LOGAN — Area leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have announced temporary changes for worship services to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The modifications were sent to local leaders in a letter Thursday morning.
The Utah Area Presidency asked local stake and ward leaders to make the temporary adjustments to ensure increased safety and vigilance during a time of rising cases in the state. The alterations included:
- Temporarily suspending in-person gospel study classes and transition them to virtual meetings.
- Limit in-person youth gatherings to activities with a religious purpose.
- Limit in-person attendance at baptisms, funerals, weddings and receptions to immediate family and those who officiate. All others can participate virtually.
- Hold council meetings, coordination meetings and other large leadership meetings via technology.
The Church had already reduced the number of in-person participants in their Sunday worship services from 150 to 99 or less.
The letter was released days after Governor Gary Herbert issued an Executive Order, which, among other things, mandates the wearing of face masks and precludes social gatherings of individuals from separate households. The Utah Department of Health followed with a similar Public Health Order. The Orders have state-wide application and remain in effect until at least November 23, 2020.
As Gov. Herbert previously explained, the Executive Order, by its terms, does not apply to religious services. Additionally, it stipulates that social gatherings, as defined, do not include gatherings “for a primarily educational or religious purpose” and simply “encourages faith-based organizations to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Thursday’s letter noted that even though local congregations are in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order. Area Presidency members encouraged leaders and members to be diligent in following existing safety guidelines and in using caution to mitigate the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.