Cover image via Church Newsroom.
The following letter was sent to Church leaders throughout Utah on February 3, 2021:
We again express our sincere appreciation for the leadership of Area Seventies, stake presidents, bishops, and other local leaders during the current pandemic. As you know, infection rates in Utah remain high, slowing our ability to return to normal Church meetings and activities.
On January 22, 2021, the Utah Department of Heath issued an additional Public Health Order (2021-3) which is in effect through February 22, 2021. The Order “does not apply to a religious service.” However, religious organizations “are strongly encouraged to implement protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” We are grateful for the ongoing efforts of federal and state officials to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to the public; however, this phased approach will take time to reduce transmissions. Given that conditions vary throughout Utah, we ask stake presidents to maintain awareness of COVID-19 transmission rates in their local communities.
In consultation with senior Church leaders, we now replace our November 12, 2020 guidelines with direction previously outlined in the September 11, 2020 letter from the First Presidency and the (Updated) Utah Area Supplement. Additionally, we provide the following clarifying information to stake presidents:
- In consultation with your Area Seventy and with leaders in your stake, we ask that you develop and implement a plan for returning to Church meetings and activities consistent with information provided herein, while exercising care to follow established safety protocols (e.g., appropriate social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitation of surfaces, limitations on the number of people attending Church meetings and activities).
- Your plan should limit the number of people attending Sunday worship services and continue to broadcast services for those who participate from home. Second hour classes should be held virtually, unless specific exceptions can be made safely, and activities for children and youth should be limited in size to maintain safety protocols. All activities should have a religious purpose.
- YSA stake presidents may hold in-person second hour meetings if Church facilities are large enough to allow for social distancing and steps are taken to avoid excessive mingling between meetings. YSA stake plans may also allow bishoprics to meet with small groups of members outside regular Church meetings.
- Plans for funeral services, baptisms and wedding receptions should allow for these tender and sensitive gatherings to be conducted with appropriate limits as to the number of people invited and should follow safety protocols.
- Technology is encouraged for stake and ward conferences and other leadership meetings; however, presidency, bishopric and council meetings may be conducted in person with safety protocols.
Thank you for your inspired leadership in these challenging times.
The Utah Area Presidency