Latter-day Saint congregations in Utah may now have up to 150 people attending Sunday sacrament meetings in person — as long as they follow safety protocols, including physical distancing and mask-wearing.
However, because the number of COVID-19 cases remains high in the Beehive State, area authorities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday in an updated letter to lay leaders that services will continue to be broadcast to ward members who choose to participate from their homes.
The sacrament, or communion, itself still cannot be shown on a livestream video, so the ordinance will still be moved to the end of the service after the camera is turned off.
Second-hour classes — ranging from Sunday school to male priesthood meetings, women’s Relief Society, Young Women, and children’s Primary — will continue to be virtual as well for most congregations, they said, “unless specific exceptions can be made safely.”
Young Single Adult congregations may hold in-person second-hour meetings, the leaders said, if church facilities “are large enough to allow for social distancing and steps are taken to avoid excessive mingling between meetings.”
Funerals, baptisms and weddings may be held in person, according to the letter, “with appropriate limits as to the number of people invited and should follow safety protocols.”
This new statement is a return to the guidelines the Utah Area Presidency established in September after the number of possible attendees was reduced in November.
Lay leaders, in consultation with area authorities, should develop a plan, the Thursday letter said, for “returning to church meetings and activities.”
The latest guidelines were issued in response to the Utah Department of Health’s public order, which is in effect through Feb. 22, the letter stated. Though the order “does not apply to religious services,” religious organizations “are strongly encouraged to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
The church expressed gratitude for the efforts of federal and state officials to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, the release said, noting that “the phased approach will take time to reduce transmissions.”