Coronavirus now hampering Latter-day Saint missionary efforts in multiple Asian nations

A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant against the new coronavirus in front of the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have issued new guidelines for missionaries in countries affected by the deadly virus on Friday, including in South Korea where missionaries have been told to "self-isolate." (Lim Hwa-young/Yonhap via AP)

The coronavirus is now hindering missionary efforts across large swaths of Asia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Utah-based faith announced Friday that it is sequestering indoors its full-time proselytizers in a handful of countries, except to buy food, exercise or attend worship services, at least in places where such gatherings are still permitted.

The church also has placed limits on missionaries when they do venture outside, including keeping six feet away from others and avoiding “personal interaction," putting a serious crimp in efforts to spread their message to prospective converts. Any teaching, a news release noted, will now take place through phone calls or other technology.

The affected missions include Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; and Singapore. Missionaries who were preparing to serve in those places have been temporarily reassigned until the "situation stabilizes.”

Missionaries throughout South Korea — home to multiple Latter-day Saints missions — also will self-isolate, while those in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, are taking similar precautions but can make some home visits.

The outbreak also has forced the closure of Latter-day Saint temples in Taipei, Taiwan, and, starting Saturday, Seoul, South Korea.

Meanwhile, missionaries in Hong Kong are nearing the end of their 14-day self-isolation and are getting ready for their new assignments.

Local Latter-day Saint leaders also are working to “support and minister to the needs of members in these areas,” the release noted. " ... We pray for all those affected by this illness and plead for the Lord’s blessings during this difficult time.”