To be in line with Governor Gary Herbert’s emergency COVID-19 restrictions, the Utah Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to church leaders in Utah on Thursday.
“To ensure that the church is responsive to state executive and public health orders, the Utah Area Presidency asks local church leaders to make the following four temporary adjustments to ensure increased safety and vigilance during a time of rising COVID-19 cases in the state,” the email stated.
Those four adjustments include the following:
1. Temporarily suspend in-person second-hour meetings in young single adult (YSA) wards and stakes. These can be held virtually.
2. Limit in-person youth gatherings to activities with a religious purpose.
3. Limit in-person attendance at baptisms, funerals, weddings and receptions to immediate family and those who officiate. All others can participate virtually.
4. Hold stake and ward council meetings, coordination meetings and other large leadership meetings via technology.
The email goes on to say, “As you may know, Governor Gary Herbert recently issued an Executive Order (2020–74), effective Nov. 9, 2020, which, among other things, mandates the wearing of face masks while within 6 feet (whether indoors or outside) of any individual from a separate household and precludes social gatherings of individuals from separate households.”
It continues, “What is not well understood by many is that the Governor’s Executive Order, by its terms, does not apply to religious services. Additionally, it stipulates that social gatherings, as defined, do not include gatherings “for a primarily educational or religious purpose” and simply “encourages faith-based organizations to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
In reviewing their approach to meetings and activities in Utah (see the First Presidency letter dated Sept. 11, 2020, and the Updated Utah Area Supplement) and counseling with others, the church area leaders understand that they are currently in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order.
“We do, however, encourage leaders and members to be diligent in following existing safety guidelines and in using caution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the email says.
“Most importantly, we ask local leaders to be vigilant in maintaining well-known safety measures (e.g., following social distancing requirements, wearing of masks, using hand sanitizer and other safety measures in preparing and administering the sacrament, cleaning buildings between meetings, etc.) and in avoiding informal congregating before and after meetings and activities.”
Herbert’s emergency mandates are for two weeks, unless numbers don’t significantly drop. If it is extended it will be in place through the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond.