COVID-19 has disrupted businesses, schools, nonprofits and churches. including local LDS congregations.
Travis Wilcox is the Stake President of the Heber North Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As with all local LDS leadership Wilcox is a lay minister, meaning he is not paid for his church work. Wilcox acts as a spiritual leader and administrative manager overseeing 10 Heber congregations, totaling about 4,700 people.
He says church leadership is and will continue to comply with government directives, as such they’ve instructed church members to conduct private worship services at home during this time. Wilcox says they’re also working to help provide for area residents’ material needs.
“There are lots of people that have lost jobs and are unable to provide the necessities of life at this time," Wilcox said. "So, we're working very closely with the Christian Center of Park City and the Utah Food Bank, who both have food pantries in Wasatch County. We're working to help provide commodities from our bishops storehouse to these pantries, our church is making sizable donations in this regard to help provide for all people in the community that may be in need.”
Church leaders at the global and local level as well as the faith’s members are communicating with each other through emails, phone calls and other electronic communication tools.
Young men and young women in the church evangelize for 18 months to two-years across the globe. With the COVID-19 pandemic leadership is bringing those young adults back to their homes, including to homes in the Wasatch Back. Wilcox says his own son arrived back from his mission in Peru on Wednesday.
“So my wife and I drove down to the airport to pick him up. This is what we would instruct all people to do but, we follow the instructions of airport officials and parked where directed and we waited in our car for him to come out of the airport," Wilcox explained. "After he collected his baggage, he found us at our car, and we loaded his bags in the car and drove home. As you can imagine it's been a tender and sweet reunion for us after a 21-month absence. Even though he's healthy and has no symptoms, he'll be in a 14-day self-isolation period in our home as we try to do our part not to spread the virus to others. So, this is what we're instructing all missionaries—and we've had many in the Heber Valley that have returned home—to do. They come home and they spend 14 days in their homes isolated and just making sure that they don't have the virus.”
The global church leadership is also preparing for its annual general conference this weekend. The event usually brings huge crowds to Salt Lake City. This year the meetings will be broadcast remotely on TV and online. Although the talks and topics aren’t known beforehand Wilcox offers what he believes those who listen will hear.
“Messages of hope and love and faith through Jesus Christ," Wilcox continued. "Messages of compassion and taking care of each other in these trying and difficult times. Messages of hope to those that have lost loved ones during this time. Those are the messages that I would expect to hear.”
Wilcox says his heart and prayers goes out to everyone in the community who have experienced hardships as a result of the pandemic including those who have lost economic security and especially those who may have lost loved ones.