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.
Dec. 31 — Wuhan Municipal Health Authorities report a string of pneumonia-like cases to World Health Organization (WHO).
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.
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.
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 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 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.
March 12 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announces Utah will restrict gatherings of more than 100 people.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
Sept. 11 — First Presidency outlines guidelines for safely increasing Church activity; stake conferences to begin virtually in November; weekly worship can resume immediately.
Oct. 4-5 — General conference is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater and closed to the public.
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.
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. 20 — President Nelson shares worldwide message on “the healing power of gratitude” and invites all to #GiveThanks.
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.
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.
Jan. 21 — First Presidency announces April 2021 general conference will be conducted virtually, marking the third-straight virtual conference.
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.
Feb. 26 — Latter-day Saint Charities announces $20 million donation to support UNICEF’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
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 3-4 — 191st Annual General Conference broadcast from Conference Center Theater and closed to the public, with music recorded from previous conferences.
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 29-30 — BYU Women’s Conference held virtually, includes sessions streamed live from the Marriott Center in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
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 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.
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 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.
Aug. 2 — Church History Museum and Beehive House reopen after COVID-19 closures.
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.
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.