The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is halting all temple activity worldwide to avoid the coronavirus spread. While the church is headquartered in Utah, this order will impact 162 temples and a church membership of more than 16 million, according to official data from the church.
Events with the church, such as weddings and other ceremonies of religious rites, will be cancelled and rescheduled.
Irene Caso, a spokesperson for the church, told AP on Wednesday that a temporary suspension would take effect the following evening.
“After careful and prayerful consideration, and with a desire to be responsible global citizens, we have decided to suspend all temple activity Churchwide at the end of the day on March 25, 2020,” the church wrote in a letter. “This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen.”
Earlier this week, members drew national attention as they flocked to the Salt Lake City airport to welcome returning missionaries home. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), an active church member, urged others to not engage in large welcome parties to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The church’s decision to stop services comes as some religious houses continue to worship with large congregations.
But other denominations are also taking steps to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Pope Francis's Easter events in April will not be open to crowds.
The death toll for coronavirus-related fatalities has just reached 1,000 in the U.S.
Compared to other coastal states like New York and California, Utah has reported relatively cases, with 341 per University of Johns Hopkins data, as well as one death — someone who had attended the Church of Latter-day Saint’s Bountiful Temple in Davis County, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. This prompted Bountiful Temple to be the first location to close.
While Utah has not ordered any statewide quarantine mandates yet, Summit County, east of Salt Lake City, issued a shelter-in-place order to control its burgeoning number of cases. AP notes that Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough said that the county has become a “hotspot” for coronavirus cases, and has the same number of cases per capita as New York City.