(When) Are You Going Back?

In a letter dated 19 May 2020, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced “that meetings and activities may be resumed using a phased approach when local government regulations allow and Area Presidencies inform local leaders” (emphasis in the original). This comes as no surprise considering that a number of countries around the world never did impose a full lockdown on their citizenry or are now in the throes of a phased return to some semblance of life before COVID-19, and part of that now seemingly distant past involved things like large indoor gatherings with enthusiastic singing and food and drink passed among hundreds of people.

In Austria at least, the ban on indoor meetings—which included all church services—was lifted on 15 May, so in principle sacrament meetings are now possible from both legal and ecclesiastical perspectives. However, the church in Austria is not yet rushing back to the buildings. Our stake president, who also represents the church to the Austrian government and is responsible for the whole kit and caboodle as far as Vienna is concerned, emphasised in country-wide leadership meetings that for the time being, administering and partaking the sacrament in the buildings should be seen as an option (subject to a host of restrictions) rather than an obligation. The default setting remains home-centered worship.

This strikes me as prudent, speaking as someone who stopped taking the sacrament in January and attending church altogether in late February out of concern that the virus could be transmitted there. In hindsight, however, it does not appear that church was a vector in the spread of COVID-19 as only a single active family tested positive. So it may well be that observing the general guidelines outlined by the church along with implementing local restrictions will be enough to ensure a safe environment in some areas of the world.

Still, the last two months of lockdown have left a mark, and I have no desire to spend time indoors with anybody—not my co-workers, not my community choir, not my ward—as long the numbers of active cases remain steady. I mean, the good news is that Vienna, a city of 2 million, has “only” about 600 active cases, the same as a month ago. But the numbers have been lower, and since 22 April have steadily increased from the lockdown low of 497. The situation is manageable—medical capacities have not been overwhelmed, and the phased return to the new normal has so far not caused any spikes in infections—but the pandemic is obviously not over. When we can go at least a few days in a row with no new infections I will think about rejoining larger groups, but not a day before then.

Besides, I’ve really enjoyed the last two months of Sundays. I’ve had a few labor intensive callings lately, and it’s been nice change of pace to have much of the busywork of a typical Sunday fall by the wayside and be replaced by peace and stillness. I am the only member of the church in my household anyway, so instead of getting up early to leave the rest at home to attend a half day of meetings, I have been getting up early to ride my bike (exercise was one of only four reasons we had been allowed to leave the house) to the top of the hill in the Vienna Woods from which Austria was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. There I would exchange messages with a longtime friend who was likewise out and about, and then I would return home for a leisurely breakfast with family. The stake has been producing and sharing short talks as a resource for home-centered sacrament meetings, which has been great, and we still get a couple of hours of virtual meetings in each week to stay abreast of necessary planning and assistance.

My pew for the past couple of months.

In short, it’s been great. Even during the quarantine, when the tedium of staying home elided many of the distinctions between work, church and home life, to say nothing of the days themselves, lockdown Sundays have been a highlight, and I’d be content to have them remain part of the new normal.

Of course, I realize that your mileage may vary. I’m sure there are many who look forward to a return of fellowship. That day may come sooner than I anticipate, but the restricted gatherings of the foreseeable future are sure to be a disappointment for those eagerly anticipating meetings like those of yore—at least during phase one of the church’s guidelines, sacrament meeting is going to be the sacrament and that’s it. Not that a stripped-down worship service is necessarily a bad thing, but church is not going to be an easy-going social interaction for months to come, perhaps even longer.

At any rate, when will you be ready to return to church? Are you champing at the bit for a return to the olden days, or have you grown accustomed to the home-centered approach? Are there unexpected (dis)advantages of various approaches to Sunday worship that the pandemic has brought to light?

Comments

  1. Pete,
    I would return to fellowship with your good self as soon as is possible. Church? No. But as you know, that’s not just because of C19, pertinent though it is.

    Great photo. LOVELY vineyards.

  2. I really miss teaching Sunday school with the youth, but haven’t missed sacrament meeting at all. Until my calling requires it, I will probably stay home and continue early morning excursions into nature on the Sabbath.

  3. Allison says:

    I am enjoying the stay-at-home Sundays far more than I imagined I would. For me, the past several months of church at home have really allowed me to contemplate what, to me, makes Sunday “the Sabbath.” I used to think it was partaking of the sacrament and simply being with me fellow congregants. My oldest daughter and I are the only ones who attend church in my home – and she goes to a singles ward, I go by myself, anyway, so the past months we have been without the sacrament, which has emphasized to me how much I sanctimony I actually attached to the ritual. I’ve come to realize that for me, while the ritual is nice, actually living what my baptismal covenants mean to me is what matters most where the sacrament I concerned. Deliberately focusing on my family, on putting aside the cares of the week, not worrying about meetings, feeling guilty or frustrated for either missing them or missing out on being with my family at home who chooses not to attend – that’s all been eliminated and I’ve really enjoyed my Sundays so much more. I can see myself attending church maybe once or twice a month now, but my markers – at least the outward markers fellow church member might judge me by- for how I live the gospel are changing (gradually, and over the past several years), and Sunday church attendance will certainly reflect this.

  4. sooner or later says:

    I felt that I had reached something of an uneasy peace about going to church with many people whose political and social values range from politely opposite to mine all the way to repugnant, but seeing how some folks in my ward and stake have responded to the “oppression” of lockdown and promulgated some truly ridiculous conspiracy theories on social media (and then caused bad feelings among others in the ward/stake with their fierce defenses of their opinions), I am in no hurry to be around them again. There are some people I miss seeing regularly in person, but I have been able to keep in contact with my ministering sisters and even help them out in a few ways. Most of them were housebound already, so that is pretty much as normal. I miss my Primary class very much, but I doubt we’re going to have Primary again for even longer than we won’t have Sacrament Meeting. I do not look forward to seeing my little ones and having to tell them not to run up to hug me or sit on my lap. We have had the sacrament at home a few times, administered by the males of my household, but I do not miss taking the sacrament at all and would be fine not having it. I live in a region that has been pretty hard-hit by the virus, but I am in an age and health status group that is not at high risk, so I expect that once in-person meetings start up again, I’ll go back if only so I can report on Sacrament Meeting talks to my ministering sisters, who seem to enjoy that sort of thing. I think it will be a while before that happens, though, as my state has barely started the first tentative steps toward reopening.

  5. RJH, I‘m looking forward to tramping the hills in one part of the world another as soon as feasible. Time to get the fellowship of St. James back together!

    Mark, Allison and sooner or later—thank you for sharing your experiences. The move to truly home-centered services has been clarifying, I think, and I will be surprised if there aren’t lasting repercussions, just as I suspect there will be at the workplace now that many have had a crash course in telecommuting.

  6. Unless the Church comes up with an alternative to a communal sacrament (breaking and passing), and bans congregational singing—both high and not expected to be satisfied hurdles—I will probably wait for a >80% effective vaccine.

    But I am of a class that misses the group but not the form, and am happy to substitute what I find fulfilling, for the sacrament, for example. It seems likely there is a large class of members who take very seriously the several prescriptions and proscriptions about church at home, who feel constrained and not satisfied, who will be anxious to get back.

  7. I agree with the move to push this down to more of a “regional” approach on how soon to hold meetings, because different parts of the world have been affected so differently by the pandemic. This allows for a more nimble response (and if/when there is a resurgence of the virus in the fall/winter, could allow for rapid regional closures and response).

    I am nervously watching to see if an over-zealous area presidency or area-authority 70 tries to push members back into meeting, before they are ready (or before it is prudent). If managed incorrectly, a false choice fallacy could be presented to membership to choose either faith and church attendance OR health (their own or others) through church avoidance.

    At least in the US and Canada, the area authority seventies act as an important administrative layer for stake and ward congregations, and usually are the providers of direction for stake presidents (whereas my previous experience was that Area Presidencies are much more visible/known in different parts of the globe). My perception is that the majority of members have no idea who their AA-70 is, at any given time. Not knowing who is providing your stake president with his marching orders can be unnerving, especially if the marching orders make one nervous about potential exposure to a serious virus.

  8. Benches and exchanging messages. Mountains and peace. I am in no hurry. 2021 would be fine.

  9. HokieKate says:

    My town reopened churches this past Sunday, at 50% capacity. I just don’t see how the people could reasonably fit. I’m worried about singing. The classrooms in our building are tiny. I love my Sunday School kids, but we shouldn’t be in that small of a room with eight people for an hour. My kids miss Primary, but 2/3 of the Primary teachers are elderly with chronic conditions! I really don’t want myself or my family to be the asymptomatic carrier that gets a vulnerable person sick.

  10. I agree with thor– not knowing who is making the decision does make me nervous. I live in an area where the trends do not look good, but there are members of my ward who still insist it’s all a political hoax.
    Will my AA-70 be looking carefully at the numbers and advice of local experts or will he be thinking about how many people he personally knows who have (or have not) gotten sick and his political leanings? I have absolutely no way of knowing.

    Also, yes there are scripture stories about people who displayed great faith, and engaged in prayer or worship at times that put them in danger and were blessed for it. But in all of those situations the conflict between worship and safety came from outside forces hostile to the gospel, not from within. And there are also stories of people who modified their worship in times of danger and were blessed for it. I refuse to let anyone use the story of Daniel to guilt me into attending church during a pandemic.

  11. sooner or later — I hear you. I’ve found peace (and lost it and found it again many times) while trying to figure out how and why I can land so differently on so many political and social and moral issues than many of my fellow congregants, especially when I genuinely assume good intent all around. Then with all of this going on, and I have had many, many moments of “how are these my people — this can’t be my tribe,” while watching the online interactions of many neighbors and Ward members, and genuinely feeling like I will need to do a good deal of work before I’m ready to attend meetings among some of them again, and not seeing exactly how I will reconcile some things.

  12. Hogarth says:

    Like others, I have come to really enjoy the stay-at-home Sabbath. I’ve spent my time reading the Book of Mormon, but now feel enabled to perform free-form research on issues and questions as they come to mind rather than trying to focus on creating a lesson for Sunday School. I’ve spent hours in truly enjoyable scripture study because I want to rather than a sense that I have to.

    I have also found the time to finally scan a number of very old photos in our family collection (many from the mid- to late-1800s). And through some detective work, to identify the individuals and post the first photos of them on Family Search and Ancestry. Bringing my family members to life (so to speak) through a photo has been very fulfilling.

    These Sundays have indeed made me feel like the “Sabbath is a Delight” (as softly compared to the hustle and bustle of church meetings and responsibilities).

    I am also old enough to be in the at-risk category, so I have stringently avoided crowds, and I have not been in a store since mid-March. I will admit to a level of anxiety about returning to our crowded chapel and Sunday School. And this anxiety extends not only to myself becoming sick, but more so to the thought of what if I cause someone to contract the virus because I am asymptomatic.

    Since mid-April infection levels in Utah are generally flat, but they are still averaging around 130 new cases per day, with 8% ending up in the hospital and just over 1% dying. And over half of all cases are in Salt Lake County. Given these facts, it seems as dangerous now as it was a month ago.

    I hope local leaders will be very circumspect about re-opening meetings and will make it clear that members should feel no spiritual compunction to attend if, because of COVID, they are more comfortable avoiding church crowds until we get a better handle on this virus.

  13. truly cannot believe the document doesn’t have any plan beyond cleaning beyond wipe down the doorknobs. It really seems like it would be a good time to have the buildings professionally cleaned.

  14. My concerns: The chapel is too small for our ward to social distance. Classrooms are at capacity and seating is elbow to elbow. If the general authorities won’t sit next to each other in a broadcast, we shouldn’t either. I don’t trust the ward that meets ahead of us to thoroughly clean all the working surfaces throughout the building before we meet as the policy states. We couldn’t keep the building regularly cleaned without the pandemic. I won’t touch a sacrament tray or pass it along the row. Equivalent to shaking hands with all that handled it previously.

  15. Rockwell says:

    I’m extremely concerned about my at-risk elderly relatives who are certain to return to church ASAP in spite of their risk status. They think the whole thing is over blown and are anxious to sing with their friends. Unless the leadership actively encourages them not to attend, they will certainly go, shake hands, and even hug their neighbors.

    As for me, well, covid-19 has little effect on my desire to attend; I don’t attend for myself anyways.

  16. Yeah… I don’t think my family will ever go back tbh. Pre-exisiting health conditions, combined with other special needs is a recipe I refuse to cook up every Sunday. There still isn’t a lot of room for kids who are different at church, but the lasting effects of the pandemic just adds layers of stress on top of an already stressful situation for parents who are tired of being ostracized for their children who are developmentall delayed from their peers. My son _should_ know not to touch his face or to social distance based on age, but these are skills that are still developing. Church isn’t a safe place to practice for many reasons now.

    But no one in my house misses church–at all. The only thing that could make our Quarantine Sundays better, is if our ward would let us fill out surveys for the ministering interviews instead of having phonecalls.

  17. We won’t be returning any time soon. We agonized and finally started sending the kids back to daycare – and we need that to support two full-time jobs. Expanding our circle to include church feels like too much of an unnecessary risk for us but especially for our ward, which has a high proportion of elderly members. We’ll wait for a vaccine.

  18. What I miss most about church is the music. (I happen to currently live in a ward that does music well.) I also believe that it’s the communal experience, especially including congregational singing, that makes church “church”. Social distancing pretty much decimates that communal experience, so what’s the point of gathering? For me personally, I would prefer to just continue with home sacrament until things are safe to open up church for the whole experience, because going back to church with no choir and potentially modified congregational singing will just make me so sad.

  19. Michinita says:

    Home church has been so wonderful for my family. I wish we never had to go back. My husband is the Bishop, and having his help teaching our 4 children about Christ and the Sabbath has been such a gift. Church isn’t great for young mothers. The stress and work of trying to manage children, usually without my husband’s help, through the meeting block left very little space for me to #HearHim. I think I can count the spiritual experiences I’ve at at church in the 13 years I’ve been a mother on one hand. I’ve been edified by every week of home church. I think my children have grown more too. And they get to have a dad! Not to mention the fact that my husband’s other meetings are canceled or shorter, and he doesn’t ever have to spend an hour driving to and from the stake center anymore. I never felt like I could possibly fulfill my calling calling as mother. The expectations are so high and my husband and I were spread so thin. Since all of the other energy suckers have been removed (most of them from the church), I’ve felt so much more capable. And now I’m working from home while managing 4 children’s distance learning!

    My husband will go back as soon as he is directed to. I’ll support him even as I already begin to grind my teeth about it. But I’m not comfortable bringing all of my little ones to spread disease to our congregation full of octogenarians.

