A Plea for Toleration and Kindness for Those Who Don’t Wear Masks

Update, May 13, 2023: The science has become more clear since this article was posted. The Cochrane review, a thorough, definitive study now establishes what many smaller studies have shown over the past few years: that requiring the general population to wear masks has approximately ZERO benefit. For a good summary, see John Tierney, “Approximately Zero,” City Journal, Feb. 17, 2023. Further, there is now much more data on the potential adverse effects from frequent mask wearing for some people.

As some units of the Church return to more normalcy, including in-person meetings where muffled singing through masks is finally allowed, a challenge some will face is discomfort with those who don’t mask. There are some who say that even those who have been vaccinated or already have had COVID still need to keep wearing facemasks. There are those who feel that even small children need to wear masks. I think we need a reminder about the needs of others and the physical realities of life.

Wearing a mask can be more than annoying and uncomfortable. While evidence suggests that oxygen levels don’t drop as a result of wearing a mask, it can certainly make it harder to breathe. I recently gave a 90-minute presentation for the University of Utah’s Executive MBA program, and was surprised to find that even though I would be much more than 6 feet away from the nearest person in the audience, I was still required to wear a mask the entire time. I like to walk around, be somewhat animated, and talk fast and loud. I exercise a lot, but doing my presentation with a mask on was physically challenging (unlike just walking briskly through Walmart). I had to pause a moment to catch my breath a few times, occasionally pulling the mask slightly away from my face to take an unimpeded deep breath of air. My oxygen level was probably fine, but I wasn’t. Perhaps it was a low-permeability mask, I’m not sure.

The increased difficulty of breathing can be quite challenging for some people, including pregnant women, those with respiratory or heart problems, the elderly, and small children. If you have not been vaccinated for some reason and you see someone comes to church without wearing a mask, you may wish to maintain reasonable social distance, but please don’t be judgemental and angry. Don’t give them a lecture about their failure to think of the needs of others. Instead, assume that they may have needs that you don’t understand and be kind. Don’t order them to put on a mask. Don’t treat them as deplorables in need of shaming. If you suspect they may have forgotten their mask or just don’t have one for some reason, you could say, “By the way, if anybody wants a mask, there are some over there by the door to the chapel” (assuming your unit has wisely provided masks for those who need them). 

Of course, if you have been vaccinated or have already had the disease, there is very little to worry about, so don’t fret over those who aren’t wearing a mask. Let others live their own lives, and if you still feel that your vaccination isn’t going to help, feel free to social distance and wear a mask, but don’t demand it of others.  By the way, I have been vaccinated with no apparent adverse effects from the Pfizer vaccine, but I won’t judge you if you have not yet been vaccinated or don’t wish to take vaccine. I also won’t blame you if you share the skepticism expressed by Kamala Harris in her VP debate toward vaccines pushed by leaders you don’t trust: “if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.” But perhaps over time you may see that adverse effects are low and efficacy is high, which might lead you to reconsider. Your choice. This is an area where one old slogan may really apply: “my body, my choice.” Here it really is your body, not someone else’s young and vulnerable body with a separate brain, heart, circulatory system, unique DNA, etc. People should be able to choose what medications and what vaccines are injected into their system.

I know some very good people who are not coming back to our church meetings until the requirement to wear a mask is dropped. Some of these people have been vaccinated or have already had the disease and have no need to wear a mask, and some are physically challenged when wearing one. Should we not be considerate of their needs and welcome them back? Should we not welcome those who struggle with breathing, or, like many of the little children among us, can’t stand the discomfort of masks? Or have we rewritten a verse of scripture to “Make the children suffer before they come unto Me”?

