Utah Area Presidency updates document detailing a safe return to Church meetings, activities

On the heels of the First Presidency expressing its desire for members to gather for weekly sacrament meetings in a Sept. 11 letter “Safely Engaging in Church Meetings and Activities,” the Utah Area Presidency issued an updated area-specific supplement to the First Presidency’s guidelines.

Elder Craig C. Christensen, Elder Evan A Schmutz and Elder Walter F. González offered direction on weekly sacrament meetings held in meetinghouses, the administration of the sacrament, the start second-hour meetings for youth and adults via the internet, and increasing opportunities for youth and young single adult meetings and activities.

“(Updated) Utah Area Supplement to First Presidency Guidelines for Safely Returning to Church Meetings and Activities” is to be used by Area Seventies, stake presidents and bishops in Utah as they counsel together regarding ongoing efforts in returning to meetings and activities, in harmony with local and state government regulations.

“Carefully study the above-referenced First Presidency letter side-by-side with this (Updated) Utah Area Supplement, take into consideration any specific needs or issues in your particular stake, and prayerfully develop and implement a plan to safely return to church meetings and activities,” wrote the Utah Area Presidency.

First Presidency outlines ‘principles, details’ for members to ‘safely engage in Church meetings, activities’

Wards and branches in the Utah Area are approved to hold Sunday worship services and administer the sacrament as follows:

First-hour Sunday worship services

Under the direction and priesthood keys of the respective leader, wards and branches are to hold one Sunday worship service each week by gathering at meetinghouses during their normal meeting times. Multiple units using the same building may adjust meeting times to allow for an orderly departure of members, the cleaning of the chapel and the appropriate arrival of the next unit.

Members are to attend the worship service either in person or by broadcast. Those at a higher risk due to age or underlying medical conditions may not be able to attend in person and should participate via a broadcast of the service.

Attendance now is to not exceed 150 participants — the previous limit was 99 or fewer — while taking into consideration the meetinghouse’s size and capacity (including overflow areas) as well as social distancing and safety measures. Families and individuals residing in the same household may continue to sit together.

The Sunday worship service is still to be less than one hour in length, allowing for departures, cleaning and arrivals. Each ward is to hold one session of the Sunday worship service each week at the appointed time; if more than 150 members desire to attend, a rotation of alternating attendance each week is allowed.

The Sunday worship service is to be simultaneously broadcast — streamed live, not recorded or posted to the internet — for those choosing to participate from home. The broadcast should not include the administration of the sacrament (see below).

Worship meetings are to open and close with prayer and with opening and closing hymns — no hymnbooks or programs are to distributed or utilized. Organ or piano music may be included as prelude.

The meetings should provide for two or more speakers, with wipes to be used to disinfect the pulpit after each speaker. On Fast Sundays, the worship meeting should be modified to provide for the bearing of testimonies.

Administration of sacrament

Following the closing prayer, the broadcast of the Sunday worship service should conclude, with the sacrament administered at the meetinghouse in the same manner and with the same precautions that have been followed in sacrament meetings in recent months.

The Utah Area presidency's updated supplement to returning to Church meetings and activities includes specific directives on the administration of the sacrament in meetinghouses and in homes.
The Utah Area presidency’s updated supplement to returning to Church meetings and activities includes specific directives on the administration of the sacrament in meetinghouses and in homes. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

No opening or closing prayer is needed, with local leaders to determine if singing the hymn is appropriate.

At the same time upon the conclusion of the broadcast to homes, worthy priesthood holders — as authorized by the bishop — should administer the sacrament in their own homes, where a sacrament hymn can be sung.

Members needing assistance with the administration of the sacrament at home should inform the bishop, who will authorize other worthy priesthood holders in the ward — such as ministering brothers — to prepare and administer the sacrament each Sunday at a time that doesn’t interfere with the Sunday worship service at the meetinghouse.

Second-hour meetings over the internet

The Utah Area Presidency invited all wards and branches to begin holding second-hour meetings on Sunday afternoons over the internet. The weekly virtual meeting is to be conducted live and not recorded or posted to the internet. Interactive meeting apps, such as Zoom or Teams, should be used.

Second-hour meetings are to follow the same pattern used by wards prior to the suspension of Sunday meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with classes for youth and adults to be held on alternating Sundays. First and third Sundays are set aside for Sunday School classes; second and fourth Sundays are for priesthood quorums, Relief Society and Young Women classes; and fifth Sundays are for youth and adult meetings under direction of the bishop, who determines the subject to be taught.

Primary meetings will not be hold during the second hour. “Until further notice, we invite parents and leaders to counsel together to enhance home instruction and learning by teaching and singing with their Primary-age children using resources available for Primary children,” the area presidency wrote.

The Jensen family gathers in their Marlboro, New Jersey, home for a worship and sacrament service on March 15, 2020.
The Jensen family gathers in their Marlboro, New Jersey, home for a worship and sacrament service on March 15, 2020. Credit: Scott Taylor

The Sunday schedule allows for home evening and/or home-centered gospel learning as determined by individuals and families. Family activity night can be held on Monday or at other times during the week, according to individual circumstances, according to the area presidency.

Youth, young single adults and other events

Individual Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes can now plan activities to be held in person and/or through technology, although large group activities with combined quorums and classes are discouraged, according to the updated supplement.

Such in-person gatherings should be planned to ensure social distancing and other safety measures are followed.

Due to the unique nature of young single adult stakes and wards, including the desire of such members to interact face-to-face, the area presidency suggests that “some exceptions be made to the above (updated) guidelines for Sunday meetings. These exceptions will allow YSAs living in YSA stakes to enjoy improved fellowship in quorum and class meetings.”

Also, YSA units within YSA stakes — and not YSA units in conventional stakes — are invited to gather in person or via the Internet for second-hour meetings on Sunday. YSA stake presidents are to give careful attention to and follow principles and guidelines for safe interactions at Church meetings, including avoiding social mingling in hallways between meetings, wrote the Utah Area Presidency.

For stake presidents and bishops counseling with those planning or participating in funerals, baptisms and weddings, the Utah Area Presidency invites the leaders to “be both cautious and sensitive to the challenges associated with the sacred settings where feelings can be so tender.”

The supplement reiterates the continuing need for caution, including placing appropriate limits on attendance at such events and providing for social distancing and other safety measures.

In concluding the supplement, the Utah Area Presidency wrote: “In consideration of governmental guidelines relative to COVID-19 and those issued by the Church, we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining all social distancing requirements, sanitary procedures, safety in administering the sacrament, the wearing of masks, and other approved practices when participating in Church meetings and activities.”