LDS church discourages international travel for general conference due to coronavirus concerns

In this 2019 file photo, people arrive for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' two-day conference in Salt Lake City, April 6, 2019 | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Church leadership meetings have been canceled and travel from outside the United States in relation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ semiannual general conference is being discouraged due to concerns over coronavirus, according to a Thursday press release.

The angel Moroni statue, silhouetted against the sky, sits atop the Salt Lake Temple at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Jan. 3, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

“Out of an abundance of caution and with deep concern for global health considerations, as well as sympathy for all who have been or may be affected by the COVID-19 virus, we are postponing leadership meetings associated with the upcoming general conference,” the First Presidency, the church’s top leadership, said in a prepared statement.

The LDS church announced over its newsroom website Thursday that the First Presidency was canceling church leadership meetings for high-level church officers scheduled for April 2-3. The meetings have been rescheduled for the following general conference in October instead.

General Authorities, a term commonly used for high-level leaders in the LDS church, who serve outside of the United States, as well as Area Seventies, are excused from attending the general conference in Salt Lake City, according to the press release.

Church members living outside of the country are also asked not to travel to the United States for the general conference.

This decision is based on statements from various health organization and governments, the press release states.

“We wish to be good global citizens and do what we can to limit the spread of this disease,” the First Presidency said. “We also want to relieve concerns of our leaders, members, and their families related to the uncertainties of travel at this time.”

This postponement applies only to pre-conference leadership meetings. Present plans call for the general sessions of the April 2020 conference to be held as previously announced.

President Russell M. Nelson, center, sits with his counselors, Dallin H. Oaks, left, and Henry B. Eyring, right, during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conference Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Church members are preparing for more changes as they gather in Utah for a twice-yearly conference to hear from the faith’s top leaders. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“We are grateful that all members who do not travel to Salt Lake City will be able to view the proceedings of April general conference through technology. With great compassion, we pray for all whose lives have been affected by this illness,” the First Presidency said in the press release.

The request for church members who live outside of the United States to stay away will likely come as a difference as 2020 is considered a bicentennial year for the church.

This year marks 200 years since the events of what the church refers to as the “First Vision,” in which church founder Joseph Smith is claimed to have a vision of God and Jesus Christ. The church teaches that this event laid the foundation for would become the LDS faith.

“The year 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. General conference next April will be different from any previous conference,” LDS church President Russell M. Nelson said during the 2019 October general conference.

Aside from the advisory not to travel to the United States, the church has not announced if the coronavirus issue has impacted any other plans related to the upcoming general conference.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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