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Temples and Spreading Communicable Disease


Andrew Callahan

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I have often wondered if temple attendance contributed to the spread of disease, and if growing awareness of disease potential plays some small role in people not attending.

Without discussing anything specific about what happens in temples I think most people assume that some reasonably close contact occurs (as in most religious rites or ordinances, etc.) so the potential for spread of disease is present. But this is true virtually in any situation when people get together.

Does anyone here know if there is any information on whether fears of communicable disease transmission has, for example, come up in church surveying or church data?

I have known people who have attended temple sessions when quite sick (but then people also go to work, school or church sick and that isn't a good idea either) but my question is whether anyone knows of any formal or informal information specifically on the topic of LDS Temples and the spread of communicable diseases.

Additionally, it would also be interesting if anyone had information about other data on actual or perceived dangers of the spread of communicable disease associated with religious activities of any kind.

I don't come here often, but knowing that many folks here are quite well read, both on all things Mormon and many other topics related to religion and spirituality, this seemed like a good place to ask this question.

I would appreciate any thoughts, anecdotes, or resources you might be willing to share.

Thanks.

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I have often wondered if temple attendance contributed to the spread of disease, and if growing awareness of disease potential plays some small role in people not attending.

Without discussing anything specific about what happens in temples I think most people assume that some reasonably close contact occurs (as in most religious rites or ordinances, etc.) so the potential for spread of disease is present. But this is true virtually in any situation when people get together.

Does anyone here know if there is any information on whether fears of communicable disease transmission has, for example, come up in church surveying or church data?

I have known people who have attended temple sessions when quite sick (but then people also go to work, school or church sick and that isn't a good idea either) but my question is whether anyone knows of any formal or informal information specifically on the topic of LDS Temples and the spread of communicable diseases.

Additionally, it would also be interesting if anyone had information about other data on actual or perceived dangers of the spread of communicable disease associated with religious activities of any kind.

I don't come here often, but knowing that many folks here are quite well read, both on all things Mormon and many other topics related to religion and spirituality, this seemed like a good place to ask this question.

I would appreciate any thoughts, anecdotes, or resources you might be willing to share.

Thanks.

Does grocery shopping contribute to the spread of communicable diseases? What about going to the doctors office?

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I don't know that there is anything like this, but I think that people have to take their own initiative to wash their own hands, and people should think about washing their hands often even after shaking hands with someone else, or touching a keyboard or whatever. I think it should be common sense.

I am a temple worker (veil worker) in the Jordan River Temple, and we always have that alcohol gel stuff available there to disinfect our hands with before the sessions. So it isn't like we don't try to keep our hands disinfected. But when one person after another comes and you have contact with their hands, there is only so much that you can do.

I know that they prefer that we do not come sick. That is for sure.

I have often wondered if temple attendance contributed to the spread of disease, and if growing awareness of disease potential plays some small role in people not attending.

Without discussing anything specific about what happens in temples I think most people assume that some reasonably close contact occurs (as in most religious rites or ordinances, etc.) so the potential for spread of disease is present. But this is true virtually in any situation when people get together.

Does anyone here know if there is any information on whether fears of communicable disease transmission has, for example, come up in church surveying or church data?

I have known people who have attended temple sessions when quite sick (but then people also go to work, school or church sick and that isn't a good idea either) but my question is whether anyone knows of any formal or informal information specifically on the topic of LDS Temples and the spread of communicable diseases.

Additionally, it would also be interesting if anyone had information about other data on actual or perceived dangers of the spread of communicable disease associated with religious activities of any kind.

I don't come here often, but knowing that many folks here are quite well read, both on all things Mormon and many other topics related to religion and spirituality, this seemed like a good place to ask this question.

I would appreciate any thoughts, anecdotes, or resources you might be willing to share.

Thanks.

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ERayR:

Yes they do. But the benefits outweigh the risks. That being said if you have a communicable disease do try to limit contact with the public.

You miss my point. Perhaps I was too subtle. It was an inane question.

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Our Temple has that gel stuff and a washroom. I know one girl who had terrible, terrible skin problems wasn't allowed to do baptisms. She has gotten better but I don't know if she went back or not, maybe? She also has other mental challenges and was chasing someone around in the baptistry so that may have also contributed to it as well. I know that when setting up and blessing the Sacrament here the brethren here have to wash their hands.

