IDAHO FALLS — The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are urging their global membership to use face masks in public, and to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
On Thursday, the church’s First Presidency sent the following message to its members:
“We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. We want to do all we can to limit the spread of these viruses. We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population.
To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders. Please know of our sincere love and great concern for all of God’s children.”
The message is signed by Church President Russell M. Nelson, and the other members of the First Presidency, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring.
The statement is not dissimilar to previous statements by church leaders. Nelson was a practicing physician before taking a position within the church’s leadership. He and other church leaders were vaccinated against COVID-19 in January.
On March 31, church leaders formalized the First Presidency’s support for vaccinations by adding a statement to the church’s official General Handbook, according to the Deseret News.
“Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life,” the handbook says in Section 38. “Members of the church are encouraged to safeguard themselves, their children and their communities through vaccination.
“Ultimately,” the statement continued, “individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. If members have concerns, they should counsel with competent medical professionals and also seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.”