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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has suspended church services worldwide as the new coronavirus spreads, according to a Thursday news release.
The church said the decision was made after counseling with local church leaders, government officials and medical professionals and seeking "the Lord's guidance in these matters."
According to the release, "Beginning immediately, all public gatherings of Church members are being temporarily suspended worldwide until further notice. This includes:
- Stake conferences, leadership conferences and other large gatherings
- All public worship services, including sacrament meetings
- Branch, ward and stake activities"
The church urged local leaders to "conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology" and to counsel with other local leaders to determine how to make sacrament available to members at least once a month. Each Sunday, members participate in an ordinance called the sacrament where they remember the sacrifices they believe Jesus made for them, and baptized members renew the covenants they made with God.
Temples in Utah will not close, however, though select temples in Paraguay, Massachusetts, Denmark, Japan, Portugal, Kentucky, New York, Italy, South Korea, Washington, Taiwan and Canada have been closed.
"Several temples have been closed because of concern for the workers and patrons. A large number of temple workers and patrons are from an older demographic, which has a higher susceptibility to complications from the coronavirus," a news release from the church reads.
Though Utah's temples did not close, the church's most recent announcement suggests that "further direction related to other matters will be provided."
"We encourage members in their ministering efforts to care for one another. We should follow the Savior’s example to bless and lift others," the church said in the release. "We bear our witness of the Lord’s love during this time of uncertainty. He will bless you to find joy as you do your best to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in every circumstance."
Sen. Mitt Romney praised the church for its move, saying in a tweet, "I applaud @Ch_JesusChrist for taking these proactive steps to protect the health of Church members, and their communities."
Prior to the worldwide suspension, the church had cancelled leadership meetings and discouraged international travel for the faith's April general conference, then announced that the conference would take place "via technology only."