Pandemic causes mission disruption and end-times speculation in LDS

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) has seen the greatest impact of the pandemic on its mission force and the growth of home-based worship, reports the Salt Lake Tribune (October 1, 2020). The church cohort that was probably the most disrupted was the 60,000 young people who serve as missionaries around the world, as their practice of door-to-door missions were restricted. Eventually, the missionaries adapted their work to online formats. The article cites the work of BYU professor Christine Blythe and her research team who interviewed and collected more than 600 stories from across the globe on changes in the LDS during the pandemic. Early on, the church authorized members to have sacrament meetings in their homes if they had a “worthy male priesthood holder” to officiate. “Some families are blessing the sacrament in their PJs, others are in full Sunday dress…Some have made makeshift podiums and use hand-carved wood trays; others use medicine cups, shot glasses, or their grandmother’s china,” Blythe said.

“Worshipping at home has been particularly difficult on single and widowed women who do not have men to perform the ordinance, or where women are the only members in their family,” writes Peggy Fletcher Stack. The geographical boundaries that define Mormon wards or congregations were diminished by church closures and new boundaries have been established around family. “Families living in diverse cities, states and even countries are coming together to have services virtually,” Blythe adds. Many interviewees shared their belief that such the institutional changes as the unveiling in October 2018 of “homecentered, churchsupported” worship — were “revelatory and in preparation for the pandemic.” Some viewed the virus as a “dry run” for the apocalypse to see how well Latter-day Saints have followed instructions about food storage and other preparations.

(Salt Lake Tribune,