SALT LAKE CITY — As the pandemic continues to strain Utah's health care system amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Utah Area Presidency has updated its guidelines for members in the state.
Young single adult wards will now hold the second hour of church virtually, in place of an in-person meeting, according to the church's Thursday announcement.
In-person youth gatherings should now be limited to those with a "religious purpose," church leaders said.
Previously, the church allowed small in-person youth gatherings during the week, so long as they were limited to individual quorums and classes. Now, those gatherings must be limited to activities with a religious purpose and all other sporting and non-religious social activities have been temporarily suspended.
Additionally, attendance at baptisms, funerals and weddings will be open to immediate family and those officiating only. All other guests can attend such events virtually, church officials advised.
"We ask local priesthood leaders to work with individuals and families to determine how best to address safety measures and to limit attendance at these important events," the presidency added.
Any large leadership meetings, including stake and ward council, will now be held online.
Leaders noted the adjustments are temporary but did not clarify exactly how long they will remain in effect.
Thursday's changes come after a new emergency order went into effect on Monday limiting social gatherings to only households for two weeks and implementing a statewide mask mandate indefinitely.
Gov. Gary Herbert explicitly stated in his Sunday night announcement of the new rules that it does not apply to religious services, and instead encouraged faith leaders to enact measures to limit the spread of the virus.
In an email sent to local church leaders across the state, the Utah Area Presidency noted that while the church was previously in compliance with the new order, leaders felt more guidelines were necessary "given the current spike" in COVID-19 cases.
Those guidelines remained in place on Thursday and the presidency asked leaders to "be vigilant in maintaining well-known safety measures."
"We are grateful for your support and your desire to protect others, especially those who have medical conditions or are of an age which puts them most at risk," the letter reads.
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