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Timeline: How the Church Has Responded to the Global COVID-19 Pandemic

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Sydney Walker, Church News

One year ago, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended Church gatherings worldwide on March 12, 2020, in response to growing restrictions related to COVID-19.

Two weeks later, on March 25, the First Presidency announced all temples would close. These were two of many actions taken by Church leaders to help prevent the spread of the virus as the global pandemic unfolded.

As a September Church News article reported, “President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring said Church leaders saw what needed to be done and responded with ‘unprecedented action’ — suspending meetings, closing temples and directing the return of thousands of missionaries to their home countries.”

Then, as circumstances allowed and opportunities arose, they also found ways for members to safely gather, temple work to be performed and missionaries to safely share the gospel message.

This timeline shows how the Church has responded and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, guided by the Lord through living prophets and apostles.

December 2019

December 31 — Wuhan Municipal Health Authorities report a string of pneumonia-like cases to World Health Organization (WHO).

January 2020

January 29 — President Russell M. Nelson reaches out to China, sends protective equipment.

Men and women work at Beehive Clothing in Salt Lake City, Utah, where surgical gowns are being made during the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, May 15, 2020.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

January 30 — WHO issues Global Health Emergency; death toll reaches 200, with 9,800 confirmed cases.

February 2020

February 4 — The Church transfers missionaries out of the China Hong Kong Mission.

February 21 — The Church releases information about missionary work, temple work and worship services for members and missionaries in several Asian countries; Taipei Taiwan Temple and Seoul Korea Temple are first to close.

February 27 — First Presidency discourages leaders, members from international travels to April general conference; Church statement reports 14 missions across 17 countries undergoing changes; Fukuoka Japan Temple and Sapporo Japan Temple to close.

March 2020

March 5 — Rome Italy Temple first in Europe to close following Italian government directives to close large gathering places; total of 17 countries canceling or limiting Sunday worship services in affected areas.

March 6 — Nonnative Korean missionaries return home; Seattle Washington Temple first in the U.S. to close as Washington reports highest state death toll to date.

Seattle Washington Temple.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

March 11 — WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 11 — First Presidency announces public will not be admitted to the Conference Center for April general conference; missionaries scheduled to enter MTCs in Provo, Utah, or Preston, England, to be trained remotely; stake and leadership conferences, other large gatherings to be postponed in affected areas; large gatherings suspended on Church-owned college campuses; Asunción Paraguay Temple first in Latin America to close after country suspends large-scale public events.

March 12 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announces Utah will restrict gatherings of more than 100 people.

March 12 — First Presidency suspends Church gatherings worldwide; senior missionaries, missionaries with health conditions to return home from 22 European missions; temple closures total 13.

March 13 — The U.S. declares national emergency.

March 13 — The Church temporarily suspends proxy temple work worldwide; Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square cancels concerts and makes changes to broadcasts; RootsTech London postponed until fall 2021; the Church closes all public areas in and around Temple Square.

March 14 — President Nelson shares message of hope on social media channels.

March 15 — Church members worldwide worship at home for the first time.

March 16 — The Church announces adjustments to missionary work (missionary elders may be released at 21 months, missionaries with health issues may be released, missionary calls will continue); the Church releases additional information regarding temple adjustments (limit of eight guests for living ordinances; distribution centers continue to operate where temples are open); many Church historic sites and more temples close.

March 17 — Nonnative missionaries in the Philippines to return home; Deseret Industries Thrift stores close to the public.

March 18 — The Church announces temples will accept appointments for living ordinances only from those in local temple district, among other adjustments; Church distribution retail stores reduce hours, close doors in 73 locations; nonnative missionaries in 26 African missions and the Micronesia Guam Mission to return home; Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house and dedication postponed.

March 19 — First Presidency announces April general conference to be held from small auditorium with prerecorded music, only those praying or speaking in attendance.

March 20 — First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve say “substantial numbers of missionaries” will return to home countries, service terms adjusted, no MTCs will receive new missionaries and all will be trained online.

March 22 — Total of 88 temples closed; five Church-chartered commercial planes fly more than 1,600 nonnative missionaries in the Philippines back to Salt Lake City; Church releases self-isolation guidelines for missionaries and their families.

March 23 — All 10 MTCs close; nonnative missionaries in Mexico, Vietnam and India to return to home countries; Utah Area presidency asks families to not congregate at airports as missionaries return home; Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple, Bountiful Utah Temple first in Utah to close.

March 24 — Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021.

March 25 — First Presidency announces all temples to close; 111 of 168 temples were closed at time of the announcement.

March 26 — President Nelson extends invitation for worldwide fast; First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve announce shortened length of service for missionaries returning to the U.S., Canada.

March 29 — Latter-day Saints and others worldwide follow President Nelson’s invitation to fast.

March 31 — First Presidency announces options for missionaries to return to original or temporary assignment when conditions allow or delay service.

April 2020

April 2 — COVID-19 cases top 1 million people in 171 countries across six continents; death toll at least 51,000.

April 4-5 — General conference; President Nelson calls for a second worldwide fast.

A small gathering from Olmué, Chile, watches the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference, April 4, 2020.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

April 13 — FSY conferences in the U.S. and Canada in 2020 postponed.

April 14 — First Presidency announces more than 110 COVID-19 relief projects in 57 countries.

April 16 — First Presidency releases new administrative principles for the Church.

April 17 — President Nelson expresses gratitude on social media to those who fasted.

April 24 — Global death toll surpasses 200,000.

April 27 — Tabernacle Choir’s 2020 European tour postponed a year.

April 30 — New missionary assignments made following April 30 deadline; Church properties for camps and conferences to close, treks and Church pageants canceled for 2020; the Church donates $5.5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts across the U.S.; 280 relief projects in 80 countries have been initiated.

May 2020

May 6 — President Nelson addresses reintegration of Church worship and activities in video on social media.

May 7 — First Presidency announces “phased reopening of temples”; 17 temples open for limited living husband-and-wife sealing ordinances.

May 11 — Additional 17 temples to reopen for limited husband-and-wife sealing ordinances.

May 19 — First Presidency announces some meetings, activities to resume.

May 28 — U.S. death toll surpasses 100,000.

June 2020

June 4 — First Presidency announces October general conference to be broadcast but closed again to public.

June 17 — Washington D.C. Temple open house, rededication dates postponed.

June 23 — Project Protect concludes after six weeks with nearly 6 million masks.

July 2020

July 10 — Utah Area presidency urges Latter-day Saints in the state to wear masks in public.

July 20 — First Presidency announces changes to temple endowment ceremony.

July 27 — 12 temples first to enter Phase 2 of reopening plan, begin performing all living ordinances.

August 2020

August 21 — Choir leaders announce cancellation of annual Christmas concert featuring the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Orchestra at Temple Square and Bells at Temple Square.

September 2020

September 1 — Winnipeg Manitoba Temple dedication and open house postponed; FamilySearch announces RootsTech 2021 will be a free, virtual event held February 25-27, 2021.

September 11 — First Presidency outlines guidelines for safely increasing Church activity; stake conferences to begin virtually in November; weekly worship can resume immediately.

October 2020

October 4-5 — General conference is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater and closed to the public.

October 6-8 — Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Sister Susan Gong test positive for COVID-19; all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are tested (results come back negative).

October 22 — Church announces annual Christmas concerts on Temple Square will be held virtually, public invited to submit videos.

October 30-31 — ExpoGenealogía, a virtual family history event in Spanish, is hosted in Mexico.

November 2020

November 4 — The Church starts “deliberate, cautious” process of assigning missionaries beyond home countries.

Kimber Young, top center, teaches training missionaries Mandarin Chinese via video conferencing at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 10 missionary training centers. Photo by Laura Seitz, courtesy of Church News.2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

November 5-8 — FamilySearch Gerações, a virtual family history event in Portuguese, is hosted in Brazil.

November 7 — The first of two Luz de Las Naciones virtual programs this season is streamed online (the other is held on December 19).

November 9 — The Church announces Giving Machines will not be used this season, but the #LightTheWorld service campaign will move forward.

November 9 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert orders a statewide mask mandate and halts on casual social gatherings as COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocket.

November 12 — Utah Area Presidency issues four temporary adjustments to meetings and activities; the Church announces plans for Temple Square lights and virtual Christmas devotionals and performances..

November 20 — President Nelson shares worldwide message on “the healing power of gratitude” and invites all to #GiveThanks.

December 2020

December 1 — Christmas on Temple Square kicks off with virtual concert and tour of the lights; the #LightTheWorld daily service initiative begins.

December 5 — Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, test positive for COVID-19.

December 6 — Annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square and closed to the public.

December 7 — First Presidency announces the first four temples moving to Phase 3, reopening for proxy work.

December 14 — U.S. COVID-19 deaths top 300,000 as vaccinations begin.

January 2021

January 8 — Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, tested positive for COVID-19 during holiday break, according to a Church statement.

January 15 — Global death toll surpasses 2 million.

January 15 — A letter from President M. Russell Ballard asks local leaders to look for local youth conference and camp opportunities in 2021; FSY conferences in the U.S. and Canada postponed until 2022.

January 19 — Senior Church leaders receive COVID-19 vaccines, encourage members to safeguard themselves and others “through immunization.”

January 21 — First Presidency announces April 2021 general conference will be conducted virtually, marking the third-straight virtual conference.

February 2021

February 4 — Utah Area Presidency updates COVID-19 safety measures and returns to September 2020 guidelines.

A family receives the sacrament tray while holding their face masks. The priesthood holder follows COVID-19 recommended public guidelines by wearing a face mask and distributing the sacrament tray to each Church member. The First Presidency provided guidelines for safely returning to Church meetings on May 19, 2020.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

February 12 — Utah Area Presidency again updates COVID-19 safety measures, with focus on Primary children, meetings and activities.

February 19 — Jerold Ottley, longtime Tabernacle Choir director, dies at age 86 from COVID-19-related illness; the Church donates personal protective equipment, members sew masks to fight COVID-19 in Botswana.

February 25-27 — All-virtual RootsTech Connect draws more than 1.1 million participants from 242 countries and territories.

February 26 — Latter-day Saint Charities announces $20 million donation to support UNICEF’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

March 2021

March 2 — Elder Soares and other Church leaders speak in special devotional for Native Americans, many of whom have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19.

March 5 — Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Heritage Tour postponed until 2022.

March 9 — Church pageants canceled for 2021, with Hill Cumorah finale to be 2019 rebroadcast.

Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company

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