PROVO — The Church Educational System has adopted pandemic-related guidelines Wednesday that will either cancel graduations, devotionals and performances at Brigham Young University and other schools operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or lead them to be broadcast without audiences.
The BYU Women’s Conference scheduled for April 30-May 1 is the first confirmed casualty of the guidelines. The popular conference annually draws more than 10,000 women to campus, but it won’t be held there this year, university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins confirmed.
However, officials are looking into options to stream the planned talks online, according to the conference’s Facebook page. The university will refund all ticket registrations and housing payments.
Courses will continue at the church’s college campuses, but “there will be no gathering for large events,” according to a church news release issued Wednesday night. Each school has the option to stream such events online or record them and post them online later. Leadership at each school will make those decisions, the release stated. CES oversees BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, BYU-Pathway Worldwide and LDS Business College.
It went on to state that “Brigham Young University will make decisions regarding athletic events.” The 14th-ranked BYU men’s basketball team is expected to play in the NCAA tournament on March 19. The NCAA announced earlier today that the games will be played without fans.
“CES is deeply interested in the health, education and spiritual growth of each of these students and those who serve them. Concerns related to COVID-19 have impacted every part of society, including education. After careful consideration of the present circumstances, the leadership of CES has adopted temporary guidelines which will be effective” Monday.
The leadership at LDS Business College, which will be renamed Ensign College in the fall, will consider what it will cancel and what it will broadcast during a meeting tomorrow, spokesman Royce Hinton said.
“We’re meeting in College Council tomorrow afternoon to solidify plans. We haven’t finalized everything just yet,” he told the Deseret News via email on Wednesday night.
The temples closed Wednesday by the church are those in Asunción, Paraguay; Boston, Massachusetts; Copenhagen, Denmark; Louisville, Kentucky; and Manhattan, New York. The church now has closed 12 temples on four continents.
The CES guidelines issued Wednesday encouraged faculty to be flexible and consider remote alternatives to classroom instruction. CES instructed the schools to comply with public health and government agency instructions.
Area presidencies will provide guidelines for BYU-Pathway Worldwide courses in various parts of the world, the release said. Virtual gatherings will be employed where necessary.
“We’re being training to take our face-to-face (weekly meetings) to virtual meetings,” said Ann Molen Peterson, who is serving with her husband Michael as church service missionaries in the Pathway program in Arlington, Texas.
CES also operates the church’s seminary programs for teenagers and Institutes of Religion programs at college campuses.
Seminary programs and stake institute programs will follow decisions about gathering made regarding worship services for local congregations, the release said.
Release-time seminary programs, like those in Utah, and campus institutes “will follow the gathering decisions of the local high schools or college campuses,” the release said. “When classes need to be canceled, seminary and institute classes may consider remote delivery options. Gatherings for local devotionals and graduations will follow the guidelines provided by the Area Presidency.”
The church’s primary and secondary schools, operated only in a few nations, will be guided by area presidencies.
Meanwhile, BYU reported news about a circulating hoax. Some students apparently have received a text message allegedly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the virus, according to BYU’s COVID-19 information webpage.
Such a text is a hoax, BYU said. “In a real notification, the Utah County Health Department would attempt to first call an individual. If the individual can’t be reached by phone, the health department would send an email with an official letter.”