In response to COVID-19, First Presidency releases new administrative principles for the Church

In response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the First Presidency released a letter and documents on Friday, April 17, that detail administrative principles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during challenging times.

Under present circumstances and conditions that may exist in the future, the Church and its members will faithfully exhibit a commitment “to being good citizens and good neighbors,” wrote the First Presidency in the letter titled, “Administrative Principles in Challenging Times.”

“We are grateful for the efforts many of you are making to carefully follow the directions from national, state and local leaders in many countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote in the letter, noting the Church is “also taking appropriate precautions and is providing assistance to those in need.”

The information included directions for essential ordinances, blessings and other Church functions “to guide leaders through the current crisis and the challenging days that are ahead.”

“These documents are issued in response to the disruptions in Church procedures and member activities caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the Church leaders. “They should provide guidance as long as this pandemic exists in a particular country or region.”

The directions include information on administering the sacrament in homes; patriarchal blessings; weddings and funerals; the naming and blessing of children; ward and stake administration; the use of Church buildings; seminary and institute; the giving of tithing and other donations; FSY conferences, missionary service and temple work.

The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seen in the morning light before the start of the 190th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the conference is being broadcast without church members in attendance.
The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seen in the morning light before the start of the 190th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the conference is being broadcast without church members in attendance. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Church of Jesus Christ focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities to assist members as they progress on the covenant path toward eternal life, wrote the First Presidency. 

“To help accomplish this divine purpose, the Church and its leaders provide priesthood authority and keys, covenants and ordinances, and prophetic direction. The Church invites all people to come unto Jesus Christ and faithfully obey His commandments.”

The scriptures are clear that in this dispensation many will experience challenging times, they wrote.

“Amid difficult circumstances, the Church will proclaim fundamental principles and administer needed ordinances to bless Heavenly Father’s children. Whatever the time or circumstances, certain things are essential in the Lord’s Church. These include sacred doctrine and ordinances.”

Global citizen responsibility

During challenging times, members will “sustain and uphold the laws where they reside,” according to the letter.

Members of the Church are grateful for the laws of many nations around the world that “protect religious freedom and respect the sacred freedom of conscience,” said the First Presidency.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Conference Center in Salt Lake City is devoid of conferencegoers before the start of the 190th Annual General Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the conference is being broadcast without Church members in attendance.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center in Salt Lake City is devoid of conferencegoers before the start of the 190th Annual General Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the conference is being broadcast without Church members in attendance. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“In times of pandemic or natural disaster the Church will respond to official orders to take needed actions such as cancelling or postponing meetings or other gatherings. The Church and its members are committed to being good citizens and good neighbors. The Church has a long history of reaching out and providing assistance to those in need.

“Along with our commitment to be good global citizens, we respectfully assert that reasonable accommodations be extended to all people of faith as they strive to participate in rites, that are foundational to their faith.”

The Lord has prepared His Church

“Inspired direction over many years has prepared the Lord’s Church and its members, both temporally and spiritually, for changing and challenging times,” wrote the First Presidency.

In addition to the long-time counsel for members to have food storage in their homes, Church members are focused on observing the Sabbath Day, ministering to others, and strengthening Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies, according to the information. Members have been encouraged to make their homes “true sanctuaries of faith” where all — especially children and youth — are taught the gospel. Members have been encouraged to use technology to share gospel messages in normal and natural ways. They can also engage in family history work in their homes.

A young woman reads from the Book of Mormon while family members follow along. In response to COVID-19, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints canceled Sunday services and families are worshiping together in their homes.
A young woman reads from the Book of Mormon while family members follow along. In response to COVID-19, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints canceled Sunday services and families are worshiping together in their homes. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“When we look at the interlocking patterns of these efforts and many others, we can see how the Lord has carefully orchestrated and sequenced us to prepare for challenging times.”

Foundational principles and ordinances

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church of order, the First Presidency wrote. “Ordinances and blessings are sacred acts provided by the authority of the priesthood. While some procedures may change depending on circumstances, fundamental doctrine, principles, and ordinances must be protected.”

Many ordinances require the laying on of hands, such as confirmations, ordinations, blessings, settings apart and conferring of priesthood keys, according to the information. 

“Such ordinances require that the priesthood holder who performs the ordinance must be in the same location as the recipient. Priesthood ordinances cannot be performed remotely using technology. When circumstances require, others may observe the ordinance remotely using technology, if authorized by the presiding authority.

“In these challenging times, presiding authorities must exercise wisdom as to which ordinances should be temporarily deferred. When communicable disease is a concern, those who perform ordinances should take necessary precautions to protect themselves and others.”

Following are some examples of direction given to members and leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Can weddings and funeral take place in meetinghouses? “Where restricted by government regulations, weddings, receptions, and funerals should not be held in meetinghouses. As permitted by law, bishops and stake presidents may officiate in weddings in an appropriate setting where social distancing can be maintained. Technology may also be used to allow family and friends to view the service. Leaders and members should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines.”

Must temple recommend interviews continue to be done in person? “No. Members of bishoprics and stake presidencies may temporarily conduct temple recommend interviews using face-to-face technology. Members should continue to be interviewed by both a member of the bishopric and a member of the stake presidency.”

Should we continue to participate in blood drives? “Yes, blood drives will continue but must follow government orders, regulations and guidelines established in each location and the protocols of the blood drive entity (Red Cross or others). Meetinghouses should not be used for these purposes until further notice. Meetinghouse parking lots can be used by the Red Cross and other entities using portable facilities if all government orders, regulations, and guidelines are followed.”

Can patriarchal blessings continue as scheduled? “Patriarchal blessings should be delayed temporarily. However, wherever possible, those preparing to serve missions should be given a patriarchal blessing prior to beginning their missionary service.”

Do the guidelines allow for blessing children in the home? “Yes. When authorized by the bishop, the blessing may be performed at the family’s home instead of at a Church building. It should be properly reported.”

Will bishoprics still accept tithing and donations in person? “When possible, members should make their donations online. Members who have no access to online donations can still give them physically to any member of the bishopric or mail donations using the preaddressed envelopes, unless the Area Presidency deems this practice inappropriate. Additional questions should be referred to the Area Presidency.”

Should missionary applications continue to be processed by local priesthood leaders? Will missionaries continue to be called in the near term? “Yes.”

If a missionary is asked to provide a blessing to someone who has coronavirus symptoms, should the missionary give the blessing? “No. Missionaries should not visit people who have tested positive for, exhibit symptoms of, or have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. They may minister to them via technology and pray for them.”

Should Church members be encouraged to maintain a current temple recommend? “Yes. A current temple recommend recognizes a person’s worthiness to enter the temple, even if temple worship is not possible.”

Must temple recommend interviews continue to be done in person? “No. Members of bishoprics and stake presidencies may temporarily conduct temple recommend interviews using face-to-face technology. Members should continue to be interviewed by both a member of the bishopric and a member of the stake presidency.”

Concluding, the leaders wrote: “As the prophet Nephi said, ‘the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them’ (1 Nephi 3:7). The Lord will help us. The power of the priesthood and the righteousness of members will help us go forward in days that are ahead.”

Read the complete documents from the First Presidency on Newsroom: