Seriously… It’s Alright For You To Stay Home From Church When You’re Sick

I don’t know what it’s like in your town or city, but in our’s, there is an outbreak of the flu. According to nurses and doctors, it’s the worst outbreak they’ve ever seen. There are a couple strands of this flu. One is a high temp, nausea, and diarrhea. The other is a mid-range temp,  stuffy nose, cough, and headache.

Having said all that, the way it gets spread is when people decide of their own volition to come and spread it around. If you don’t know you’re sick, there’s obviously little you can do. But dude! If you have even an inkling of a fever, snot running down your nose, a meaty cough or anything else that might not seem normal… JUST STAY HOME.

sick at church

The Lord is going to forgive you! In fact, maybe he’ll even bless you for thinking of others. But when you come to church while being sick, getting in other people’s faces, shaking hands, and rubbing shoulders with others, you’re just perpetuating this outbreak and hurting others.

This extends especially to kids. If you’re a typical Mormon family with 8 little ~ninos under the age of 10, and one or two of them are sick and none of the others are sick. What should you do? Do you bring the sick ones because you and your spouse are fine and the six other kids appear to be fine as well? Or do you bring the sick kids and let them cough all over the back of the 80-year-old grandma with the low immune system… because, well… “there’s no one to stay at home with them.”

The answer: One of the parents needs to just stay home with the sick kids! They don’t need to be in the nursery, touching the toys, and inadvertently wiping snot on ten other 2-year-olds. But… you have to teach the lesson in 3rd hour. I get it. The ward council is going to fall apart without you there. I get it. You had some important church business you really needed to take care of. I get it. But seriously… it is OK. Everything will be fine. Get in a blanket, grab some scriptures, throw on a church movie, or give your own lesson at home with the sick kids. The work will continue to move forward. The building will continue to stand. We’ll all miss you at church, but we’ll catch up next week.

Maybe you and your family can handle these nasty cold and flu outbreaks. But there are some people who truly can’t. Their immune systems are compromised and they’re hoping that we will have the decency to stay home and get better. When you hear that church is not a “rest home for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” Please don’t take that literally. It doesn’t mean physically. It’s a spiritual hospital, in case that ever wasn’t clear.

In extreme cases, we’ll need a few brave individuals to go out in isolated circumstances and bless the sick. I’ve always been moved by what Elder James E. Talmage did for a sick family during the spring of 1892 when diphtheria ravaged Utah communities.

“Talmage had returned home on Memorial Day from ministering to people when he learned of the plight of the non-Mormon Martin family, who were afflicted with diphtheria. Local Relief Society leaders had been unable to get anyone to go to the house to help for fear of catching the disease. James immediately left for the Martin home.”

talmage sick story

He recorded:

‘One child, two and a half years old, lay dead on a bed, having been dead about four hours and still unwashed. Two other children, one a boy of ten and the other a girl of five, lay writhing in the agonies of the disease. A girl of 13 years is still feeble from a recent attack of diphtheria…The father, Mr. Abe Martin, and the mother, Marshia Martin, are dazed with grief and fatigue; and the only other occupant of the house, a man named Kelly who is a boarder in the family, is so ill and weak as hardly to be able to move about. He cleaned the house and prepared the young child for burial. Food and clothing had been donated by the Relief Society. The soiled clothing and rugs had to be burned. When he returned the next day, he found that the ten-year-old boy had died during the night. The five-year-old girl was now near death. Talmage took her in his arms.’

Talmage again recorded:

“She clung to my neck, ofttimes coughing bloody mucus on my face and clothing, and her throat had about it the stench of putrefaction, yet I could not put her from me. During the half-hour immediately preceding her death, I walked the floor with the little creature in my arms. She died in agony at 10 a.m.

The three children were placed in wooden coffins and buried in a local cemetery. Talmage delivered the graveside blessing. After seeing to the well-being of the grieving family, he bathed in a zinc solution, burned his soiled clothing, and quarantined himself from his family for several days to prevent the spread of the disease.

In this extreme case, an isolated brother went to bless the sick. Talmage got much more than he bargained for but was committed to helping this family in their dire sickness, while in their home. But at the end of this ordeal, you could just feel the emotional intelligence and cognition in this man as he realized the need to not expose others to what might be harmful to them… even to the point in which he quarantined himself for “several days.”

Now… I’m not trying to be extreme here. I know that Diptheria in those days was different than a cold or flu in our day. But extreme cold and flu strands today have the ability to create similar situations for those that don’t have strong immune systems.

So be safe and thoughtful of others out there!

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  • Brandon

    I read this as I am home from church today because of my cold/flu. My wife is the primary pres and would aid me onto the next work had I wanted to go to church. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Barbara Connell

    I so agree with this, members carrying infections should stay at home to protect those who need to avoid these things.
    Thank you for this information and advice.

  • Jeri Zakrzewski

    I have been saying this since I was called to Nursery when I was 18! (I am now 61!!) I can’t believe that people are so ignorant in how a cold/flu are spread! If a youngster in Nursery has a “boogie nose”, they WILL spread their illness to SOMEONE in there! If not another child or adult in that room with them NOW, but perhaps to ANOTHER child/adult in the room from a toy, book, table, pew, etc. in another Ward that follows!! I always kept my kids home from Church whenever they, or I were I’ll. EVEN if with ONLY a cold. It WILL shorten the severity of the illness, AND you will be back to Church that much sooner! Thx!!

  • Alex Holman

    I understand the concern, and the reasoning behind this. But I feel its reasonable to go to church when you’re sick, take the sacrament, and then leave. There are, of course, a variety of circumstamces regarding sickness ams being contagious. One of the main reasons for going to church, however, is to renew your covenants with the Lord. Telling people to not come because they are sicm (no matter how justified) could come off wrong and treads a dangerous line between spirituality and culture in the LDS church.

    If someone does come to church sick, it couls be a growing opportunity for others around them. Perhaps its a family that has been struggling during the week. Maybe its a young couple struggling with school and finances. Perhaps even its a young mother drowing in the responsibilities of say to day life. It could also be someone who feels a firm commitment to make it to church, regardless of circumstance. Remember, even when others make foolish choices that affect you, it is a commandment to act lovingly and with Christlike charity

    TL;DR, if someone comes to church sick, there’s nothing you can do about it. Choose to see it from their perspectice, rather than getting upset.

    • Ash Chambers

      I think the author is pointing out not about how to control others, but reminding people to consider what they are risking when they bring a contagious disease to church. Prioritizing yourself and taking the sacrament over the health of others is, frankly, selfish. If the priority is taking the sacrament one week, consider how another can be easily forced to miss that opportunity for weeks *because* someone else prioritized their own desires. Intent also matters–the ritual of sacrament is a formalized action of a desire and intent. If being sick precludes that action, it doesn’t erase the intent nor preclude continuation of a covenant. And if it does, then how can anyone justify causing others to miss out.

      You can still love and care about that person, and, if you have the immune system, reach out to them. People missing church should be an opportunity for others to check in on them, they shouldn’t need to appear in church sick to make that clear.

      I think the article did a great job of not disinviting others, but making it clear that it is *okay* to miss if you are sick. As a chronically ill person, I had to deal with a rather toxic culture at BYU that missing when sick was not acceptable or okay. It was considered skipping. Literally, even when I had been hospitalized the day before, I had people pressuring me to come to church. That sort of atmosphere can stick with a person and make them feel they are doing something wrong if they stay home sick. And I think this piece does a great job of clarifying that, not only is it okay to stay home if sick, but you are putting the needs of others first when you do so.