An Open Letter to the Long Beach East Ward Stake and Los Alamitos Ward Leadership

I sent this letter to my Stake Presidency and Bishopric after one of our neighbors – the former stake president’s family – got COVID, likely at church, despite being fully vaccinated. This family had attended church just a few days before their positive test results. The only notice we got about this potential exposure was about a Relief Society meal train.

Another stake member – someone who was into COVID denialism – was on a ventilator, and while the stake asked us to pray for a miracle, they never suggested getting the miracle vaccine.

I’m over catering to those who put their slight personal inconvenience over the safety of others. We need to come together as a community and do our part to protect our most vulnerable, even if mask wearing is annoying sometimes.


Hi everyone,

I’m concerned about the lack of adherence to the First Presidency’s guidelines on mask wearing and vaccines. I missed last Sunday’s meeting because I was getting over a cold. Maybe I have missed something or been misinformed – if so, I apologize in advance and welcome the news that our stake will be adhering to the First Presidency’s recommendation. 

But I haven’t seen any emails going out to stake members sharing the guidelines from the First Presidency. Additionally, none of the emails I’ve seen from the stake or ward has made ANY mention of sustaining the first presidency in getting a vaccine or wearing a mask to church.

And from what I’ve heard from several ward members, it sounds like you have no plans on enforcing either the vaccine or mask in your buildings.

Furthermore, the ward should be immediately notified if there is a case within our congregation. Not just for meal trains/prayers/support, but because it’s irresponsible not to inform people – many of whom are especially vulnerable – that they were potentially exposed. 

Normally, I don’t care where someone else’s heart is. It’s not my business. But in this scenario, my family’s health is at risk if someone else decides they don’t want to wear a mask. As I’m sure we know by now, mask wearing protects others from COVID transmission in the event someone is asymptomatic or simply doesn’t think they’re sick. Anything less than double N95 masking doesn’t protect the people wearing them. So it’s critical that those around us protect their neighbors – much like how priesthood ordinances can only be used to bless others and you can’t baptize yourself.

To further the point, the First Presidency explicitly says, “We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders.” The CDC – which qualifies as both – recommends wearing a mask indoors in an area of substantial or high transmission. 

Our zip code has an 8.7% COVID test positivity rate, which would put us in the highest tier if that system were still active. And yet we aren’t requiring masks in our houses of worship?

This is aggravating. Over a year ago, we collectively prayed and fasted for deliverance from this pandemic. And we got it in the form of a perfectly-timed vaccine… one the prophet says is safe and effective.

Yet for some reason, many members in this stake (and the church as a whole) continue to reject this miracle or cater to those who reject it. They also refuse the half-measure of mask wearing until all who want it can have the vaccine. For proof, just look at the heartbreaking comments on the Church’s announcement this last week. How could so many church members choose to follow political pundits and profiteering misinformation over the calm, collected counsel of our physician prophet?

And now, with the first presidency coming out with clear recommendations about how to keep our faith community safe, we’re seeing local leaders outright question or ignore this guidance.

We have a member of our stake right now who’s on a ventilator right now. And another family with a newborn in the home who has COVID. Do we want to contribute to more scenarios like this? Would Christ put a small piece of cloth over His face if it meant possibly protecting someone else? I think so. And I know Christ would have the courage to say the right thing instead of worrying about how popular He was among his community.

I think the stories of the serpent’s staff, or Naaman, or Alma and his people in bondage, or many others make it clear that we can do this small thing to show our faith in God and His leaders.

So why isn’t our stake doing this? 

  • If it’s because our leaders doubt the truth of the prophet’s guidance, then why are those people still in positions of leadership? It seems weird someone would attend hours of meetings weekly engaged in a cause they don’t fully believe in?
  • And if it’s because these leaders don’t want to offend the anti-mask crowd, why don’t they have more courage to “do what is right, let the consequence follow”? Is scoring political points worth it?
  • If it’s because of fear or a lack of courage, what can we do to encourage a bit more bravery?
  • If we want the temples to fully re-open quickly, as per the prophet’s plea from General Conference, why aren’t we taking every opportunity to normalize this lifesaving vaccine and encourage it from the pulpit?
  • If we want to keep our houses of worship open, why aren’t we taking steps to mitigate our houses of worship as a transmission vector?

It feels like, as a stake and ward, we’re trying to serve two masters.

My family and I take the gospel very seriously. And as part of that, we believe in taking the guidance of the first presidency seriously, even if we don’t always agree with it. 

Since I can no longer trust my faith community to care about my family’s safety by following the prophet’s recommendations, we’re not going to be attending any meetings until the vaccine is available for all of our children. Leaders who cater to worldly misinformation aren’t the influence I want on my children’s spiritual development.

Again, maybe I’m wrong – maybe the information we received about the mask recommendation not being fully followed was incorrect. And if that’s the case, I apologize for coming across half-cocked. If we can’t afford a box of masks to keep by the door, I will gladly donate them.

But if this is the case, and masks are not being fully required to meet in person, then I stand by everything I’ve said here.

Since we won’t be attending in-person until my entire family can be vaccinated, including my children, please release me from my calling as well – I don’t want to be on the schedule and cause any headaches if we’re not going to be attending. 

Matthew Hall