How does one minister, give a priesthood blessing, or provide the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper during a global pandemic?
These are among the issues addressed by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a letter and two documents sent to the faith’s global leadership as it continues to address the effects of COVID-19.
The two documents sent to leaders explain administrative principles for the Church during these challenging times.
“Directions are enclosed for essential ordinances, blessings, and other Church functions to guide leaders through the current crisis and the challenging days that are ahead,” the First Presidency letter says. “These documents are issued in response to the disruptions in Church procedures and member activities caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. They should provide guidance as long as this pandemic exists in a particular country or region. Other directions may be issued later.”
The document on administrative principles provides encouragement for leaders. It notes the unusual difficulty of the current moment, the responsibility of every Saint to be a good global citizen, a reminder that the Lord has prepared this Church for these challenges, and the requisite wisdom leaders need to perform their ecclesiastical duties.
“The Lord will help us,” the document says. “The power of the priesthood and the righteousness of members will help us go forward in days that are ahead.”
The second document addresses the faith’s essential ordinances (baptisms, confirmations, priesthood ordinations, and settings apart), priesthood blessings, administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Church meetings, and everyday service given by Latter-day Saints.
The rites of baptism, confirmation, and priesthood ordination must be done in person. If necessary, the leader who oversees these ordinances (along with other leaders, family, and friends) can watch remotely via technology.
Priesthood blessings to heal the sick also require a physical touch of hand to head. However, the document says, “after taking every necessary precaution, when conditions prohibit placing hands on a person’s head, a prayer can be offered, including using technology. This is a prayer of faith and not a priesthood blessing. Anyone at any time may pray, fast or otherwise minister to others.”
As has been happening since mid-March of this year, a local bishop can authorize priesthood holders in his congregation to prepare and administer the sacrament in their homes .
“In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available,” the document adds, “members can be comforted by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.”
The Q&A document answers several other important questions being asked by Latter-day Saints around the world. The following are just three examples.
Can weddings and funerals take place in meetinghouses?
Where restricted by government regulations, weddings, receptions, and funerals should not be held in meetinghouses. As permitted by law, bishops and stake presidents may officiate in weddings in an appropriate setting where social distancing can be maintained. Technology may also be used to allow family and friends to view the service. Leaders and members should comply with government orders, regulations and guidelines.
Must temple recommend interviews continue to be done in person?
No. Members of bishoprics and stake presidencies may temporarily conduct temple recommend interviews using face-to-face technology. Members should continue to be interviewed by both a member of the bishopric and a member of the stake presidency.
Should we continue to participate in blood drives?
Yes, blood drives will continue but must follow government orders, regulations, and guidelines established in each location and the protocols of the blood drive entity (Red Cross or others). Meetinghouses should not be used for these purposes until further notice. Meetinghouse parking lots can be used by the Red Cross and other entities using portable facilities if all government orders, regulations, and guidelines are followed.
“We are grateful for the efforts many of you are making to follow the directions carefully from national, state, and local leaders in many countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the First Presidency says. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also taking appropriate precautions and is providing assistance to those in need. Under the present circumstances and under conditions that may exist in the future, the Church and its members will faithfully exhibit our commitment to being good citizens and good neighbors.”
For more information and to read the First Presidency’s letters visit https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/