Update on how the coronavirus is affecting Latter-day Saints in Utah

With 51 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the state of Utah as of Tuesday, Church and government leaders continue to release updates on how various entities in the state are responding to the spread of the virus.

Following Gov. Gary Herbert’s press release last Thursday, March 12, which asked citizens to limit gatherings in the state to fewer than 100 people, many businesses, organizations and schools in the state have begun closing their doors or limiting their services in order to follow the guidelines for social distancing recommended by local and federal leaders.

Additionally, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have announced changes to several of their local and worldwide operations in response to the virus. Here’s a list of what the Church has announced and how it affects Latter-day Saints in Utah:

Changes to welfare services

The Church announced Tuesday morning that, beginning March 18, all Deseret Industries Thrift stores will close to the public for shopping but “will remain open to support the needs of individuals served by bishops’ orders and community partner grants.”

Deseret Industries portion of a new Welfare Services Center in Harrisville, Utah.
Deseret Industries portion of a new Welfare Services Center in Harrisville, Utah. Credit: Keith Johnson, Deseret News

Deseret Industries employees who fall into a low-risk demographic for the virus may be “transferred to support the work of bishops’ storehouses and food processing operations to backfill any staff or volunteers from those facilities who are in a higher risk category” and have been asked to remain at home during this time.

Changes to Temple Square

The Church announced on Friday, March 13, that all public areas in and around Temple Square are closed until further notice. This includes the Conference Center, Assembly Hall, Tabernacle, North Visitors’ Center, Family History Library, Church History Museum, Relief Society Building, Church Office Building, Lion House and Beehive House, Church History Library and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The Tabernacle Choir and Temple Square also announced cancellations of several of their upcoming concerts and rehearsals as a precautionary measure.

Construction work on the Salt Lake Temple is planned to continue.

General conference and other gatherings

All five of the upcoming April general conference sessions will be held virtually, Church leaders announced on March 11. Members in Utah will not gather at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and members around the world in areas where COVID-19 is active will not gather at stake centers or meetinghouses for the conference.

Church gatherings, including Sunday worship services, have been temporarily suspended by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. No anticipated end date to the suspensions has yet been shared.

People enter the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019.
People enter the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Church employees worldwide have been asked to cease travels unless approved by executive councils or area presidencies. While Church offices in Utah — including the Church Office Building, Global Services Department, Joseph Smith Building, Riverton Office Building, bishops’ storehouses, Beehive Clothing, Granite Mountain Records Vault — remain open for workforce access, employees are being encouraged to work from home when possible and practice social distancing by holding gatherings or meetings virtually where possible. Self-isolation practices are being encouraged for any employees who are sick.

Church-owned schools

CES devotionals and other large gatherings on Church-owned campuses including BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and LDSBC have been suspended. Classes and courses at all Church-owned schools have also been moved online or cancelled in response to the coronavirus.

Students walk on the BYU campus after the campus devotional on April 10, with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Students walk on the BYU campus after the campus devotional on April 10, with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Credit: Nate Edwards

This story may be updated as new developments and announcements occur.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated bishops’ storehouses are closed. Storehouses remain open.