To help combat the coronavirus pandemic, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending public gatherings of church members worldwide “until further notice,” the Utah-based faith said in a statement Thursday.
That means canceling all Sunday services and midweek activities for more than 30,000 congregations across the globe, not just in the faith’s Beehive State headquarters.
The sweeping move extends beyond the recommendation of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who earlier in the day called for an end to all gatherings — including houses of worship — in his state of more than 100 people for at least two weeks.
Other religious leaders in the state responded accordingly — even as Christian churches prepare for Holy Week next month and their most sacred holiday, Easter.
“Catholic school facilities will close,” Solis said, “and instruction to students will be provided remotely.”
The clergy’s “overarching concern was for the safety and well-being of the people,” Hayashi said. “We are devising ways to serve the spiritual needs of our people, especially those who are isolated.”
The cleric encouraged his priests to reach out to provide groceries to those in need, to continue telephone contact so no one feels abandoned, and to remain in the churches in case people came there to pray or meditate.
“Our primary moral motivation,” Hayashi said, “is the primacy of love for the neighbor.”
The bishop himself has to “self-quarantine for two weeks because of a developing dry cough,” he said in a Facebook message. “I took the COVID-19 test, but results will not be back until tomorrow.”
As of Thursday, Hayashi said, he “feels fine and is not alarmed.”
But Din later said that the mosque decided to cancel Friday prayers at the center.
“Though that is a serious step,” the imam said Friday morning. “We want to comply with the governor’s recommendations and follow what other religious groups are doing during this [coronavirus epidemic].”
The Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake will continue to have Sunday services at Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City and Prophet Elias in Holiday, the Rev. George Nikas wrote in a letter to parishioners.
The church has asked, however, that those who are vulnerable “please refrain from attending church during the next few weeks.”
The church has canceled Sunday school classes, the fellowship hour after services as well as several upcoming events for youth groups, Lent and Greek Independence Day on March 25. “Due to the sudden shortage of sanitizing lotions,” the letter added, “we encourage everyone to bring their own and use accordingly.”
The temple will also livestream some of its “pujas,” or worship rituals, he said.
That includes stake conferences, leadership conferences and other large gatherings; all public worship services, including sacrament meetings; and local congregational activities of branches, wards and regional stakes.
Local Latter-day Saint leaders, where possible, should meet “via technology,” the governing First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “Bishops should counsel with their stake president to determine how to make the sacrament [Communion] available at least once a month.”
“We encourage members in their ministering efforts to care for one another. We should follow the Savior’s example to bless and lift others,” they said in their release Thursday. “We bear our witness of the Lord’s love during this time of uncertainty. He will bless you to find joy as you do your best to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in every circumstance.”
Unlike regular meetinghouses, these temples, which often involve more than 100 people in religious rituals that require hand touching, are seen as “Houses of the Lord,” places where devout Latter-day Saints take part in their faith’s most sacred ordinances, including eternal marriage.