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Church removes non-native missionaries from South Korea, suspends travel to 6 countries

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Seoul Korea Temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is removing its nonnative missionaries from a third country, South Korea, and closing yet another of its temples due to the spread of COVID-19, according to news releases issued Friday.

The church also announced it had suspended business and missionary travel to six countries.

Nonnative missionaries previously had been removed from Hong Kong and Mongolia. The missionaries in South Korea will return to their homes around the world to self-isolate for two weeks, then depart for temporary assignments in their home countries.

Meanwhile, the church closed the Seattle Washington Temple on Friday and canceled its largest meetings in the Seattle area after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee requested that no large gatherings be held.

The church canceled all stake conferences and priesthood leadership councils in the Seattle area. Smaller meetings, including sacrament meetings — the weekly Sunday worship service — will continue in some areas.

The greater Seattle area has 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, the church has suspended all of its business and missionary travel to and from China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, based on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It also recommended that church employees avoid all other nonessential travel in an email sent to them on Thursday.

The email encouraged employees to maintain good preventive hygiene, stay home if they feel unwell and work from home in areas where the coronavirus has spread.

The church’s leaders around the world have joined the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have:

• Closed temples in six countries — Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States.

Canceled or limited worship services and activities in at least 17 countries.

• Encouraged members outside the United States not to travel to the church’s April 2-3 general conference in Salt Lake City.

• Begun to postpone the missions of or reassign men and women preparing to serve as missionaries in Cambodia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

• Limited the work and public contact of missionaries remaining in 10 countries — Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

“We wish to be good global citizens and do what we can to limit the spread of this disease,” a statement last week reads. “We also want to relieve concerns of our leaders, members and their families related to the uncertainties of travel at this time.”

Missionaries in Korea and Mongolia who were near the end of their assignments, and those who had chronic health problems, had been sent home already or were in the process of going home before Friday’s announcement.

New missionaries preparing to serve in Cambodia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand are seeing their start dates postponed or are receiving new assignments. Many senior missionaries in affected countries have been sent home or have been reassigned temporarily.

“We are grateful for the many expressions of support and concern that have been shared,” church leaders said in a statement. “The church will continue to follow developments closely and make any further adjustments as needed. We continue to pray for all those impacted by the virus.”