Timeline: How the Church has responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic

Eighteen months ago, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended Church gatherings worldwide on March 12, 2020, in response to growing restrictions related to COVID-19.

Two weeks later, on March 25, President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, announced all temples would close. These were two of many actions taken by Church leaders to help prevent the spread of the virus as the pandemic unfolded.

Then, as circumstances allowed and opportunities arose, they also found ways for members to safely gather, for temple work to be performed and for missionaries to share the gospel message.

On Jan. 19, 2021, eight senior Church leaders received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “The Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization,” the First Presidency wrote in a statement.

The First Presidency again urged Latter-day Saints in an Aug. 12 message to be vaccinated and wear face masks in public meetings when social distancing is not possible. Most recently, on Sept. 22, the First Presidency directed the use of face masks in temples and reiterated their urging for Church members to be vaccinated.

“Please do all you can to protect yourself and others so the work of the Lord on both sides of the veil can move forward,” the First Presidency wrote.

The following timeline shows how the Church has responded and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic since December 2019.

December 2019

Dec. 31 — Wuhan Municipal Health Authorities report a string of pneumonia-like cases to World Health Organization (WHO).

January 2020

Jan. 29 — President Russell M. Nelson reaches out to China, sends protective equipment.

Jan. 30 — WHO issues Global Health Emergency; death toll reaches 200, with 9,800 confirmed cases.

February 2020

Feb. 4 — Church transfers missionaries out of the China Hong Kong Mission.

Feb. 21 — Church releases information about missionary work, temple work and worship services for members and missionaries in several Asian countries; Taiwan Taipei Temple and Seoul Korea Temple first to close.

Missionaries of the China Hong Kong Mission gather at the airport as they prepare to depart as part of the mission's February 2020 evacuation plan due to growing coronavirus concerns, as shown in a photo courtesy of President Dennis L. Phillips. The photo is one he included as a submission to the Church History Department's project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide.
Missionaries of the China Hong Kong Mission gather at the airport as they prepare to depart as part of the mission’s February 2020 evacuation plan due to growing coronavirus concerns, as shown in a photo courtesy of President Dennis L. Phillips. The photo is one he included as a submission to the Church History Department’s project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Feb. 27  — First Presidency discourages leaders, members from international travels to April general conference; Church statement reports 14 missions across 17 countries undergoing changes; Fukuoka Japan Temple and Sapporo Japan Temple to close.

March 2020

March 5 — Rome Italy Temple first in Europe to close following Italian government directives to close large gathering places; total of 17 countries cancelling or limiting Sunday worship services in affected areas.

March 6 — Nonnative Korean missionaries return home; Seattle Washington Temple first in U.S. to close as Washington reports highest state death toll to date.

March 11 — WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 11 — First Presidency announces public will not be admitted to the Conference Center for April general conference; missionaries scheduled to enter MTCs  in Provo, Utah, or Preston, England, to be trained remotely; stake and leadership conferences, other large gatherings to be postponed in affected areas; large gatherings suspended on Church-owned college campuses; Asunción Paraguay Temple first in Latin America to close after country suspends large-scale public events.

Kimber Young teaches training missionaries Mandarin Chinese via video conferencing at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 10 missionary training centers.
Kimber Young teaches training missionaries Mandarin Chinese via video conferencing at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 10 missionary training centers. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

March 12 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announces Utah will restrict gatherings of more than 100 people.

March 12 — First Presidency suspends Church gatherings worldwide; senior missionaries, missionaries with health conditions to return home from 22 European missions; temple closures total 13.

March 13 — U.S. declares national emergency.

March 13 — Church temporarily suspends proxy temple work worldwide; Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square cancels concerts and makes changes to broadcasts; RootsTech London postponed until fall 2021; Church closes all public areas in and around Temple Square. 

March 14 — President Nelson shares message of hope on social media channels.

March 15 — Church members worldwide worship at home for the first time.

Crisanta Estayo-Padilla's husband shares a scripture with their family as they worship at home on Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the Philippines.
Crisanta Estayo-Padilla’s husband shares a scripture with their family as they worship at home on Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the Philippines. Credit: Courtesy Crisanta Estayo-Padilla

March 16 — Church announces adjustments to missionary work (missionary elders may be released at 21 months, missionaries with health issues may be released, missionary calls will continue); Church releases additional information regarding temple adjustments (limit of 8 guests for living ordinances, distribution centers continue to operate where temples are open); many Church historic sites and more temples close.

