Church releases instructions for administering ordinances during pandemic

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The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seen from adjacent gardens. The Church released information on April 17 for leaders and members on how to administer Church ordinances amid the global pandemic. (Addie Blacker)

The First Presidency released information on April 17 to provide guidance and resources in administering Church ordinances in a time of global disruption.

The two documents sent to leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outline administrative principles during these times of uncertainty. The letter from the First Presidency explains the Church’s commitment to being “good citizens and good neighbors” as its members continue performing ordinances under present circumstances.

“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,” the letter says. “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 document on administrative principles provides encouragement to leaders as they direct the Church in these challenging times.

“Amid difficult circumstances, the Church will proclaim fundamental principles and administer needed ordinances to bless Heavenly Father’s children,” the document says. “Whatever the time or circumstances, certain things are essential in the Lord’s Church. These include sacred doctrine and ordinances.”

The letter notes the importance of being good global citizens and says the Lord has prepared the Church for this time by counseling members to have food storage, teaching them about Sabbath day observance, introducing ministering, strengthening Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies and implementing home-centered gospel learning.

“The Lord will help us,” the document says. “The power of the priesthood and the righteousness of members will help us go forward in days that are ahead.”

The second document outlines the protocol for essential ordinances (baptisms, confirmations, priesthood ordinations and settings apart), priesthood blessings and ordinances (including the sacrament), Church meetings and service through ministering.

The rites of baptism, confirmation and priesthood ordination must be done in person and must receive approval from an authorized leader.

“The bishop or mission president or someone they designate (who could be one of the witnesses) must observe and record the baptism and confirmation,” the document says. “If necessary, the person granting the authorization may do so remotely using technology. Leaders, family, and friends may observe remotely using technology.”

Blessings administering to the sick also require a physical touch of hands to the head. However, the document says, “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.”

The sacrament can continue to be administered in homes as long as the local bishop authorizes priesthood holders in his congregation to do so. In the circumstance when the sacrament is unavailable, the document says “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.”

The Church also released an additional resource in its online newsroom highlighting information on patriarchal blessings, weddings, receptions, funerals, leadership meetings, bishopric and stake interviews, FSY conferences, missions and temple work. Until situations changed, these activities are not to be held in Church meetinghouses.

More information is available in the Church’s newsroom article “Responding to COVID-19: Answers to Questions.”

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