Coronavirus update: Church releases additional instructions for missionaries, members

As the spread of coronavirus intensifies, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released information Friday afternoon regarding missionary and temple work and worship services in areas affected by the disease that experts say could become a pandemic.  

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to closely monitor the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on people around the world, including the ability of our missionaries to effectively find and teach, and of our members to gather for worship,” a Feb. 21 statement reads. “We pray for all those affected by this illness and plead for the Lord’s blessings during this difficult time.”

China Hong Kong Mission

Missionaries who recently left this mission are completing their 14-day self-isolation and will soon depart for new, temporary assignments.

Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, Singapore Mission and Thailand Bangkok Mission

As a precaution, all missionaries serving in these missions have been instructed to remain in their apartments and avoid going outside except to purchase food and other supplies, to exercise, or to attend worship services (where held).

The Phnom Penh skyline in Cambodia on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
The Phnom Penh skyline in Cambodia on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Missionaries will teach people through phone calls or other technology. Whenever outside, they are urged to stay at least six feet away from others and avoid any personal interaction. These guidelines will be in place until further notice.

All missionaries preparing to arrive in these three missions will be temporarily reassigned to other countries until the situation stabilizes.

Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission 

Missionaries in Mongolia are taking similar precautions, but they are making limited visits to people when invited. 

Srey Kia and Srey Nic listen during a devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
Srey Kia and Srey Nic listen during a devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

South Korea

Missionaries in South Korea will also begin to self-isolate using recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea has quadrupled in the past two days, according to a recent AP report. 

“All missionaries, regardless of where they are serving, have been reminded to follow basic preventative health practices to avoid illness. It is important to note that young missionaries are not generally considered to be at risk for serious complications from the coronavirus,” the statement said. 

Temple updates

The Taipei Taiwan Temple has been closed temporarily, and the Seoul Korea Temple will temporarily close beginning Saturday, Feb 22. The Hong Kong China Temple is currently closed for renovation. 

Gathering for worship

Taipei Taiwan Temple
Taipei Taiwan Temple Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.

Latter-day Saints in some affected areas are not gathering for weekly worship services. In other places, services are being held on a limited schedule. Local Church leaders are working to support and minister to the needs of members in these areas.

The Church will continue to follow developments closely and will make any further adjustments as needed.

More about the coronavirus

The outbreak of coronavirus, a respiratory illness, has captured headlines around the world in recent weeks. More than 76,000 people have been infected in 27 countries, and more than 2,200 have died, according to a recent AP report. 

In partnership with the charitable organization Health Oriented Preventive Education, the Church recently sent a large shipment of protective gear to China.

Read more about President Nelson reaching out to China and sending protective gear

Project HOPE chartered two planes to transport 220,000 respiratory masks, nearly 870 pairs of protective goggles and more than 6,500 pairs of protective coveralls from the Church’s bishops’ central storehouses in Salt Lake City and Atlanta. In all, 79 pallets of protective gear were sent to China, according to Church officials.

Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the high speed train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Kin Cheung

“These are our dear brothers and sisters,” said President Russell M. Nelson, who enjoys a decades long association with the People’s Republic of China. “We feel privileged to be able to offer some small measure of help. We pray for them, and know God will bless them.”

A historical perspective

The work of the Church has been impacted by epidemics numerous times in history. For example, the April 1919 general conference was postponed due to a nationwide influenza epidemic; the conference was held the first weekend in June, according to the Church Almanac. The October 1957 general conference was also canceled due to a flu epidemic.

In recent years, missionary work in Hong Kong was affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003. And following an outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, missionaries were moved out of the West African nation in August 2014. Young missionaries returned in September 2015. Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, traveled to Liberia in November that year. Missionary work was also disrupted in Madagascar following an outbreak of the plague in October 2017.