Utah Area issues 4 temporary adjustments to meetings, activities as COVID-19 cases rise

Latter-day Saints sit six feet apart and don masks during a Sunday sacrament meeting. The Utah Area announced updates to COVID-19 safety measures on Nov. 12, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
A small number of guests attend the Bentonville Arkansas Temple at the groundbreaking on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Attendance at the event was limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
The First Presidency outlined, in a letter dated May 19, plans to resume some meetings and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a limited basis using “a careful, phased approach.” This includes the administration of the sacrame Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
A family receives the sacrament tray while holding their face masks. The priesthood holder follows COVID-19 recommended public guidelines by wearing a face mask and distributing the sacrament tray to each Church member. The First Presidency provided guide Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The First Presidency outlined, in a letter dated May 19, plans to resume some meetings and activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a limited basis using “a careful, phased approach.” This includes the administration of the sacrame Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Bishop Darren L. Harline prepares the sacrament in his home in San Clemente, California, for his family on March 15, 2020, after the Church suspended all meetings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Photo by Alan Gibby

To comply with recent state executive and public health orders, the Utah Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued four temporary adjustments in COVID-19 precautions for meetings and activities in the Utah Area.

In an email sent to Church leaders on Nov. 12, the area presidency notes being responsive to state health orders and asked the leaders to make the adjustments to ensure increased safety and vigilance during a time in which COVID-19 cases in the state have seen spiking increases and pandemic-period record highs.

The four measures are:

  • Temporarily suspending in-person second-hour meetings in the young single adult (YSA) wards and stakes. However, second-hour meetings can be held virtually.
  • Limiting in-person youth gatherings to activities with a religious purpose.
  • Limiting in-person attendance at baptisms, funerals, weddings and receptions to immediate family and those who officiate. Others can participate virtually.
  • Holding stake and ward council meetings, coordination meetings and other large leadership meetings via technology.

The Utah Area Presidency’s email in its entirety reads: 

Dear Brethren:

We express our heartfelt gratitude for your efforts to inform local leaders of specific principles and guidelines intended to keep our members safe during the current pandemic. We also appreciate how local leaders have prayerfully considered how these guidelines can be safely implemented. Given the current spike in the number of cases of COVID–19 in Utah, we ask that you share the following information with stake presidents in your Coordinating Councils.

As you may know, Governor Gary Herbert recently issued an Executive Order (2020–74), effective November 9, 2020, which, among other things, mandates the wearing of face masks while within six feet (whether indoors or outside) of any individual from a separate household and precludes social gatherings of individuals from separate households. The Utah Department of Health followed with a similar Public Health Order (2020–22). These Orders have state-wide application and will remain in force at least until November 23, 2020, unless modified or extended beyond that date.

What is not well understood by many is that the Governor’s 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.”

In reviewing our approach to meetings and activities in Utah (see the First Presidency letter dated September 11, 2020 and the Updated Utah Area Supplement) and counseling with others, we understand that we are currently in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order. We do, however, encourage leaders and members to be diligent in following existing safety guidelines and in using caution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

With a desire to be responsive to the current concerns in Utah, we ask that you make the following temporary modifications to our previous guidelines while the Governor’s Executive Order is in place:

  1. As you know, we recently reduced the number of in-person participants in our Sunday worship services from 150 to 99 or less. In resident wards we have asked that second hour Sunday meetings be held virtually, however, we have permitted YSA wards in YSA stakes to gather in-person for elders quorum, Relief Society and Sunday School meetings. We now ask that these in-person second hour meetings in YSA wards be temporarily suspended and that all wards in Utah hold second hour meetings via technology.
  2. We have allowed small youth gatherings to be held in-person on days other than Sunday with the stipulation that they be limited to individual quorums and classes. To comply with the spirit of the Governor’s Executive Order we ask that these gatherings be limited to activities that have a religious purpose. Sporting activities and other non-religious social activities are temporarily suspended.
  3. We have noted some challenges in how personal safety standards are maintained in gatherings when feelings and emotions are tender. To be cautious, we now ask that in-person attendance at baptismal services, funerals, weddings and receptions be limited to immediate family members and those who officiate. All others should be invited to participate virtually. We ask local priesthood leaders to work with individuals and families to determine how best to address safety measures and to limit attendance at these important events.
  4. We also ask that stake and ward council meetings, coordination meetings, and other large leadership meetings be conducted using technology.

Most importantly, we ask local leaders to be vigilant in maintaining well-known safety measures (e.g., following social distancing requirements, wearing of masks, using hand sanitizer and other safety measures in preparing and administering the sacrament, cleaning buildings between meetings, etc.) and in avoiding informal congregating before and after meetings and activities.

We are grateful for your support and your desire to protect others, especially those who have medical conditions or are of an age which puts them most at risk.


The Utah Area Presidency

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed

See recent humanitarian projects in Romania, Italy, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Portugal.

This week’s study guide includes Nephi’s teachings on Jesus Christ and the prophet Isaiah.

During the week of Feb. 25 to March 2, President Holland taught leaders in Washington, D.C., Elder Bednar and Elder Kearon ministered in West Africa, and more.

On the eve of RootsTech, the largest global family history conference, genealogist David Lambert gave FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood a priceless family treasure that he will always cherish.

Former BYU basketball star Jimmer Fredette and his wife, Whitney, demonstrated the ease of preserving memories on FamilySearch by sharing personal stories in a class at RootsTech.

The Emmy and Tony Award-winning performer delighted the audience with personal stories and a selection of songs.