  20. DeAnn S says:

    I live in Rochester, Minnesota (home of Mayo Clinic) and three weeks ago there was a house party in mid-April that lead to 17 people getting Covid-19. So I am not too excited about going back to church with crowds of people even if we are distancing. I am the music chair and choir director – I don’t see how it is possible to have any type of choir singing or even congregational singing until Covid-19 is resolved. Our Ward has musical numbers every week (choir, soloists, instrumental, duets/trios etc…) but I’m not sure what kind of music to schedule going forward. Probably musical numbers from piano, organ, violin or cello. I don’t want to use any singers or wind instruments (flutes/clarinets). So I will be performing on my violin quite a bit. I told the Bishop that we shouldn’t have congregational singing for the hymns. I would like to see the organist play the hymns – the congregation can either read the words or we could have someone read the words to the hymn as the organ is playing.

    I won’t go to Sunday School until a vaccine is available – too many people in the room.

    I honestly have loved having Sundays “off” for the past months – even though I am social and love my church family. I have been part of a Gospel Study group for the past 2 years and that has saved my sanity. We have Gospel Study each week and our discussions are wide ranging and we rarely discuss more than a few verses. Everything that Sunday School doesn’t do.

  21. rickpowers says:

    Well, I assume when the AA gives the “all clear” signal, the GA’s will withdraw authorization for home sacrament services. What happens then? Threats of disfellowship to those who continue the practice? Grants to some with “special cases”, but not others? Could be interesting.

  22. Aussie Mormon says:

    Whether home sacrament is authorised within a ward boundary is the Bishop’s decision not SP,AP, or GA.

  23. My husband and I won’t be going back till things are safer – maybe when there’s a vaccine? We’re in our 70s and he has a lung disease. Where we live things are opening up a little but gatherings are limited to 50, and for outdoors, and no sharing of food.

  24. I love Home Church. My family and I have had extremely meaningful, sacred experiences. We have spent extra time singing hymns, and have thought-provoking gospel discussions. To be honest, there’s been much more spiritual testimony bearing in our cozy living room than we ever get sitting on hard benches in an industrial, stale-Cheerio-scented chapel filled with a large group of bored congregants wrestling with exhausted and even-more-bored children.
    Meanwhile, Home Church has been so special worshipping in our living room and partaking of the sacrament that my husband administers.

    One of our adult children who does not feel comfortable attending in a formal church setting has eagerly joined with us weekly. This has been a priceless blessing. Our home has truly felt like a bit of heaven on earth.

    As you may imagine, I’m not in any hurry of “going back” if it means losing any of what we have found as a family. In fact, I dare say I hope we never “go back” to the way things were. A pandemic has offered us an unique opportunity to step back and re-examine the habits and routines of “church life”. Many things have become so ingrained we’ve lost sight of the true purpose of sabbath worship, and the sacred nature of the sacrament. Are we preparing to create a truly “safe home” environment within our chapels for EVERY child of God who would eagerly want to attend when we finally open our doors again? Or will it just be business as usual?

    In conclusion,, since it will not actually be wise nor safe entering a church building in groups for a very long time, our family will stay home worshipping together, and learning how it feels to create a Christ-centered, “heaven on earth”. Perhaps if we all do this long enough inside our homes, the Lord can help us take our church to the next level when we emerge?

  25. I am not looking forward to hours and hours of meetings and duties piled on my husband’s shoulders each week because of his calling. I don’t think that is fair to us. It’s been nice to have him home on Sundays.
    This would be a great time for the church to bring back professional cleaning services instead of member cleaning crews, wouldn’t it?

  26. matt4hire says:

    I don’t see myself going back until there’s a vaccine or this thing’s mutated away.

    I (asthmatic) live with my mom (elderly, asthmatic) in a suburb right next to a major city, and we’ve been socially distancing very responsibly. The building I go to for my branch is right in the heart of downtown, and is rarely (if ever) cleaned properly. My unit’s the only one (out of 4!) that could possibly meet and distance responsibly; the other three that meet in the building are packed to the gills.

    That said, it’s pretty moot here, because we’re a very long way away from being able to even hold church services here.

    I still kinda can’t believe they’re still proscribing that’s units should hold second-hour meetings, though; to me, that’s where the real danger lies.

  27. Geoff - Aus says:

    The government of Queensland Australia where I live, does not yet allow gatherings indoor of more than 10 people, but is beginning to open up. We had 4800 tests yesterday with 1 positive. We have 5 million in our state, have had 6 deaths, and now have 13 active cases with 2 in icu. But we still have no interstate travel, and international travel banned, except locals coming home, and they have to spend 2 weeks in quarintine in a hotel.

    I can’t tell how many tests were carried out in Utah a day, but 130 new cases in a day, and 8 new deaths to make 88, from a population of 3 million?.

    To me the question is what proportion of the population have the virus.

    Would you go to church if there are likely to be at least one virus carrier there?

    Americas known cases is 1 in 210. But of the test conducted 13% were positive. Obviously those tested are more likely to be positive But?

    America is opening up at the height of the virus, choosing the economy, but the cost of this choice will be measured in 10s of thousands of lives. There will be a second wave.

    I will be cautious about going back to church here. I would not be going in America even Utah, where it is likely there will be at least one infected person there, with you, unless you want to be part of the next wave.

    Also to be considered is that 98% of Australians recover 2% die. In America 80% recover 20% die, so your chance of recovery is one tenth mine, if you catch the virus.

  28. The Dude says:

    To tell you the truth, I’d be fine doing church at home indefinitely. Maybe forever.

  29. I’m not chomping at the bit to re-attend church, but will be once allowed. It’s not like I particularly enjoy church, but the Lord certainly wants me to attend, so I will. I might be able to study the gospel really well by myself, but for those who don’t, I suspect having others at church helps; so I will be those others.
    My family was already doing church at home with Come, Follow Me. When quarantine started all that happened was tacking on one song and the sacrament to Come, Follow Me. So going back to church isn’t going to diminish any of the learning or growing that I can do at home.

  30. east of the mississippi says:

    I’d be good home churching forever… and communal sacrament at this time? Noooo thank you.

  31. Franklin says:

    I have spent many years working in Mormon studies, so going to church has often been a painful experience. I love the interaction with certain ward members, but I often find myself having to bite my tongue in Sunday School or priesthood lessons. I just understand LDS history, theology, scripture, and culture so differently than the people I attend church with that it’s almost like we’re in different worlds. So not going to church has in some ways been a stress reliever for me. If the authorities over my area decide it’s time to open the doors again, I don’t know how I will feel. I am over 60, so there’s that factor, but I am also in good shape physically. Still, with this virus as unpredictable as it is, I should probably take precautions. And I’m sure I have neighbors who wouldn’t be caught dead in a mask, which they likely see as a sign of liberal paranoia. I guess I’ll have to cross this bridge when I come to it, but thanks for making me think about it.

  32. Reading all of the comments there is definitely a COMMON CONSENT that we do NOT want to go back any time soon (if ever). I think our leaders should definitely start listening to our frustrations about how church has been going for us in general (and how / why it isn’t working). Not to mention, our valid concerns about the health and safety of returning. Doctors and scientists say we are going to need to wait until 2021, and for those who are higher risk, only when there is a viable proven vaccine. But, this has turned into such a political issue instead of a health issue I am seriously concerned about top leadership washing their hands of it and allowing this to be up to area and regional men who may base their decisions on their political leanings. I am genuinely confused why the leaders have even made this announcement? It isn’t even close to being safe globally to go back inside our chapels. Do they really expect us to be willing to drag our families to the building, sit far apart from each other, wear masks, not sing, try not to touch anything, but then turn around and have to go through the room and building cleaning before we leave?! – And heaven forbid even one person use the bathroom! Or, what if multiple need to use the bathroom, and there isn’t cleaning in-between them? I don’t hear them saying they are going to invest again (as they should) in professional cleaning. So, who gets nominated to take on cleaning the restroom, and monitoring that it was sterilized properly after each person uses it? In my building there are 4 Wards. So, who gets to arrive early morning or late night to do all of this church-going-distancing?
    Why would any of this be motivating to return?
    I’m confused why they feel it’s important to be “prepping” with the idea that we will be going back in the near future at the mercy of a regional authority’s opinion of when it’s “safe”. Perhaps this was meant to inspire “hope”, thinking that we are all eager to go back? But, the reality is that it almost feels like spiritual bullying. Whether intended or not, those who choose to go back will be considered demonstrating their true “faithfulness”, trusting that “the Lord will protect us” if we just “follow the Lord’s anointed”. And those who choose to stay home will be blacklisted as the “less faithful”. I can just imagine our ultra-orthodox even saying this is God’s way of “sifting the wheat from the tares in the Last Days”. Ugh. Will we still be able to qualify for our temple recommends if we choose to stay home and faithfully study our scriptures, nourish our testimonies, and worship as a family? Will that be considered acceptable to the Lord by our local leaders? Or, will over-zealous bishops and S.P’s start denying recommends until we choose to either capitulate and return weekly, or leave the church altogether? The idea of how this could all play out makes me feel panic, and very depressed.

  33. jlouielucero says:

    I am similarly unsure what we will do with my family. I am at risk health wise, but I also feel strongly that church is for the collective good of others. I don’t really like some of the comments that make the leaders look like spiritual bullies. I would dare say there are far more people wanting to return than not, but this blog brings a different group to the table that are more likely to feel differently than some. I have friends who need social interaction and Sunday School/Primary for their families and their own selves. They have not found the same spiritual benefit as I have by being home. That is what I have realized the most is that church attendance is about collectively lifting each other. I don’t think we need to feel pressure to return if we aren’t ready and I certainly have no qualms with saying home longer than others, but I do not think this is some effort by leadership to separate wheat from the tares.

  34. I haven’t had a chance to read all of the other reply’s yet so hopefully this is still somewhat on topic with the flow of comments….
    My wife and I won’t be going back until masks are no longer required or encouraged. We don’t mind wearing one at Safeway or Walmart but it just doesn’t seem right at church. It would be really distracting to me to see others masked in such a sacred setting, not to mention the whole can of worms of those with masks looking down on those without and vice versa.

  35. Marrissa says:

    I would want to see:
    -professional cleaning services between meetings
    -maintain distances of 6 ft always, which I assume means splitting wards smaller and rotating
    -increased room ventilation
    -masks! If every person in group correctly wears a mask w/ 2 cotton layers or better, transmission outbreaks don’t happen. I’d want to see church directly teaching everybody how and why to wear mask correctly and requiring one to enter. Probably safe even w/ 80% compliance, so skipping maybe infants or those with health conditions that make mask impossible
    -hand sanitizer upon entry
    -individually packed, sterile sacrament to take away once mask can come off outside or at home
    -evidence that the local government is on top of contact tracing. By which I mean, I would have to be confident that exposed individuals get notified and quarantined within a couple days of exposure, before they could do much transmitting.
    -uniform culture of compliance–no rogue hugs, handshakes, mask slips or touching, etc

    That is all possible without a vaccine, and if all of that were happening, I think I’d probably even trust singing. If we don’t manage all that society-wide long before a vaccine, it’s simply an inexcusable public health failure

  36. Marissa–
    Totally agree with you…..BUT I think your plan is a HUGE reach in the US and in particular the Mountain West.
    Also don’t see the sterile sacrament happening, ever. :(

  37. D Christian Harrison says:

    I miss my ward family… I’ve missed teaching and participating in Sunday School and EQ discussions. I’ve missed seeing my little old ladies. I’ve missed grousing about how effing slow our Sacrament hymns are sung.

    But I value my health, I value the health of others, and I value my financial security—and all of that is put at risk by returning before a reasonably effective vaccine is found.

  38. https://www.ksl.com/article/46755370/utah-area-presidency-approves-utah-latter-day-saint-wards-to-meet-again

    Utah has area authority approval to start phase 1. I admit to being floored, especially as this week so much more information came out about superspreader events. https://www.wsj.com/articles/superspreader-events-offer-clue-on-curbing-coronavirus-11589977873?mod=hp_lead_pos11

    We are healthy and not at high risk, but I just can’t fathom having even a tiny desire to put my family and my beloved ward members at such risk! Certainly not anytime soon. And believe me, I love my ward (even the ones with strong differing opinions than me). I would love to see them all live and not just in waves from the sidewalk. But I don’t think we will be attending in person for 4-6 more months at the earliest honestly.

  39. Geoff - Aus says:

    I will be very surprised if the 15 start attending meetings, old age. I will have no idea from where I live though. Could someone report please? I am in my 70s.

  40. At some point in their lives, committed disciples of Christ stop going to church to receive, and instead go for what they can give.

    As long as I can give, I’ll return as soon as I’m permitted. And I’m doing what I can to continue to give while “away”.

    When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

    One of the ways you can recognize a true convert is their focus on strengthening others.

    The church meetings and gatherings are more often than not the vehicle for creating associations and receiving and acting on impressions for rendering aid in parallel to whatever is going on at that particular moment “in church”.

    If you feel comfortable enough in your life that you don’t “need” church and can get by on your pew in the vineyard, perhaps the this 180 day “fast” in the wilderness can strengthen you to return and start your Christlike ministry.

    Small acts of compassion can make a big difference in the life of a youth, sister or elder who is barely hanging on. And it rarely happens in Sunday School or Sacrament Meeting, but the impressions and calls to action can come there.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    At some point in their lives, committed disciples of Christ stop going to church to receive, and instead go for what they can give.

    This is a lens you won’t regularly find things viewed through in the comments here, unfortunately.

  42. My two cents – no “Canaan Days” for me – Ten Sundays at home has been great; I dread the next reassembled testimony meeting and the perfunctory recitations of certain Primary kids in my ward. Most talks are boring and I fear the moment some Fox News junkie spouts off in our large elders quorum.

    Dkjr describes the ideal but I long for a safe place for those in a faith crisis (myself included) and for families who don’t fit the mold.

    I have been nonproductive during the last two months but I am starting to feel a small desire to pound out some of my favorite hymns on the piano in my basement.

  43. Hey tubes,

    I think many many of us here have long since stopped going to church primarily for what we get. I’m there to help in my utterly flawed, limited, sometimes grudging, and completely inadequate ways.

    My biggest concern now is that the most consequential thing my young family is likely to give our co-congregants is the virus.

    It’ll be a while before I’m comfortable bringing us all back.

  44. “Reading all of the comments there is definitely a COMMON CONSENT that we do NOT want to go back any time soon (if ever).”

    It may be time to reconsider how random samples are drawn.

  45. Michinita says:

    Amen, Leona. Amen.

  46. “ At some point in their lives, committed disciples of Christ stop going to church to receive, and instead go for what they can give.”

    That’s a great sentiment! But don’t you worry that what you “give” at church might be the coronavirus? 😬 I definitely do. I am youngish and healthy—probably a future asymptomatic carrier. My husband works in a hospital and comes into contact with COVID and we have three small children. The five of us could wreak havoc.

    Hopefully we are all able to support and help those around us (in and out of the church) during the pandemic through nontraditional ways. I guess we need to be creative in order to be a more committed disciple of Christ.

  47. Emily, The four elderly people over 90 I’ve spoken with over the phone in the last week have insisted on me coming to them, without mask etc. Multiple times I’ve suggested I’m happy to help but I don’t want to put them at risk, or cause them or their family to be uncomfortable.

    In each case, they essentially said they value the help, face to face time, and have lived long lives and accept what comes next. Weekly I’m called to help fix (or remind really) how to do the same task for one sister. I can’t help but wonder if she’s just valuing the 15 minutes in this age of isolation where we chat about family more than the help on the PC.

    I’ve argued with myself over this, but the conclusion I’ve come to after doing handyman projects, fixing computers, giving blessings, etc. is that they’ve all lived longer than me and face the future with hope and faith, regardless of what comes next.

    There’s other sides of that argument to be sure, but the depression resulting from this whole situation will be greater than economic depression for many people. If we want to think of church not as a rest home for the saint, but a hospital for the sinner (I’d tweak that to replace sinner with “the needy”), then who the heck are we to deny the needy what they need because we don’t want to share germs with them. Admittedly, that’s truly a noble goal, but the person leaving their home is clearly accepting that risk at part of the social bargain, etc. And it’s not the way this OP was framed, nor most of the comments.

    Nurses could stop going to the hospital too, because they might spread covid. At some point when the majority of the danger has passed (and I leave that to the leaders to decide) then it’s better for us to be in a position to serve where we can. Those truly at risk or with family at risk will make their own decisions.

    The main point still stands. There are people you can help. Individuals in need. My church has been a rest home for me, but a place where I feel compelled to act and help those around me. If it was a rest home, I might feel the same, that the risks weren’t worth it and I’d rather be out enjoying nature etc. But I’ve been bought and paid for with a price, in a sense. I’ll do my best to go where he wants me to go.

  48. “If you feel comfortable enough in your life that you don’t ‘need’ church and can get by on your pew in the vineyard, perhaps the this 180 day ‘fast’ in the wilderness can strengthen you to return and start your Christlike ministry.”

    One thing I refrained from doing in my post is admonish others to follow me. You might consider exercising similar restraint.

  49. No, I’m admonishing you and others to follow Christ. Who, like you, but for different reasons, withdrew from the world for a time an then returned with renewed vigor in focusing his life on serving others (while pointing out where church authorities make the decision to do so).

    No harsh rebuke is intended, but the image of a fast from society in the mountains has great symbolism that can be applied to us all. At some point you’ll have to come down from that vineyard, when you do I hope you’ll be all the more ready to truly minister to specific individuals who turn up every week in need, in ways they might not funny understand, in the midst of the busy work of church administration. To the degree it was directed at the you, the author, is based on your stated concerns that you’re worried about being around other people as a result of an this.

    We’re all fasting for a time in one way or another. At the end of that fast, maybe we can make more of an effort to find and reach out to specific individuals in need. That’s hard to do if we’re collectively convincing ourselves that social closeness is dangerous.

  50. Loursat says:

    Dkjr, those are worthy sentiments, but you’re failing to account for the context here. In dealing with this disease, going to sacrament meeting is uniquely dangerous. The risks of going to church meetings are different, larger, and more complicated than the risks of visiting individuals in their homes. That unique risk is the crux of the OP. To the extent that your comments imply doubts about people’s motivation to serve, your admonition is misplaced and mistimed. Pandemic disease forces its own timetable on us. Please be patient.

  51. Old Man says:

    We live in Utah and meetings will commence in the next week or so… My wife is an ICU nurse and deals daily with Covid-19 patients. I think we will stay at home. I know we are going to catch heck for it from our very conservative ward full of zealots, but half our ward is over 65. I hope our Bishop allows me to continue blessing the sacrament as we stay at home on Sundays. He may not. I cherish that ordinance.

  52. Old Man says:

    Dkjr,
    Insisting that you not wear a mask? I would wear a mask anyway. I know older folks can get grumpy, but a few asymptomatic visits and you’ll be attending funerals.

  53. No More says:

    Whether intended or not, the tone of dkjr’s comment is that if you were converted, faithful, and committed you would willingly return to church services with the intent of serving other people in need. I respectfully disagree.

    First, there should not be any point in your life where you stop receiving and only give. That is fallacious. None of us are perfect and we all need to continually receive, to learn and to progress. If we find no value in a meeting then we owe it to ourselves to seek value somewhere else. That does not mean a person is not a committed disciple of Christ. What the church has marketed so effectively is the false notion that your devotion or commitment to God is measured by you sitting in a pew in a painfully boring meeting. I suggest we break that idea wide open.

    Giving is good, but it begs the question, “what are you giving?” Giving cliche testimonies, trite SS answers in class, or even giving the virus to someone else is not ‘strengthening others.’ Truly serving other people is great, but let us not be fooled that Sunday congregational meetings are the best vehicle.

    My Christlike ministry has nothing to do with the bricks and mortar of the chapel, or even with the assigned members in my geographical ward. Please don’t reduce conversion or ministry to such effect. The impressions and calls to action to help a person, any person, are not dependent on me going to a large group gathering and putting other people at risk to virtue signal my ‘conversion’.

  54. Old Man,

    Based on the messages from the Utah Area Presidency, I think your bishop would be directly contradicting the direction he’s receiving from your Stake and Area by pressuring or even allowing people 65 or older to attend. Please, stay home and minister however you can from home.

    However, please don’t judge or question your fellow ward members who do return. They are probably just trying to strike the right balance between care and normalcy like everyone else. We are all going to draw the line a little differently.

  55. jlouielucero says:

    I am in Utah and this guidance struck me as compassionate and smart from our stake:

    Establishing a Meeting Plan. We have been asked to counsel with [AA] and with our bishops in developing a meeting plan. This plan should determine the timing for resuming the permitted meetings and include steps to ensure the safety of participants and compliance with the First Presidency Guidelines, the additional items in this Utah Area Supplement, and state and local governmental regulations. Given the limits on the number of participants and the safety requirements for sacrament meetings in the Utah Area, our wards will need to hold multiple meetings on Sunday and will need to attend on alternating weeks (yet not less than once per month).

    High-Risk Individuals and Administering the Sacrament in Homes. The Utah state guidelines encourage particular care with respect to high-risk individuals (those 65 years and older and those with underlying medical conditions). We urge priesthood leaders to be particularly mindful of high-risk individuals in all planning and ministering efforts. Our sense is that it is still best if these individuals are discouraged from attending an in-person sacrament meeting for now. To support high-risk individuals, and others who may choose not to gather in sacrament meetings for a time, bishops may continue to authorize the administration of the sacrament as provided in the First Presidency Guidelines.

    Because circumstances and health issues vary by individual, we urge leaders to help members not feel compelled to attend meetings and feel supported should they choose not to participate for a time.

  56. Apparently non-essential female leader says:

    Isn’t it great how the church has encouraged area presidencies to counsel with female leaders (at any/all levels) for their insight and input? /sarcasm

  57. Dkjr, I agree with others. Serve when you can, but take precautions, and everyone returning to church meetings of 99 people is not taking precautions. My husband who is 70 and high risk has helped his sister, 65 and high risk, a couple of times, not being really cautious to insist on masks. Well, guess who just tested positive and has put several high risk people in danger because she was not living in fear of this monster virus. Now, I am afraid for her life and the lives of other friends. One of her friends who she has put in danger is on a pace maker and the testing place is insisting he come in now for testing, no waiting for symptoms like the rest of us. Sure, the old people living alone get lonely and want to see you, but you are not serving Christ by putting their lives at risk.

    As for returning to church, For my husband and myself, not until there is a vaccine that has been tested and proven safe and effective. Once we get off quarantine, we will return to helping where we can but still use the precautions of face masks, lots of hand washing, and social distancing.

  58. the image of a fast from society in the mountains has great symbolism that can be applied to us all. At some point you’ll have to come down from that vineyard, when you do I hope you’ll be all the more ready to truly minister to specific individuals who turn up every week in need

    I like the idea of viewing this physically distant period of worship as a chance to see things from a new perspective and fill one’s lamp in preparation for future service. A commenter above mentioned the hope that we not return to business as usual when the pandemic subsides, and that strikes me as a worthwhile consideration in light of the many areas in which we—collectively and individually—could stand to improve.

  59. The elephant in the room: Boring LDS meetings are a feature not a bug.

  60. Dear “Apparently non-essential female leader”, When you walk through life wearing feminist colored eye glasses, every where you look you see violations of feminist dogma. In other words, we tend to see the world not as it really is, but as we are.
    I know the last thing a feminist wants is to be lectured to by a man (their’s probably even some kind of catchy name for that in feminist jargon)…but I’m willing to risk your wrath to speak a hard truth to you.

  61. Grant Edvalson says:

    I personally view my reluctance to return to regular meetings and greet fellow ward members as an indication that Zion has not been rooted in my heart as it should be. The general inability of members of the church to get along has been a problem ever since the beginning and has prevented the church from moving forward in the direction that God intends. If we had Zion rooted in our hearts with an eye single to not just the glory of God but the salvation of our fellow members (which is the glory of God), we would rejoice at the news to return to church and resume ministering as God has directed. Like I said, I am with many with the slight regret about having to teach primary again; however, I use this as an indicator of what I need to change.

  62. Betty Lou shoo says:

    Oh Fred, you’re so cute when you get grumpy, pretty dogmatic about your own lenses…..if you could only listen and learn. Time to go make your own sandwich now, honey. Don’t want to be late for your T off time. Poor mama. I’m sure she’s disappointed in you.

  63. Wondering says:

    Fred (Flintstone?) and Betty Lou (who?) — could they be quibbling siblings?
    Styles, if not content, remind me of me and my brother 60+ years ago.
    We became good friends.

  64. Betty Lou, Amen to your diagnosis of me having the same problem with my own warped lenses. We’re all in that same soup as humans. Honestly, the reason I’m still a Christian is that I have hope that someday Christ can somehow remove all my distorted lenses and allow me to see things perfectly as they are. Until then I guess it’s just trying to have empathy for others’ lived experiences and that darkly through a glass thing.

  65. llnelso3 says:

    I agree with all the reasons stated for not returning to church too soon, or ever for that matter. I would like to add that I don’t trust the members of my ward to stay home if they or their children are sick with COVID-19 because they wouldn’t stay home before the quarantine when they or their children were sick with anything else. There WILL be people coming to church who are SYMPTOMATIC carriers because once they receive the green light to go back to church meetings, they will be there no matter what, just like before, and continue to get everyone in the ward sick with something new every week, only now it will include COVID-19, unless, I suppose,they are in the hospital heaven forbid. Hard Pass for me, thanks. For these same reasons I think they should just plan on cancelling primary for the rest of time if we ever do go back to an in-building church format.

  66. I agree with llnelso3. I’m also concerned about the people who will come back to church regardless of whether their health permits. Before the pandemic, I witnessed people with fevers and even the chicken pox coming to church and/or bringing their obviously sick children with them. It is selfish and irresponsible to jeopardize other people’s health in that way.

    I also agree with Holly and Marissa who mentioned the need for professional cleaning services between meetings. I fully support the church hiring professional custodians to clean our buildings daily. Weekly cleanings with church-provided, diluted-to-the-point-they-might-as-well-be-water products are not enough with Sunday services, single adult FHE, Mutual activities, Institute classes, baptisms, funerals, and ward activities/parties happening in church buildings on a regular basis.

    I can’t begin to imagine how stuffy the buildings are with not being opened up since church services were suspended… and if the buildings weren’t cleaned beforehand, the smell is probably awful with the trash bins and diaper pails still being full and allowed to marinate for a prolonged period of time.

    [Insert nauseous face emoji, vomiting face emoji, and face mask wearing emoji here]

    My ward meets in an older building and is the last of four wards to finish Sunday services. Call me a germophobe, but I will not feel comfortable going back to church unless every room in the building is deep cleaned with a strong disinfectant, the carpets are washed, and the furniture/upholstery are fumigated, with the promise that daily cleanings by a professional custodial service will occur.

  67. Hoping the bishop or Salt Lake will “allow” us to continue blessing the sacrament in our homes? If you have the priesthood you have the authority.

    This has been a great time for personal growth and an opportunity to reduce the micromanaging and control church “leaders” try to bury us with. Don’t give it back.

    The important thing is to learn and live the gospel – however that happens. Have your home church, bless your sacrament, follow the spirit that allows for personal revelation, and enjoy your pew with a view.

  68. I strongly agree with the need for professional cleaners. If they try to pass that assignment off to the ward members I fear not only for the fact that they may not do an adequate job, but for their own safety as they expose themselves to multiple areas of the building in an untrained attempt to clean it.

    Could the church be opening themselves up to legal liability if they try to stick with the member/janitor concept?

  69. Kristine says:

    Apparently non-essential–100% agree on the shortsightedness of not consulting women leaders. Women are the ones who will do most of the cleaning, most of the caretaking of the sick, and most of the surviving when their “brave” fathers/husbands/sons succumb at a greater rate. Women’s wisdom is essential here, and the brethren are foolish not to seek it out.

  70. As our building’s physical facilities rep, the last I heard from our area office (in the midwest), the building is supposed to be sanitized with chemicals they will supply (ceratain Lysol and Chorox brands) by the members before general use. Two hand sanitizer dispensers are supposed to be supplied by them.

    This was about 5-6 weeks ago. I have not heard anything further, nor have I received the shipment of chemicals. If we follow our governor’s direction and if each of the state’s phases last a month, we could have meetings of less than in July.

    The FP instructions make no mention of the cleaning, and with buildings opening in some form in Utah, I have to question what is really the plan.

    When this was breaking months ago, I told my bishop it was time to dump the amateur cleaning.

  71. *less than 50

  72. Kevin Barney says:

    I still do three hours of Sunday meetings as it is (a national SS class and two leadership zoom calls). I’m in no rush to add more to that plate. But I have thought about what it would take for me to go back to physical church. For me it would look something like this:

    1. Sacrament meeting as short as possible (IE infection = virus x time). 20 minutes, half-hour tops.

    2. Seating all the way into the gym to provide significant distancing.

    3. Masks required.

    4. No singing. Someone can play an organ or piano number.

    5. Sacrament a whole topic unto itself. I have a lot of ideas. But if it’s not to my standards I will just wave it off. But if they don’t do the sacrament in a way I feel comfortable with, why am I even taking the risk to be present at all?

    6. There is no second hour; impossible to do safely. If there were a second hour I would bail. Or again, possibly not go at all.

    We shall see if whatever plan we get would work for me. We’re just not to that point yet.

  73. Wondering says:

    “Someone can play an organ or piano number.” But I have seen and heard no suggestions at all as to how the keyboards and organ stop and other controls and the benches, etc. are to be cleaned and disinfected between uses by various persons — or by whom.* Playing with gloves on is not a practical solution. Many of the pianists/organists I know in service are themselves in high risk categories as I am. I have wondered how I will respond if/when I am asked to play for a church meeting again.

    *The general announcement of limited reopening showed an organist at the console wearing a mask, but without any comment at all on the cleaning and disinfecting of musical instruments and benches played and handled by multiple persons.

