15 March 2020 | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has announced that its General Conference will be held this April without members of the public. The decision, announced March 11, was made in an attempt to help control the COVID-19 outbreak.
The only people allowed to attend are general authorities, general officers and their spouses, musicians, choirs, technicians and other carefully-selected individuals.
The last time the event was held without the public was during World War II when travel restrictions forced attendance constraints.
This will be the third time an LDS General Conference is affected by a viral epidemic. The Spanish flu postponed a General Conference in 1919 and the Asian flu epidemic canceled a conference in 1957.
According to Deseret News, the April 4–5 event will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s first vision, considered the beginning of the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church.
Usually, about 100,000 people attend the event held twice-yearly in the Conference Center across from the Temple Square in Salt Lake City. According to Deseret News, the event is also watched by 595,000 households across North America via live television and is followed by millions of church members worldwide.
The letter from the denomination’s First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the decision not to invite the public to this April’s General Conference saying the church wanted to do “all we can to control this contagious illness.” It added that technology allowed participation in the event from around the world.
For now, the Adventist General Conference Session scheduled to take place June 25 – July 4 is set to go ahead. Church leadership is still promoting the event to members worldwide.