Dear brothers and sisters,
Once again I pray that the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all in these extraordinary times. By now, I am sure that you are aware of Jackson County’s newest ordinance requiring all people, including children ages five and up, to wear a face mask when in a public indoor space including a place of worship. This ordinance is in response to a rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area. While this might appear to be a simple a decision, it most certainly is not. The pastorate and I have spent much time in prayer, fasting, and discussion regarding this issue.
Notwithstanding the various views concerning COVID-19, no one can deny the strong emotions which the subject can most assuredly generate regardless of which side of the issue we may fall upon. It is important that we, as the body of Jesus Christ, meet the trials of our day in the spirit of love, as well as a hope of Zion. If we believe that we are living in the latter days and that both the heavens and the earth will shake before the return of our Lord, then we must expect to meet greater trials ahead. In this, we must always remember who we are and whose we are. We are God’s people, the children of the Risen Lord. We must let our light, or in other words our witness of Christ, so shine before this world, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven [Matthew 5:18].
While we might not agree with the course Jackson County has taken, it would be unwise, at this time, to completely ignore them. If you have a mask, we encourage you to bring one. However, we must stress that we will not turn anyone away for not wearing a mask. As our brother Nephi wrote, “Behold, doth He [God] cry unto any, saying Depart from me?... Behold, hath He commanded any that they should depart…out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay” [2 Nephi 11:98, 100-101]. Instead, “He saith, Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” [2 Nephi 11:99].
Jackson County’s ordinance, which is referred to as Recovery Plan 2.5, adheres to the same guidelines as before. This means we are still able to meet together at Outreach as long as we maintain social distance and have no more than 50% of the building’s capacity. We have been following both of these requirements since the beginning of June. We will continue to offer our services both in person and via the livestream. The only difference is the face mask requirement. We will try to make these available for those who might need them. However, we will not have them in time for the prayer service tonight. It is important to note that those persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing are not required to wear a mask.
Since the onset of the stay-at-home order in March, I have been in continual prayer on behalf of the branch concerning this matter. I believe the Lord God, who stretched out the heavens as curtain and as tent to dwell in; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who delivered Israel out of Egypt; the God who brought the Jaredites, the Nephites, and the Mulekites to the promised land; the God who spoke to young Joseph in the grove and restored His Church; the God who gave His Only Begotten Son that whosever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life; has the power to deliver us from this trial if we will believe in Him. We worship a Mighty God! A Mighty God who is seeking for a people who believe in Him for He is mighty to save.
My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen