More than six months ago — on March 15 — Latter-day Saints worldwide began gathering in their living rooms with family members and housemates for Sabbath-day services instead of meetinghouses.
The global pandemic, of course, forced a temporary end to traditional Sunday gatherings of wards and branches. Being physically separated from fellow members was not the ideal. But Latter-day Saints have persevered — drawing upon faith, prayer and home-centered gospel learning resources such as “Come, Follow Me.”
Still, they have looked forward to the day when they could again worship physically alongside their ward and branch families with pre-pandemic frequency.
In recent months, many units in different areas of the world commenced gathering for sacrament services, typically with modified schedules and attendance limitations. Then last week, the First Presidency approved the resumption of weekly sacrament meetings — “virtually, safely in person, or by hybrid in-person and virtual broadcast” — according to local needs and regulations.
Even following the recent announcement, most units did not resume their weekly sacrament meetings on Sunday.
Restrictions in some areas of the world, including several Latin American countries, still prevent Latter-day Saints from gathering together. And in locales densely populated with members, such as the Utah Area, many stake presidents are opting for a measured return to weekly meetings to allow for both safety and required planning.
When Latter-day Saints speak of tracing God’s hand over the past six months, they often note the many blessings realized while worshipping at home with loved ones.
But a return to traditional Sunday meetings, albeit gradually, is hopeful news. It marks a welcome signal from modern-day prophets that all will one day be as it was.
Using Church News social media platforms, members around the world voiced their enthusiasm to return to traditional sacrament meetings:
Elder Josh Newman, a full-time missionary serving in Laredo, Texas, reported being impressed by the “smooth transition” back to weekly sacrament meetings.
“It seems that more and more people now feel comfortable attending sacrament meetings in person, both members and people being taught by the missionaries. And attendance has increased since I first began serving in the ward back in late June.”
“We are so excited to have up to 150 people in our sacrament meeting starting this Sunday, (Sept. 20)”, wrote Alicia Gorringe Brown of Bountiful, Utah.
“The sacrament itself will be passed after the [broadcasted] meeting ends. … Shortly after that ends, we will attend a Zoom Sunday school meeting on the first and third Sundays of the month.
“Then on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, we will have Relief Society, elders quorum and Young Men and Young Women, all broadcast at the same time.
“I’m so very excited about this return to semi-normalcy.”
Valerie Walker’s branch in Memphis, Tennessee, has already been meeting weekly in two separate groups to allow for social distancing in its small meetinghouse.
“I was so happy to start going back because a lot of our members need the spiritual nourishment that in-person sacrament offers,” she wrote. “Our meetings are about 30-40 minutes long, and afterwards we are dismissed by row. It is very sacrament- and Savior-focused, and I feel the Spirit strongly every time I go.”
Mexico City, Mexico
A resident of the Mexico City municipality of Miguel Hidalgo, Pascual Cruz wrote that his ward has enjoyed the past two Sundays meeting together.
“We are returning, little by little.”
Gaynelle Griffin of Rossville, Georgia, reported that caution is being exercised at her ward sacrament meetings. Congregants practice social distancing and wear masks, even while singing.
“After sacrament meeting is over, we leave the building so the youth can wipe-down touched surfaces. No one has gotten sick in our ward, so we enjoy the blessings of attending church.”
With current restrictions in the United Kingdom, James Farnell Hastings’ branch allows for a maximum of 30 people in attendance. Members who are unable to attend in person can join virtually following the sacrament ordinance.
“It made it interesting when a new bishop was called in recent weeks,” he wrote on Facebook.
“We miss [all] gathering together. However, all have commented that the spirit is stronger than ever.”