LDS members meeting again, but in
smaller groups for shorter times
By Lloyd Call
Under the state’s yellow COVID-19 classification, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints authorized church services to reconvene on Sunday, as long as social distancing and other safety guidelines were followed. That meant up to 99 members could meet at a time for a shortened sacrament meeting.
Each stake in Sanpete and all stakes in the church, had some autonomy on how to implement that. In the Manti Stake, wards chose to split meetings, with half of the congregation attending one week, and the other half the following week. Most Manti wards share buildings, except Sterling. The exception is bishoprics, who will officiate each week.
Manti 2nd Ward Bishop Mark Lee, who had a meeting at 10:30 a.m., talked briefly to 3rd Ward Bishop Kris Lundeberg before the 3rd ward’s meeting a noon, and said, “I didn’t think I would be so emotional about this.” During his talk to half of the 3rd Ward (A-F), Bishop Lundeberg said the same thing, “I find myself deeply moved by seeing you all here today.”
Manti 3rd Ward Clerk Michael Everitt reported 100 people attended, and everyone maintained social distances. The Everitt family (all 11 of them) sat in the choir seats. Next week, members G-Z will attend church services.
Families sat on alternate rows, separated by at least six feet from each other. Aaronic priesthood holders, wearing masks, moved down the unoccupied rows with sacrament trays. Songs were sung that did not require hymn books, and after the sacrament, bishoprics and others gave short talks. The whole meeting only lasted 45 minutes.
The bishopric and those administering the sacrament wore masks, as did many members of the congregation as well. Church members who are in high-risk groups (over 65, and/or with underlying health conditions) can attend if they choose.
In addition, prior to meetings and in between ward meetings, pews and other surfaces, bathrooms and doors were all sanitized.
“It just felt good to be gathered with the Saints again,” said Linda Davis. Her husband Don said, “It felt really good to go back and see people but you also felt kind sad because we had to stay away from each other, and couldn’t really visit and socialize afterward. It was great, but sad, too.”
The Gunnison Stake won’t start meetings until next Sunday, June 7. Stake President Greg Rosenvall said each ward will meet based on their ward numbers. Wards that are larger will hold meetings every other week for half their congregations. Smaller wards can meet every week. Buildings that have multiple wards will have to coordinate with each other. “We will all follow the Utah area guidelines in our meetings,” President Rosenvall said.
Moroni Stake President Gene Peckham said their stake is doing the same thing, with wards splitting into half each week to keep the numbers under 100 per meeting. There are five wards in Moroni, three in Fountain Green. Two Sanpitch wards are taking the building one week with two sessions, and then the two Wales wards will take the next week.
“The Utah area gave us quite a bit of autonomy to organize ourselves based on our circumstances,” Peckham said.
Whether the church will continue to hold meetings is dependent on COVID-19, whether the yellow status remains or goes to green. However, if the government and health department see an increase in cases, the status could conceivably go back to orange, which would cancel church meetings again.