The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a plan to gradually restart in-person worship services, having previously suspended worship gatherings in March to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
Church leadership, known as the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, sent out an official letter Tuesday regarding the two-phase plan for reopening LDS houses of worship.
“Within guidelines provided by the Area Presidency and in counsel with his bishops, each stake president will determine the specific timing for resuming ward and stake meetings and activities,” read the letter. “We are grateful for the faith of our members as they have worshiped at home and are grateful for the blessings that will come as we gather for worship and activities.”
The two phases of reopening gatherings for Mormon congregations are divided between the two categories of Sabbath day worship and other gatherings, such as funerals and weddings.
Phase 1 called for shorter meetings for up to 99 individuals on Sabbaths and shortened meetings for other gatherings, both in keeping with “local government regulations.”
Phase 2 called for Sabbath meetings up to 100 individuals or more, again following local guidelines, as well as returning other meetings to church buildings and regular times.
“Use an abundance of caution in protecting the health and safety of members. Pay particular attention to members whose health or age puts them at high risk,” stated the LDS Church, which is not a Christian denomination and is considered by many to be a cult in light of its extra-biblical texts and beliefs.
“Advise individuals who do not feel well, who have been asked to self-quarantine or who exhibit any of the following symptoms that they should not attend meetings: fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, runny nose or sore throat.”
The LDS Church leadership recommended that the return to regular worship occur “slowly,” encouraging the use of online alternatives for worship.
“Priority for in-person gatherings should be given to meetings during which ordinances are performed, such as baptisms and sacrament meetings,” they added.
LifeWay Research published a report on May 1 which found that among Protestant pastors, nearly a quarter (24%) of churches that stopped holding in-person worship services to curb the pandemic have not made plans for reopening.
The same report also found that almost a third (30%) of pastors surveyed said they were planning to hold small in-person services first, and 16% planned to resume normal activities immediately.