SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The public is no longer invited to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Conference in April. The faith’s leadership made the announcement Wednesday because of the possible spread of COVID-19.
An average of 100,000 people from across the globe attend the faith’s five conference sessions in downtown Salt Lake City. This year, members are asked to stay home and watch it online or on TV.
“It’s really interesting and crazy,” said Zoe Fishter from Pittsburg, PA.
The bold move doesn’t surprise church member Holger Nickel.
He's returning from a major tennis tournament in California that was just canceled by COVID-19.
"It is disappointing but it’s also a matter of safety. When they are talking about some of the older generation being possibly more affected than others, then I don’t mind,” Nickel said.
Temple Square missionary Sister Short said church services are already canceled back home in Seattle, where the virus is more widespread.
"It’s all for the wellbeing of the members of the church but this will be a unique conference, for sure,” Sister Short said.
A letter from the Church’s First Presidency said they are deeply concerned about the global spread of COVID-19 and “we want to be good global citizens and do what we can to control this contagious illness.”
"I think that it couldn’t be better because it is not going to spread as much, but we have to watch it online, which is still good,” said Sister Carcamo from El Salvador.
In higher-risk areas, members will not be allowed to gather together to watch conference at meetinghouses either.
This, in addition to the cancellation of all local stake conferences in the US, Canada, Asia and Europe beginning March 16th.
"It’s kind of crazy but I guess it is just how it goes,” Sister Short added.
Church leaders also announced Wednesday that all incoming missionaries to the Provo and England Missionary Training Centers will stay home for remote instruction through a virtual program. After completion, the missionaries will travel to their assigned areas.