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Perhaps I phrased this poorly but I think some of you have helped with your answers about practices in the temple.

We know some of the risks of communicable diseases in public because there are articles in the popular press every year about spreading disease at schools, day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. There are also scholarly studies that have been done particularly on the medical related facilities, but some of the others as well. There are also at least occasional stories and studies in the press about salad bars, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, etc. So, there is information available on these things, specifically related to those things. The information and anecdotes are all over the map, some of it is contradictory, and it isn't easy to decipher and glean capital T Truth from the information, but at least there is information out there. We can certainly also extrapolate from things we read about one category and apply it to another category. But, there are many categories of places people go that have actual information available, and that is what I am asking about in this situation.

Does anyone know about information available concerning the spread of communicable diseases in religious settings generally or more specifically in LDS temples.

I don't think it is an inane question. I think if consumers of groceries can fairly ask what is known about the role of supermarkets in the spread of communicable disease, and the consumers of education can ask what is known about the role of schools in the spread of communicable disease, and consumers of health care can ask what is known about the role of health care facilities in the spread of communicable disease, then it is reasonable for consumers of religious services to ask about the role of religious facilities in the spread of communicable disease.

This really is nothing more than a request for information.

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Perhaps I phrased this poorly but I think some of you have helped with your answers about practices in the temple.

We know some of the risks of communicable diseases in public because there are articles in the popular press every year about spreading disease at schools, day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. There are also scholarly studies that have been done particularly on the medical related facilities, but some of the others as well. There are also at least occasional stories and studies in the press about salad bars, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, etc. So, there is information available on these things, specifically related to those things. The information and anecdotes are all over the map, some of it is contradictory, and it isn't easy to decipher and glean capital T Truth from the information, but at least there is information out there. We can certainly also extrapolate from things we read about one category and apply it to another category. But, there are many categories of places people go that have actual information available, and that is what I am asking about in this situation.

Does anyone know about information available concerning the spread of communicable diseases in religious settings generally or more specifically in LDS temples.

I don't think it is an inane question. I think if consumers of groceries can fairly ask what is known about the role of supermarkets in the spread of communicable disease, and the consumers of education can ask what is known about the role of schools in the spread of communicable disease, and consumers of health care can ask what is known about the role of health care facilities in the spread of communicable disease, then it is reasonable for consumers of religious services to ask about the role of religious facilities in the spread of communicable disease.

This really is nothing more than a request for information.

Good to see you back on the boards Flat Lander. I'm a Hastings native as well and we share several mutual friends (we chatted on YouTube under less civil circumstances a few years back, and for that I express my apologies).

I don't know that the LDS Church keeps any tabs on the spread of communicable diseases by temple attendees per se, though temple workers and patrons are often encouraged to avoid attending the temple if they're showing symptoms of the flu or other illnesses (at least recently). But, any social interaction whether religiously-motivated or not, generally poses the risk of contracting one illness or another.

During your time in the Church, did you feel Winter Quarters, Orlando, or Denver had sufficient information outlining the facilities' roles in the prevention of said illnesses?

Does your own Moron Church of Latter-day Saints keep tabs on this information, specifically as it pertains to the temple of the flying spaghetti monster in your basement?

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Nursery and Primary are more breeding houses of disease than the Temple will ever be.

And, on another board someone else suggested the same about Sacrament Meeting with the passing of bread and water, perhaps people coughing on it, etc., children with runny noses present, and other things.

No, I'm not suggesting that temples are anything like a 'great repository of disease' or anything of the kind. I'm asking really two things. First, do we have any information of any kind, in anecdotal, statistical, or any other form that tells us about communicable diseases and religious settings (and here specifically the temple)? And, second, do we have any information of any kind whether anecdotal, statistical or in an other form, that addresses the topic of people being concerned about the spread of communicable diseases through temple attendance?

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This is really stupid.

You shake hands with several people, you put hand sanitizer on your hands, and that's it.

I do this at work, I do this at church, I do this at the temple. It's common sense.

I get colds like once every 2 years - maybe. Any concern is absurd.

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This is really stupid.

You shake hands with several people, you put hand sanitizer on your hands, and that's it.

I do this at work, I do this at church, I do this at the temple. It's common sense.

I get colds like once every 2 years - maybe. Any concern is absurd.

You use hand sanitizer now, but chances are (assuming you are old enough) you didn't use hand sanitizer in 1978. People's attitudes about things change over time, with the increase in information, etc. Jay Leno tells a story of his father being ridiculed by the new car salesman when in 1964 he told the salesman he wanted a car with seat belts.

I guess at the heart of the question is, does anyone have any information that suggests one way or the other whether concerns about the spread of communicable diseases has an impact on temple attendance?

If there is no information, there is no information. I think a position that asserts the whole question is "stupid" misses the point. I am trying to ascertain from a group of folks many of whom attend church if they have heard discussions on this topic in open meetings such as relief society or elders quorum, if they've heard discussions or explanations or anything in leadership meetings, or if they are aware of folks talking informally about this issue among themselves.

In a world where folks are concerned about spread of disease in their workplace, school, doctor's office, supermarket, etc., it seems reasonable to ask "are they also concerned about their places of worship?"

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The former head of the CDC is my neighbor. He told us the other day that there was not a single report of disease being spread by sharing the communion cup.

Let's not get confused here.

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The former head of the CDC is my neighbor. He told us the other day that there was not a single report of disease being spread by sharing the communion cup.

Let's not get confused here.

Are you telling a whopper to make a point?

Cause, if you are, I'm not sure what we're trying to "not get confused" about. You've actually confused me.

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ERayR:

IIRC our Temple President has said that if you have a communicable disease, like a cold or the flu it would be better not to come for a week or so.

Not at all. I'm far too literal for my own good.

My point which should be obvious is that temples are no more nor less places to transfer communicable diseases than anywhere else people congregate.

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Any place where people gather is a chance for communicable diseases to spread. I do believe wards have been canceled at times of heavy outbreaks of flu. In any case I do have to wonder why the opening post is so concerned about church specifically given there are so many other places where people gather.

When I used to teach nursery I'd go home every Sunday and wash my hands and take my Emergen-C or Airborne. Love those little kids but they often had snotty little noses and grubby little hands.

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In any case I do have to wonder why the opening post is so concerned about church specifically given there are so many other places where people gather.

That's sort of my point, actually. We've all seen people nowadays who are MUCH more germ conscious than ever before. I've seen people pull out wipes and wipe down their chairs and tables at fast food restaurants. I've seen people pull out tissues to use to open doors of public places. I'm just wondering to what degree folks have observed, discussed, or in any way encountered changes in behavior (specifically I was questioning about attendance) regarding the temple or other religious meetings. I talked to some Lutheran friends of mine recently, for example, who changed from going to the traditional meeting to the contemporary (or maybe it was vice versa) so they could be in the larger room with fewer people, specifically they said to reduce the risk of getting sick.

So, some folks in the DAMU have been commenting that temple attendance is declining (and I obviously have no way of knowing if that is true or not) which got me to wondering, if temple attendance is in fact declining, would one of the factors be related to the "germ-o-phobia" that has been growing in the US for at least the last decade.

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That's sort of my point, actually. We've all seen people nowadays who are MUCH more germ conscious than ever before. I've seen people pull out wipes and wipe down their chairs and tables at fast food restaurants. I've seen people pull out tissues to use to open doors of public places. I'm just wondering to what degree folks have observed, discussed, or in any way encountered changes in behavior (specifically I was questioning about attendance) regarding the temple or other religious meetings. I talked to some Lutheran friends of mine recently, for example, who changed from going to the traditional meeting to the contemporary (or maybe it was vice versa) so they could be in the larger room with fewer people, specifically they said to reduce the risk of getting sick.

So, some folks in the DAMU have been commenting that temple attendance is declining (and I obviously have no way of knowing if that is true or not) which got me to wondering, if temple attendance is in fact declining, would one of the factors be related to the "germ-o-phobia" that has been growing in the US for at least the last decade.

I don't live in the US but I know that for the Temple I attend there were 2000 less ordinances done last year then the year before. Now the variables as to why that is are many I'm sure. The Temple services three numbers wise smaller stakes in Canada, everyone in my city has to travel 6 hours to get there, and spend a night so cost and interest is a factor and we just don't have tons of people. We only had one Temple trip last year but people are obviously free and clear to go whenever they want. I have never heard of anyone getting sick from the Temple. I know one lady was livid because she was told that you get meat at the Temple and she was expecting to come away with a side of beef!

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:P

That seems kind of bizarre! I know it isn't covered in the span of the original post, but I'd love to hear more details of this if you know them.

