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Church discourages international travel to US for general conference amid coronavirus

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the mysterious coronavirus continues to spread, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has postponed leadership meetings and discouraged members and leaders outside the United States from traveling to Utah for the upcoming general conference.

Leadership sessions for top officials in the church have been moved from the beginning of April to the beginning of October when the church has its next biannual general conference. Church leaders outside the U.S. are excused from attending the faith's conference in Salt Lake City, which begins April 4.

In light of statements from governments and health organizations, the church urges those outside the U.S. to avoid traveling to Utah for the event.

“Out of an abundance of caution and with deep concern for global health considerations, as well as sympathy for all who have been or may be affected by the COVID-19 virus, we are postponing leadership meetings associated with the upcoming general conference,” the First Presidency, or top church leadership, said in a prepared statement. “We wish to be good global citizens and do what we can to limit the spread of this disease. We also want to relieve concerns of our leaders, members, and their families related to the uncertainties of travel at this time.”

Postponement of meetings only applies to pre-conference leadership meetings. All general conference sessions will proceed normally.

“We are grateful that all members who do not travel to Salt Lake City will be able to view the proceedings of April general conference through technology,” the First Presidency stated in a news release from the church. “With great compassion, we pray for all whose lives have been affected by this illness.”

The church has also reduced the number of missionaries serving in areas where the virus is particularly concerning so that mission presidents have more flexibility in ensuring that missionaries are "effective and safe" and that there is enough space to house all the missionaries if they are moved out of cities where there is "greater concerns of infection," according to a news release from the church.

The missions where these adjustments are happening are located in Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Singapore and Thailand, according to the news release. Missionaries in Hong Kong have already been removed.

Prospective missionaries assigned to those missions or missionaries coming from those countries are currently postponing their start date or have received a temporary assignment. Missionaries in those areas who are nearing their end date will come home early. Senior missionaries and young missionaries with chronic health problems will be sent home or temporarily assigned to a mission in their home country.

Missionaries returning home are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in order to follow instructions from the World Health Organization. Missionaries who remain in those areas will stay in their apartments as much as possible, avoid interactions with others and teach through phone calls or technology.

Four temples have closed due to health concerns: Taipei Taiwan Temple, Seoul Korea Temple, Fukuoka Japan Temple and Sapporo Japan Temple.

The Hong Kong China Temple and Tokyo Japan Temple were previously closed for scheduled renovations.

Members in Hong Kong, Mongolia, Korea and Japan are asked to limit or temporarily postpone gatherings and Sunday worship.

The church has also sent protective equipment to China to aid in the effort against the virus outbreak, which has since infected over 82,000 people.

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