The Mormon apostle says to put on a masks as a “signal of Christian love,” however some members of the Church are pushing again
On Monday, Dale Renlund, an apostle of Latter-day Saints Church of Jesus Christ, announced that four LDS temples would enter “Phase 3” reopening and took the opportunity to address the need for Church members Affirm socially practicing distancing and mask-wearing.
The four temples, which will resume some ordinances on behalf of the deceased later this month, are located in Australia, Tonga, Samoa and Taiwan – all areas of the world where the number of Covid-19 cases has been kept low. There have been a total of 908 deaths in Australia since the pandemic began. Taiwan, seven; and Tonga and Samoa, zero apiece.
The United States, on the other hand, has lost more than 285,000 people. Unsurprisingly, the Church made no announcements about the relocation of US temples in Phase 3.
When Elder Renlund made the announcement, I noticed several things. First and foremost, his opening line was:
“Today I am not speaking to you as a former doctor. I speak to you as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. “
When a church leader uses such language, he speaks for all of the other brothers. This was not a spontaneous remark mentioned by a person who was “off duty,” but a coordinated effort that came with a press release, video and a simultaneous social media flash.
In other words, listen, you Mormons.
Second, he drew attention to what members owe “to the vulnerable and disadvantaged” and said that our response to a global pandemic should be responsible and apolitical:
In looking for ways to facilitate more temple worship in a safe and responsible manner, we must also remember that we, as individuals, families, and as a church, are measured by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our societies. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the world, it is causing havoc among the already disadvantaged. Unfortunately, the reactions to the pandemic have been politicized and controversial. Our answer doesn’t have to be.
Third, and what is most interesting to me, he made a clear connection between the proxy work that Latter-day Saints do in temples – to save work for the ancestors – and the proxy work we currently do for them people living around us are supposed to do by wearing masks.
Assuming more proxy ordinances are being performed in the temples, we are doing for others what they cannot do for themselves. Without this blessing, these dead are profoundly disadvantaged.
The Savior taught that the second great commandment after love for God was: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In relation to this pandemic, especially in temples, it means social distancing, wearing a mask, and not gathering in large groups. These steps show our love for others and offer us some level of protection. Wearing a face covering is a sign of Christian love for our brothers and sisters.
The monetary quote – “wearing a face-covering is a mark of Christian love for our brothers and sisters” – is the part that rightly gets the most attention from both followers and critics. He continued:
Covid-19 is serious. The consequences are not yet fully understood. The Church took the pandemic seriously from the start. We closed all temples. Now we are opening them carefully and gradually to minimize the risk to temple ordinance staff, patrons, and communities.
So here we see a church leader saying he is speaking in his calling as an apostle and telling members that they have a moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable by wearing a mask. And despite his statement that our response to a virus “doesn’t have to be political,” the comments on his Facebook post become a heated argument.
While many of the comments are positive, there is also a vocal and angry minority who get involved. Let’s break down their approaches into four categories one at a time.
The “science is bunk” approach
“In a hundred years I will never believe that masks are the miracle to save us from this virus. Nor will I ever join the hype that this virus is worth destroying families, churches, businesses, economies, and nations. There’s something wrong with all of this, and it’s not a virus … “
“Masks are useless. . . ”
“They intend to employ the elderly, the mentally handicapped and ethical minorities first. Doesn’t that sound like genocide to you? “
Quite a number of Mormons wrote to tell Elder Renlund, a former cardiologist, that medicine is a bunch of fools, that masks can’t stop the spread of the disease and even harm the wearer, and that big drug companies can only do a vaccine, to either make money or murder grandma or both. Probably both.
The Machiavellian Approach
“. . . Those at less than 0.3% risk can rest assured while the rest carry on. “
But there were other commentators who weren’t worried that big drug companies would attack Grandma. They’d rather the virus kill them already so the healthy majority can get on with their lives.
While Elder Renlund said that “we as a church are measured by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our societies,” there seems to be a part of this church that considers the vulnerable to be worthwhile sacrifices.
And that they make up only three-tenths of one percent of the population is a complete fantasy.
The approach “This rule does not apply outside the temple”:
“Elder Renlund referred only to these temple situations during phase three. So if you can’t wear a mask, you’re fine. I can’t, and my ward and stake are okay with this. “
Here the commentator ignores the context for the message as a whole and all images shown in the video.
The scenes in which people wear masks do not take place in phase 3 or otherwise in any temple. One is from a teacher in a school; Another shows a young girl delivering food to someone’s home. There’s even one extreme example of a man attracting you when he’s all alone in the great outdoors (age … why?), And another where a young woman wears a mask when she’s an older woman visited even though there is already a wall of glass between them.
Belt, meet suspenders.
None of these examples take place in a temple. In fact, they mostly take place in contexts where masks shouldn’t be needed. Even the teacher in the first example is all alone in her classroom.
The point reinforced by the images of the church is clear: always wear a mask outside of your own home. It’s not just about a handful of temples going into phase three, even though Elder Renlund said “special” in the temple.
The “blame the victim” approach:
“. . . Many who are at risk are such, because of bad living habits, that they could live with mild viruses if they lived less voracious lives and lived the Lord’s Law of Health. ”
First, most of the victims of the virus so far have been people whose terrible sin was. . . to become old. As the leaders of our church have done. As you will one day, oh fair commentator, if you are lucky. (As my wise mother-in-law likes to say, getting old is hard, but it sure beats the alternative.)
Second, this is not a “mild” virus. It’s not the flu. Staying away from coffee doesn’t help many people who are more prone to serious complications, such as people with cystic fibrosis, people with compromised immune systems, or people with asthma.
Ultimately, I think that many conservative Latter-day Saints face the discomfort that comes with disagreeing with an apostle of the Church. Progressive Mormons have long dealt with this cognitive dissonance, such as LGBTQ issues, but for many conservatives this is likely a new feeling.
An apostle of the Lord tells them that one of the most Christian things they can do right now is cover their faces, practice social distancing, and stop the spread of Covid. And they don’t like it one bit.
I am appalled by America
Memo to anti-maskers: You are the reason we can’t have beautiful things
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