PROVO — Three Brigham Young University students with wet hair walked out of the Provo City Center Temple on a chilly, gray and misty Friday unaware that the baptism ordinance work they’d undergone for dead ancestors will be temporarily suspended on Monday.
Proxy ordinance work at all 168 temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world will be suspended. Ordinances for the living will be done by appointment only, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced on Friday.
Their joint letter was released while Brinley Gwilliam, 19, was inside the temple with her friends, Katelyn Bell, 19, and Elena Peterson, 18.
“That’s so sad,” said Gwilliam, a freshman in communication disorders from Odessa, Texas. “I’m so glad we made it today.”
“We’ll have to go again tomorrow,” said Bell, an experience design major from Houston, Texas. “This is the place to be with all the chaos going on.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perform saving ordinances in the church’s temples both for themselves and by proxy for those who have died. The spread of the coronavirus worldwide prompts the changes announced Friday.
Both proxy and living ordinances are suspended temporarily at temples located in areas where government or other restrictions on public or religious gatherings preclude temple activity, according to the letter released by the church’s senior leaders.
They also announced that all housing for temple volunteers will close. The changes are temporary and related to health concerns regarding COVID-19.
“It’s a lot going on,” said another BYU student, Trey Long, 27, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work. “I’ve been worried about the virus, but I felt so calm in the temple.”
Long and his wife, Larrisy, 28, who is pregnant, have one child. They attended a live sealing of two friends, an ordinance with the potential to bind a man and woman together for eternity.
“It was amazing,” Larrisy Long said. “It’s always amazing.”
Live sealings like the one the Longs attended will continue in Utah temples and other places without restrictions on small gatherings. The same is true for child-to-parents sealing ordinances, and living initiatory and endowment ordinances.
However, guests at living ordinances will be limited.
The letter said temple presidencies, staff and workers would take steps to minimize the risk of spreading the disease. Staff will be reduced, for example. That will reduce capacity for even living ordinances.
“Church members will be provided with instructions when they schedule their appointments for living ordinances,” the leaders’ letter said. “Individuals with currently scheduled appointments will be contacted by temple staff.”
Trey Long is a Provo City Center Temple worker with a shift scheduled on Friday night. He said he would look forward to hearing from his supervisor about what he should do.
Gwilliam usually attends the temple every Tuesday. She went prayerfully on Friday as she tries to decide whether to leave her friends and school midsemester. BYU announced Thursday that it had suspended classes on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Classes will resume Wednesday online, and the university encouraged students to go home while completing their courses, if possible.
“I thought I had five more weeks with friends and classes,” she said. “I’m planning to go on a mission next, so I have to decide, do I say goodbye to my friends in two days for two years or more?”
Bell and Peterson missed their normal temple day on Thursday. With classes canceled, they said the temple was one of the few things to do.
“It’s the place we get to forget about everything happening,” said Peterson, a genetics major from Layton.
“It helps your day go smoothly,” added Bell, who works at the Provo Missionary Training Center, which received its last missionaries on Wednesday for the time being. She helps with broadcasts, which will keep her busy. The MTC now will help train new missionaries by remote video conferencing.
The church previously announced the temporary closure of 13 temples.
“Many governments have placed restrictions that have required the temporary closure of a number of temples,” the leaders noted.
The following temples temporarily closed at this time are:
- Asunción Paraguay Temple
- Boston Massachusetts Temple
- Copenhagen Denmark Temple
- Fukuoka Japan Temple
- Lisbon Portugal Temple
- Louisville Kentucky Temple
- Manhattan New York Temple
- Rome Italy Temple
- Seoul Korea Temple
- Sapporo Japan Temple
- Seattle Washington Temple
- Taipei Taiwan Temple
- Vancouver British Columbia Temple
Read the letter from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
RE: Temporary Adjustments to Temple Worship
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Rapidly changing health conditions around the world have been a source of growing concern. Many governments have placed restrictions that have required the temporary closure of a number of temples. As we have prayerfully sought to balance these limitations with the need to carry on temple work, we have decided to make the following temporary adjustments, which are effective March 16, 2020, for all temples around the world.
• Where government or other restrictions on public and/or religious gatherings would, in effect, preclude temple activity, proxy and living ordinances will temporarily be suspended.
• Where government or other restrictions do not preclude all temple activity, the following temple ordinances for living persons will be accommodated as capacity permits by appointment only: husband-and-wife and child-to-parents sealing ordinances and living initiatory and endowment ordinances. On a temporary basis, proxy temple ordinances will not be performed.
• All patron housing will be closed.
Church members will be provided with instructions when they schedule their appointments for living ordinances. Individuals with currently scheduled appointments will be contacted by temple staff.
Steps will be taken in all temples to minimize the risk of spreading disease, including reducing temple staff, limiting guests at living ordinances, and following guidelines for interacting with patrons.
Additional information will be provided to temple presidencies, and further adjustments will be made as necessary.
We look forward with great anticipation to the time when temples can again operate at full capacity and extend the blessings of temple work to members and their ancestors.
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles