All Latter-day Saint temples to close due to coronavirus

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Jordan River Utah Temple at dusk.

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All Latter-day Saint temples in Utah and around the world will be closed starting Thursday, the Salt Lake City-based faith announced late Wednesday.

“After careful and prayerful consideration, and with a desire to be responsible global citizens, we have decided to suspend all temple activity churchwide,” the governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote in a letter to the faith’s 16.3 million members. “This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen.”

That means temple wedding arrangements for many brides- and grooms-to-be and mission plans for prospective proselytizers will be derailed or altered.

More than a hundred of the church’s 160-plus temples already had shut down due to the coronavirus — including the Bountiful Temple after a man, the first Utahn to die from the disease, had been there in the week before his diagnosis, and South Jordan’s Oquirrh Mountain Temple, which had been closed for repairs but had a “potential COVID-19 exposure.”

But the 13 other operating Utah temples — the iconic Salt Lake and St. George edifices already were closed for renovation — and scores more around the world had been open “by appointment only” in recent days to small groups and only for “living ordinances” such as marriages, sealings and endowments for prospective missionaries and couples intending to wed.

Many of those couples now may opt for a civil marriage.

And a policy shift from last year makes the choice even easier.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Sealing room in the Cedar City, Utah, temple.

In May, the church ended the one-year waiting period between a civil marriage and a temple sealing, a requirement that had been in place for Latter-day Saints in the U.S. and Canada. (Such a delay did not apply in many other parts of the world.) So couples now can wed civilly and then be “sealed for eternity” when the temples reopen.

A week and a half ago, Emily Steele of Holladay and her fiance decided to postpone their wedding in the Draper Temple, originally slated for April 17. They are considering a civil ceremony but haven’t decided yet.

“Coronavirus is forcing our hand,” Steele said. “We will do the most important part later, where we can celebrate with everyone we love.”

Cathy Boyden’s daughter, Claire, was scheduled to wed in the Provo City Center Temple next week, and her other daughter, Amanda, was going for her own endowments Thursday.

“I’m sad,” Boyden said Wednesday night. “I was hoping the temples would stay open with limited access until [next month’s] General Conference to give my daughters a chance to go through.”

But the Salt Lake City mom was understanding.

“I realize we all need to be patient and do what’s best for others right now,” she said. “It’s disappointing but the right move to close.”

Wednesday’s letter said temple staffers will contact patrons with an existing appointment to confirm the cancellations.

Latter-day Saints consider temples “Houses of the Lord," places where devout members participate in their faith’s highest rites.

News editor David Noyce contributed to this story.