On Friday, April 17, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter and two documents to the faith’s global leadership. A third document contained answers to questions not addressed in the First Presidency’s letter to leadership.
The documents can be accessed on newsroom.ChurchofJesusChrist.org using the links below:
- "First Presidency Letter on Administrative Principles in Challenging Times"
- "Administrative Principles in Challenging Times"
- "Directions for Essential Ordinances, Blessings, and Other Church Functions"
- "Responding to COVID-19: Answers to Questions"
An A–Z guide of topics covered in the four documents is provided by LDS Living for readers below. The information is quoted from the documents released by Church Newsroom.
- Administering to the Sick
- Administering the Sacrament
- Baptisms and Confirmations
- Blood Drives
- Challenging Times
- Foundational Principles and Ordinances
- FSY Conferences
- Global Citizen Responsibility
- Letter from the First Presidency
- The Lord Has Prepared His Church
- Meetings and Interviews
- Missionary Service: Missionary Life
- Missionary Service: Missionary Meetings
- Missionary Service: Member Missionary Work
- Missionary Service: Pre-Mission
- Naming and Blessing Children
- Notification of Those Who May Have Been in Contact with Members with COVID-19
- Patriarchal Blessings
- Priesthood Ordinations and Settings Apart
- Recording Meeting Attendance
- Use of Buildings and Facilities
- Seminary and Institute
- Tithing and Donations
- Temple Recommend Interviews and Activation
- Weddings, Receptions, and Funerals
Administering to the Sick
A priesthood blessing requires the physical laying on of hands. Normally, two or more Melchizedek Priesthood holders administer, but one may do it alone. After taking every necessary precaution, when conditions prohibit placing hands on a person’s head, a prayer can be offered, including using technology. This is a prayer of faith and not a priesthood blessing. Anyone at any time may pray, fast or otherwise minister to others.
Administering the Sacrament
Members should take advantage of the blessings of attending sacrament meeting and partaking of the sacrament weekly when possible. In exceptional circumstances, when ward sacrament meetings are not held for an extended time, a bishop may authorize worthy priesthood holders in his ward to prepare and administer the sacrament in their own homes or in the homes of other ward members who do not have a worthy priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the home (see General Handbook, 18.9.1). When needed, the sacrament may be administered by a single priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder.
Members may provide their own bread and water. However, preparing the sacrament should be done by the authorized priesthood holder(s). The priesthood holder(s) administering the sacrament must be in the same location as those who receive it when they break the bread, say the prayers, and pass the emblems. In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available, members can be comforted by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.
Individuals and families are blessed when they can hold a private, home-centered Sabbath worship service, in person or remotely. Such worship can include prayers, hymns, and gospel study. When authorized, priesthood holder(s) are present, the sacrament may be blessed and passed.
May priesthood holders administer the sacrament in the homes of other ward members who do not have a worthy priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the home?
Generally, yes. Currently, government directives or local regulations restrict this practice in many nations and cities. Until further notice, in these places, priesthood holders should not enter homes of Church members to whom they are not related to administer the sacrament. During this time, members can be blessed by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.
Baptisms and Confirmations
Baptisms and confirmations require the approval of a priesthood leader with the appropriate keys. When needed, baptismal services may proceed with as few as four people: the baptismal candidate, the priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder performing the baptism, and two witnesses. A baptism is performed under the authorization of a bishop or mission president who holds the necessary priesthood keys. The bishop or mission president or someone they designate (who could be one of the witnesses) must observe and record the baptism and confirmation. If necessary, the person granting the authorization may do so remotely using technology. Leaders, family, and friends may observe remotely using technology. When sacrament meetings are temporarily suspended, converts may be confirmed immediately after the baptism.
Should we continue to participate in blood drives?
Yes, blood drives will continue but must follow government orders, regulations, and guidelines established in each location and the protocols of the blood drive entity (Red Cross or others).
Meetinghouses and meetinghouse parking lots can be used by the Red Cross and other entities using portable facilities if all government orders, regulations, and guidelines are followed.
The scriptures are clear that in this dispensation we will experience challenging times. Amid difficult circumstances, the Church will proclaim fundamental principles and administer needed ordinances to bless Heavenly Father’s children. Whatever the time or circumstances, certain things are essential in the Lord’s Church. These include sacred doctrine and ordinances.
Foundational Principles and Ordinances
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church of order. Ordinances and blessings are sacred acts provided by the authority of the priesthood. While some procedures may change depending on circumstances, fundamental doctrine, principles, and ordinances must be protected.
Many ordinances require the laying on of hands, such as confirmations, ordinations, blessings, settings apart, and conferring of priesthood keys. Such ordinances require that the priesthood holder who performs the ordinance must be in the same location as the recipient. Priesthood ordinances cannot be performed remotely using technology. When circumstances require, others may observe the ordinance remotely using technology if authorized by the presiding authority.
In these challenging times, presiding authorities must exercise wisdom as to which ordinances should be temporarily deferred. When communicable disease is a concern, those who perform ordinances should take necessary precautions to protect themselves and others.
Attached hereto are directions for essential ordinances, blessings, and other Church functions.
These documents are issued in response to the disruptions in Church procedures and member activities caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. They should be used as guidance for so long as this pandemic and its associated official limitations on Church meetings and public exposures exist in a particular country or geographic portion of a country. Other directions may be issued later.
Will For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences be held this summer (2020)?
2020 FSY conferences scheduled to be held in the U.S. and Canada in 2020 have been postponed until 2021. Stakes invited to attend FSY conferences in 2020 will now attend in 2021. An updated schedule of FSY conferences held in the U.S. and Canada in 2021–23 will be updated soon. Refunds will automatically be made to those who have registered. Youth from stakes invited in 2020 who still will meet the age requirements will be invited to attend FSY in 2021.Outside of the U.S. and Canada, Area Presidencies will provide guidance on whether FSY conferences will be held, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines established by governments in their communities and countries. Additional information about FSY conferences is available at FSY.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Global Citizen Responsibility
Members of the Church are grateful for the laws of many nations around the world that protect religious freedom and respect the sacred freedom of conscience.
The Church teaches that its members should sustain and uphold the laws where they reside. These governments enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest. We acknowledge that in exceptional circumstances all individual rights may be reasonably restricted, for a time to protect the safety of the general public.
In times of pandemic or natural disaster, the Church will respond to official orders to take needed actions such as canceling or postponing meetings or other gatherings. The Church and its members are committed to being good citizens and good neighbors. The Church has a long history of reaching out and providing assistance to those in need.
Along with our commitment to be good global citizens, we respectfully assert that reasonable accommodations be extended to all people of faith as they strive to participate in rites that are foundational to their faith.
Letter from the First Presidency
We are grateful for the efforts many of you are making to follow the directions carefully from national, state, and local leaders in many countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also taking appropriate precautions and is providing assistance to those in need.
Under the present circumstances and under conditions that may exist in the future, the Church and its members will faithfully exhibit our commitment to being good citizens and good neighbors.
Attached to this letter are documents that explain administrative principles for the Church during challenging times. Directions are enclosed for essential ordinances, blessings, and other Church functions to guide leaders through the current crisis and the challenging days that are ahead.
These documents are issued in response to the disruptions in Church procedures and member activities caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. They should provide guidance as long as this pandemic exists in a particular country or region. Other directions may be issued later.
The First Presidency
The Lord Has Prepared His Church
Inspired direction over many years has prepared the Lord’s Church and its members, both temporally and spiritually, for changing and challenging times.
In addition to the long-time counsel for members to have food storage in their homes, Church members are focused on observing the Sabbath day, ministering to others, and strengthening Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies. Through His prophets, the Lord has increased focus on home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning and living. Members have been encouraged to make their homes true sanctuaries of faith where children and youth are taught the gospel. The Come, Follow Me curriculum provides a model where members everywhere learn the gospel in their homes and at Church. The Children and Youth program is also home centered, allowing parents to nurture their children spiritually, intellectually, physically, and socially.
Members have been encouraged to use technology to share gospel messages in normal and natural ways. Missionaries have been provided devices that permit them to find and teach even when in-person contact is not possible. Members can engage in family history work from their homes.
When we look at the interlocking patterns of these efforts and many others, we can see how the Lord has carefully orchestrated and sequenced us to prepare for challenging times.
Meetings and Interviews
In extreme circumstances, leaders may temporarily suspend meetings and activities. When conditions require, bishopric meetings, interviews, and ward council meetings may take place remotely using technology, such as phone calls or video calls. Bishops and ward leaders may use technology for messages to supplement a member’s home-centered worship.
Can bishopric meetings, stake presidency meetings, high council meetings, other presidency meetings, and interviews be held in person?
These are decisions that should be made locally based on all available information. Meetings and interviews may be conducted via technology when possible.
Ministering brothers and sisters will discover that there are varied ways to provide needed support to their assigned individuals and families. Whether ministering is done in person or remotely using technology depends on local circumstances and the needs, desires, and health of those involved. Ministering interviews may be done remotely using technology when needed. In extreme cases, in-person ministering may be limited to addressing a serious and urgent physical, mental, or emotional need. Ministering brothers and sisters should demonstrate their love and support in appropriate ways.
Missionary Service: Missionary Life
Can missionaries continue to teach their contacts in person when they are required to be in their apartments?
No. Missionaries should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines as well as direction from the Area Presidency and mission president. However, they may still teach their contacts via technology. (See the missionary video series on teaching with technology).
Can missionaries continue to contact people on the streets?
Missionaries should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines and follow the direction received from the Area Presidency and mission president.
If a missionary is asked to provide a blessing to someone who has coronavirus symptoms, should the missionary give the blessing?
No. Missionaries should not visit people who have tested positive for, exhibit symptoms of, or have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. They may minister to them via technology and pray for them.
Should missionaries continue to offer service and work with JustServe?
Missionaries should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines as well as direction from the Area Presidency and mission president.
Missionary Service: Missionary Meetings
In lieu of mission tours, can the Area Presidency attend leadership councils and zone meetings?
Gathering missionaries together physically for zone meetings is temporarily suspended. Meetings may be held remotely using technology as needed.
Missionary Service: Member Missionary Work
Can member missionary work continue to go forward?
Yes, under the direction of the stake president and bishop. Member missionary work is subject to the same limitations on in-person visits as full-time missionary work until conditions permit otherwise.
Missionary Service: Pre-Mission
Should missionary applications continue to be processed by local priesthood leaders? Will missionaries continue to be called in the near term?
Can bishops and stake presidents interview prospective missionaries in person?
Yes, but prospective missionary interviews should be conducted remotely using face-to-face technology whenever possible.
Naming and Blessing Children
Do the guidelines allow for blessing children in the home?
Yes. When authorized by the bishop, the blessing may be performed at the family’s home instead of at a Church building. It should be properly reported.
Notification of Those Who May Have Been in Contact with Members with COVID-19
Should leaders notify members who may have been in contact with other members of the Church who were either exposed to or infected with COVID-19?
Generally, yes, including advising leaders and ministering brothers and sisters whose duties would naturally bring them into contact with infected members. These leaders and ministering brothers and sisters should be advised to continue to minister but via technology and from a distance, and to follow the guidelines in “Preventative Measures for Members.” Members should comply with applicable laws, including government orders, regulations, and guidelines.
Can patriarchal blessings continue as scheduled?
Patriarchal blessings should be delayed temporarily. However, wherever possible, those preparing to serve missions should be given a patriarchal blessing prior to beginning their missionary service.
Priesthood Ordinations and Settings Apart
Priesthood ordinations and settings apart require the advance approval of the person holding the appropriate priesthood keys. They also require the physical laying on of hands by an authorized priesthood holder. The ordinance must be observed and recorded by the individual holding the priesthood keys or someone he designates. If necessary, this individual may observe the ordinance remotely using technology. Leaders, family, and friends may observe remotely using technology.
Ordinations, callings, and settings apart may be performed without a prior sustaining in ward and stake settings if approved in advance by the person holding the appropriate priesthood keys. This allows the work of the Lord to move forward, and the action is later ratified when meetings are resumed.
Recording Meeting Attendance
Given the suspended meetings, how will attendance for reports be calculated and reported?
Attendance will not be reported because Sunday services have been temporarily suspended.
Use of Buildings and Facilities
Can buildings and athletic fields still be used? May youth gather to play soccer on outdoor meetinghouse courts and fields?
Branch, ward, and stake activities are temporarily suspended. Individuals should follow “Preventative Measures for Members.” Members should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines.
Can other daily activities such as sports, choir practices, and piano lessons in meetinghouses continue?
Activities such as sports, choir practices, and piano lessons are temporarily suspended. Members should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines.
What should be done with addiction recovery and self-reliance classes held weekly in Church buildings?
They should be held via technology.
Should family history centers in stake centers be closed?
Yes. Patrons should use technology from home.
Seminary and Institute
For all questions, see CES guidelines in response to COVID-19.
Tithing and Donations
Will bishoprics still accept tithing and donations in person and enter the transactions during the week, or should it only be done electronically during the period of suspended meetings?
When possible, members should make their donations online. Members who have no access to online donations can still give them physically to any member of the bishopric or mail donations using the pre-addressed envelopes, unless the Area Presidency deems this practice inappropriate. Additional questions should be referred to the Area Presidency.
Temple Recommend Interviews and Activation
Should Church members be encouraged to maintain a current temple recommend?
Yes. A current temple recommend recognizes a person’s worthiness to enter the temple, even if temple worship is not possible.
Must temple recommend interviews continue to be done in person?
No. Members of bishoprics and stake presidencies may temporarily conduct temple recommend interviews using face-to-face technology. Members should continue to be interviewed by both a member of the bishopric and a member of the stake presidency.
Should temple recommends be issued even without signatures?
Yes. Members of bishoprics may conduct interviews using available technology. After the interview, they can sign the recommend, take a picture of it, and send the picture to the stake clerk. He should then deliver or mail the signed temple recommend to the member. The member should sign the recommend upon receipt.
After a member of the stake presidency interviews the member, he or the stake clerk may activate the recommend without a signature. When ward sacrament and other meetings resume, each member should have his or her recommend signed by a member of the stake presidency if it has not already been signed.
Weddings, Receptions, and Funerals
Do the new guidelines allow for weddings (including receptions) and funerals in meetinghouses?
Where restricted by government regulations, weddings, receptions, and funerals should not be held in meetinghouses. As permitted by law, bishops and stake presidents may officiate in weddings in an appropriate setting where social distancing can be maintained. Technology may also be used to allow family and friends to view the service. Leaders and members should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines.
As permitted by law, bishopric and stake presidency members may officiate at a graveside service. Technology may also be used to allow family and friends to view the service and to record it. If desired, a larger memorial service may be held later when conditions permit.