March 17 — Nonnative missionaries in the Philippines to return home; Deseret Industries Thrift stores close to the public.

March 18 — Church announces temples will only accept appointments for living ordinances from those in local temple district, among other adjustments; Church distribution retail stores reduce hours, close doors in 73 locations; Nonnative missionaries in 26 African missions and the Micronesia Guam Mission to return home; Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house and dedication postponed.

March 19 — First Presidency announces April general conference to be held from small auditorium with pre-recorded music, only those praying or speaking in attendance.

March 20 — First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve say “substantial numbers of missionaries” will return to home countries, service terms adjusted, no MTCs will receive new missionaries and all will be trained online.

Missionaries are on board a flight during a pandemic-prompted departure from their mission, as photographed by Sister Joyce Havens of the Tahiti Papeete Mission. The photo is one she included as a submission to the Church History Department's project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide.
Missionaries are on board a flight during a pandemic-prompted departure from their mission, as photographed by Sister Joyce Havens of the Tahiti Papeete Mission. The photo is one she included as a submission to the Church History Department’s project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

March 22 — Total of 88 temples closed; Five Church-chartered commercial planes fly more than 1,600 nonnative missionaries in the Philippines back to Salt Lake City; Church releases self-isolation guidelines for missionaries and their families.

March 23 — All 10 MTCs close, nonnative missionaries in Mexico, Vietnam and India to return to home countries; Utah Area presidency asks families to not congregate at airports as missionaries return home; Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple, Bountiful Utah Temple first in Utah to close.

March 24 — Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021.

March 25 — First Presidency announces all temples to close; 111 of 168 temples were closed at time of the announcement.

March 26 — President Nelson extends invitation for worldwide fast; First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve announce shortened length of service for missionaries returning to the U.S., Canada. 

March 29 — Latter-day Saints and others worldwide follow President Nelson’s invitation to fast.

March 31 — First Presidency announces options for missionaries to return to original or temporary assignment when conditions allow or delay service.

April 2020

April 2 — COVID-19 cases top 1 million people in 171 countries across six continents, death toll at least 51,000.

April 4-5 — General conference; President Nelson calls for a second worldwide fast.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participates in the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference at Church headquarters on April 4, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participates in the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference at Church headquarters on April 4, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

April 13 — FSY conferences in U.S. and Canada in 2020 postponed.

April 14 — First Presidency announces more than 110 COVID-19 relief projects in 57 countries.

April 17 — First Presidency releases new administrative principles for the Church; President Nelson expresses gratitude on social media to those who fasted. 

April 24 — Global death toll surpasses 200,000.

April 27 — Tabernacle Choir’s 2020 European tour postponed a year.

April 30 — New missionary assignments made following April 30 deadline; Church properties for camps and conferences to close, treks and Church pageants canceled for 2020; Church donates $5.5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts across the U.S.; 280 relief projects in 80 countries have been initiated.

May 2020

May 6 — President Nelson addresses reintegration of Church worship and activities in video on social media.

May 7 — First Presidency announces ‘phased reopening of temples’; 17 temples open for limited living husband-wife sealing ordinances.

May 11 — Additional 17 temples to reopen for limited husband-and-wife sealing ordinances.

May 19 — First Presidency announces some meetings, activities to resume.

May 28 — U.S. death toll surpasses 100,000.

June 2020

June 4 — First Presidency announces October general conference to be broadcast but closed again to public.

June 17 — Washington D.C. Temple open house, dedication dates postponed.

June 23 — ProjectProtect concludes after six weeks with nearly 6 million masks.

July 2020

July 10 — Utah Area presidency urges Latter-day Saints in the state to wear masks in public.

July 20 — First Presidency announces changes to temple endowment ceremony.

July 27 — 12 temples first to enter phase 2 of reopening plan, begin performing all living ordinances.

August 2020

Aug. 21 — Choir leaders announce cancellation of annual Christmas concert featuring the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells at Temple Square.

September 2020

Sept. 1 — Winnipeg Manitoba Temple dedication and open house postponed; FamilySearch announces RootsTech 2021 will be a free, virtual event held Feb. 25-27, 2021.

Sept. 11 — First Presidency outlines guidelines for safely increasing Church activity; stake conferences to begin virtually in November; weekly worship can resume immediately.

October 2020

Oct. 4-5 — General conference is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater and closed to the public.

A woman in Brazil listens to the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, 2020.
A woman in Brazil listens to the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Oct. 6-8 — Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Sister Susan Gong test positive for COVID-19; all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are tested (results come back negative).

Oct. 22 — Church announces annual Christmas concerts on Temple Square will be held virtually, public invited to submit videos.

Oct. 30-31 —  ExpoGenealogía, a virtual family history event in Spanish, is hosted in Mexico.

November 2020

Nov. 4 — Church starts ‘deliberate, cautious’ process in assigning missionaries beyond home countries.

Nov. 5-8 — FamilySearch Gerações, a virtual family history event in Portuguese, is hosted in Brazil.

Nov. 7 — First of two Luz de Las Naciones virtual programs this season is streamed online (the other will be Dec. 19).

Nov. 9 — Church announces Giving Machines will not be used this season, but the #LightTheWorld service campaign will move forward.

Nov. 9 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert orders statewide mask mandate and halts on casual social gatherings as COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocket.

Nov. 12 — Utah Area Presidency issues four temporary adjustments to meetings and activities; the Church announces plans for Temple Square lights and virtual Christmas devotionals and performances.

Nov. 20 — President Nelson shares worldwide message on “the healing power of gratitude” and invites all to #GiveThanks.

December 2020

Dec. 1 — Christmas on Temple Square kicks off with virtual concert and tour of the lights; the #LightTheWorld daily service initiative begins.

Dec. 5 — Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, test positive for COVID-19.

Dec. 6 — Annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square and closed to the public.

Dec. 7 — First Presidency announces the first four temples moving to Phase 3, reopening for proxy work.

Dec. 14 — U.S. COVID-19 deaths top 300,000 as vaccinations begin.

January 2021

Jan. 8 — Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, tested positive for COVID-19 during holiday break, according to a Church statement.

Jan. 15 — Global death toll surpasses 2 million.

Jan. 15 — A letter from President M. Russell Ballard asks local leaders to look for local youth conference and camp opportunities in 2021; FSY conferences in U.S. and Canada postponed until 2022.

Jan. 19 — Senior Church leaders receive COVID-19 vaccines, encourage members to safeguard themselves and others through immunization.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday morning, Jan. 19, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on Tuesday morning, Jan. 19, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jan. 21 — First Presidency announces April 2021 general conference will be conducted virtually, marking the third-straight virtual conference.

February 2021

Feb. 4 — Utah Area Presidency updates COVID-19 safety measures and returns to September 2020 guidelines; Latter-day Saint Charities provides 30 million meals to children in nine developing countries.

Feb. 12 — Utah Area Presidency again updates COVID-19 safety measures with focus on Primary children, meetings and activities.

Feb. 19 — Jerold Ottley, longtime Tabernacle Choir director, dies at age 86 from COVID-19-related illness.

Feb. 22 — Church donates personal protective equipment, members sew masks to fight COVID-19 in Botswana.

Feb. 25-27 — All-virtual RootsTech Connect draws more than 1.1 million participants from 242 countries and territories.

Keynote speakers from all over the world participated in RootsTech Connect in February 2021.
Keynote speakers from all over the world participated in RootsTech Connect in February 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Feb. 26 — Latter-day Saint Charities announces $20 million donation to support UNICEF’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

March 2021

March 2 — Elder Soares and other Church leaders speak in special devotional for Native Americans, many of whom have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19.

March 5 — Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s Heritage Tour postponed until 2022.

March 9 — Church pageants canceled for 2021, with Hill Cumorah finale to be a 2019 rebroadcast.

March 17 — The virtual, prerecorded 2021 Youth Music Festival is steamed in 11 languages.

March 31 — Church makes adjustments to the “Vaccinations” section of its General Handbook, encouraging members “to safeguard themselves, their children and their communities through vaccination”; Belize receives its largest number of COVID-19 vaccines to date as part of UNICEF’s COVAX Facility.

April 2021

April 3-4 — 191st Annual General Conference broadcast from Conference Center Theater and closed to the public, with music recorded from previous conferences.

Clockwise from left, McKenzie Bywater, Cody Bywater, Bryan Bywater, Madison Bywater and Erika Bywater of the Elwood 3rd Ward, Tremonton Utah South Stake, watch the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021.
Clockwise from left, McKenzie Bywater, Cody Bywater, Bryan Bywater, Madison Bywater and Erika Bywater of the Elwood 3rd Ward, Tremonton Utah South Stake, watch the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

April 8 — Utah Area Presidency asks local leaders to develop a plan to return to in-person Church meetings.

April 17 — The global death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 3 million.

April 22 — First Presidency approves phased reopening of 22 Church historic sites in May.

April 23 — Missionary Department encourages missionaries to be vaccinated and those choosing not to will serve in home countries; Tabernacle Choir cancels Pioneer Day concert.

April 29-30 — BYU Women’s Conference held virtually, includes sessions streamed live from the Marriott Center in English, Spanish and Portuguese. 

May 2021

May 24 — Church announces Provo, Ghana and New Zealand MTCs will resume limited on-site training in late June; new missionary training will be both online and on-site.

May 25 — First Presidency announces 60 temples will resume offering all ordinances for the first time in more than a year, beginning in either June or July. 

June 2021

June 7 — First Presidency announces a return to the Conference Center for the October 2021 general conference but still closed to the public.

June 11 — For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences scheduled to resume summer 2022 after two years of being postponed.

June 14 — Conference Center becomes first of Temple Square facilities to reopen to the public.

June 18 — Tabernacle Choir announces dates for 2022 Heritage Tour, which had been postponed twice due to COVID-19.

June 24 — Provo MTC welcomes first new missionaries in 15 months.

Missionaries arrive at the Provo Missionary Training Center for the first time, in Provo on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, since COVID-19 closures in March 2020.
Missionaries arrive at the Provo Missionary Training Center for the first time, in Provo on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, since COVID-19 closures in March 2020. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

June 25 — First Presidency announces dates for the open house and rededication of the Mesa Arizona Temple to be held in November and December.

June 24-26 — Seminar for New Mission Leaders held virtually for second consecutive year.

July 2021

July 5 — The Kyiv Ukraine Temple becomes the last to reopen, offering living husband-and-wife sealings in Phase 1; President Nelson encourages Saints to “do all you can” to bring COVID-19 numbers down so temple opportunities can increase.

July 6 — Family History Library reopens to the public after a remodeling during the COVID-19 closure. The Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, Church History Library and Joseph Smith Memorial Building also reopen

July 7 — FamilySearch announces RootsTech Connect 2022 will be entirely virtual and free, following the format of the 2021 event. 

July 9 — Tabernacle Choir announces schedule for a return to Temple Square for daily organ recitals, weekly choir and Bell at Temple Square ensemble rehearsals and “Music & the Spoken Word” Sunday broadcasts; Elder D. Todd Christofferson speaks during virtual devotional commemorating Hill Cumorah Pageant’s final run and 2019 production is rebroadcast.

July 20 — Open house and rededication dates announced for the Washington D.C. Temple in spring 2022 after months of COVID-19-related delays.

August 2021

Aug. 2 — Church History Museum and Beehive House reopen after COVID-19 closures.

Hongying Xu, Yining Zhou and Hong Zhou, who are visiting from La Crosse, Wisconsin, get a tour from docent Lois Green, left to right, at the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19.
Hongying Xu, Yining Zhou and Hong Zhou, who are visiting from La Crosse, Wisconsin, get a tour from docent Lois Green, left to right, at the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. The Beehive House reopened to the public Monday after an extended closure due to COVID-19. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Aug. 3 — The more contagious Delta variant is rapidly increasing, accounting for an estimated 93.4% of coronavirus circulating in the U.S. during the last two weeks of July, according to figures published by the CDC.

Aug. 12 — First Presidency releases message urging Latter-day Saints to wear masks and be vaccinated.

Aug. 23 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people age 16 and older, making it the first coronavirus vaccine approved by the FDA.

Aug. 30 — First Presidency announces new dates for the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple public house and dedication to be held in October.

September 2021

Sept. 2 — Church announces England and Mexico MTCs will reopen in September and October for limited on-site training; Provo MTC expands on-site training to missionaries learning new languages.

Sept. 13 — Pocatello Idaho Temple becomes the first to hold a public open house since the start of the pandemic.

Sept. 17 — The prerecorded 2021 Church Music Festival is held virtually and streamed online. 

Sept. 21 — For the first time in 555 days, the Tabernacle Choir gathers for rehearsal.

Sept. 22 — First Presidency directs Latter-day Saints worldwide to wear masks in temples, again urges vaccination.

Wearing masks, Sabrina and Bryce Taylor arrive at the Draper Utah Temple on Sept. 21, 2021.
Wearing masks, Sabrina and Bryce Taylor arrive at the Draper Utah Temple on Sept. 21, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints