The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began reopening its temples in May 2020 using a careful, cautious, four-phase approach to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly all the faith’s 168 operating temples have reopened in Phase 1 (husband–wife sealings or marriages by appointment). Most temples have moved on to Phase 2 (open both for sealings and all other living ordinances).
Today, the First Presidency announced that four temples are preparing to carefully enter Phase 3 of reopening as soon as December 21, 2020.
Phase 3 includes everything allowed in Phases 1 and 2, with the addition of temple work on behalf of deceased individuals. These four temples are in areas where incidence of COVID-19 is low and the Church can meet local public health guidelines for gathering and worship.
A return to performing sacred and essential ordinances for one’s ancestors — especially during a pandemic that affects the most vulnerable among us — is a reminder of the common concern we should have for each other.
“As we anticipate performing more proxy ordinances in the temples, we do for others what they cannot do for themselves. Without these blessings, these deceased individuals are profoundly disadvantaged,” says Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The Savior taught that the second great commandment, after loving God, was ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ As it relates to this pandemic, especially in temples, that means social distancing, wearing a mask and not gathering in large groups. These steps demonstrate our love for others and provide us a measure of protection. Wearing a face covering is a sign of Christlike love for our brothers and sisters.”
The Privilege of Temple Worship
Temples, the Church’s most sacred spaces, are where members carry out the faith’s fundamental responsibility to help gather people to God — both those who are living and those who have died.
“The essence of the Lord’s work is changing, turning and purifying hearts through gospel covenants and priesthood ordinances,” says Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “As we become anxiously engaged in this sacred work, we are obeying the commandments to love and serve God and our neighbors. And such selfless service helps us truly to ‘Hear Him!’ and come unto the Savior.”
Because of the importance of temples to members of the Church, Elder Bednar says, “returning to the temples is something we have prayed for and looked forward to with great anticipation. We rejoice in the opportunity to again serve and worship in holy temples, even if our experience will be different because of constraining circumstances and additional sacrifices we are asked to make.”
The Apostle, quoting past Church Prophet and President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018), said sacrifice has been a part of temple work since the Church began building its first house of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833.
“Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings,” President Monson said in 2011. “There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome or too much discomfort to endure.”
As some temples begin Phase 3 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elder Bednar reminds members of the Church everywhere that worship within temples “is a sacred privilege, not an entitlement, or simply part of our established routine. We do not come to the temple to hide from or escape the evils of the world. Rather, we come to the temple to receive the power of godliness through priesthood ordinances that enables us to confront and conquer the world of evil.”
What to Expect in Phase 3
To prepare for a visit to a temple in Phase 3, Church members should note the following information:
- Online appointment scheduling: Those who live within the district boundaries of a temple in Phase 3 can schedule ordinance reservations online at the temple’s information page at temples.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. (Each of the four temples listed above links directly to its official Church page.) This new online option is available only for temples in Phase 3. Church members should make an online reservation before arriving at the temple. Priority in scheduling will be given to those who need living ordinances.“We are excited for patrons to begin using a new online tool to make reservations for ordinances,” says Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “If you find that you need help making your appointment, reach out to your ministering brother or sister, a friend, a family member, or a local leader. He or she will be happy to assist you. Some areas will not immediately have the online tool available. However, appointments can still be made via email or a phone call to the temple.”
- Symptom screening: You will be asked three times about possible COVID-19 symptoms. These screenings will occur when you schedule the appointment, in an email before you attend the temple and when you arrive at the temple.
- Face masks: Unless you are participating in baptisms, you must wear a face mask throughout your temple visit.
- Other safety precautions: Regular cleaning and sanitizing within the temple will occur throughout each day. Hand sanitizer stations will be found in many locations.
- Temple clothing: If possible, patrons should bring their own white and ceremonial clothing.
- Baptistry: Groups cannot be larger than 16 persons. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own officiators to the baptistry.
- Endowment: Seating in endowment sessions will be capped at 30% of room capacity. Seating will be physically distanced, and members of the same household will be seated together.
- Sealing: A small number of patrons will be allowed in sealings. Witnesses will be physically distanced from the sealing officiator.
- Family name cards: Temples will no longer print name cards for temple patrons. This must be done by a member before they come to the temple. Following the completion of an ordinance, the temple will record this information in FamilySearch. Name cards will not be returned to patrons.
- Housing and cafeteria: These services will likely remain closed. Patrons are invited to check with the temple in their district for more information.
“The temple is the house of the Lord, where holy ordinances are performed and sacred, meaningful worship takes place,” Elder Stevenson says. “As you faithfully adhere with happy, cheerful hearts to [these adjustments], you will be blessed, uplifted and strengthened.”
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.