LDS church rolls out updated COVID-19 safety measures for Utah congregations

A family leaves the St. George East Stake Center following church sercives, St. George, Utah, Jan, 5, 2020 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated and clarified COVID-19 safety guidelines for worship services in Utah in a letter released to church leaders Wednesday.

A Latter-day Saint bishop addresses a congregation. The church attendees are practicing appropriate social distancing during a Sunday worship service. A bishop is a lay leader of a congregation who oversees the well-being of the congregation, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

The letter comes in the wake of the release of State Public Health Order 2021-3, which updates statewide COVID-19 restrictions, yet expressly states the order “does not apply to religious services,” and faith groups are nonetheless “strongly encouraged to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Weekly, in-person sacrament meetings can continue to take place with up to 150 attendees – they had been bumped down to 99 in-person attendees in November – as long as mask-wearing and social distancing measures are maintained.

However, local church leaders are encouraged to continue broadcasting the meetings over the internet for ward members who wish to continue participating at home.

Second-hour meetings are also encouraged to be held virtually “unless specific exceptions can be made safely,” according to the church letter.

Second-hour meetings in “Young Single Adult” stakes may also resume if church facilities are large enough to accommodate social distancing measures. Excessive intermingling between meetings is to be avoided.

An organist follows local COVID-19 public health guidelines by playing the organ with a face mask during a Latter-day Saint Sunday worship service, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

Activities for children and youth can also be held in-person if the size involved is limited and for religious purposes.

Funeral services, baptisms and wedding receptions can be held provided the “appropriate limits as to the number of people invited” and safety protocols are observed.

Church leaders are asked to consult with an Area Seventy (regional church leader) and other local leaders to “develop and implement a plan for returning to Church meetings and activities” that follow continuing and updated safety protocols.

Latter-days Saints are encouraged by church leadership to observe social distancing and wear masks, as well as get vaccinated for COVID-19 as the opportunity becomes available. However, church members are also told they are “responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination,” according to a letter from the church’s First Presidency.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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