  74. You have to be very careful how you clean piano and organ keys too, or you can damage them. You can’t just spray them with a spray. As an organist, I worry about untrained people zealously coming in and cleaning the instruments and causing a lot of harm. Or polishing the benches (a big no-no) and having the person playing slide right off onto the floor.

  75. Kevin,
    I understand your comment and concerns. It’s disagree with the degree of alarm you share over the safety but that’s not a debate that’s going to serve and purpose here.

    What I wanted to say if that at some point, were going through the motions if we show up to socially distant zombie church. Stand 6+ feet apart, wear masks, minimize or avoid contact. In a related note, some kids I know at “recess” were prescribed a place to play, away from everyone else, sat at an isolated desk, made to wear a mask all day. It’s the logical extension of given in to the worst fears of what can happen but it’s truly a hollow existence to think of school or church this way.

    If we’ve only been saved from the ravages of the black death a la Covid19 because we’re social distancing, and if any return to normalcy will bring that black death back, everything will need to be reinvented and redefined.

    It’s not even a question of someday a vaccine will come. Because these kinds of viruses are only likely to increase and our attention and focus on them will only grow as well.

    There’s no point to zombie school and zombie church. If enough people have had their conciseness altered to the extent they don’t feel safe as church or school, and therefore work; our society is screwed.

    I suppose we can convince ourselves that wearing masks does the trick (ya, with a virus that passes right through and literally travels it’s way up into the atmosphere), but any societal wide suppression of the virus is going to rely on the strength of individual and collective immune systems.

    In the future zombie school and church world, likely the vast majority of the immune systems will work, some will fail and those that fail will be attributed to not enough gnuflecting to the gods of hand sanitizer, face masks etc. While failure to get sick well be seen as success of social distance and proper facemask protocol.

    I wonder how many of us would share the same cup with Christ or Peter if we look suspiciously at the neighbor who might sit too closely in the pew or absent mindedly rubs their face.

  76. everything will need to be reinvented and redefined

    That sounds like a fitting outcome for an organization that was founded by a man who was not content with the status quo and guided by men who have a special responsibility to be in tune with the mind and will of God, a being whose ways are not ours.

    At this stage, what I see is a man who I would not guess has the ability to tune into the mind and will of God insisting that state authorities allow people to go back to church. If “zombie church” is your concern, I can think of no quicker shortcut than to start packing the pews tomorrow in areas still at risk of transmitting an as yet incurable disease. You will literally have the walking dead—they just won’t know it for a few days or weeks—roaming the halls, spawning more zombies.

    I’m sure that all of us here take your point—a physically distant church is a radical departure from the church we all know and love. The question is whether anyone is served by stubborn adherence/a quick return to the old ways when new circumstances arise. Moreover, I am not convinced that physical proximity in the ward building is as essential an ingredient of discipleship as you make it out to be. People need ministering where they are—they don’t need to cram into the chapel just to get help with their computer on the kitchen table.

  77. peterllc
    The issue isnt that I’m pleading for people to mass concentrate.

    It’s that existence becomes a hollow one when we raise children to sit by themselves 80% of the day in a mask, and assign them a specific location where they can “play” in a socially distant way. Bring them to church When you go to church and profess love for someone, but keep 2-3 pews between everyone else just so you don’t risk can contact with the evil spirits expelling from their body.

    It’s a bit of going through the motions. Your post was a little prophetic in one sense, with the recent announcement. And yet people here still aren’t comfortable with that! Looking at those pictures of a ward with 2-3 families in the chapel scattered far apart is really tragic. If it’s that bad, the answer to your question is don’t return yet.

    If the institutions need to be “saved” that way, you are just making a lifeless corpse of it.

    That methods of extending currents institutional utility is a pernicious one as the comments here about “still not enough” demonstrate it’s impossible to close this Pandora’s box.

  78. Kevin Barney says:

    Great points about the organ/piano. They didn’t occur to me because even though we’re in a stake center we are the sole unit in our building, so we don’t need to worry about multiple players in a single day. There was a time when we had three, then two, but now it is just one. Which greatly simplifies the task of going back to Church. Where there are multiple 300 person attendance units in a single building, I have no idea how to engineer that for safety. For this reason I think when we get to that point I will argue against multiple services in a single Sunday in favor of alternating groups on different Sundays. Time spent in the building with so many different bodies and constant air circulation is a tremendous risk.

  79. Summing up a longer dinner conversation last night:
    Not enough for me to feel safe, about myself and others.
    Too much to make a meeting seem worthwhile, for me and others.
    So what’s the point?

  80. I like Kevin Barney’s idea of having the wards alternate the buildings for Sacrament meeting on Sunday for both safety and practicality reasons.

    My building had 4 wards meeting right on top of each other before church meetings were suspended. Getting in through the door was a task in and of itself with how crowded it was, and finding a parking space was near impossible.

    Maintaining that is no longer safe or possible in a post-Covid world. Alternate who gets the building for Sunday meetings, and keep a calendar for activities planned throughout the week and scatter it in such a way that the buildings don’t become too crowded.

    All on top of providing daily, professional cleaning services in between.

  81. Hedgehog says:

    Just posted this over in W&T, but it’s relevant to this discussion too.
    Latest news from Germany courtesy of the BBC – cluster of 40 cases traced to German church service. A Baptist church in Frankfurt. They say they followed distancing measures, and the building was disinfected. So no, it really isn’t safe yet…

  82. Loursat says:

    Dkjr, it’s fascinating to see the evolution in the tone of your comments. What you first described as an exhortation to follow Christ has turned into something more like a despairing rant about a dying way of life.

    Anyone who lives long enough sees culture gradually change in ways that can feel foreign or deeply wrong. But when people live through a war or a plague, everything goes to hell at once. There’s no time to catch our balance, no time to put things in perspective. Right now it’s hard to see how we can recover meaning and connection when so much has been severed so quickly. Yet the world in pandemic is what it is, and we have to adapt to it. The disease doesn’t care how much we shake our fists at the sky or at each other. I’d prefer to believe that this is a new chance to learn how God can teach us to love each other, even from a safe distance. I can’t say that I constantly succeed in believing that; I have my share of despairing moments too. That’s the test of faith that we’ve been dealt.

  83. AK Transplanted says:

    Church activities have been getting in the way of having a real Sabbath for a long time. The two-hour schedule was a welcome change, and now this has been wonderful for my family. I miss the people of my ward, but not the hustle and bustle, the meetings, the firesides, and always having some responsibility hanging over me. I actually look forward now to the slow Sundays we enjoy.

  84. Tom Pastey says:

    Starting in June, each of the 4 wards in my building will get 1 Sunday a month to have as many 99-person-or-less sacrament meetings as they need to. My ward happens to get the first Sunday of the month, so we are 14 days away from seeing how this all shakes out. I get to attend bishopric and ward council meetings, so it will be interested to see how this sausage gets made.

    As a side note about the organ (because I’m the organist, too), I don’t know how possible it is to play the organ while wearing a face mask. I haven’t tried it, but you need to be able to see your feet. I’m guessing that I would be ok playing some, but not all the hymns with a mask on.

  85. McDonald’s has created a 59 page reopening guide for its franchisees. I’m lovin’ it.

  86. as many 99-person-or-less sacrament meetings as they need to

    I’d be interested how the stake/wards are going to determine how many meetings are needed and how close their assessments match reality (i.e., how many show up). Will it be as simple as dividing the average sacrament meeting attendance by 99? Posting a sign-up sheet to gauge interest?

  87. Didn’t we used to have Fast meeting on Thursday? I want to attend church and sacrament meeting on Thursday!

  88. Peterllc … my Utah ward has the building for 1 Sunday out of 3. They sent a survey asking 1st and 2nd time preferences with the plan to assign times. They also included a strong encouragement to stay home if you are at risk and if you have any concerns. I checked the “not ready to return yet” box

  89. Thanks, EJ. That sounds like a wise approach.

  90. Chris Reed says:

    I am at this really wierd place where I have substantially enjoyed and gotten more out of my spiritual life during these past two months. It has been a while since going to church has felt like a place of spiritual growth and communion, rather than a place where the focus heavily favors box checking. I struggle, I guess, because my testimony has never shaken, I still know the gospel to be true, but I have regained something that the often taskmaster-like nature of church had once nearly sapped out of me.

  91. We have been told by GAs that we should start with no more than 50 people in the building. This means that home meetings will continue for a while in our stake, since some buildings would need 10 or more services to meet demand at 50 people max. I expect 1 ward per Sunday rotations to be the plan. We may or may not attend at first, although that decision has little to do with our safety. My wife likes home church and is happy to allow others to attend the limited early services.

    I know one thing that Brother Joseph would likely tell us to do, were he here. Have outside church meetings with lots of room to socially distance and sunlight to disinfect the seats and other commonly touched items.

    I hope that they allow youth activities to resume. I know of some private schools that have started back up and they are not spreading the virus around as far as is known. While sacrament meeting is more important, youth activities are probably lower risk.

  92. Kristine says:

    Chris, I imagine many of us will be trying to strike a new balance between communal worship and private devotion moving forward; the time and space we’ve had to be truly contemplative will hopefully change priorities.

  93. Aussie Mormon says:

    El soo: Outside meetings might work for those above the equator, but down south, we’re heading into winter. In regards to youth activities, I’m surprised that the non-sunday activities didn’t come back first. They are generally much smaller groups.

    I’d actually be interested in seeing how viewpoints vary based on country/state/city. Are there any correlations between government rules, ward sizes, mormonness, socioeconomic level, culture etc.

    I could accept for example, that people in an area with low infection rates and a sensible government, would want to go back more readily than people in an area with lots of infections, and a government that cares more about looking good than having people left to govern over.
    Likewise I could accept that people in areas that don’t get to interact with their fellow saints easily throughout the week, might want to go back more than people whose entire ward is within 10 minutes walking distance.

  94. Geoff - Aus says:

    It is known that one in 900 have the virus, but it is expected that this is about one quarter of the real number With this virus, for about every one person who’s got the virus, estimates are there are another four people out there who have it, but they’re not known to the system. They may not even know they’re infected.” (As of April 8, Utah had 1,738 cases and 13 deaths.)
    So you can expect one in 200 in Utah are carrying the virus.

    When I hear that Pres Nelson is going to church I will evaluate my situation. Please let me know when he is back at church.

  95. Jon Miranda says:

    Geoff Aus
    The more you post things like what you just posted, the more you damage any credibility you might have had.

  96. Not Sayin' says:

    Jon Miranda, I’m curious what you object to because one portion of Geoff-Aus’ post is about the statistical odds of transmitting the virus and the other was using Pres. Nelson as a gauge of the safety of returning.

    I don’t see Geoff’s credibility being brough into question by either.

  97. This thought just occurred to me:

    With there being a limit on how many people can attend Sunday services, what will this mean for Mutual, Primary activities, EQP/RS gatherings, and ward parties?

    Will these events be suspended indefinitely? Is there a way to host any of these events safely and in line with church/local/state laws while allowing for everyone to be included?

  98. So our ward is headed back this Sunday. Or, at least half of it is. They are dividing the ward into the front half of the alphabet and the back half of the alphabet and each group meets in the chapel every other week. The meeting will be 45 minutes long. Family groups will be individually ushered from their cars into the building and to seats, every other row empty, and out of the building at the end, no milling about, choosing seats, visiting in the lobby or parking lot. Get in your cars and go home.

    Everyone has to sanitize hands as they enter the chapel, masks are to be worn except when taking the sacrament (adults are to retrieve the sacrament for children, no child should touch the trays, bread, or cups) and for singing. They almost had me until it got to removing masks to sing.

    They have already put out the call for members to come clean the building on Saturday in preparation.

    I live in a rural community that has had a small number of positive cases. The only death attributed to my county was a missionary from here who got sick, and died, on his mission. Not even in this state. There is no way to know how many people locally have had it and didn’t show symptoms. Maybe it’s run rampant and we were lucky and mostly asymptomatic. Maybe we are so insular that it hasn’t gotten a toe hold in the community and we are all vulnerable to the one person who finally starts spreading it.

    We will be staying home. For reasons that include the virus, but also other reasons.

    PS. there are stakes in our region that have started having in person youth activities. Ours has not yet.

  99. cloves: While reading your entry, I hoped someone in your stake’s leadership would’ve had the sense to end the amateur cleaning. It may not have contributed to COVID-19, but keeping members-as-volunteer-cleaners versus opting for professional services won’t help keep the building properly cleaned, let alone disinfected/sanitized. Pre-COVID, I knew so many church members who got sick regularly and I suspect it’s because the buildings are not cleaned/sanitized as they should be.

    I do appreciate the get in/get out method they plan on implementing for entering and exiting Sunday services. Members choosing/saving seats, milling about, and visiting in the lobby/parking lot of the church building causes so many problems when it comes to polarizing people in the ward (the choosing/saving seats part), and starting and ending services on time. If nothing else, hopefully the get in/get out method will teach members to be considerate of other people’s time and put an end to the never ending tardiness that is present in our church culture.

  100. I’m stunned to hear that a stake is bringing people back and still trying to use members to clean the building. I wonder if the church is opening itself up for serious legal liability with that decision. Surely the church has the resources to hire professional cleaners. Heck, raise tithing to 10.5 % if necessary, but it’s time to put an end to members cleaning the buildings.

  101. Kristine says:

    “removing masks to sing”

    Insane. Congregational singing will be unsafe until there is a vaccine. And I say that as someone for whom the singing is just about the most important part of every meeting.

  102. Kristine N says:

    FWIW, we in Adelaide, SA have had one case in the last three weeks (a woman who had traveled overseas, then to Melbourne, then to Adelaide and tested positive before she was out of quarantine) and I’ve heard no mention of plans to go back. That’s not to say they aren’t being made, but they aren’t being made public.

    The situation legally is of course quite different. Starting Monday we’ll be allowed to have up to 20 people in a single room. So, that’s certainly a big part of why Australian wards aren’t talking about meeting.

  103. Geoff-Aus says:

    Jon, Utah is doing about 2750 tests a day, and yesterday returned 343 new cases. That is one in 8. Now obviously those tested are the ones most likely to be positive, but that indicates an incredibly high number of people in the community carrying the virus.

    Do you want to sing and share sacrament with at least one positive person?

    Again when RMN shows the example?

    The reason I like figures is they are still facts, difficult to contest.

    Kristine, we are doing pretty good in QLD too, but have similar gov restrictions. Aren’t we blessed to live in Aus?

    I am surprised there is no comment on the racial tensions. That you can have video of 3 police officers killing a black man, and so far one is charged with 3rd degree murder. “The exact statutory definition of third-degree murder is “[t]he unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated without any design to effect death”. Really he didn’t mean to do it? No wonder black people are not impressed.

  104. Removing masks to sing is very dangerous. This happened in my county – https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm I’m surprised people would do that much as we may love singing. There are lots of ways to have music in a service and still keep others safe.

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