How temple worship, construction changed throughout the pandemic

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The pandemic caused many changes in temple construction and worship closing all temples, including the Provo City Center temple pictured here, for a few months before a phased reopening began. (Addie Blacker)

Editor’s note: This story appeared in the October 2021 edition of The Daily Universe Magazine.

Various changes in temple construction and worship began in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic caused businesses, schools, churches and temples to shut down. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially shut down all temples until “further notice” on March 25, 2020.

On May 7, 2020, the Church announced a phased reopening of temples to allow worship to continue safely with COVID-19 restrictions. The Church’s Newsroom article has an updated list of the re-opening of temples and the five phases that have been implemented.

Phase one allows members to schedule living husband-and-wife sealings by appointment. Members are permitted to do all living ordinances with restrictions in phase two, while phase two-B permits all living ordinances and baptisms for deceased individuals with restrictions.

Phase three encourages members to attend the temple to complete all living and proxy ordinances with restrictions. Temples are open for full operations without restrictions in phase four.

Reopened temples in any phase usually enforce social distancing, mask wearing and extra hand sanitizer stations positioned in places in the temple before and after physical contact is required. For a few months in 2021, masks were no longer required in some areas of the world during temple worship. On Sept. 22, the First Presidency asked all members going forward to wear masks while in the temples and again encouraged members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of Sept. 28. 2021, there are three temples with paused operations, eight temples under renovation, 44 temples under construction, and 40 more temples that have been announced. There are zero temples in phase four, but 147 temples around the world in phase three.

On July 5, 2021, the Kyiv Ukraine temple reopened, marking all temples open in at least some level of operation.

Another noticeable change in temples has been the removal of the angel Moroni statues from temples in renovation. The Church has also decided to not include statues on some of the temples that are being built. Of the temples that are built, under construction or have architectural plans released, 170 temples have an angel Moroni statue and 57 temples do not.

Lindsey Williams, the web editor of LDS Living, wrote an article on the angel Moroni additions and removal. “The Church has released exterior renderings of 48 new temples. Of the 48 renderings, 33 temple renderings do not feature an angel Moroni statue,” Williams said.

Additionally, the Hong Kong Temple is presently under renovation and was built with an angel Moroni statue; the temple is expected to reopen sometime in 2022, with the angel Moroni statue removed.

BYU alumna Jade Rogers became a temple worker at the end of February 2020 and she said the temple was her spiritual anchor every week. She said she looked forward to growing spiritually as she worked.

Rogers remembers her co-workers talking about COVID-19 and if the temples would need to be closed. The next day, she received an email telling workers to not come in for their shifts.

During the pandemic, the temple presidency emailed the temple workers once a month with a spiritual thought and COVID-19 updates, she said. Rogers received an email on July 1, 2021 letting her know she could return to work in the temple.

Rogers said after months of not being able to serve in the temple as an attendee or a volunteer, a four-and-a-half-hour temple shift has been really difficult. She wasn’t used to giving God “temple time” anymore. “I asked Him to help nurture my heart and desire to serve to the level they were at before,” Rogers said.

The Church’s Newsroom stated “Church leaders express gratitude and emphasize caution, safety and wisdom in the phased reopening process.”

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