SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asking members of the church in Utah to wear face masks to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Latter-day Saints are not immune,” the faith’s Utah Area Presidency wrote in a letter distributed on Friday.

Citing a “global pandemic unlike any the world has experienced in more than a century,” the letter asks all members of the church in the state to “join with us now in common purpose for the blessing and benefit of all.”

The letter referred to an “escalating health crisis,” with incidents of infection “rising dramatically” in the state and nation. As such, local members are being asked to be good citizens by wearing face coverings whenever in public.

The letter was signed by church elders Craig C. Christensen, Randy D. Funk and Walter F. Gonzalez.

The three men point out that a “growing chorus of medical authorities” has confirmed that wearing a face covering in public — or when social distancing is not possible — reduces the spread of COVID-19.

“This is true both indoors and outdoors,” the letter states.

On Thursday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced he would not issue a statewide mask mandate and instead challenged residents to voluntarily wear masks in public or when social distancing wasn’t possible.

“At this time, I choose not to make it mandate,” Herbert said. “I’m going to give the people of Utah an opportunity to show the kind of people, the character they are, which I believe we’ve demonstrated in times past.”

In a video conference the next day, Utah’s hospital and medical leaders called on Herbert to make masks mandatory, adding the dire warning that if the current surge of coronavirus cases continues, hospitals will be overrun with patients.

“It feels like we’re headed for a disaster,” said Arlen Jarrett, chief medical officer at Steward Health Care.

In Friday’s letter from the Utah Area Presidency, members of the church were commended for wearing face masks as congregations returned to Sunday worship services.

“Now we ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public,” the area presidency admonished. “Doing so will help promote the health and general welfare of all.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!