Editor’s note: Part of this timeline appeared in the October 2021 edition of The Daily Universe Magazine.
March 11 – The world shut down when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced because of COVID-19 will cause all missionaries going into the Provo and Preston, England Missionary Training Centers to be trained remotely starting March 16. The Church also released a statement saying General Conference will not be open to the public and will have limited attendance.
March 12 – BYU cancelled classes for March 13-17 and announced remote instruction for the rest of the semester. All public gatherings of Church members were temporarily suspended and home sacraments started being instituted.
March 13 – President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency. The Church closeed Temple Square to the public. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building and other Church attractions in downtown Salt Lake close down the next day.
March 16 – The Church announced all missionaries with health problems will be released from service, elders who have hit 21 months will be sent home and some missionaries will be reassigned missions.
March 19 – General Conference announced it would be broadcast from a small auditorium with only those speaking and praying attending.
March 20 – More than 70 Church Distribution retail stores were closed and most missionaries are sent home. MTCs no longer accept any new missionaries and all MTC training will be through remote technology.
March 25 – The First Presidency closed all temples until further notice.
March 26 – President Russell M. Nelson called for a worldwide fast to be on March 29 for relief from COVID-19. Missionary term of service was reduced: sisters come home after 15 months and elder come home after 18 months.
March 31 – The Church offered options for missionaries where by April 30 they must choose to receive a reassignment or postpone their missionary service for a year.
April 4 – The Church has first virtual General Conference in a small auditorium on Temple Square. The prophet released a new symbol that centralizes Jesus Christ.
April 5 – The Sunday morning session included a worldwide solemn assembly Hosanna Shout and the prophet released a new proclamation titled “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.” The prophet announced eight new temples in the afternoon session.
April 8 – President Nelson invited everyone to participate in another worldwide fast on Good Friday, April 10.
April 27 – BYU hosted a virtual Women’s Conference and the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square rescheduled their Heritage Tour for summer 2021.
April 30 – The Church cancelled treks and pageants. Mission reassignments were now underway.
May 7 – 11 temples announced to open in Phase 1 starting May 10 and a phased, cautious return to temple reopening was released.
May 8 – The Church encouraged missionaries to follow airport COVID-19 guidelines.
May 18 – The Salt Lake Temple time capsule was opened, it contained books, photos, letters, paper notes, medallions and coins.
May 19 – A phased return to Sabbath day worship meetings was announced and global sacred clothing production facilities temporarily sewed masks and surgical gowns.
June 1 – President Nelson posted about human dignity and called out against racism. Deseret Industries also began a phased reopening.
June 4 – October 2020 conference was announced it will also be virtual.
June 8 – The prophet joined with NAACP leaders in a call for racial harmony in America.
June 11 – About 26,000 missionaries were reassigned to missions in their home countries. The next day dress standards for male missionaries were changed.
July 20 – The First Presidency announced changes to the temple endowment ceremony. Twelve temples were to enter Phase 2 of temple worship on July 27.
July 31 – Significant updates were made to five chapters of the General Handbook.
August 25 – A new online system for temple prayer rolls was instated.
September 1 – RootsTech announced it will be virtual in Feb. 2021.
September 11 – Stake conferences were announced they could be held in person with social distancing and further safety guidelines were given for increasing activities during COVID-19.
September 15 – Church announced FSY to return in summer 2021.
October 4 – President Nelson announced six new temples at General Conference.
October 6 – First Presidency encouraged U.S. members to vote in the November election.
November 4 – Missionaries started returning to mission assignments outside their home country.
November 12 – Temple Square Christmas celebrations announced they will be celebrated virtually with no public access to lights.
November 20 – The Prophet released a video of prayer and healing and issued the #givethanks challenge.
December 7 – Certain temples were allowed to enter Phase 3 starting Dec. 21.
January 19 – President Nelson and other senior apostles got vaccinated. They urged other members to do the same when the vaccine is available to them.
March 9 – The Hill Cumorah and Nauvoo pageants were cancelled for 2021. The Hill Cumorah Pageant was discontinued and will not return, but the Nauvoo Pageant will return in 2022.
March 12 – Live endowment sessions will not return once the Salt Lake Temple and Manti Temple renovations are complete. A new leadership calling, international area organization advisors, was made for women in the Church.
March 15 – Temple baptistries announced to open March 29 as part of Phase 2B, an added phase to the temple reopening.
March 24 – The famous Minerva Teichert murals in the Manti Temple will be preserved, but not on the walls of the temple.
April 4 – The prophet announced 20 new temples in the Sunday afternoon session of conference.
April 7 – First meeting with all 50 of the new international area organization advisers took place online.
April 22 – Church history sites were announced to reopen in May. The next day the Church encouraged missionaries to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
May 1 – The prophet announced on Instagram the construction of an Ephraim Temple.
May 22 – A delegation of government leaders from the Republic of Sudan visited with Church leaders in Salt Lake City.
June 7 – The Church announced a discontinuation of Saturday evening sessions of General Conference.
June 10 – The Church announced that the North Visitors’ Center of Temple Square will be replaced by gardens and a contemplative area.
June 14 – Temple Square began a phased reopening to the public. The First Presidency also partnered with the NAACP on new educational and humanitarian initiatives related to their ongoing collaboration.
June 18 – Tabernacle Choir released their rescheduled Heritage Tour for 2022.
June 23 – The Provo MTC began a limited reopening to English speaking missionaries who are vaccinated.
July 5 – The Kyiv, Ukraine temple reopened, marking the day when all temples around the world were now open in at least some capacity of worship.
July 27 – The Church announced the Saturday evening sessions of General Conference will continue again.
August 12 – The Church again urged vaccination and mask wearing of members. The next day, Elder Ulisses Soares dedicated the new Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center.
August 29 – Elder Soares and other Church leaders traveled to the Dominican Republic and met with the Vice President of the Dominican Republic.
September 13 – The temple open house began for the Pocatello Idaho Temple.
September 14 – Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Sister Sharon Eubank traveled to Italy for the G20 Interfaith Forum. This is the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to travel to Europe since before the pandemic.
September 21 – The Tabernacle Choir had their first in-person rehearsal since the beginning of the pandemic.
September 22 – The First Presidency asked all members to wear masks while in the temples.
October 3 – The prophet announced during the Sunday afternoon session that 13 more temples are to be constructed. The prophet showed a video of him walking through the construction of the Salt Lake Temple during his conference talk.
October 7 – The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple open house began.
October 11 – The Church released an update on temple growth during the pandemic. The Church has had 32 temple groundbreakings in 10 states and 14 countries since the start of the pandemic, 21 of which occurred in the 2020 calendar year. There has also been 48 new temple locations announced in the last four General Conferences, plus the Ephraim Temple announced outside of conference.
October 31 – The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple will be dedicated, marking 623 days since the last temple dedication which was for the Durban South Africa Temple. This is the longest time between temple dedications in more than a quarter-century.