The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temporarily suspended all its public gatherings worldwide until further notice in response to the coronavirus situation, it was announced Thursday.
The suspension includes stake conferences, Sunday worship services, including sacrament meetings, and ward and branch activities.
Brigham Young University-Idaho and BYU at Provo have canceled classes for March 13 and will start back up with classes on Wednesday remotely online. Students have been encouraged to return home and continue their studies online where possible.
The church announced late Wednesday that starting next week it will have no large events at any of its colleges, including Brigham Young University-Idaho, in response to the coronavirus.
That means graduation ceremonies have been canceled for this spring.
“There will be no gathering for large events such as commencements, convocations, devotionals, conferences, public lectures, performances and concerts,” the church said in a news release. “These events may be canceled, streamed, or recorded and posted for on-demand use, as determined by leadership at each institution.”
“BYU (Provo) encourages students to consider leaving campus and returning home to finish Winter semester through remote coursework,” the Utah school said in its announcement. The school also said all athletic events on campus will be suspended.
“The BYU Women’s Conference (in Provo) will not be held on the BYU campus April 30 and May 1. Organizers are looking into streaming options and will share more information about those options as it becomes available,” the school said.
The Church Educational System told church schools to be flexible.
“Courses will continue, though faculty are encouraged to be flexible and consider remote alternatives when providing instruction. Each institution is asked to consider local circumstances and guidelines from public health and government agencies and comply with those directions,” the church said.
The new guidelines apply to all of the LDS Church’s institutions of higher education. At the same time, many college sporting events and concerts across the nation have either canceled or will be held without spectators.
“The Church is monitoring developments and taking steps to comply with best practices and direction provided by public health organizations of various national governments,” the church said.
Earlier, the church announced that it was not allowing the public to attend its general conference scheduled for April 4 and 5 in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Sessions of conference will be broadcast online and via satellite feed. Stake conferences throughout eastern Idaho were also indefinitely postponed.
At least 13 of the church’s temples around the world in coronavirus hot spots have been closed.
“A large number of temple workers and patrons are from an older demographic, which has a higher susceptibility to complications from the coronavirus,” the church said. “These closures are in accordance with the recommendations of local public health agencies.”