Speaking of inviting all to come unto Christ, the insistence so far on mask wearing, coupled with the ban on singing that was just lifted last week in our ward, may be a particular burden for the many African Saints and investigators from the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi in our wonderfully diverse community. My wife and I have the most enjoyable calling ever now that we’ve been asked to focus on helping the many immigrants from Africa in our midst. We’ve been so impressed with them for many reasons, including their ability to speak what strikes me as the hardest language I’ve studied, Swahili. Easy to read and pronounce, yes, but such complex grammar. Amazing to see a short verb stem blow up into a word two or three times as long after adding all the prefixes and suffixes that might be needed for a particular nuanced situation. How so many people master it as a second or third language is just a wonder to me.  It seems that at least some of them are used to vibrant singing and warm social interactions, and without that, I think it’s been far more difficult adjusting to Latter-day Saint worship than it should be. They are doing a great job complying with masking requirements, though some children tend to come without them.

May we be able to be warmer in our greetings and more joyous in song soon.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

29 thoughts on “A Plea for Toleration and Kindness for Those Who Don’t Wear Masks

  1. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that Utah isn't following the updated CDC guidelines. Here in Georgia, at our wards and stakes, if you've been vaccinated, no mask is required. I haven't had to put a mask on at work, about town, or at church for two weeks now. It's been glorious. The world hasn't come to an end. Some people still wear masks, that's their choice.

  2. My apologies. You may not be living in Utah. At any rate, I'm still a bit surprised at how some states that previously purported to be "following the science" seem not to want to follow the science now that the CDC has updated its guidelines.

    A professor at Johns Hopkins stated the other day that probably 50% of folks in the United States now have an immunity, whether natural or through vaccination. I just find it bizarre for so many to want to cling to the mask-wearing. I don't, however, castigate or blame anyone for doing so. As with so many things in the world, we need to be free to make our own choices.

  3. UT has the 5th highest total cases of Covid per 1M population in the nation. All the Red States are well above the national average.

    How about some consideration for people who don't want to get infected?

  4. @Anonymous

    But UT has the 6th *lowest* total deaths from Covid per 1M population in the nation. We're tough!

  5. Anon 11:44, Utah is also the *youngest* state in the nation. This presumably has a lot to do with its comparatively low covid death rate.

    I think it's going to take some time for researchers to draw really solid conclusions about the epidemic. A lot of people out there are making a lot of premature (and often agenda-driven) claims. Patience, people.

    — OK

  6. Since we are cherry picking data, let's cherry pick some more! Of the top 5 states that have the most coronavirus related deaths per 1 million population, the top 4 were blue states!

    I agree with OK, this is a new disease that came, researchers are still researching. Let's all practice proper hygiene to mitigate the spread. And, how about we stop making it a red / blue thing?


  7. All across the board in the US, COVID deaths and cases are falling. Millions have been vaccinated. Millions more have immunity. I would think that we'd be done with the hand-wringing and the cringing in fear by now. But some folks are comfy with that. Meanwhile, I will enjoy singing hymns with no mask on.

  8. "GA is also well above the national median for infections and deaths per 1M population."

    Take out Atlanta, which instituted extremely draconian mask mandates, and the numbers look great for Georgia.

    I live near the Augusta area. My county never had a mask mandate. The neighboring county did. Would you like to wager who had worse numbers?

  9. Michael 2:45, you're inviting us to make inferences about the efficacy of masking etc. that it's just too early to make.

    — OK

  10. "you're inviting us to make inferences about the efficacy of masking etc. that it's just too early to make."

    Nonsense. You can make plenty of inferences using the data we've gathered since March of 2020.

    At what point do you propose the time is right? Soon we will be at herd immunity for COVID-19. I think by then it'll be too late to make any "inferences" one way or the other.

    Regardless, seeing how this entire pandemic has been politicized and manipulated from the very beginning by malign actors across the spectrum, I don't think that we'll ever get to the real truth of the matter. You notice that the Facebook overlords, for instance, now says it's okay to talk about a Chinese lab origin of COVID-19 after banning those conversations for a year.

    Lots of things to take issue with.

    I support the CDC's guidance: if you've been vaccinated, there is extremely low risk of COVID. Live life and stop cowering in fear.

  11. Michael, I don't know anyone who is "cowering in fear." And we can't draw any legitimate inferences by comparing your county and the neighboring one.

    — OK

  12. I don’t know why anyone listens to Jeff Linsday regarding any subject matter.

    He’s a contributor to the “Interpreter Foundation” which promotes movies with Joseph Smith dictating The Book of Mormon from a “Rock in a Hat,” Royal Skousen’s “Early Modern English” translated by someone earlier then dictated to Joseph Smith via a rock in a hat, and the “Mesoamerica Two Cumorah Book of Mormon geography theory” which originated from members of the RLDS Church in the 1920s and which claims Joseph Smith was a speculator on the geography of The Book of Mormon.

    And now he’s blithering about wearing masks or not. Great PR work, Lindsay. Not.

  13. I just think it's so cute how you think masks are the reason people aren't returning to church.

    I guess if you can believe an angle with a flaming sword told Joseph to go where his middle-aged hormones took him then you can believe anything.

  14. How is it that someone who has been around as long as you have manages to land on the wrong side of every question?

  15. But what's the "right" side of a church that supposedly has a living prophet but can't take a simple position on insurrection and intent to murder politicians their members don't agree with?

  16. @anonymous 1:42:
    So why are you even commenting on Jeff's blog, and why aren't you browsing elsewhere instead? The fact that you are even reading his blog suggests that you are interested in reading what he has to say, or else you only read it so you can make unkind comments which don't contribute to a worthwhile discussion. That doesn't help your 'cause' imho.

  17. The whole mask issue became a partisan political issue because of the GOP's misunderstanding of the role of government and the notion of freedom. When selfishness masquerades as patriotism, we have a problem.

  18. "When selfishness masquerades as patriotism, we have a problem."

    Just wanted to repeat this. Thanks 11:07! This says it all.

  19. “When selfishness masquerades as patriotism, we have a problem.”

    A big problem also arose when self-righteousness supplanted common sense. Who remembers that guidelines were to wear a mask only when social distancing was unable to be maintained? Why did mask wearing become a mandate in all situations and all locations? It became an outward symbol of personally perceived righteousness. Both sides utilized it for different reasons—neither of which followed the recommendations of Fauci and the CDC.

  20. " Why did mask wearing become a mandate in all situations and all locations?"

    I thought we were talking about people congregating and singing in chapels where many of those in attendance are old, it isn't clear who may or may not be vaccinated (with the distinct possibility that those who refuse to be vaccinated are the same folks who refuse to be masked) and various individuals or parties may or may not be able to maintain 6' around themselves.

  21. In your hypothetical, the at-risk individual should not be out in public in the first place. It’s ultimately their responsibility to weigh the risks and decide accordingly.

  22. @ 4:21 Really? Who made that rule? Exactly why does your need to be antisocial and dictatorial take precedence over someone else's right to get their spiritual needs met, to feel like part of their community and to feel safe in the church environment? I didn't see any direction from the church that indicated that only the physically strong or hygienically reckless belonged.

    I don't recall either Jesus or Joseph Smith teaching that the aggressive or thoughtless should prevail. In fact, the Savior taught that we should be humble and compassionate. To me that's about the exact opposite of I-do-it-my-way-so-get-out-of-the-way-if-you-don't-like-it.

    I hope you at least come with some sort of warning.

  23. “Who made that rule?”

    Nature made that rule. If your life depends on 1)other people properly wearing a mask and 2)the actual efficacy of said mask, you probably shouldn’t be venturing out into public. It has nothing to do with anyone’s “right to get their spiritual needs met, to feel like part of their community and to feel safe in the church environment,” it has to do with common sense and your personal willingness to take risks.

    “I don't recall either Jesus or Joseph Smith teaching that the aggressive or thoughtless should prevail.”

    So why are you being so aggressive and thoughtless in your response?

  24. Jeff's call was for people to be nonjudgmental and kind in thought and deed towards those who do not wear masks. It would be nice if we all would apply that to people with opinions that differ from our own.


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