Temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will begin reopening in a phased plan, according to a letter released Thursday by the First Presidency.
“Beginning Monday, May 11, 2020, living husband-and-wife sealing ordinances will be performed in selected temples for members who have been previously endowed,” said the letter by the First Presidency, the church’s highest governing body, consisting of President Russell M. Nelson and counselors Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring.
Temples worldwide have been closed for nearly two months, in some cases, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first phase of reopening allowing limited live sealings (marriages) for LDS members who are already endowed will begin with select temples in Idaho and Utah in the United States and in Germany and Sweden.
Members who are worthy to go to the temple are endowed, or receive a bestowing of knowledge and understanding of gospel principles given in temples, according to LDS Church information. After they have received those blessings for themselves, they may perform them by proxy for those who have died, including their ancestors.
“The reopening of temples will proceed in a cautious and carefully planned and coordinated manner based on local government restrictions and as authorized by the Temple Department,” the letter said. “The four phases of opening are designed to reduce risk, accommodate the demand and capacity of the temple, and observe any relevant health restrictions in the temple district.”
Phase 1: Living husband-and-wife sealings by appointment
- Perform living sealings only for previously endowed members under strict guidelines and safety precautions, including limited temple staff and limited attendees.
Phase 2: Open for all living ordinances only
- Perform all temple ordinances for living individuals.
- Maintain closure of patron housing, clothing and cafeteria operations.
Phase 3: Open for all ordinances with restrictions
- Continue providing ordinances for living individuals.
- Provide proxy ordinances for ancestors in a restricted manner.
- Open patron housing, clothing and cafeteria operations as needed.
Phase 4: Open for full operations
- Resume regular temple operations.
Temple marriages will be scheduled Monday through Saturday by appointment only and will be limited to one sealing ceremony or family at a time in the temple, according to the church letter.
Couples will be required to live in the temple district of the temple they are scheduling.
“All government and public health directives will be observed, including restrictions related to travel and crossing of state or other regional borders, and the use of safety equipment such as masks,” the letter said.
In the first phase, temples will have a very limited number of staff on hand — as few as two or three people. Each bride, groom and their limited number of guests will be greeted at the door of the temple and escorted to the sealing room, according to the statement.
“The bride and groom are invited to come to the temple dressed in the customary white trousers, shirt and tie (for men) and dresses (for women). They will then dress in ceremonial temple clothing within the temple,” the First Presidency said.
The number of participants in each sealing will be restricted to the bride, groom and a limited number of guests per instructions provided at the time of scheduling.
“Only those who are in good health and have no symptoms of COVID-19 should come to the temple,” the letter said. “The sealing and other rooms in the temple will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized following each ceremony.”
According to the First Presidency, as directed by the Temple Department, other temples will begin to reopen based on local government and public health directives.
For currently scheduled living ordinances, members will be contacted by temple staff to confirm their appointment or to reschedule. Priority for scheduling ordinances will then be given to members who had their appointments canceled because of temple closures. Members in this circumstance should call the temple to schedule an ordinance. Final priority will then be given to new appointments, according to the phased plans announced.
Many of the volunteer temple workers are of retirement age and older. Each temple president is to take extra precautions to protect temple workers and patrons, the letter said.
This will include allowing patrons to wear their own masks and gloves, providing hand sanitizer at several locations in the temple and encouraging frequent handwashing and social distancing.
Adjustments to temple operating schedules, seating arrangements and temple facilities also will be made to further increase safety, the letter said.
“We ask for your continued faith and prayers that this pandemic and its lingering effects may pass,” the letter concludes. “We look forward to the day that we can resume full operation of our temples, congregations and missionary service.”
The current status of individual temples can be viewed on each individual temple’s page on Temples. http:// ChurchofJesusChrist.org.