Six months after the First Presidency suspended Church gatherings worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders have outlined “principles and details” for members to “safely engage in Church meetings and activities” again.
“Using technology and safe in-person practices, many opportunities exist for presidencies and councils to meet, for youth to be encouraged and supported, and for meaningful worship, ministering, and service to occur,” wrote the First Presidency in the letter dated Sept. 11.
The letter, signed by President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, included an enclosure “to help leaders adjust Church meetings and activities in careful ways, according to local needs and circumstances and consistent with local regulations.”
Under the guidance of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Area Presidencies approve meetings and activities in their area. Local circumstances and regulations regarding COVID-19 vary, sometimes within the same Church area, the letter stated.
Beginning in November stake conferences may be held virtually or with careful social distancing. These conferences will be assigned by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as circumstances and technology allow.
“We are grateful for inspired patterns of ministering and home-centered Church-supported efforts that allow the Lord’s work to move forward in current conditions,” they wrote.
The First Presidency wrote that in challenging times, “disciples of Jesus Christ continue to follow Him by participating in His work of salvation and exaltation. He invites us to participate by progressing on the covenant path and helping others do the same however circumstances allow.”
The First Presidency outlines four principles that guide the Lord’s work:
Remember members by name and nourish them spiritually and temporally (see Moroni 6:4–5). Leaders can “hold presidency and council meetings (including for Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes) virtually or safely in person according to local conditions,” according to the letter. “Stake and ward leaders (and youth quorum and class presidencies) carry forth the work of salvation.”
Strengthen members and help bear their burdens (see Mosiah 18:8–11; Doctrine and Covenants 20:47, 59). The First Presidency said members and leaders should “continue ministering and ministering interviews, including concern for those with special needs. Using safe practices, under the direction and keys of the bishop, regularly administer the sacrament in homes to those who wish to receive it, if practical.”
Uplift one another and create unity through activities (see Mosiah 18:21; Doctrine and Covenants 121:9). Leaders can “hold youth meetings, activities, and service projects, virtually or safely in person according to local conditions, on Sunday or other days,” according to the letter. “Help youth connect and grow through the Children and Youth program at home and at church. Many families are teaching and singing with their Primary-age children at home using resources available for Primary children.”
Gather members often to fast, to pray, and to speak concerning the welfare of their souls (see Alma 6:6; Moroni 6:6). Under the direction and keys of the bishop, leaders can “hold weekly sacrament meeting, virtually, safely in person, or by hybrid in-person and virtual broadcast, according to local needs and regulations.” The meetings should not be recorded.
Leaders should also support members who need to continue home Sabbath worship in the current circumstances. Since a sacrament broadcast does not include the administration of the sacrament, leaders should consider initiating the broadcast following the sacrament, or alternatively, holding the sacrament portion of the meeting last, so those viewing the sacrament meeting virtually see the program without interruption.
“Local leaders help ensure all wishing to receive the ordinance of the sacrament can do so in person administered by authorized priesthood holders,” according to the First Presidency.