The expectation is this will be done efficently and thoroughly by the usual Saturday Suspects.

  39. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “The expectation is this will be done efficiently and thoroughly by the usual Saturday Suspects.”

    Thanks, Greg. This made me chuckle (as, I’m sure, you intended!)

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Greg, thanks for sharing that, I saw the same letter but couldn’t recall the details well enough to report them.

    ML, yeah, one of the virtues to just using every third pew is that the trays could be offered directly to each person without the (no longer acceptable) practice of passing the tray down each row. And I love your Chex idea; Rice Chex could be used for those with gluten intolerance.

  41. As a celiac I’ve often used Chex (most kinds are gf)! But you can’t allow touching in a tray – that is the part that is difficult. The server needs to place with tongs in your hand? I think it is worth distilling down the essential function of church.

    (Once my gluten free son packed our alternative sacrament – he was about 6 or 7 – when the deacon brought it over I discovered sweet pickles in our container…)

  42. I’m a 66-year-old cancer survivor and my husband is 73 with immune system issues. Two wards meet in our building. I worry about the pianos (I accompany the choir and the primary), the hand-shaking, the inevitable hugs, the general untidiness, the previous colds we know we caught at church … and on and on. We are temple workers, and I can’t imagine what temple officiating could look like in the Covid-19 era. I think about my mother and grandmother in WW2 Germany. They experienced very limited contact with church members and went for a couple of years without the Sacrament. I can do that too, if necessary. We have so many more resources for gospel study today than we had even ten years ago. I’m grateful for that!

  43. Greg J, guess that info confirms that I won’t be going back for some time. I expect better.

  44. John Mansfield says:

    Did anyone else watch and listen to Parsifal recently and think of it in connection with comments above? (Act III has Parsifal restore the knights’ long absent communion service.)

  45. Even with the recent stock market fluctuations, the church is probably still sitting on 70 billion dollars. They should hire some damn cleaners.

  46. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    As an alternative to the ubiquitous handshaking at church, I suggest adopting the ritual exchange of squirts of hand sanitizer. It would serve most of the same functions as a handshake and help slow the spread of all germs at church.

  47. The letter said if the chemicals don’t arrive in time for the re-opening, the ward members should provide them.

    From where? Our stores shelves have been bare of cleaning supplies for a solid month now. There is no way in hell I would donate one of my coveted containers of clorox wipes. It’s my only line of defense to protect my immunosuppressed child, who, btw, wont be returning to church with that flimsy of a plan.

  48. Aussie Mormon says:

    I think October general conference will be the big test. If it goes ahead with all sessions and a full in-person audience then it can’t be too long until other meetings resume (if allowed by local laws).

  49. While I can appreciate that many members enjoy the fellowship of a formal church meeting, I have felt for many years that too many of us look beyond the mark and equate church attendance with righteousness and worthiness before God. Sadly this has been a grave cultural error; and might I even go so far as to accuse the institution of perpetuating this lie. For example, it is explicitly asked and therefore taught as part of the temple recommend interview. People have been brainwashed to feel compelled to be physically present in all sorts of meetings, regardless of the value of the meeting or the risk to self or others. This attitude must change, and it needs to come from a genuine teaching from the top down. Sitting in a pew is not worship. We need to shed the forms of righteousness and refocus on what matters most. Perhaps that is one silver lining to emerge from this pandemic. Perhaps we can all refocus on real spirituality and not merely the forms.
    Similarly, as much as many people enjoy partaking of the sacrament, and even feel spiritually renewed by it, the sacrament is not a saving ordinance. Even if you never took it again in your life it would not impact your salvation. It is not a requirement for happiness, joy, peace, love, redemption, salvation, or exaltation. If you think it is required then you have fallen into the same trap as the Pharisees and need to be recalibrated to the true gospel. I am not saying people can’t enjoy, appreciate, or long for the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. But put it in perspective. If you need to take the sacrament to feel the spirit then you really aren’t living with the spirit anyway.

  50. Random thoughts:
    1. Missionaries – SLC most definitely does *NOT* want them meeting in person. At least one mission I’m pretty familiar with and tracking closely does nightly remote all-mission calls. The only missionaries meeting in groups are those who are forced to live together and quarantine together (4-6 missionaries living in an apartment). In that mission, they are allowed to leave and shop, but only under close governmental supervision. The mission president has taken to driving to missionaries to pick them up and drive them to a store when it opens to minimize their exposure.

    2. Some foreign missions already employ “sacrament meeting by Skype” to accommodate members who live multiple hours away from the nearest unit. I know that they’ve been doubling down on that in the last week, but I suspect that within a year or 2, there will be widespread support for remote church.

    3. Youth activities – I can’t speak for every stake, but we have a large group of youth and parents planning a trip to a BSA High Adventure base this summer. [This is not a formal stake activity, of course.] Those plans have not yet been canceled. Ward camping trips for YM are “wait and see”. I don’t have a YW in my family, so I don’t know what they are planning, but whatever it is, it’s not been formally canceled yet.

    4. BYU is already exploring contingency plans for a completely on-line Fall 2020.

    5. At least where I live, in a decidedly pro-freedom Red state, there are already members talking about how un-vaccinized members (after a CV vaccine is discovered) shouldn’t be allowed to attend church. I can’t see the church actually mandating that, but “strong encouragement” is probably going to rule the day.

    6. I generally think ministering is suffering during this period. My family’s minister has reached out a couple of times by text, but the Young Men have been completely and utterly silent. I’m not sure it bothers my one child left at home that much, though.

    7. If you restricted people to sitting every third row, it would be impossible to fit our entire ward into our building, even using 2 overflows.

    8. Our teachers and priests were already sanitizing their hands before preparing and blessing the sacrament, so that doesn’t worry me. I wonder if each family could now bring their own bread and water bottle, have it it in someone’s lap, and have the priests bless it from the front of the room.

  51. Regarding missionaries still serving – believe it or not, but there are areas of the world missionaries are still serving as branch presidents, virtual EQ/RS presidents, etc. Those missionaries may not be leaving their apartments, but they’re *busy* keeping branches alive and afloat. The area presidencies in some areas have deemed some missionaries as “essential” and are trying to keep them in country as long as possible.

    Not every location in the church has the luxury of simply removing missionaries from the equation. Plus, missionaries can quarantine as effectively in their apartment in some foreign land (or more effectively) as they can in their parents’ home in the US.

    (We have a missionary out in this situation, and I worried more for his safety attending a non-LDS university in Utah than I do in the field.)

  52. I am pleased with how conservative the leaders were in calling off church to begin with. I live in an area that was hit hard early, and women in relief society were bragging about how not scared they were and a frail, elderly, dearly beloved woman in our ward said it was nothing compared to what the pioneers went through and she was still taking her cross country flight the next day. Some sisters worked in medical fields coming in direct contact with possible cases. I realized that day that I was only as safe as the people in that room were no matter what precautions I personally took and I decided I wasn’t going to bring the kids back the next week, I would just show up second hour to teach Sunday School so that they wouldn’t be short-staffed. Blessedly, by the next Sunday.
    I think in this case, we are very lucky to have a Doctor at the healm of our organization. Our leaders are also very elderly and they and their wives have health problems often shielded from us. I think they are going to be very cautious with beginning church again because it directly affects them and their generation. I don’t see them taking risks with our elderly. They were quick to call the senior missionaries home.
    My heart does break because this is such an unequal situation. So many who need church the most won’t be receiving fellowship, hugs, kind words that they really only get on Sundays. So many people’s needs are going to go under the radar. Our own Bishop was diagnosed with cancer last week and under normal circumstances would be released and a new Bishop called, but that obviously can’t happen right now. He and his wife are also being largely left alone at a very difficult time, when normally our ward would be rallying around them much better. Church has never been something that I enjoyed, but endured for the greater good and service that I can do.

  53. As a mild germaphobe, the last two weeks prior to church closing was spent sitting in the first pew away from all others so I would be the first person to take the sacrament before it got passed anywhere, and then skipping the other Sunday meeting. I just don’t know how soon I can go back, as I’m really super uncomfortable congregating with groups of potentially people, LOL! So will I be marked as unfaithful and inactive? My TR is due next month. If I excuse myself from participation, will it be able to be renewed?

    On another note, one thing about taking the sacrament has really got me stymied: I am an active, believing prayerful member, but I just do not miss taking the sacrament. With so many people saying how important the sacrament is to them, I’m feeling quite a bit shocked at my apathy. I feel like the sacrament is highly symbolic, and I’m able to feel the spirit and receive the blessings by just reading the words, as has been directed. So what gives?

  54. ** addendum: that should read “potentially *infectious* people” above!

  55. Meems, if you renew your recommend now (interviews happen remotely), you won’t have to worry about whether church attendance affects it for 2 more years…

  56. Thinking about how I have seen temples staffed, it’s hard to imagine any sort of return to normalcy until there’s a vaccine. I can think of individual situations and even close-knit families that could arrange matters for a specific occasion, but nothing like regular hours and groups of people. Along with sacrament at home plans already discussed, taking temple practices out of the mix for a year or more is likely to cause deep reflection about what the institutional Church is about. If I had to guess, I would lean toward a rededication rebound effect for many, a stronger commitment to that which might be lost.

  57. Kevin Barney says:

    Upthread I jotted some preliminary thoughts on how to re-engineer church for safety. I’ve been thinking about it more and want to jot my thoughts down here for future reference.

    I. Leadership Meetings. We have Bishopric at 6:30 and Ward Council at 7:30 (in advance of 9:00 Sacrament.) Bishopric in the Bishop’s office could still work, but Ward Council would be too many bodies. We could move to a larger room. Or (preferably) we just continue to do these meetings on zoom, since we’ve gotten used to that and it’s working fine.

    II. Risks Related to Hand Contamination. I see this as covering exterior doors, interior doors, sacrament trays/emblems and handshaking practices. Handshaking is easy, it would be prohibited. We’ll cover sacrament practice separately below..

    A. Probably the easiest solution for external doors is to post hand sanitizing stations inside each entrance point to the building and mandate that people use them. This would require the physical facilities group to.give us five such stations rather than the one or two they are offering.

    B. For internal doors maybe we prop open the doors to the chapel, or post ushers to open and close thickset doors. For bathroom doors, ours are configured in such a way you could actually prop those doors open as well. If that we’re unacceptable, require that everyone using the bathroom wash their hands (which they should do anyway), and if someone were still concerned she could use a paper towel to open the door on exit (you don’t need to touch a door handle to enter.)

    III. Social Distancing in the Chapel. We only use every third pew, and family groups have to leave at least six feet of separation between them. We would have to open the dividers and have overflow seating in the gym. (I like the idea of breaking the ward into smaller groups and rotating Sundays. If we did that we wouldn’t have to use the gym for seating. But the PTB might think that too radical.)

    IV. Sacrament Practice.

    A. All young men involved to wash hands thoroughly under the supervision of a leader.

    B. Deacons and priests to wear food processing gloves (physical Facilities has said they are sending these to us, so this is already contemplated.)

    C. Deacons and priests to wear masks. (They both breathe above the trays, so if someone were asymptomatically shedding virus it would end up all over the emblems.)

    D. No passing trays down the rows. Since we now have pew separation the deacons can now walk down the rows themselves; no one else can touch the trays.

    V. Second Hour. There is no second hour. There are too many classes in too small rooms for that to work. Also, children are used to running wild and being uncontrollable. Think about what second hour looks like; it obviously wouldn’t work. If you’re worried about young men and young women, let them have an activity night during the week when they are the only ones in the building and they can properly social distance. (You simply cannot responsibly ask people to staff a nursery under these circumstances.)

    VI. Cleanjng the Church. Personally, I would be ok with our current cleaning practice if the building were empty during the week, on the theory that any virus shed in the building would die before the next Sunday. But if there is a full slate of activities during the week, then our current practice would be unacceptable. (There are many weeks when I can easily tell no one came for the Saturday morning cleaning. That simply cannot happen anymore.) If we’re going to have a full slate of activities in the building during the week, the current practice would be inadequate. I’m not sure exactly what it would take to goose it up considerably. But the days of walking into a building that hasn’t even been cleaned at all need to end.

  58. Mortimer says:

    I want to amend my previous comment. I was critical of the church, doubting that will make a safe decision independent of the government (especially if the government lifts restrictions prematurely).

    I should have considered that the church brought missionaries home, closed temples and services independent of Utah’s status. So, props to SL and the brethren for doing the right thing. They demonstrated that they can make safe choices and deserve credit for doing so when we make predictions for re-entry.

  59. Mortimer says:

    I want to amend my previous comment. I was critical of the church, doubting that will make a safe decision independent of the government (especially if the government lifts restrictions prematurely).

    I should have considered that the church brought missionaries home, closed temples and services independent of Utah’s status. So, props to SL and the brethren for doing the right thing. They demonstrated that they can make safe choices and deserve credit for doing so when we make predictions for re-entry.

  60. I wish to see the handshakes go away. I’ve been a bit uncomfortable with that anyway. Some of the other ideas proposed, however, make me wonder why we think the world has suddenly changed in a permanent way. Do we allow something that is beginning to appear to have a relatively low mortality rate change how we worship in such a drastic way? I can certainly see taking things a bit slow until we have a vaccine. And I like the idea of holding more meetings via zoom. But I don’t see why we cannot eventually get back to 2 hour Sunday services, sans handshakes and with lots of available hand cleaner and more general awareness of proper hygiene.

  61. Before all of this, I noticed a third to half of the people in our ward were on their phones during meetings. A few might have been listening to the talks and looking up related topics. Heaven forbid they were fact checking and finding out the speaker was not getting the story straight. But the vast majority seemed to be wandering all over the digital wilderness while bored out of their minds.

    What I image happening now is that a sizable group of people are discovering that they really don’t miss church and were not getting much out of it. They are finding better things to do with their time. I suspect church attendance may never return to levels before the pandemic. My spiritually has improved since the local ward house closed.

    I am also worried about public educational institutions. What will happen if the school children miss half a year of school and do as well if not better on all those standard tests? I have worried for years that public schools don’t teach very much, unless parents really stay on top of the education of their children. At the same time the resources to home school are exploding. The high school kids I know have never been busier doing home work without as many distractions, The budding musicians are practicing more and individual sports training is improving. I didn’t realize so many children lived in our neighborhood, it is like when I was young and children actually went outside to play and exercise and interact with each other. Getting drunk, screwing around, loitering, partying and creating chaos are all on the decrease among the teenagers I know. Sadly team sports are in trouble.

    If this pandemic lasts a long time (vaccine doesn’t work well, less than 5% of the population has been infected in the first 3 months, which predicts nearly 20 x 3 months to get high herd immunity, the economy collapses worse than in the 1930’s, etc.-all speculation, I know) fundamental change, both good and bad will happen. We could easily lose many of our older people, including my wife and I. Life is likely going to be much harder in the next few years. Just like the antebellum American South never went back to the past once those cannons started firing at Ft Sumter in 1860.

    But I can also see the hand of the Lord in this calamity and the eventual emergence of improvements. I pray the LDS church doesn’t just hunker down and not look for new opportunities in a different future than most of us imagined. Else we will be swept into obscurity and irrelevance. I believe we are now living through the fulcrum of the history of the 21st century.

  62. Isaac, I am not worried about people who were bored in church all of a sudden discovering that they didn’t like church attendance and leave the church. Every single one of those individuals has always been fully informed about what else they could be doing, and still came to church. There will be some who use this as a cover for not returning, but I suspect the majority of them have been trying to plan an “out” anyway.

  63. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    That might be a bit too harsh, jader3rd. Let’s not assume those who might stop attending were simply waiting for an easy “out”. I do think the current situation will lead many people to consider just what it is they really miss about attending Church (if anything). Is it the talks, the lessons, the socializing, the sacrament, the testimonies? When we go back, why are we going back? Is it to be around those co-religionists we feel comfortable with on Sundays? Is it because we have missed the sacrament? How much will we have missed the sacrament? Enough to need it every week, or maybe we’ve survived just fine for weeks (months?) and less frequency is sufficient. Was my home study enriching and personally uplifting? Maybe I don’t get that level of insight from the second-hour lessons and am fine to do my own studying. Did I miss going to Church? If so, why? Those really will be important questions, and we will each need to answer them in our own way. And if we learn nothing else from this hiatus, it might be that attending worship services for 2 hours each week isn’t the only way to receive spiritual nourishment, or to demonstrate faithfulness. It might actually be one of the weakest paths to accomplishing those things. As Christian Kimball notes, above, a deep reflection about the role of the institutional Church is likely to happen among many members. Salt Lake will surely spend a lot of effort trying to shape that narrative, but we should each be coming up with our own answers, and respecting the answers others come up with for themselves.

  64. Mack, I remember a conversation I had the last year of University. I was talking with a fellow singles ward member, and mentioned church being boring (or something like that). She was kind of shocked that I would say something like that and asked why I attended church if I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I responded because it’s a commandment, so that’s what I do. She made some follow up comments that left me with the impression that she found me to be less righteous than she previously believed because my church attendance wasn’t based on the enjoyment of church, or that I would miss anything if I didn’t attend, and that I must be “doing” church wrong. She may be right.
    But still, this time of church closure will have zero impact on my attending of church. Yes, I started attending church because that’s what my parents were doing, but once I started to learn the gospel on my own, I attended (and will continue to attended once feasible) because I know that that is what God wants me to do.
    I would really be bewildered by anyone who “learns” during this time that they preferred not attending church. Even when church is regularly scheduled, they spend way more hours every week not attending church than attending church. Everyone knows what not attending church is like.

  65. I’m bewildered that you are bewildered (not actually, but I don’t understand why you would be bewildered). It is perfectly rational to expect or assume that some portion of the LDS population will resist going back to regular Sunday meeting attendance once the quarantine is lifted. Let me explain.
    I have no idea what the numbers would be. I will grant the assumption that the vast majority of regular attendees do so out of their own free will, and perhaps enjoyment of the meetings, services, and worship. But, I am also willing to accept that there is a decent percentage of the attendee population that goes merely out of habit, without really even giving it a second thought. They have been conditioned over a lifetime to think, believe, and feel that attending church on Sunday mornings is the only thing to do. They might not hate it, or even think church is boring, but they just do it because… well… because that is what they do.
    While it is true that those people already spent way more hours every other week not attending church than attending church, it was not the Sunday morning hours. This is a crucial difference. Once they get a taste for not waking early, dressing, and hauling the family off to the church, or even taking themselves if single, they might gain a new appreciation for what many people call ‘Second Saturday’. This is completely feasible. I doubt it will happen in droves. But I think it reasonable to assume that a portion of the population will drop off attendance.
    Lastly, once habits are broken they can be difficult to reestablish, or reestablish to the extent they were implemented initially. There is a population which might learn from this experience that they just don’t need weekly attendance or the sacrament. They might learn that after a lifetime of dedicated weekly attendance, thinking that they needed the spiritual uplift, that lo and behold they were actually just fine without it during the quarantine.
    I can’t predict how many will return to the same level of attendance as before, or how many will drop off. Honestly I don’t even care. But I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that some people will conclude after all this that they really didn’t miss church that much after all.

  66. Getting to this one late. Essentially our church was one of the very first (at least of the national/international denominations) to completely close down church buildings. I suspect those who make these decisions know the anxiety many members have about going back too early. And they know many will go back as soon as the brethren open it back up because they are obedient etc. So my prediction is that we will probably the the last church to start back up. First out and last back. Take the stress out of everyone’s decision.

    Plus the home centered push plays well into coming back late. And the first presidency has been very clear in their letters we need to be good global citizens etc. I don’t see them starting up soon.

  67. Can we nix the recommend question about attendance? Mike M – first out and last back – do you think there will be local variations of this?

    Currently WFH and regarding a return to the office, my company is “committed to full transparency and frequent communication of decisions, thought processes and actions…” Meanwhile, in Salt Lake…

  68. The recommend question as it is constitutes an “honor system” question, to some extent. I’m not sure about nixing that question altogether, but revising it to ask about what the member is doing at home for worship, etc. But if you’re talking about just nixing that question permanently, I don’t see that happening. There is and should be a clear delineation between members who are worthy to hold a recommend and those who need to get there. Absent a compelling reason, I don’t think we do people a favor by sending them to the temple unprepared. While church attendance alone doesn’t constitute preparation, I think it’s a fair indicator of commitment (again, absent some compelling reason why the member cannot attend).

  69. nobody, really says:

    For the tithing question during the recommend interview, we know that if a person has no income, they are not required to pay tithing. 10% of nothing is still nothing.

    So now in the revised list, we have “attend your meetings”. All meetings are cancelled (except for the ones that aren’t). So, I’m attending 100% of 0 meetings.

    But, I’m sure somebody is going to decide we need meetings, and they will claim the Lord will protect those in His service, so I may have to decline based on risk to health and life. We know the Church as a whole has no regard for safety, because Trek.

  70. I’m not sure what you mean by “the Church as a whole”because our stake cancelled trek a month ago.

  71. nobody, really says:

    Mike, there’s been water rationing on Trek – I’ve known leaders that tried to enforce an 8 ounces per day limit during a 105 heat index. There have been deaths on Trek. There’s been restricted food on Trek. It seems like each stake tries to out-do every other stake on “authenticity”, and it presents a genuine risk to participants.

  72. Handcart trek reenactments are an excellent example of leadership being so biased by their desire for a favorable outcome, that they discount the risks of an unfavorable one. This is a good parallel to the questions around reopening church and how to do it. Not just because they share some of the down sides (sickness or death), but because the decision makers are the same.

  73. They didn’t follow my plan for trek. As preparation, no bathing for 3 weeks. Some local hoodlums on horseback can chase the pioneer children around. Small whips for the leaders to be used liberally. Let them eat pemmican, (rancid tallow, gristle, and dried berries like maybe chokecherries) Water rationing? Ha. Give them a case of dysentery, that is more authentic. Exlax is not as harsh as cholera or E. coli O157, I could go for that.

    On a serious note, for me going to church has been a life long habit. But I have noticed that my interest in the content of the meetings is far less than years ago, when we were not so dedicated to following the manuals lock-step and watering it down to the 6th grade level and gently redirecting any salty comments. I have the opportunity to attend evangelical meetings and their music is way better and even when I don’t agree with the preaching, it is more engaging and thought-provoking. In some ways it reminds me of long ago.
    .
    A parable. A dog is fed quality steak every day and becomes accustomed to it. Gradually it is replaced with ground chuck and then mixed more and more with sawdust. The dog doesn’t mind that much. Then the dog is left to forage for himself and finds plenty of food. Maybe he would be more inclined to return to the daily ration of steak than sawdust. Maybe not.

    jader3rd: So are you saying that you think the church meetings (not the gospel) are like steak and those who taste sawdust can leave, don’t let the door hit them in the arse? ? Or are you saying you will return to eat sawdust? Or is there any hint that maybe you would prefer steak over sawdust and it might make enough of a difference to draw some people back? Or must we eat sawdust as part of proving worthy of the atonement? Or is it my fault if the so-called steak tastes like sawdust? Enlighten us.

  74. It’s unfortunate there are stakes that conduct trek that way. I guess we’re lucky because our stake does not.

  75. Isaac, church does not need to be the pinnacle of spiritual experiences. Attending church meetings shouldn’t be preventing you from forming a personal relationship with God, nor spending time studying the gospel on your own. There are still a lot of hours on Sundays outside of a two hour block. Your analogy of eating is focused on oneself. When the Lord commanded His saints to meet together oft, I suspect in a lot of the cases it’s not for the optimal benefit of those with a strong testimony, but for those who are without. I really think the church has struck a great balance of how to best help those who needed more out of church with those who were getting sufficient from church with turning the third hour into directed – but adaptable – third hour home study.
    I’m sorry you find church attendance to be sawdust. I hope your attendance can be a steak for another though. Someone who needs your intelligent comments in class. Perhaps someone will feel better with rooms which are more full of bodies. You might even say a kind word to someone and brighten their day. Maybe you’ll just relieve a Primary Secretary from having to find another warm adult body to be the second adult in a primary class. I don’t know.
    If you know of a better way to fulfill the commandment to meet together oft with the saints than to attend your ward/branch meetings, good for you. I do not, so I will be attending.

  76. Gary Clark says:

    I have been thinking about this question for a few weeks now. One of the problems I see with this situation is that we have never quarantined healthy people before. In the past we have protected the sick or unhealthy. I believe this has created an incorrect stigma and generated a large amount of fear around this virus. I see people wearing masks in their cars and while biking. When there is no one around them. People are trying to protect themselves with unfounded practices because of what I believe to be misinterpretations of state, national, or local regulations, and suggestions. Example we are closing schools even though the data is showing children are largely unaffected by this. The Church has to go along with these requirements because we are subject to these government regulations, even though many of them make no sense. I think as reality sets in and the public pressure to reopen we will see the stigma of fear subside. In Utah and other less populated states covid-19 is more like the flu. 60 to 100,000 people die of the flu each year and we don’t sensationalize that. It reminds me of nuclear energy. There is this fearful and unsafe idea of nuclear fallout that surrounds nuclear energy because of government overreaction. This has driven what is the safest, cleaness, most abundant types of energy from the US. The numbers speak for themselves. When we are able to go back to church I think enough fear has been generated in this pandemic that there won’t be any shaming for the elderly and infirm wanting to stay home. I personally will not let fear stop me from living the way I believe I should. My wife and I joke that maybe they they will be staggering church by last name to social distance. A-G week 1, G-M week 2, and so on. I’m just glad I am not the one who has to make these decisions.

  77. kim moore says:

    There are so many comments on here,and it is good to see that the majority of us are still concerned about reopening church.I was hoping they would be able to present some kind of Sunday service online every Sunday with a few members of the quorum speaking from home or a church building,something like that.I have 4 diseases and my husband has stage 4 emphysema.I just barely got called to nursery,before coronavirus.I was thrilled because i love little children,but it would not be safe to start nursery anytime soon,and if they do i would have to mask and glove,which i worry would scare the kids.To the person who remarked about the churches not being cleaned properly even on a general basis,i actually appreciate that point.Even though I am immunocompromised i take great pride in helping clean the church and am often dissapointed in people not caring to clean things thouroughly or the way the way they should be cleaned.When we help clean the church we are doing it for the good of our fellow church family and should be concerned about protecting their health,not just getting to the basketball game.we are only asked to help clean 6 times a year!

  78. Kim Moore says:

    Kim again.I do want to communicate how appreciative I am of all the things that are available on LDS.org.We are blessed to have so many wonderful things to read and watch on there to help keep our spirituality nurtured.This is how i have been “worshipping” on Sunday,by listening to music and the spoken word,watching Book of Mormon videos,reading scriptures,etc.So I do not want to imply that the church does not have resources for us because we are priveledged to have so many.And of course the majority of people helping clean the church do a good job,but a few do need to rethink the purpose of being called to clean “The house of the Lord”.And please do not leave one person alone in the church.Take it upon yourself to be the one to wait while that one person finishes cleaning.Peace and blessings to all.

  79. I’ve discovered I enjoy not going to church. I enjoy not having to do my calling. This a problem be my husband is the Bishop. He has loved not spending 6-8 hours at the church building each Sunday. Members have had to rely on themselves rather than run to the Bishop with every problem. I’m seriously considering staying home not because I have to, but I want to