SALT LAKE CITY — Church camps for young men and young women as well as youth conferences scheduled for this summer are on hold now due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Thursday.
Church recreational properties used for youth camps and conferences in the United States and Canada are closed until further notice because of the pandemic, according to a letter sent Thursday to local church leaders by the Priesthood and Family Department.
The letter also said all treks and church pageants are canceled for 2020.
Local church leaders may consider technology-based joint experiences “that would provide youth with fun and meaningful opportunities to connect with one another” if the camps cannot be held, the letter said.
“When the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approve gathering, local priesthood and Young Women leaders may organize youth conference activities at church meetinghouses,” the letter added. “If overnight youth camps and conferences are desired, church-owned facilities, where available, should be used before considering nonchurch properties. Guidelines for such activities will be provided at the time restrictions are lifted.”
Church leaders previously postponed For Strength of Youth conferences to 2021.
The pandemic has interrupted most of the church’s operations. Weekly Sunday worship — sacrament meetings and Sunday School, Relief Society, Primary and priesthood meetings have been suspended, along with all other gathering activities, for seven weeks, since March 15. All of the faith’s temples closed temporarily on March 25.
The Young Women general presidency and board acknowledged the possibility that many camps would be closed this summer in an article published in the Church News last week. They compared the pandemic to the challenge the prophet Nephi faced in the Book of Mormon when he broke his bow while hunting as his family was starving.
“COVID-19 has been our ‘broken bow’ challenge for planning camp in 2020,” the presidency and board wrote. “But, like Nephi, we can choose how to handle our summer event experiences. We can complain and give up, or we can prayerfully create a contingency plan based on current circumstances and available resources. The Lord knows that powerful things can happen when the youth gather as covenant disciples of Jesus Christ.”
They said gathering can happen without being in the same physical space.
“At its very core, gathering has to do with coming together and strengthening one another — our personal relationships, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and our commitment to serve him,” the leaders wrote. “Even though many camps will be closed this summer, through technology and other resources, there are still many opportunities and ways in which we can gather.”
They provided a list of principles for congregations to follow, saying that: youth should plan the camps, not adults; leaders should seek inspiration and counsel; local regulations should be followed; planning should include contingencies; efforts should be simplified; preparation and organization are vital.
“Your camp experience may be one for the record books — and more importantly, it will be a time of spiritual uplift that will never be forgotten,” they wrote.