First Presidency directs Latter-day Saints worldwide to wear masks in temples

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is directing all temple patrons and workers to wear face masks at all times in the temple. The leaders also reiterated their urging for Church members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The directive came in a letter sent Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, to Church leaders around the world, which also acknowledged prior First Presidencies sharing similar messages in 1900 about smallpox and in 1957 about polio.

In Wednesday’s statement, the First Presidency — President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring — expressed gratitude that some level of ordinance work has resumed in every temple, the most recent ones within the past several months.

“Our desire is to keep temples open,” they wrote, adding that as the cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, they want to do “everything possible” to allow temples to remain open.

“Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple. These safety protocols are temporary, based on COVID-19 conditions, and will be rescinded as soon as circumstances permit.”

Timeline: How the Church has responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic

The letter concludes with “our urging Church members to be vaccinated and to protect themselves and others from the spread of disease has precedent. … Please do all you can to protect yourself and others so the work of the Lord on both sides of the veil can move forward.”

Regarding previous First Presidency statements regarding disease and vaccinations, President Lorenzo Snow, then president of the Church, and President George Q. Cannon, his first counselor in the First Presidency, shared a message published Nov. 17, 1900, in the Deseret Evening News regarding the day’s smallpox epidemic.

“We take this opportunity of suggesting [to the Saints] … that they employ every precaution to prevent the spread of the contagion,” they wrote.

Later, they added: “To the question of vaccination we have given careful thought and consideration[.] … We are aware that there is a difference of opinion in the community as to the merits of this question; and … we have felt reluctant to express ourselves publicly on it. Now, however, we feel to … suggest and recommend that the people generally avail themselves of the opportunity to become vaccinated[.]”

Six decades later, with the world struggling with the disease of polio, the First Presidency endorsed the fund drive of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. In the same statement, published Jan. 30, 1957, in the Deseret News, President David O. McKay and his counselors, President Stephen L. Richards and President J. Reuben Clark, urged Latter-day Saints to be vaccinated against polio.

“We are grateful that there is assurance and hope in the prospect of universal protective vaccination. We commend all our citizens, particularly the women, who are giving so generously of their time and effort in the support of the campaign.

“We have no hesitancy in urging all members of the Church and other citizens to support the campaign now in progress by giving as generously as each can afford, and by making sure that all members of families, unless exempted on doctors’ orders, receive Salk vaccine inoculation.”

The Sept. 22 letter in its entirety reads:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We are grateful that in recent months, some level of ordinance work has resumed in every temple. Our desire is to keep temples open.

As cases of COVID-19 increase in many areas, we want to do everything possible to allow temples to remain open. Therefore, effective immediately, all temple patrons and workers are asked to wear face masks at all times while in the temple. These safety protocols are temporary, based on COVID-19 conditions, and will be rescinded as soon as circumstances permit.

Our urging Church members to be vaccinated and to protect themselves and others from the spread of disease has precedent. Prior First Presidencies shared similar messages in 1900 about smallpox and in 1957 regarding polio. Please do all you can to protect yourself and others so the work of the Lord on both sides of the veil can move forward.

[Signed]

Sincerely yours,

Russell M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring