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President Nelson: Church leaders will ‘cautiously move forward’ in decisions about temples, meetinghouses

“We will continue to be prayerful and proceed with an abundance of caution,” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Caution is governing the deliberations of religious leaders trying to decide when their congregations will return to gathering for worship services suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will continue to be prayerful and proceed with an abundance of caution. Your safety and well-being will always be our utmost concern,” President Russell M. Nelson said in a video to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jewish, Islamic and Catholic leaders made similar statements on Wednesday after Utah leaders announced that churches may resume gatherings, even beyond the limit of 20 people listed in current state guidelines, if they can maintain social distancing of 6 feet around family groups while inside meetinghouses. Masks also are recommended where social distancing is difficult to maintain and interactions should be limited to those within one’s own household.

President Nelson sounded another message of optimism for the future while describing how Latter-day Saint leaders will proceed.

“As we cautiously move forward to a more normal way of life, church leaders will continue to monitor information and determine how soon we may again gather in our meetinghouses and temples in various locations,” he said in his videotaped message.

He noted that, as has been reported previously, readjustments to missionary service are underway. He specifically addressed the ongoing closure of the church’s 168 temples due to the pandemic.

“We know that ordinances of the holy temple need to be performed,” he said. “They are of eternal significance. We will clearly communicate, step by step, when and where such gatherings and other church-sponsored activities may be resumed.”

The video was posted on President Nelson’s social media accounts.

The Cathedral of the Madeleine plans to resume its normal Mass schedule on Monday, though that plan is subject to change, said Father Joseph Delka, the parochial vicar. Local Catholic leadership had reached that decision before the state’s announcement and had been planning to limit attendance to 20 people.

“We have measures in place to ensure proper social distancing and sanitation,” Father Delka said. “Since our capacity is still limited we are also working on a way to have parishioners sign up for a Mass. This will also help with contact tracing should someone get the virus. At-risk groups are still encouraged to stay home and we will continue live-streaming the Masses for those who are unable to come.”

Details will be shared during live-streamed Masses leading up to Monday and via other media.

“Some of the details are still being worked out especially now with the news that more people can come,” Father Delka said. “Obviously, this is a complex issue and we want to do our best to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

The Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake is not ready to resume services, Imam Yasir Butt said.

“The last thing we want to do is be the epicenter of the second wave,” he said. “We’re not at the point that we feel comfortable. In our services, people are really close to each other, they stand close together. I don’t think anyone has the ability to regulate (the social distancing) guidelines.” 

The first in-person Jewish services are scheduled for the end of the month, for the Shavuot holiday on May 29-30.

“Tentatively our plan is to hold our first in-person services with the upcoming Jewish Holiday Shavuot May 29-30, the last Friday and Saturday in May,” Rabbi Avremi Zippel said. The leader of the Chabad Lubavitch congregation said that attendance will be extremely limited. Reservations will be required to help ensure safe practices.

“We are planning on taking every precaution to make sure we adhere to social distance guidelines,” Rabbi Zippel said.

President Nelson’s note of optimism came at the end of his videotaped message.

“Meanwhile, we rejoice in the peace that radiates from the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “It will continue to fill us with hope and joy. Our Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son love us, are aware of us and will bless each of us. I love you, dear brothers and sisters, and assure you that wonderful days are ahead. Our commitment to follow the Lord is everlasting.”

He previously expressed optimism for the future in a video published March 14.

Jacob Klopfenstein contributed to this report.