It happened with a lady in my Mum's ward! She (this lady) is what you would call simple... Anyways she was a new convert then and went to the Temple and someone, whoever, told her that you get meat at the Temple probably alluding to that phrase, "milk before meat". Somehow she got it in her head and was expecting that the Temple was like a Butcher's shop in which you walk away with physical, tangible meat that you can eat and not "spiritual meat". She was really,really upset that no one handed her beef, bacon or sirloin or anything!! I shouldn't laugh but I do

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. . . Does anyone know about information available concerning the spread of communicable diseases in religious settings generally or more specifically in LDS temples.

It's difficult to conceive of how such information could be obtained. How, specifically, would you structure the study (information-gathering process)? If the information you seek were to have any credibility, it would be necessary to prohibit study participants from attending all public gatherings except those held in the temple. Moreover, you would need a sample of at least a thousand individuals in virtually the same physical condition who attend the same session the same number of times a week. Their personal hygiene practices would have to be the same, as well as how they prepare their food and what they eat. Also, the findings for the Hawaii Temple wouldn't be applicable to the Freiberg Temple, Toronto Temple, etc. (different climates, different "bugs," different public health policies).

If any information does exist, I would like to see the methodology used to obtain it.

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It's difficult to conceive of how such information could be obtained. How, specifically, would you structure the study (information-gathering process)? If the information you seek were to have any credibility, it would be necessary to prohibit study participants from attending all public gatherings except those held in the temple. Moreover, you would need a sample of at least a thousand individuals in virtually the same physical condition who attend the same session the same number of times a week. Their personal hygiene practices would have to be the same, as well as how they prepare their food and what they eat. Also, the findings for the Hawaii Temple wouldn't be applicable to the Freiberg Temple, Toronto Temple, etc. (different climates, different "bugs," different public health policies).

If any information does exist, I would like to see the methodology used to obtain it.

Clearly, you are right on all these points. I guess I was really more thinking about PERCEPTIONS of people attending the temple or attending any given meeting or program, whether church, theater or a restaurant. Perceptions could be measured and could be known. Also, some folks in this thread and on a similar thread on another board did get at some of the things the church does (or perhaps it is individual temple leadership decisions) such as encouraging workers to stay home when sick, at least one or two indicated some kind of sanitizers are made available for workers; someone said they are actually encouraged to shake hands less when they know there are viruses rampant in the area, etc. So, I had no doubt that this kind of thing was taking place, it is good sense do do these things. One of the things I was hoping to get at, however, was whether many of these precautions taken by the temple are because some leader or leaders acted pro-actively, imagining that problems could come up if they didn't do these things, or if they were done as a response to concerns of patrons or a response to some other stimuli.

But, going through this thread has helped me clarify and focus my thoughts on this quite a bit.

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Just a few minutes ago I heard part of a story on the local NBC affiliate's 10 pm news about testing of shopping carts and finding fecal bacteria. Then, I came to my computer and checked Google News and found a WebMD page citing an MSNBC story

http://blogs.webmd.com/breaking-news/2011/03/fecal-bacteria-on-72-of-shopping-carts.html

72 percent of shopping carts tested in four states had fecal bacteria, and half of the carts subjected to more extensive testing had e. coli bacteria. The story also goes on and talks about many of the things we talked about in the thread, school areas, elevator buttons, etc.

The point this makes for me (and I didn't know about this study when I started the thread) is that yes, there are studies in the media about all kinds of public gathering places, but I can't ever, ever remember one that discussed religious environments.

I'm not making the argument that temples or churches are dirtier than supermarkets, I'm just wondering why there seems to be NO information at all about them.

This awareness of germs and bacteria and viruses and whatever seems to be bombarding us, except in the area of religious gatherings. Now, perhaps there are other areas that never get studied or mentioned either, but it certainly seems to me that religious meeting places should be examined. I don't know what the statistics are, but isn't this one of the most church-going countries in the world?

It just makes sense to me that with people concerned about all the other places they go during the week, they are probably concerned about going to church and to the temple. Extrapolating from the MSNBC article it would make sense that the temple would be less dangerous of a place germ-wise, since it isn't a place filled with children. But, the chapel, the nursery, the Primary room, the classrooms used by Primary children, the mother's nursing lounge, the bathrooms, etc. Seems like churches (not just LDS churches, but all churches) may have significant potential issues.

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